Final Thoughts On the 2017 Australian Open – The Changed Court Speed Made All the Difference

The grand slams are the biggest events in tennis that come around only four times in a year which is why I always make one post to look back at what transpired over the past fortnight and look at how it affected the tennis landscape.

The 2017 Australian Open obviously had great significance because of the fact that Federer, at last, bagged that elusive 18th slam title which put him further ahead of the field in the GOAT debate.

When Djokovic was going through the most dominant run in tennis history from the beginning of 2015 to the French Open in 2016 I had in the back of my mind the idea that at some point there must be some kind of response from Federer.

I am particularly referring to Djokovic completing the personal slam at the French Open. That was something Federer could never achieve and on top of that he had lost four very significant slam matches against Djokovic since 2014.

Djokovic was not only fast closing the gap between him and Federer in terms of the most important records but he was now also dominating the head-to-head. Federer had to do something fast but couldn’t cash in on Djokovic’s early loss at Wimbledon last year or on Djokovic’s slump which continued after that due to Federer’s own injury.

Along came 2017 and Djokovic was starting to gain momentum again. And besides, no one was seriously considering Federer as an Australian Open favorite after a six-month layoff. And it was after all Djokovic’s best slam.

  • How the Court Speed Made the Difference

The court speed this year in Melbourne is not something I wrote about much during my coverage but it was on my mind and I think it is the critical issue that caused this to be the Australian Open of great upsets.

As you can see, Rod Laver Arena is now one of the fastest surfaces on tour. Therefore, it is no wonder that Federer won and defeated his nemesis in the final at that. Of course, it took a tremendous effort from Federer and the court speed doesn’t take anything away from his victory, but it does explain why this was such a strange Australian Open.

It also shows us how boring tennis could have become if they didn’t slow down court speeds in recent times. Federer may have won something like 25 slams by now and dominated for even longer which would have been awfully boring.

I’m also certain of the fact that Djokovic’s loss was caused by the considerably faster courts this year. As a Djokovic fan, it is a tough thing to accept, especially since he was just about back to his peak level again after defeating Murray in Doha.

It was a big blow for him because it came at a crucial time where he needed to make a stand at his best slam after letting things slip since Wimbledon. It shows you how much court speeds and the decisions of tournament organizers can affect things.

It can literally be a determining factor in the GOAT debate. Had the surface speed been the same as last year Djokovic probably would have defeated Istomin and won the tournament. He has only lost once in the last six years on that surface.

The faster courts just give him that little less time to reach balls and make defensive plays which can make a huge difference in the outcome of a match. I saw it very clearly in the Fedal final as well.

Nadal made way fewer of those ridiculous defensive plays than he did in the 2009 final and he constantly looked rushed. I thought he could have been more aggressive at times but Federer and the courts made that hard.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Nadal would have won had the court speed been the same as last year. But then neither Federer nor Nadal would have made the final. It is way more likely that Djokovic and Murray would have been in the final.

Murray’s loss to Zverev is another dead giveaway that the court speed was drastically different. A serve-and-volley player in the quarters of the Australian Open? Are you kidding me? And that after defeating the world number one?

But even as a Djokovic fan it is hard to feel bitter about the drastic change in court speed because of the way in which court speeds have been slowed down on tour in recent years. It is not conducive to Federer’s attacking game style and he has suffered many brutal losses because of it.

  • What Does It All Mean for the GOAT Debate?

Yes, the change in court speed in Melbourne this year could have had a big effect on the outcome of the GOAT debate. After his Australian Open title, many people are now proclaiming Federer as the undisputed GOAT.

He had won the elusive 18th slam and defeated his nemesis in the process. It is hard to argue with their logic. Personally, I think it is a great story and great for tennis. I am celebrating with Fedfans; not as a Fedfan but as a tennis fan.

That said the GOAT debate is something very subjective. There are so many factors to consider like the court speeds I just mentioned, the era players play in, how they fared against their biggest rivals, the records that they broke, and many other things.

That’s why I find it easier to divide players into tiers and I have already said my top tier consists of Laver, Federer, and Djokovic(I would have added Nadal if he won the Australian Open). They all did amazing things. Laver won the calendar slam, Federer won his 18th slam at age 35, and Djokovic had the most dominant run in history when he won the personal slam and he reached the highest level of tennis ever in my opinion during that time.

And Djokovic is far from done. I thought he may have some serious personal problems and that he lost his drive after the Australian Open loss, but after having time to digest it I realized it was simply the court speed.

The Djokovic I got to know during 2015 and 2016 when he was dominating was one of the most driven and ambitious individuals I have ever encountered. I was certain he would become the GOAT with that level of ambition and drive.

