Rafael Nadal v Kei Nishikori, Novak Djokovic v JW Tsonga; Indian Wells Friday Picks And Pans
by Sean Randall | March 17th, 2016, 11:37 pm
  • 173 Comments

We are winding down in the first Masters Series event of the season at Indian Wells. Andy Murray lost as did Stan Wawrinka, those have been the two big surprises among the top players in the men’s field, but neither has been a consistent threat in the desert in the past.

Yesterday, we saw David Goffin come out of nowhere (the Wawrinka section which was wide open) to beat the mentally challenged Marin Cilic in straights 7-6, 6-2. Cilic, a US Open champion, has to win a match like that, and he should have but squared 11 of 12 break chances. Goran must be kicking himself.

Goffin’s a decent player but not a top flight guy, however credit to him for having a great run which included saving two match points against American 18-year-old Frances Tiafoe, then overcoming multiple chokes to deny Wawrinka who gagged himself at the end.

“I think my level is here and I can compete really well here in the tournament. My body also is feeling good. For the future I think it gives me a lot of confidence,” said Goffin. “I still don’t know where I will be in the future and in the rankings, but I will try to improve a lot, still improve my game to beat a lot of players like this.”

In arguably the biggest semi of his life, the Belgian will face Milos Raonic on Saturday. Raonic, who came in nursing a groin injury since Australia , hasn’t dropped a set in wins over Bernard Tomic, Tomas Berdych and last night Gael Monfils.

Good that Raonic’s injury issues are in the past because his ranking is going to climb quickly. And nice to see Monfils doing well.

But before Goffin-Raonic, we still have two more quarters play, and they might be of interest! On to my Friday picks.

Rafael Nadal v Kei Nishikori
Both guys should count their blessings for still being around. Nadal somehow escaped the clutches of 18-year-old Alex Zverev who tightened-up on a sitter volley on match point. Nishikori also survived a match point from big John Isner. So they are both on borrowed time. But Nadal needs this more. He needs to make a statement at a place he’s won at three times. And win like this would at least send a message that he’s still got some game left in that beaten up body.

Rafa leads 7-1 over Kei but when last met in Canada in the summer it was all Nishikori. And the time they played before then remember Nishikori was all over Rafa on the Madrid clay before a back injury ended his chance.

“I lost Nishikori last year in Montreal. He’s a player that puts a lot of pressure on the opponent,” Nadal said. “I need to play better than what I did, but it’s obvious that I in quarterfinals, and that’s great news for me in a very tough tournament like this one.”

So based on form and their most recent results, Nishikori’s a slight favorite here. He got through the toughest serve in the business in Isner and Friday he’ll get the deteriorating serve of Nadal. And once again Rafa’s having issues with that serve and that’s impacting the rest of his game and his confidence.

But to overcome the matchpoint against Zverev should do him some needed good and beating Nishikori would do even more. The problem is I don’t think that happens. Unless Nadal has a big serving day or if Kei gets hurt, I like Nishikori.
The pick: Nishikori in three

Novak Djokovic v JW Tsonga
As he eyes a 3-peat at Indian Wells, Djokovic has looked somewhat beatable this week. Dropping a set to Bjorn Fratangelo, Phil Kohlschreiber played him tough but Novak came strong Wednesday against Feliciano Lopez.

If there’s a surprise in the top half it’s Tsonga. We just haven’t heard much from JW of late or seen a good win from him since beating Nadal in Shanghai last fall in Shanghai. But he’s found the groove this week overpowering Sam Querrey then Dominic Thiem who had to have been a little weary after all his recent success.

So what do we make of Tsonga? Who knows? He might be on one of those “runs” or the beneficiary of a nice draw.

The two have collided 20 times before with Djokovic ahead 14-6 winning 10 of 11. However, if Tsonga gets hot we know what can happen.

But on a slower, grittier hard court – this isn’t Canada – I think Djokovic takes this one.
The pick: Djokovic in two

ESPN has live coverage starting at 3pm ET with Nadal-Nishikori. Let’s see what happens!


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173 Comments for Rafael Nadal v Kei Nishikori, Novak Djokovic v JW Tsonga; Indian Wells Friday Picks And Pans

Wog Boy Says:

“.. the mentally challenged Marin Cilic..”

Maybe it’s my English, but this doesn’t really sound like a compliment?


nits Says:

@ Wog Boy I totally agree with you. Such term is uncalled for.


sisay Says:

Sean..off topic i just saw in your stat section that rafa is 1_1 in Australian open…didn’t rafa lost twice…2012 to novac and 2014 to wawa?


Pauly Says:

The puppet will play Djokovic in semi final
Easy Djokovic win


Pauly Says:

How did cilic win US open ???
Unbelievable good luck
Nadal injured his wrist has appendix problem
Djokovic choked against the puppet nishikori
Federer wasn’t playing well
Cilic luckiest ever slam winner


jane Says:

hmmm, i think rafa will beat kei. rafa’s been making his way and he likes IW. kei, i dunno. he’s so inconsistent.

novak is the favourite vs jo-willie but like sean says, novak’s not been at his best (though he was good vs f-lo, esp in the second set) and jo can catch fire. so edge to novak but i won’t be surprised if tsonga wins.


Pauly Says:

Nadal’s serve will be major factir


Pauly Says:

Nadal’s serve will be major factor in who wins this match


sisay Says:

Jane
I am feeling the same but could not put it as you did…due to my English…thanks


Green Lady Says:

Hi Sisay, yeah Rafas been in 3 finals at the AO, he beat Federer in the 2009 final, but he lost to Novak in 2012, and Stan in 2014 ….


