The Miami Open wrapped up what has been a remarkable and, to many, a shocking first quarter to 2017. Here are some thoughts.
1. The Return Of Roger Federer
Three months into 2017 and who would have believed ROGER FEDERER would be the top guy in tennis. I don’t even think the most die-hard Federer fans would have dreamed of the possibility that he would lead the ATP Race after Miami. But, leave it to Roger to not only stun everyone winning the Australian Open, but to then go on to sweep Indian Wells and Miami.
That’s only the second time in his career he’s swept all three, and he’s doing at age 35! Just think about that. 35!
It really begs the question, IS HE HUMAN?
Well, probably not. And I think at some point later in this season we’ll see him come back down to earth. But he truly looks as good as ever. Which leads to the question, “How is he doing it?” That answer deserves its own post tomorrow.
2. Rafael Nadal’s Resurgence
Just a notch below Federer’s wow-factor is Rafa’s return to prominence on hardcourts. Nadal showed some stuff at the Australian and again in Miami. And he made the Acapulco final losing to Querrey – Ok, bad loss there. But without Federer, maybe Nadal sweeps Australia, Indian Wells and Miami. He’s playing well enough to do it.
That said, there are still holes in his game – his serve just doesn’t have much pop, and his shots (and shorts) are still short.
But he’s doing well off the backhand, returning good and at least he’s in the hunt again at these big hardcourt events, and that should bode very well for the clay.
Oh yeah, and no injuries!! (Jinx!)
3. Where Are The “Bad Elbow” Boys?
Of course I’m speaking of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. These two ruled tennis the last couple of years and suddenly, just when they thought it would continue (we all did!), it was taken away from them. And in the worst case scenario for them, it was taken by Roger and Rafa.
Poor guys. Honestly, did anyone outside their fanbases actually miss them at Indian Wells and Miami? Or even the last weekend in Australia? They’ve almost become an afterthought.
4. Murray Now Under Pressure
With the clay and grass ahead, Murray is now going to face the ranking pressure of defending a ton of points – Monte Carlo SF, Madrid F, Rome title, French F, Queen’s title and Wimbledon title. So there’s not a lot of room for error if he wants to finish No. 1 again.
And now he’s got an elbow issue, also. And elbow injuries aren’t as bad as a knee or a back, but they can be problematic especially if you get to the surgery stage. From the sound of it, though, I think Murray might miss Monte Carlo but return for Madrid or Rome.
Still, even when healthy it wasn’t like he was tearing up the tour. So he’ll need to get back on track fast or do like Federer, only show for the French (maybe Rome) and focus on the grass.
5. Djokovic Is Broken
It’s looking more and more like that Doha title was a “Dead Cat Bounce”, meaning the win gave many false hope that he was back on the rebound. Well, since that victory over Murray he’s gone a paltry 6-4.
Sure, there are injuries, recently an elbow kept him out of Miami. And now Boris is after him. But at this point, a month from turning 30, maybe he needs to just take the clay season off and get things right in his head and at home, if that’s still an issue.
It just seems like he’s not fully committed to the game deep down right now. There’s no real fight, no urgency out there.
He’ll say the right things and we see moments on the court, but I don’t get the feeling tennis is fun for him. And if that’s the case, then why keep playing?
6. Roger’s Schedule
I once called Federer the GOAT of Scheduling. And it’s a label he deserves because I’m sure most players his age would be oh so tempted to chase the points on the clay, especially with the top ranking in the balance. Federer says he isn’t and that would be smart for him if stuck to it and didn’t.
He can always change his mind, but clay is his worst surface. So using those reserves for Halle, Wimbledon, Cincinnati and the US Open would be better spent rathen that risking his body on the clay where his chances just aren’t as great as they are on hard.
I hope he sticks to that.
7. No. 1 Ranking
It’s shocking to consider that Roger or Rafa have a very, very real shot at No. 1, especially with Murray and Djokovic out of sorts.
Seriously, we all thought it was a 2-person No. 1 race, just not these two, right?
If Rafa has his typical clay season and takes the French, which right now you’d have put him as the favorite, then Roger wins Wimbledon or gets to the final there, then it’s over, one of them is finishing No. 1.
And if Rafa does come through on the clay and Roger sits out, what a crazy second half it will be with those two going at it for No. 1. And possibly sometime in August or after the US Open one of them actually returns to No. 1.
Then again, maybe Djokovic finds that flame and runs through the clay, and Murray gets his mojo back and wins another Wimbledon. Why then we’ll have all out war…
8. The Contenders
With Murray and Djokovic struggling, look who stepped up and seized the opportunity. And look who didn’t.
Where’s Milos Raonic – well, injured as usual.
Tomas Berdych? A bust.
Kei Nishikori? It’s starting to look like he’s never going to win Slam.
Grigor Dimitrov? Played great in Australia, since?
Stan Wawrinka? The Australian should have been his, but Roger’s just in his head too much.
9. Young Guns
Outside of Roger and Rafa and the decline of Andy and Novak, we are seeing some serious inroads from Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios. I think both are going to contend for No. 1 in the next few years and Kyrgios could be a Grand Slam champion as early as the US Open!
And when Kyrgios is dialed-in, he’s as good as they come.
10. Juan Martin Del Potro Is Dangerous Again
If there’s another feel good story on the tour this year is Juan Martin Del Potro. There was some concern after the Argentine took January off, but he’s looked good in the few tournaments he’s played and once he starts getting some better draws – he’s more than due – and if he can stay healthy at least for the Slams, I think he’ll finish Top 10.
So I am really looking forward to seeing him progress in the next couple of months.
11. The WTA Is A Hot Mess
How bad is the WTA right now? Maria Sharapova has to save them. That’s how bad. A doper!
Serena is done. Done as far as playing WTA events – she’ll still win Slams.
Angelique Kerber can’t win a match. Simona Halep can’t handle the pressure. Random Russians win Masters events. Johanna Konta won Miami. And it’s anyone’s guess who’ll rule on the clay – maybe Sharapova will!
Hell, right now the two Wimbledon favorites are Serena and Venus, and Venus will be 37!
The WTA really needs some young phenom to just takeover the game – sorry, it’s not Eugenie Bouchard.
Madison Keys? Injury prone.
Naomi Osaka? Can’t win a big match.
Just someone, because all these mid to late-20s women just aren’t that good and the Williams sisters really aren’t going to be around much more than…8 or 9 more years (kidding).
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