Then I started thinking he has marriage problems and that he changed but I don’t think you just lose that level of ambition that easily. He was already at his best level again in London and Doha this year.

He just got unlucky with the changed court speed at the Australian Open. I don’t think it is a question of motivation. Djokovic will be back. Soon it will be Indian Wells and Miami where he is almost unbeatable and then the clay season where he can make up for what happened in Melbourne.

Since Nadal could not complete the double career slam in Melbourne this gives him the opportunity now to become the only big four member to do so. The GOAT debate is certainly not just about how may slams you win.

I know this is the popular view but it is definitely not true. Laver won only 11 slams but he is considered by many to be the GOAT. That is because he won the calendar slam. These things matter.

So does the Djoker slam and so would the double career slam. There is a reason Federer or Nadal have never achieved these things. They are incredibly hard to do!

  • In Conclusion

I don’t necessarily think Federer has the GOAT title wrapped up. He may have it wrapped up for the time being but he is closer to retirement than Djokovic. Djokovic recently said that he plans on being around for a long time(until he is 40).

The GOAT debate is very subjective anyway and despite this one big win over Nadal, it doesn’t do much to change the overall head-to-head of 1-3 at the Australian Open, 3-9 in slams, and 12-23 overall.

It also doesn’t change his 1-3 head-to-head with Djokovic in slam finals or the overall head-to-head which is in Djokovic’s favor. Djokovic isn’t done. Neither is Federer or Nadal. I think it would be boring and unfair to close the GOAT debate now.

What happened in Melbourne was a big setback for Djokovic but may well cause him to work even harder than he did of late and make him sacrifice everything to win the French Open again this year.

We will just have to see. But I don’t think the GOAT debate is over and I’m still very interested to see what happens next!

Posted in Australian Open, Grand Slams.

69 Comments

  1. I think Djokovic has a 3-1 record in Slam finals against Federer and not 4-1(?)

    I wonder how much Wimbledon’s Djokovic and Nadal would have won if that court speed was the same as in Sampras’s prime. That would have been a different ball game, figuratively and literally.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    You are right! Fixed! I must have mistakenly added the 2016 AO SF as a F. Yes, one does wonder how they would have fared in those days. It’s all very subjective which is why the GOAT debate is subjective. Very different racquet and string technology in those days too.

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  2. I can’t tell if this is written as a parody Ru-an. You’re “certain” that if the court speed was a tad slower, Djokovic would’ve won that match and the AO? That’s assuming he is a robot who just had a dial tweaked against him. Tennis doesn’t work that way. People have good and bad days, etc. Some people’s styles match up differently against each other.
    Another major omission here is that Federer is much older than Djokovic and every statistician knows the difficulty of winning majors after 30. So to look at the Fed-Nadal or Fed-Djoko head to head without consideration of age is biased, no?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    And I can’t tell if your comment is written as a parody, Aaron. Did I say a ‘tad’ slower? I don’t think you read properly. But even if it was just a ‘tad’ slower(which clearly it was not) it could have easily made the difference between winning and losing.

    There has been no omission. My readers know enough about tennis to know that Federer is significantly older than Djokovic. The head-to-head is not biased. Nadal was an early bloomer who gave Federer problems since the very beginning. Pre-prime Djokovic had to play Federer in his prime(and defeated him) so there is no bias.

    [Reply]

    Aaron Green Reply:

    Given your certainty in how a tennis match and entire tournament would go based on court speed I urge you to start expressing your views financially via the betting sites as you clearly will be rich enough to buy the ATP by the US Open with this unfailing predictive analytical tool. Djokovic is a talented tennis player from whom a lot of stars aligned. By extrapolating so aggressively you lose credibility but fortunately statisticians like Carl Bialik at 538 can help analyze the facts too.

    As for the age difference, nobody would say that Federer was in his physical prime at 34 or when a lot of his Djoko losses occurred. But more important, why do you like tennis even at all? I thought you loved the game, and the way Federer moved or hit the ball and likewise Djokovic etc. It was inspiring to see them play. This obsession with trying to rank things and people is not tennis. It has no intrinsic content and means nothing to the aesthetics or athleticism of the sport.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    This is why I hesitate replying at all to people I don’t know. I don’t have time for silly arguments with people who lack tennis knowledge and doubt my love for tennis after following it since I was 5 years old, playing it since I was 8 years old, and blogging about it since 2008. Believe what you have to believe. You will anyway.