Pauly Says:

Jane

I hope you’re right
The puppet aka nishikori loves Nadal’s serve
Weak no aces it’s gonna be a battle of ground strokes
Of course if Nadal was at his best it would be easy Win for him but this struggling Nadal might find it hard to beat the puppet
Whatever happens I just hope Nadal plays well
It’s good confidence for the upcoming clay court season
Nadal needs to peak if he wants to win another French open that’s his major goal for 2016


Green Lady Says:

The puppet aka Nishikori, how many more times will you say that ?…..


Tennis Vagabond Says:

I agree with Sean’s picks. Kei and Novak. Looking forward especially to the first match.


Pauly Says:

Green lady

Puppet puppet puppet
That’s all he is until he proves me wrong & wins major
He is a puppet


Green Lady Says:

I just dont get you, as you seem so negative, even when talking about your own favorite, not to mention repetitive ….


Markus Says:

Green Lady, are you Irish? If so, happy St. Patrick’s Day to you, albeit belated.


Green Lady Says:

Markus no not to my knowledge, i have celtic roots though as my late mother was part Scottish, i have been here before with different nics, i was Hippy Chick, and Gypsy Gal, my monikors all fit my real life pagan persona, the Green Lady is the opposite to the Green Man, in that its all to do with fertility, i will always been honest about who i am though, and ill never hide who i am ….

But anyway i will also say HAPPY ST PATRICKS DAY to any Irish posters that frequent the forum especially SKEEZER….


anki Says:

If Nishi decides to bring his A game, then it will be a tight contest, anyway think Rafa will win. Tsonga was awesome vs Thiem, where as Novak has been pretty lack lustre so far, expect Novak to win. But wouldn’t be surprised if Tsonga wins.


Matt Says:

How did Cilic win the USO? Ha ha.

I suppose most think things like the US Stock Market are genuine, fair, open and honest.

Cilic is awful. Do the math.


skeezer Says:

@GL,
Thank you, was yesterday St. Paddies Day? Don’t remember much of yesterday atm….;)


Dave Says:

Cilic was on fire in the U.S. Open. Also, the surface is faster at the U.S. Open. His serve and Forehand were working very well against Federer and Nishikori. He would hit a good serve and if it was returned he would crush the forehand for a winner. It was like a broken record happening over and over in those matches. Federer and Nishikori couldn’t do anything about it. If a player wins a major, he earns it. Simple as that. Cilic’s U.S. Open is just as valid as any of Federer’s, Djokovic’s or Nadal’s U.S. Open titles. I respect your opinions Matt. But don’t agree with this one.


MMT Says:

Nishikori is inconsistent in as much has he has to earn every point…he doesn’t earn many free points from his serve (although it has improved significantly in the lastt 3 years). HIs biggest issue is the extent which he has to defend – because his transition from offense to defense is more gradual than Djokovic Murray and Nadal, if he is forced to defend he struggles.

Against Nadal, he is most effective when he stays on top of the baseline and takes his time away. Because he doesn’t earn as many free points as other top players from the serve, this high risk tactic is hard for him to execute. Also, Nadal’s transition to attack from defense makes it harder form Nishikori to keep him pinned behind the baseline.

By my observation, Nadal is playing well enough to block Nishikori’s ability to take his time away. The faster surface helps his transition, so I think Nadal takes this one. He has great hands, the fastest hands in tennis, in my opinion. But it won’t be enough this week.


jalep Says:

Thanks, MMT. Agree with Rafa coming away with the win and with what you are saying. Kei was playing Rafa very aggressively back in 2014 in Madrid – until injured, he was on quite a roll that spring. Kei isn’t playing with as much confidence as back then but it was good win over Isner. Could be a good match, though – 3 sets. I hope.

Nole. I’m cautious about him right now. Hope Jelena will be in Miami.

Serena will pummel Aga 🙄
Vika v Karolina could be a good match.


jane Says:

rafa was a bit too passive at times vs zverev, and i think he got a little bit lucky that his young opponent played poorly on match point and kind of let the match unravel from there. but there were also some classic rafa points in that match, going from defense to offense. he still leaves too many shots mid-court. an experienced player should or would come forward and put those away. that’s one of the biggest issues for rafa i think, besides his serve; he’s lost depth on his shots and he needs that, esp if he is a step slower.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

I think Kei takes this one. Not only has he done well against Rafa in recent history, I think he’s a better player now than he was then. Stylewise, he is similar to davydenko. He can take the ball on the rise, hit flat, go for angles. Peak Rafa struggled against Davydenko. I don’t think Nishikori is yet as good as Davydenko could be, but this isn’t Peak Rafa either. He’s a bit slower, and Kei will make it hard for him to hit a ball in a decent position.

I’ll come back and eat my words if I’m wrong.


Ben Pronin Says:

I think our perception is a bit skewed due to both Nishikori’s and Nadal’s history.

Nadal is arguably playing the worst tennis of his career. Not the worst tennis in general, just bad tennis by Nadal’s personal standards and what we’re used to seeing from him. Nishikori, on the other hand, is playing some of the best tennis of his career. Again, this is by Nishikori’s standards. So Nishikori looks like a more solid player than Nadal given their own context.

And yet Nadal is still ranked higher. And he still knows how to win matches better than Nishikori. And based on form… there’s really nothing to go off of here. Nishikori has the game to trouble Nadal but that’s about it.


Daniel Says:

Kei is a similar version of Davydenko and with Nadal’s decline since 2014, unless he is injured he will give Nadal trouble every time they play in a fast court. Even Madrid with the thin air helped Kei.

He is up a break already.


Daniel Says:

TB, saw your post now and you said exactly what I wanted to say.


