I would have made this post earlier, but again no Internet connection. Finally I got to see some tennis when I watched the Beijing final, and while it was raining in Beijing, I also got to see some of the Nadal/Cilic match. Getting back to the poll on my previous post, there was quite a few people who voted that Rafa will soon be back to his very best. I appreciate the fact that some of my readers is not writing off Rafa, because we know how good he is and how difficult he has made it for Roger over the years. Or maybe those voters said Rafa would soon be back to his very best because they felt, as i do, that Roger and Rafa’s destinies are intertwined somehow. Or maybe they honestly felt that Rafa will make a full recovery from his injuries and that he will really be back to his very best.
Personally I don’t feel like that is the case. As I have remarked before, Rafa is now in a similar place where Roger was in 2008. Roger has come back in spectacular fashion, but even he will probably not be as dominant as he was before 2008. So even if Rafa comes back successfully, i don’t think he will get back to where he was early 2009. I think both Roger and Rafa will from now on not be as dominant as they were before. They will still win slams and be slam contenders for some years to come, but i think the Federer/Nadal era could slowly start winding down form here on. I don’t see the Rafa revival being as spectacular as Roger’s was, simply because Roger its multidimensional and a genius. I mean as bad as things got for him at one point, he always had the genius to make a successful comeback.
Rafa just doesnt have that same versatility, so it will definitely be harder for him to come back. When other players start figuring Rafa out, like Delpo has, and to a lesser degree Soderling and Cilic, that is pretty much that. He doesn’t have soething else to show them. With Roger it is different because he as an infinite amount of ways to beat his opponents. He cant be figured out as long as he is not injured or mentally fragile, because true genius can’t be figured out. So for that reason I truly do believe that Rafa’s star is fading. If I am wrong then so be it. I just think with his body withering and with certain opponents starting to figure him out, he’s really up against it now. He can still win some French Opens, but that is about it in my opinion.
Djokovic doing a Rafa.
As for Roger i think he will become slightly less dominant with age, but will still be a force to be reckoned with at all the majors for some years to come. To come back to the Beijing final, I thought Djokovic played well, but i also think this performance by Cilic shows me that he is not ready to win a grand slam. He was a break up three times in the second set, and on two occasions served for the set. There is really no way he should not have won that second set and take the match into a deciding set. He really lacked the killer instinct to finish off Djokovic in the second set. Its one thing to wipe your opponent off the court like he did against Murray at the US Open and Rafa in the semi’s of Beijing. But its a different story when things are close and you have the chances to put away your opponent.
This is one of the most important things when you want to win majors.The majors are a different animal as Roger says, and the big boys all come to play. There is simply no room for being timid and not taking opportunities. Cilic even served a double fault to lose his serve at 6-5, and of course that is not a good way to enter a tie break. It was no surprise then that Djokovic took advantage of Cilic’s inability to close him out, and he wrapped up the match in the tie break. It was frustrating to watch because Cilic acted like he didn’t want to win. And aside from that I am not a big Djokovic fan these days. I don’t like the way he gets mad when the match is close either. He throws his racquet, shouts out loud in Serbian and smashed the ball out of the stadium. That’s just unprofessional.
I was a fan of Djokovic when he first rose to stardom, but it seemed like fame changed him or something. He just doesn’t strike me as a particularly classy individual. On the other hand I like Cilic, but he disappointed me today when opportunity was beckoning. He showed me that he is not ready to win a slam yet, and Simon Reed is still reaching. He was just saying that Cilic could win a slam next year because he beat Murray at the US Open, but in the mean time Murray must have played his worst match of the year. Well at least that is good news for Roger, because it is one less guy he has to worry about when it comes to the latter stages of a grand slam. Few players are really good in those stages. At the US Open we saw Delpo is mentally capable of it.
Tsonga needs a haircut…badly.
So for the moment Delpo is probably Roger’s main problem in the slams, outside of Wimbledon. At the moment there is a question mark over Rafa for me, and he would have to beat Roger in a slam again before I can believe he is a real threat for him there. Right now I’d say he is kind of a second tier threat at the slams, along with Djokovic and Murray. At the French Open its slightly different, because there he is still in the top tier as far as favorites are concerned, along with Delpo. This is the only slam where I feel Roger is a second tier favorite, even though he won it this year. Wimbledon on the other hand is the one tournament that I think is up for the taking for Roger. And at the Australian and US Opens I think Roger and Delpo will probably be the main favorites.
I think Roger has a good chance to win two slams again next year, while Rafa and Delpo will probably get one each again. Therefor I don’t see much changing at the top come 2010. Murray hasn’t showed that he has the balls to win slams, while Cilic has just convinced me of the same. Same goes pretty much for Djokovic. He will be there in the latter rounds, but when it really matters I just feel he lacks a certain maturity. Of course I’m not saying this is the way things will inevitably turn out, but that is what it looks like to me. Guys like Murray, Soderling and Djokovic all have outside chances of winning slams in 2010, but that is as far as it goes. Another guy who i can’t leave out is Tsonga, who beat Mikhael Youzhny 6-3, 6-3 to win the Tokyo title. He also beat Gael Monfils by the same score in the semi-finals.
That is pretty good going by the big man, and he is too talented and dangerous not to include as someone with an outside chance to win a slam in 2010. I saw some highlights of the match and Tsonga is looking very dominant. I’m glad he is doing well because he has an exciting game that is good for tennis I feel. It looks like Tsonga will now also qualify for the year end Masters in London. That pretty much leaves Davydenko, Verdasco, Simon and Soderling to fight it out for the remaining spot. Up next is Shanghai which starts today and here is the draw:
As you can see Rafa has a pretty easy draw until the semi’s again. But then in the semi’s he will probably face either Delpo, Tsonga or Soderling. If he loses in the semi’s, which is pretty much what I expect, then he will gain only 360 points. If Rafa only takes away 560 points for two semi’s in Asia, it bodes well for Roger’s bid to be year end number one for a fifth year…