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    Jude Reinhart Reply:

    Ru-an:

    Great article. I chose this thread to respond to, only because, I am probably as big a Nole fan as anyone else out there – perhaps bigger (not literally :-) ). Having said that, there is one thing about your article that I will have to disagree with, and I am not saying this conclusively, or as an authority of the game, more as someone who feels like he knows Nole on the court. Fast court or no fast court, this Australian Open was not meant to be for Nole. I agree that the slower court would have perhaps helped him advance further along in the tournament, but I think Nole had some other issues going on between his ears that kept him from winning AO 2017. Istomin played out of the world tennis that day, but honestly, only because, Nole let him. Twelve months ago, even if the court had been just as fast, the score line, IMO, would have read very differently.

    I agree with you, also, that the GOAT debate is far from over. I know Nole has it in him to win a few more slams – 18, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he got to 18.

    Here’s my prediction – Nole wins the French Open and Wimbledon this year. And if he’s still playing with the right mindsets, he passed Nadal with #15 in NY.

    To Aaron, I must say, I like his words in the last comment – but as a fan of the game and as a bigger fan of the personalities in the game, I just can’t not rank one against the other. That’s just the way I feel. Same reason why we debate MJ vs the rest of the field. And in all fairness, while Roger has all the makings of being up there as tennis’ MJ, the reality is, and you’d know this if you’ve followed this sport seriously enough, Roger’s slams before 2008 were a joke – against a mediocre playing field at best, and even when Roger was at the prime of his game, the likes of Nadal and more importantly Nole have consistently beaten him (2008 AO, 2008 Wimbledon, 2009 AO, 2009 US, 2010 US, and many more). Roger wasn’t over 30 then, not quite at least, and he was, imo, the fittest on the court – just watch the 2009 Wimbledon win against Roddick – Roger hardly broke a sweat in that 5-set thriller. But I digress, this is not about Roger or Nadal, this is about Nole. The real deal!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks! You could be right.

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  3. I would love to see Djokovic around until he’s 40 and enjoy all that he can accomplish until then. And with his fitness and flexibility I don’t doubt he can do it. As a personal preference I really enjoyed the faster conditions at AO this year and the great variety of tennis and players it rewarded. Murray and Djoker should have been able to adapt as Rafa certainly managed to. I hope the speed varies even more so we can have serve and vollyers in the mix for slam winners. Sorry to say but although I am astounded by the skills and quality of play between Novak and Murray, I find myself fast forwarding through their matches as it’s become quite boring for me to watch them drone on for hours and hours mostly from the baseline. I was glued to every single point of the semis and the final. I loved watching both Zverev brothers, and Istomin, Wawrinka, Federer, Rafa, Dimitrov have to figure out the surface and adapt to win. I think the number 1 and 2 players in the world should be able to do that too. So it was a great AO as far as I’m concerned and congrats to both Roger and Rafa for reaching levels I honestly wasn’t sure they’d be able to again. Also, one small thing. In this post you’re kind of saying it was all the court speed that made the difference w Federer, but I’d like to point out the tremendous improvement he’s made in his greatest weakness. Fed’s backhand is what won him this final more than anything imho. I’m pretty sure you gave him credit for that in your previous post. All the best. E

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  4. Ru-an I’m not going to lie, I liked reading your blog since the beginning of high school but when you changed to team Djokovic I felt personally attacked and not really welcome here. Not because you switched favorite players but the I felt the posts about Fed fans were overly critical and unfair to me. Like I was supposed to feel bad just for him being my favorite, even though you said just for the more annoying fans I felt like you were including me in that description from what you described it as. I still read your posts but was less present because I felt like I was being judged, (I definitely pay attention to the entire game and tour, but am admittedly biased).

    However after looking at the comment above ( I’m sure you can guess which one I’m talking about) I want to apologize. For taking what you were saying so personally and for not realizing what you were saying. There’s biased when wanting a player to win and feeling bad after a tough loss and there’s biased when you just blatantly ignore facts and discredit the rest of the tour and unfortunately that fits the description for a lot of Fed-fans. Every group has them I’m sure but still. I see what you mean. Your posts are great and I enjoy reading them.

    P.S Very Happy Fed could grab one at 35 yrs against Nadal. Very special! French Should be interesting, Keep an eye out for Stan that’s my slight surprise bet

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I want to apologize too for making you feel judged. Like you I felt judged myself for becoming a Djokovic fan so I responded in kind. But as you can see I am not anti-Federer or something. I think I’m just a more balanced tennis fan now. Thanks for reading my blog!

    [Reply]

    Darrell Robbins Reply:

    Of course! You’re a true tennis fan. I’m sorry people get on your case just for switching favorites. Luckily I was little when I switched from Safin to Federer so I didn’t get burned at the stake 😂

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    And you didn’t have a blog about tennis on the Internet!