Daniel Says:

To me the core of Nadal’s decline is power on his shots. He is not hitring powerfull enough, than his opponent can return the shot better and Nadal can’t position himself better when he could anticipate what opponent could do, than he kept getting in bad posituon in missing more than before. When he used to hit deep he knew where the ball could retunr and he penetrate the court better to kill the point. Now he os having to play defense way more than before, soeciallyon his serve as hos second shot is not deep as it once was.


jane Says:

agree with your take daniel.

——

on another note, i really liked this piece on nole and rafa

http://www.bnpparibasopen.com/en/media-and-news/news/2016/03/17/2016-djokovic-nadal-meet-in-indian-wells-tunnel


Daniel Says:

Kei had a BP to go up 4-1 ans serve but now was broken back. As expected, neither can protect their serve taht well so this match will have a lot of breaks.


Markus Says:

A fairly good Nadal is enough to beat Nishikori at any time.


Van Persie Says:

Jane,

Very nice picture :)


J-Kath Says:

Rafa doing good, v wee Kei…
Well done so far…fingers crossed.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Looks like I’m going to eat my words! I’m happy for Rafa, but I hope JW does the dirty work because I don’t want to see Novak wipe up Rafa again.


Van Persie Says:

Tbh, I had no pick for the match, but expected a more competitive one.
Nishi looks lost


Van Persie Says:

Nishi misses a tempo today


jane Says:

kei hit some great forehands in the last game… those fast hands MMT mentioned.


Van Persie Says:

yep, he was more relaxed…had nothing to lose. Now all becomes more interesting ;)


Van Persie Says:

or not…


jane Says:

and then, error, error, error.
like i said before: inconsistent.


Van Persie Says:

C’est fini…
Congrats Rafa!

Nole idemo!


Daniel Says:

#6 straight win is coming for Novak, think he will break another record and the 7th straight.

Just knowing that he will have to play Nadal I bet his level will increase and it will be a clinic performance.


Tennis Vagabond Says:

Congrats to Rafa and fans. Its fantastic t see him in a big semifinal again, handling a top ten player with authority. I am sorry I doubted!


J-Kath Says:

Rafa U did it…in 2 sets – well done….am thrilled for your fans….surely this signals you are back – or darned close to it…after all Kei is no walk-over.


Pauly Says:

Nadal is playing well loves this tournament with bouncy surface but we won’t know for sure yet if he is peaking until Djokovic semi final ?
That’s the real test looming must be aggressive & serve well or it’s another hammering
Djokovic loves playing Nadal at the moment Coz he knows how to beat him
Time will tell ? Put up good showing against Djokovic will boost his confidence for French open & that’s biggest prize for Nadal in 2016 👍
As for the puppet aka nishikori … Nadal was puppet master today


jane Says:

rafa seemed super pumped about that win. congrats to him.
nishi needs to somehow gain some consistency, get a handle on things. sometimes today his forehand reminded me of verdasco’s but with less power and more sharpness.
ajde novak! looking forward to this match as tsonga’s often fun to watch too.


Pauly Says:

Daniel

You’re spot on with your post … Djokovic is waiting to beat Nadal again but this match will depend on how well Nadal Serves & hits DTL forehand
Hoping for a classic Nadal vs Djokovic semi final
But Djokovic isn’t there yet … Tsonga can play


Okiegal Says:

@Jane….Thanks for that link…….a neat moment between to great champions and you gotta just love those smiles…….the photographers had it going on fcr sure!

So happy for Rafa’s win today. The bookies were wrong……and I am so glad! One match at a time. C’mon Rafa!!!


Giles Says:

Daniel. Always talking toooo much. Rafa got through Kei which most were doubting. We fans will take one match at a time.
Good luck Tsonga!


Daniel Says:

I mean of Kei was 1 point away from being 4-1 and serve Djoko sure can do better. Nadal only has a chance if Djoko is serving poorly below 60% amd erratic. Everybody norke Nadal almost multiple times this tourney, Djoko sure will break him multiple timea as well. The question is of Nadal will be able to break Djoko at same rate to male it competitive. Lately Djoko is winning easy but maybe of Nada is able to keep the score he can have chances in crunch times ag end of sers. But if Djoko start leading rught away, another easy victory.

First Nada needa a set than he can start thinking of actually beating Djoko.

But, of course, Djoko is not there yet, 1 and half hour more to go.


Van Persie Says:

It’s time!


Pauly Says:

The key for Nadal if he plays Djokovic is to hold serve that’s not easy to do which is why Djokovic wins always currently
Holding serve will give Nadal confidence to go after Djokovic’s service games
That’s most important for Nadal
Good win Today but much tougher matches coming


Markus Says:

One step at a time. Nadal does not have to and is not likely to beat Djokovic in this tournament if indeed that match materializes. If he can play him very closely, that would boost his confidence and the coming clay season certainly would not hurt. Nadal moved quite well and hit the ball quite hard in this match against Nishikori. I can see him playing even better from this point on. Nadal isn’t dead yet.


jane Says:

Lobovic <3


jane Says:

jo with a monster forehand there.


mat4 Says:

Hi, j.!

Watching together, it seems.


jane Says:

hi mat4 – for once! novak looks good. jo-will is not playing badly either.

i have a tweet for giles… ;)

Carole Bouchard ‏@carole_bouchard 4m4 minutes ago
Rafa just called Novak “a good guy, smart and intelligent”. Just felt like sharing.


mat4 Says:

Good tennis so far.


mat4 Says:

jane, Novak is indeed a good guy.

And he has improved his return the last year, I have the impression.


jane Says:

indeed. high level from both. nice to see.


mat4 Says:

A few unusual UE. I guess it’s windy. Jo upped his game right now. It could mean a very difficult second set for Novak.