    [Reply]

    Darrell Robbins Reply:

    This is true 😂

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  5. I stopped reading your comments while ago when you switched from being biggest Federers fan to Djokovic over night, I was surprised but we are all different so I accepted it. Some of your posts are hard to read so I wanted to see what you had to say.. Can’t believe it.. You should call every of your posts Federer is not the GOAT.. I won’t go to details but for people who followed you from 2008 it’s hard to understand how can you change so much.. I know you don’t care, but I don’t either,.. Good win but djokovic did that, good win but courts were faster, good win but Nadal would have won.. Good win…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Lol. You Fedfans will never be pleased no matter what I say so I stopped caring a long time ago.

    [Reply]

    Pete Reply:

    Lol lol lol, I’m a fan of tennis and Roger too,I’m not 15 and biased fan mate, it was an amazing tennis, at least someone with attacking style finally won, but anytime you give him a credit you slagg him in next sentence or bring up that younger guys were beating him over the years, who cares, 18 and counting. Fortunately I have a family and normal life after being professional sportman myself so I see both sides of the life, enjoy your,, coat turning,, life style, sure it will get you far pal.. Who is next you will praise? Maybe Zverev because he might be number one for good few years, stick with the current best

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    You sound pretty sad for a guy with a family and a ‘normal life’. I gave Federer plenty of credit in my last two posts. As a Djokovic fan, I went out of my way to give him credit. But thanks for playing the idiot Fedfan to show everyone why I turned against Federer and his fans, to begin with.

    I knew it would only be a question of time before one of you showed up!

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    I agree completely Ru-an. The above poster is the sort of person who gives most Federer fans a bad name. Like with many things in life, sadly we have a silent majority whose views are often overrode by those of the vocal minority. It seems to be the same in all areas, sports, politics, entertainment, whatever. Some of the trolling I have seen on forums was hilarious. Not sure if you have heard of them but two users on Talk Tennis Warehouse (TTW) called 90’s Clay and The Dark Knight (TDK) spent most of the time trolling the forums in the run up to and then after the match. Before the match they were saying (and I quote): “This one is for all the marbles”, “Fed should forfeit the match, why embarrass yourself again against Rafa” and then afterwards they were claiming he was doping and blaming it on Roger’s medical timeout (which was for a legitimate injury which had clearly hampered him at various stages throughout the tournament). I was almost as happy to see those idiots knocked down a peg than I was at Federer’s win! My sort of hierarchy of the best types of fan are: overall tennis fans, specific player fans (don’t like watching other players, only their favourite(s)) and the worst are specific player haters. They don’t even like watching people win. They just like to see people lose. For example, even though I don’t like Rafa very much I closely followed the scores for the Nadal Dimitrov match and whilst I backed Dimitrov, it was because I actually prefer his game, not entirely because I thought he would be an easier opponent, particularly because had Roger straight-setted Dimitrov in the final, an argument would almost certainly have been made about the difficulty of his draw.

    One other thing. I’m really glad that Federer has put to bed at least some of the speculation about his mental toughness. He has won three five-set matches in this tournament, two of them from difficult positions (Nishikori just ran out of gas, but the other two were tricky). In particular, when Roger went a break down in the fifth I didn’t think he could possibly pull it off. But he finally showed Nadal something different. He stopped allowing Nadal to bully him from the baseline. The biggest change I noticed wasn’t technical but strategic. Federer always had the capability to hit backhand winners, he just never used to use it because his short slice into an opponent’s backhand set up the point very well against essentially anyone else he has played (even Novak struggles with that shot), but against Rafa it goes straight into his forehand, and he loves to rip winners and aggressive shots off of low slices to his forehand. Instead, almost every time Rafa started using his forehand against Roger’s backhand, Roger would hit two or three backhands, and if he couldn’t break out of that pattern he would just go straight for a winner. Why give extra confidence to Nadal and tire yourself out more hitting tons of high backhands to lose the point in 20 shots almost certainly, than have maybe a 25% chance of hitting a winner but a 75% chance of the rally ending in say 5 shots? There’s no extra points in tennis for extending rallies, and that’s the mistake Federer always used to make against Rafa.