I remember Jo at 22, and when I read that 2K is the new hope of tennis… our expectations are really low nowadays.


Giles Says:

Jane. Hahaha. Sorry I don’t agree with Rafa. Rafa is the good guy for making that comment.


Humble Rafa Says:

Take it haters..I beat the Kei the great on a court that is not made for me.

Great summer coming.


jane Says:

quite a point but novak let jo dictate too.


jane Says:

mat4, it’s already a difficult first set!


Van Persie Says:

Jo plays very good atm


Van Persie Says:

hope there will be a TB…


Daniel Says:

Djoko should have won this ser long ago and withan easy score. Tsonga saced 2 games with BP plus another that webt deuce.
Now Djoko will have to serve to force a breaker.


mat4 Says:

Yes, Jo is playing very well. A bit of luck, a changing wind, and we have a show.

Novak looks unmotivated at times. Less focus than usual. It was already clear against PK, but now too.


Pauly Says:

Tsonga has big weapons so never count him out especially if he’s serving great


J-Kath Says:

Nole having to work a bit…think he’ll still win..a bit surprised at how close it is at the moment….fascinating anyway.


jane Says:

gah… jo’s playing super well right now! smartly mixing the pace. but also very accurate today.


mat4 Says:

A few years ago, DelPo beat both Nole and Andy here playing BH slices and big FHs. Jo seems to be doing the same.


Van Persie Says:

Finally Jo made some errors, Nole played bad…


jane Says:

that’s right mat4.
and he almost beat rafa in the final too.

nole’s too casual sometimes don’t you think?
also he backs up, i’m guessing, sometimes to draw an error. but that’s risky business, opening the court like that.


Van Persie Says:

very nice from Nole, gave that point


jane Says:

very nice for sure van persie.
but that’s typical of novak.

and no…. he wasn’t ahead.
it would have given him a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak
but giving tsonga that point made it 2-1
with tsonga about to serve.


Markus Says:

How’s that for honesty and sportsmanship? And in a tiebreaker at that!


Van Persie Says:

Bravo Nole!..played the TB very good


mat4 Says:

jane, yes, I also think that, for a few months already, he just cares for the last rounds, playing with many ups and downs in the first rounds. It’s difficult to be motivated all the time, I presume, and he just plays his best when absolutely needed.


Markus Says:

Oops, that ? should have been a !


Green Lady Says:

Very sporting from Novak, and a very entertaining first set, glad Jo has actually come out to playing, and is keeping the match competitive, rather than seeing breadsticks and bagels, i would think Novak wins the match in two sets….

As for Rafa, didnt the the match, but glad he beat Kie, and in straight sets too….

Against Novak, im not expecting much from Rafa, only pleased hes in contention to play him again ,best of luck….


mat4 Says:

I think that under such windy conditions, Rafa is the clear favourite against Novak, GL.


Green Lady Says:

Thankyou Jane Nice pictures of Rafa and Nole, and thanks also for the links ….


Green Lady Says:

Mat4 i doubt that Rafa is the favorite against Novak anywhere, under any circumstances, or any surface, not ATM ….

Yours Sincerley….
With commas, and spaces….
Morgan Le Fay ;))….


mat4 Says:

I just knew he would make a double fault…


jane Says:

nice play there novak!


jane Says:

you’re welcome green lady. are you gyspy?


mat4 Says:

@Morgan la Fay:

The Green Lady is the same thing as the WW… I prefer Morgana. Could you just change you knick once again?

@jane:

Less wind, immediately better play. But under normal conditions, we can see how much Novak has improved his FH.


mat4 Says:

@jane:

Yes, she’s GG.


Green Lady Says:

Mat4 ill think about it, but not tonight, so ill sleep on it, but dont you like Green Lady,and whats WW ?? ….


Green Lady Says:

Yes Jane tis me ;)) ….


jane Says:

okay thanks. i knew you sounded familiar and was wondering where gypsy went. :)


mat4 Says:

@GL:

It’s the White Witch.


Green Lady Says:

Mat4 is it La or Le ? ….


Green Lady Says:

Mat4 ah right, and i like that one aswell ….

Jane i have had such alot going on in the real world, im studying for a diploma at work, and ive had to do an exam, so i needed a clear head to focus, and i also fancied a new monikor too ….


mat4 Says:

It should be “la”, but I’ve seen “le” too. Anyway, you’re British, so it’s normal that you can’t write French correctly. ;-)


Daniel Says:

Djoko 1 game away from blockbuster semis.
Time to go for broke.


Green Lady Says:

^LOL CHEEKY BUGGER, and BTW i actually came top in French, ill have you know ;)) ….


mat4 Says:

When I see Novak volleying, I get scared… How can a man that plays at the net so well in practice play so poorly in matches?


Green Lady Says:

Post for Mat4 ….


Green Lady Says:

La is feminine, and Le is masculine right ? ….


Markus Says:

Green Lady, you were Gypsy Girl before? I thought you were a leprechaun that showed up for St. Patrick’s Day. Well, I’m happy for you that Nadal won. Maybe your new name is bringing him some Irish luck.


mat4 Says:

I am without a stream. Any suggestion?


jane Says:

try batman mat4


mat4 Says:

Seems offline too.


J-Kath Says:

Yes Green Lady “la” is feminine and “le” male.


Green Lady Says:

Hi Markus, i left you a post earlier at 8.29 am, and TBH i had no idea it was St Patricks Day, and im also happy Nadal is doing OK again so whatever works, although i dont have high expectations anymore, and i often get called a little pixie, which is i suppose similar to a leprechaun ….


jane Says:

working for me mat4.
drakula?


Van Persie Says:

Bravo Nole :)


jane Says:

great match. full of great shot making and tension. fun stuff today all round.


skeezer Says:

Nole vs Rafa LOL.

BRING IT.


Van Persie Says:

Yep Jane, it was
Rafa was also not bad…Nole will jot have an easy match


Van Persie Says:

not have


Green Lady Says:

Well done Novak, and to Jo for making it such a tight contest ….

And hope Rafa can at least keep it close ….


J-Kath Says:

Ah well…I think we all love Jo…and congrats for his great play tonight…but I think we all knew that Nole can find another level when he needs it, as it was tonight. Congrats to the fans….Wogboy, Jane and many others.

Think the final will be Nole and Milos.


mat4 Says:

jane: Ended with fromsport, eventually, so I’ve seen the end.

Jo, just like the other players, seems to stagnate in the last… let’s say ten years? Not only technically — it can be understood, but he somehow still manages to have moments of utter stupidity on the court.

His kicker worked well on the second serve, but he chose to hit hard at BP in the second set, and made a double. Let’s not mention the TBs: he left his worst for these moments…

When I see his GF, I say to myself no way, I definitely couldn’t choke in front of her…

Where is WB, btw?


mat4 Says:

Hi, Skeeze.

I’ve seen Matt’s posts too…


Green Lady Says:

Thankyou J-Kath ;)) ….


Wog Boy Says:

Here mat4, watching and commending Tsonga for giving Nole run for the money. Tsonga didn’t have right to save those two MP with those ridiculous FHs, but then gifted TB to Nole, thank you very much. I was wondering for how long Tsonga can keep hitting BH slices right at Nole’s shoelaces and he almost did until the when he made mistake and switch to normal BH, that was brainfart, what was he thinking. Smart play with kick serve, Nole was never good in returning kick serve, you can see he is very uncomfortable.

Nole is yet to hit his A game and full focus, iand Rafa is building his confidence nicely and game too, it is 60:40 in Rafa favor tomorrow.

Thanks JK, really nice match to watch.


Wog Boy Says:

^^^ “he almost did until the end..” should say


mat4 Says:

When I think about it, after all these years, I believe that I have watched the three greatest players of all time play: the most dominant on grass, the most amazing on hard, and the god of clay.

But the last one — the clay monster — is the one I could rank as the greatest: Bjorn Borg.


mat4 Says:

It was for GL… ;-)


Dave Says:

Tsonga played very aggressive tennis from the start and has the fire power to hurt Nole. Still lost. Rafa doesn’t ever play that aggressive anymore and doesn’t have the fire power to beat Nole. I would be shocked if Nole lost tomorrow. Nole is not only on quite a winning streak, but quite a set streak. Here are the totals.
6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3,6-3. Total of games won Nole 67, Nadal 27.
Until Rafa shows he is at his peak beforehand during other matches, which I didn’t see today as some suggest, I don’t see things changing. I saw Nishikori choke the first set away and then get down on himself to start the second set. Rafa played better today than other matches. I will give him that. Still not close to his peak though.


Dave Says:

Wog Boy,

You said you were always honest. 60-40 in Rafa’s favor? Don’t think the odds on the match are going to be even close to that. Maybe my prediction will be way off tomorrow and Rafa will win in straight sets.


Pauly Says:

Dave

Nadal no firepower on serve
Djokovic will eat his serve for breakfast
Only thing I hope for
Competitive match
Nadal must put pressure on Djokovic serve
I predict better match than DOHA
Nadal could take one set if he plays his best
But I think this is just testing the waters time for Nadal
To see what level Djokovic is playing at
When clay starts expect Nadal to play better


Green Lady Says:

Its getting as one sided as the Sharapova/Williams rivalry now ….


Green Lady Says:

Mat4 what was ? ….


Pauly Says:

Green lady

You’re correct Coz Nadal isn’t playing at peak level yet
When both play their best it’s battle Royale
That’s what fans want to see
Quality tennis
Not 6/1 6/2
That’s rubbish


Dave Says:

Nishikori had a chance to go up a double break and was in the rallies when he had break points and as he did against Isner near the end of the match when he lost a point because he hit way to close to the line and it went out when he didn’t need to be that aggressive, did the same thing against Rafa. That’s why Nole is Nole. He plays the percentages well and knows when not to go so close to the lines. To hit within a foot of the lines and not be ultra aggressive. Kei doesn’t seem to understand that at all. A lot of players don’t get that at times. As soon as Kei gave Nadal a lifeline, he took it and never looked back and Kei just played with his head down for a good 30 to 40 minutes after that and was already down a break in the second set, trying to battle back. By then it was to late.


Dave Says:

Nole won’t win as one sided as 6-1, 6-2 like last time. That would shock me for sure. IF he does with Rafa playing half decent in this tournament, that will pretty much kill the rivalry.


Daniel Says:

Completly agree Dave, Nadal hasn’t won a ser over Novak since RG 2014 and last matches he won 6, 4 and 3 games. No way he is favorite tomorrow.


mat4 Says:

If he plays like he did in Doha, where he lost 1 & 2, Rafa IS the favourite: it’s very windy and Novak just can’t be aggressive and consistent at the same time, he had to rely on his serve very much, and I am not certain it can work on such a slow surface.

Then, the rebound is very high, and that, with a whirling wind will favour Rafa’s game.

So, I guess that WB is right.

If Novak wins 1 and 2 again, I guess that yes, I would be the end of the rivalry. Or not.


Dave Says:

The old Nadal is almost completely back with one of his shots, which I have been saying all tournament is getting better again. The forehand down the line. Finished the match off and pulled the trigger with confidence on match point. That shot is almost completely back. Nadal’s backhand is also very solid. He seems to hit more backhands than ever before, maybe because he doesn’t have the same foot speed as before to always hit a run around forehand. So the backhand is very solid and he is hitting it more aggressive. Pauly, believe it or not, I saw Rafa hit a first serve that landed in at 119 mph today. These are the positives to take for all of the Rafa supporters. Still saw Rafa tentative a few times near the end of the match on game point, I think hit a double fault. Made another error into the net. So he is still struggling with confidence issues in big moments. But he is battling through them still and not giving up, which is good.


Wog Boy Says:

Dave,

I am honest and it has nothing to do with Rafa’s level of play, it is to do with present Nole’s form, focus and mood. He is not playing his best since AO, he didn’t play so well in Dubai even before eye infection, DC was bad, not playing his best here either and tomorrow will be 34 degrees, pretty hot. If he can bring his A game I don’t have a doubt he would stream role Rafa, but I have a doubt he can bring his A game tomorrow, that’s the reason for my 60:40 in favor of Rafa, besides, I never predict Nole’s wins, I keep quiet if I believe he can win, call it superstition or whatever:)


Dave Says:

Oh that’s right. I forgot. I know that Nole hates the sun and I didn’t know it was going to be 34 degrees. I think Davis Cup his shoulder was bothering him and the court was painfully slow and he didn’t like it to much. As far as dubai goes, he dominated his first 2 matches if I remember correctly. So I don’t know. Everytime he has been threatened in this tournament he has stepped up. In his first match after losing the first set, he won 6-1 and 6-2. Against Phillip when it was 5-5 in both set’s, he won the last 2 games each time. In both tie-breaks against Tsonga with the set on the line, he dominated. He is showing his mental toughness in all the pressure filled moments still. That has not changed. It’s not like he has had to save match points. Even in Davis Cup against Kukushikin, he won the last 2 sets fairly easily. He hasn’t even been within a game or a few points of losing any matches in a long time. Since Federer beat him in the RR at WTF. I am not getting that negative about Nole. No way.


Wog Boy Says:

No, I am not negative about Nole, not at all, it is just that you can’t keep focused twelwe month a year and he has been fully focused since USO. I rather want him to drop his focus now than in a few months time prior FO until Olympics, so I am not so worried for next few tournaments what ever the result might be as long as he is ready for the most important part of the year and I might say his career.


Dave Says:

Wog Boy,

Who have you been listening to about not being able to be focused for 12 months of the year? You need to read that book that you ordered if you believe that. That’s a story in your mind. Thoughts in your mind that you have chosen to believe. So Federer can have 3 monster seasons in a row and not seem to lose his focus, but Nole can’t? Nole can lose focus for parts of matches and still win them, but it doesn’t mean he has to lose matches to get him motivated again. That eye infection stopping his finals streak would have given him enough motivation as it is. No one wants to lose a streak that way. I agree that FO is huge. Olympics is big, the only downside is that instead of 750 ranking points for the winner like last time, it’s zero because it won’t be an ATP event.


Wog Boy Says:

I don’t think Nole cares about 750 points, all what he wants is to win gold for his country.

Roger did have those three seasons and Nole had two so far, but neither of them kept twelwe months focus in those seasons, they had parts of the season when they didn’t performed well, that’s my point, Nole in 2011 after USO and last year between Wimbledon and USO. I am too lasy to check on RF, but almost sure he had parts of the year when he wasn’t at his best, in 2007 he didn’t do quite well at IW and Miami, methinks, but still ended up with three GS titles. That was my point.


Dave Says:

3 out of 4 Grand Slams and 6 masters and a WTF is focused for a 12 month year. Nole hasn’t lost a full out match yet this year, if you don’t count the retired match. I agree that I would rather he peaked later. He can still win at Indian Wells without peaking. He was far from peaking in Miami last year and won. He didn’t look that great until the final in the Paris Masters. He wasn’t great in the final against Berdych in Monte Carlo last year. He always finds a way Wog Boy. That’s how he is. He still seems focused this week, other than the first set of the tournament. Since then he has won 8 sets in a row and has played the pressure situations very well. We just gotta see how it plays out one moment at a time.


Wog Boy Says:

Yeah, one moment at the time:)


Dave Says:

Are you feeling a bit worried because this is a very similar start as 2012? He wins 3 Grandslams in 2011 and than wins the Australian Open to start 2012 and than goes slamless after that. 2015 wins 3 slams and than wins the Australian Open in 2016 and than he could win nothing again? You think it could be a repeat?


Wog Boy Says:

No, not really, as I said there is a bigger fish to fry later in the year, besides, he is older, more experienced and wiser now, 2012 was his first year after dominant performance in 2011, he is better for that experience.

Just being the member of the Nole roller coaster for the last 10 years makes me cautious, that’s all.


Wog Boy Says:

Before I go, this might as well be Raonic first masters title, I just have a feeling.


Dave Says:

I have that same feeling. This might be his breakout tournament. He seems so hungry at the moment. I’m not sure if Nole or Nadal can stop him at this point. I am very cautious about that matchup. I would never predict a Nole win against Raonic. No way. The rollercoaster ride will always continue. Nole tends to continue to surprise. I doubt him way to much during his matches, I must admit. Gotta stop doing that and just enjoy whatever happens to happen.


Daniel Says:

WB, i was thinking the same about Raonic, he is kind of due for a Masters and playing quite well. Btw, if reaches final will be #2 at the race.

But I still think Djoko will play hos best next two matches.


Dave Says:

I agree Daniel. Also from one aspect of the game, the rallies, Nadal and Raonic don’t have the type of games during the rallies that bother Nole to much. He is comfortable during the rallies against these 2. However, he is not comfortable with Raonic’s serve. I have to say that Nole did return pretty well today. He was in a lot of Tsonga’s service games. I think he has steadily improved in that department as the tournament has gone on.


chrisford1 Says:

Green Gypsy Pagan – “Its getting as one sided as the Sharapova/Williams rivalry now ….”

One of the more amusing happenings in the last year or so was Wiki edited out Sharapova as one of Williams noted rivals over the years.

If you look at the men’s rivalries, the Djokovic-Fed, Djokovic-Rafa rivalries are astounding. The two most played in the Open Era, with Djokovic and Roger almost perfectly matched, and Novak the only player according to Uncle Toni’s opinion, that the two have been concerned about since 2009. Without the red herring of Davydenko, Nadal has subjugated the ATP, but for Nole.
Djokovic-Nadal 47 meetings #48 coming. 24-23 so far, may go over 50 competitive matches. Most in the Open Era already.
Djokovic-Fed 46 times. 23-22. 2nd highest in the Open Era, maybe the best and highest quality.
FEDAL – 34 Times. 11-23. Nadal 68% winning %, Fed 32%.
Djokovic-Murray – 31 times. 22-9. Djokovic 71%, Andy 29%. Once close. Likely to move past FEDAL as the 3rd most played rivalry in the Open Era.


jane Says:

“Just being the member of the Nole roller coaster for the last 10 years makes me cautious, that’s all.”

i hear you wog boy; probably many long-time novak fans don’t feel comfortable enough to rest easy on his laurels…regardless of results, pundits, trends, or whatever. i try to consider all factors – weather, present form, momentum, focus, etc – and i think you’ve laid out good reasons as to why it may not be such an open-and-shut case. we’ll just have to wait and see.

i can’t believe this is their 48th match!

is that the biggest rivalry in the game? it must be.


jane Says:

^ oops, saw that cf1′s post already answered that. :)


Dave Says:

Maybe Nadal will win in 3 sets or straight sets. No one knows for sure. Can’t predict the future. Will find out tomorrow. Maybe this is where Rafa turns the rivalry around like he did last time after 2011.


skeezer Says:

Downplaying Noles chances here? LMAO.
A shoo in for IW.


Pauly Says:

Nadal has a chance that’s it
Whether he can take it well that’s another question
Djokovic can’t have another 2011 2015
It’s 2016 … I just hope Nadal can play his best


anki Says:

Rafa played well. That FH DTL is working again. Tsonga Novak match was fun to watch. Tsonga with around 46% first serve taking Novak to TB was surprising. Overall the conditions at IW favour Rafa. So Rafa in two sets. However, at the end of the day, feel it is Raonic’s title to lose.


RF Says:

Love how Rafa fans think he’ll win tomorrow. He hasn’t won a set against Nole since 2014. He’ll do well to push Nole to a tie-break.

Nole wins tomorrow in 2 comfortable sets.


nits Says:

i want this match to be competitive. Obviously Djokovic is the clear favorite. But it’s good to see hope pouring out for Rafa.


George Says:

@MMT: I disagree with what you have written in your blog. You did not factor in Djokovic’s 2009 when he tried to reconstruct his game and lost his serve (Martin effect). Tsonga have some significant technical problems (for top 5 level relatively speaking) and Djokovic is a virtuoso in exploiting other people weaknesses. I believe that Tsonga played exceptionally well yesterday and he had, in some critical moments, close your eyes and hit it as strong as you can/low-percentage/technically wrong shots that went in.


Vami Says:

@George
Agree with your comment 100%, both about the blog and how Jo played yesterday. Quite a few shots Jo made at critical moments were high risk/low percentage but they all went in. That frustrated Novak a lot, those type of matches are the hardest to play.
The only two things that can stop Novak from winning this are heat and wind. He has the belief and tools to handle both Rafael and Milos “I never ever won anything but somehow some experts here believe I’m the favourite” Raonic.


Purcell Says:

Mr Nadal is due for one of his famous revivals although he’s had a lot of help along the way. Personally, I’d like to see the charming Goffin take the lot. He’s such a naughty little handful. Sadly, Raonic will be the nail in the Goffin I fear.


MMT Says:

George & Vami: I’m curious: what do you think I was trying to say in my blog about Tsonga?


George Says:

@MMT: I thought that you tried to describe reality as you see it. It is a great literature, just I don’t think that it reflects the tennis reality. In terms of technique Tsonga is nowhere near Djokovic meaning that a lot of elements have to come together for Tsonga to win. Under standard conditions, when both players play their “middle of the road” game it is quite normal that Djokovic wins. I don’t think that Tsonga is the main factor that decides the outcome of Djokovic-Tsonga encounters.


jane Says:

perhaps the reality is that novak has evolved a lot – as a person, in terms of his health, and with regards to his game – whereas tsonga really hasn’t? after all, during the 2010 AO match that MMT mentions, novak was quite ill, and it was after watching that match that doctor cetojevic eventually reached out to novak to tell him that he might have a gluten intolerance. i don’t know if it’s just about beauty or if there is something else there. but it seems like the french players maybe aren’t always as committed or driven?


Wog Boy Says:

jane,

That 2010 match Nole was physically sick, I was there, he was about to vomit on the court few time, even Tsonga fans sitting next to me repeated few times that Nole is sick, as for the match in Shanghai 2008, I still believe Nole didn’t give his best, he didn’t have too, he already made it to WTF SF, after all he ended up (picked) with eaisier SF oponent:)


BBB Says:

Patrick McEnroe grows more and more intolerable with each tournament.


MMT Says:

George: From the blog,

“…given the extent of Djokovic’s lead in development, performance, fitness and results since 2011, and particularly during his ascent to the pinnacle of the game in 2015, but not so between 2008 and 2010…”

Perhaps you take issue with my reference to 2008 – 2010, but Ive clearly affirmed Djokovic’s superiority since then.

Also from the blog, “…The forehand, powerful as it can be, is produced rather convolutedly, and in my opinion breaks down when it absolutely can’t. His first serve, flamethrower that it is, usually only leaves enough left in the tank for the second serve to light a cigarette…or a joint. And his backhand, varied and beautiful as it can be, has to be hit so far behind the baseline, because of his forehand, it is too easily isolated and picked on, like the one kid on the sandlot baseball team that you just know has to play right field.”

None of these criticisms of Tsonga could be made of Djokovic – as such, I couldn’t presume that, all things equal, the result is on Tsonga’s racquet.


MMT Says:

There is an underlying characteristic – it’s not the water or courts they grow up on…something else causes so many French players, with enormous innate talent, to be incapable of doing, or unwilling to do, what has to be done to be the best in the world. I offer a love of (or perhaps a preference for) beauty as the base that manifests itself in destructive and/or limiting ways.

That piece was not a direct explanation for yesterday’s match between Djokovic and Tsonga, but rather an explanation for where they are in their careers with a focus on Tsonga. So if your panties are in a cinch because you think I’m dissing Djokovic, you can relax. I’m doing no such thing – it really isn’t even about Djokovic, it’s about Tsonga.


George Says:

@MMT: I did not think that you were dissing Djokovic. I simply see it differently than you. If you would write similar piece about Berdych and Djokovic, I would say fine. Berdych is technically very sound and one can ask himself “what is missing here?”. On the other hand, Tsonga has visible faults in his technique preventing him to jump on the highest possible level and in his case there is no secret what is wrong.


Margot Says:

@MMT
Or to put it another way, why are the French so very, very French? Sorry matt4 and Courbon, just teasin’ and I love the French on and off court BTW.
French rugby team is similar, loads of flair and, when they’re on, wonderful to watch.
Sadly, infrequently “on” these days.


MMT Says:

@George – your original critique and analysis was that Tsonga’s game is so (obviously) inferior to Djokovic’s that the match is never on Tsonga’s racquet. Do you feel differently about Berdych? Does he have more of an influence over his matches with Djokovic? Please note that Berdych has beaten Djokovic twice in 24 matches dating back to 2008?

Fair enough, neither one of them has done very well against him in the last 5 years, but aside from the big 4, that’s the same for everyone – Tsonga did beat him in Toronto two years ago, but still he clearly has the better of both matches.

I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. For you Tsonga is obviously much weaker than Berdych and there’s no mystery why he hasn’t done better. To me, Berdych has limits that Tsonga does not, and it’s obvious why he has done better…but I will concur with one thing on Berdych – the skills he has are deeper than Tsonga’s – his forehand is more solid and he penetrates more with his backhand, thereby making more technically symmetrical. As such, it is not as easy to isolate his backhand and pin him into that corner.

But the breadth of skills in, in my opinion, no comparison to Tsonga, who is a better volleyer, has a better overhead, has a better and more versatile slice, and is quicker around the court. Berdych also has the exact same problem on the second serve as Tsonga and he also takes up court positioning that’s too far behind the baseline most of the time, and is one of the reasons why his net play is weak.

I just feel Tsonga had/has more potential and was in search of a reason for it – ultimately I think it’s a lack of commitment to be solid, in exchange for being flamboyant – not as obnoxiously as Monfils, but almost as costly. I just watched some clips from his match versus Nishikori in Australia, and you can see how disciplined Nishikori is, whereas Tsonga follows every good decision with a bad one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-IyJ8dlzn4


George Says:

@MMT: I feel differently about Berdych than Tsonga. I am not saying that Tsonga is a weaker player than Berdych. I am saying that Tsonga has very strong elements and not so strong elements. Berdych element’s are roughly at similar (strong) level where his strongest element is weaker than Tsonga’s strongest element and his weakest element is stronger than Tsonga’s weakest element. Thus, in Tsonga I can identify technical flows, in Berdych I can’t. To beat Djokovic the question is how good is your weakest element. For me, it is obvious why Tsonga can’t match Djokovic while it is not that obvious why Berdych can’t match Djokovic.


mat4 Says:

@Margot:

I wrote for you a comment about the last match of the tournament a few threads ago. I don’t know if you saw it.

French tennis is the victim of his administration. The important is to meet his requirements, not to be a good coach. So, we manage to make solid players because we have a lot of tournaments and a lot of players, but our coaches are nil, the organization of work is nil, etc.

When you see how much Czechs, Australians manage to do with much less players, courts, clubs, you have to wonder.

As a young player’s parent, I “worked” lately with a coach formed the Australian way. No vanity, cooperation, corrective work, small groups, patience, balanced approach to all the elements of the game (even those that don’t bring immediate results, like volleying, drop shots, slice), longer trainings despite the timetable, “tennis Sundays” when children train then play football, and, as a result, pupils improving extremely fast.

Then, although a formed coach that has assisted a renowned top coach, I was impressed by the will to improve, the openness to advices, to debate (we analysed Federer’s forehand, and this precise motion — the key is the elbow — has been chosen for the kids; we also analysed the serve motion of many players and the training methodology to improve this shot, and he changed his approach).

I would have liked to see such work in France. Unfortunately, the focus is on money and therefore on fast results. That’s the reason why Tsonga and Chardy have weak BHs, Simon et Gasquet never learned to serve well, and Monfils has no work ethics. I won’t mention the others, who succeeded despite the system.

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