    As for Novak, something tells me that true to form he will be back to his best in time for the French, but suddenly that becomes a much more difficult one to predict after events at the AO. Not only Djokovic, Murray and Nadal have a chance, I would say that Wawrinka, Federer and Thiem are all good picks for dark horse. Perhaps even Nishikori if he can stay healthy for once. None of those seven players winning the French would particularly surprise me. I’m not going to predict exactly, but here’s a few of my predictions for the rest of the year:

    Federer and Nadal to make the World Tour Finals
    Djokovic to make a late run on Murray’s no.1 ranking and get it back by the end of the year
    At least one new winner at Masters 1000 level or higher
    Djokovic to win at least one slam (lol as though that’s an ambitious prediction)
    Fedal to win at least one more slam this year between them
    Murray to win no slams
    The BBC to continue writing “Sir Andy Murray” on every, Single. FUCKING. NEWS. ARTICLE.

    Completely off-topic:

    I never noticed any further posts on your Bernie Sanders blog. Did you move it or did you just stop posting? Also, in my country (UK) we have a fairly similar politician called Jeremy Corbyn. I was wondering if you had heard of him? Sorry for the off-topic nature of this end to the post.

    [Reply]

  6. So, it is a great astonishment that Nadal performed better than djokovic in faster conditions.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Well Nadal has won 2 Wimbies and 2 USO. He is not completely useless on fast courts!

    [Reply]

  7. Hi, Ru-an. I haven’t commented in a while but I have enjoyed your posts and the comments as well. It has certainly been a strange tournament, hasn’t it? I had kind of accepted that Roger’s slam winning days were over. When I put the last few years in hindsight, it really seemed like Wimby 2014 was his last real chance because it was the only time he ever really came close. So this is quiet something.

    Now that I’ve come back down to earth and had some time to reflect on the final, I too have been thinking a lot about the conditions in this year’s tournament. I noticed the trend back in 2014, both hard court slams seemed quicker than they had been in a long time. I think they found a pretty good balance in the last 3 years, with both Fed and Djoko, the ultimate attacker and the ultimate defender producing some fantastic tennis at AO and USO. But this year they really took it further and it completely turned everything upside down, heavily favouring attackers. Both Djokovic and Murray dropping out early is indeed a strong indication and no coincidence. The surprise to me is how Nadal was able to do so well on these courts.

    The balls are said to have been lighter as well this year, which is one factor that should not be overlooked. I personally think this is the one thing that helped Federer more than anything else. It explains why his backhand held up so well since a lighter ball takes less physical strength to return. The lighter balls and faster courts made for conditions that seemed very similar to when Federer was at his absolute best. It just goes to show how much of a difference the playing conditions make. The lighter balls probably helped Nadal as well. He was able to use more spin than he has in the last few years and I think it made the difference for him.

    We can speculate as to what is the motivation behind the change. Did the organizers want to give the home players(big servers/hitters) a boost, or were they perhaps tired of Djokovic’s dominance? Maybe they simply wanted to produce more aggressive tennis. For me personally, it is a welcome change of pace, but of course it depends on your perspective and which player you support. I can totally understand how this must feel like for Djokovic and his fans. He has been so comfortable here in the past, so it must feel like he got screwed. He’s pretty damn good under any conditions, but these conditions are not ideal for him and maybe it took him by surprise.

    I kind of felt that Federer was cheated years ago when the courts were universally slowed down (even Wimbledon). It certainly had an effect and it’s hard to tell how much of his decline was natural or due to playing conditions. At one point the courts were practically made of sandpaper, but it sure produced some epic, physical battles between Djoko and Rafa which still remain some of the most memorable moments in the sport. It is probably a good thing that they change the pace every now and then.

    The question is if this bump in speed this year was an experiment or a long-term plan. The reactions seem to be mostly positive as far as I can tell so it will be interesting to see if the other events are going to follow suit.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey BE, I’m happy for you as a Fedfan. Yes, I remember how it felt as a Fedfan with the slow courts. Like I said, as a Djokovic fan the change of court speed at the AO was tough to swallow but I don’t think it was unfair. How crazy is it though that Federer couldn’t seem to break through no matter what and the second they sped up the courts enough he made the breakthrough after a 6-month layoff vs his nemesis in the final?!

    It makes you wonder whether he would ever have won #18 if they didn’t speed up the courts. Djokovic was close to his best again and Murray was playing better than ever. I didn’t think Federer would even pass Nishikori. Then Djokovic and Murray loses early. Yes, court speed can make a huge difference.

    [Reply]

    Bjorn Eirik Reply:

    Thanks. Yeah, different court speeds also makes it very hard to compare players and proclaim a goat. Had the court conditions been different for any given player during their prime slam winning years, things could have looked very different. Although some players are a little more dependant on conditions than others.

    Fed winning the final goes a long way to strengthen his goat claim, at least for the time being anyway. Had Nadal won, it might have been the final nail in the coffin as far as the goat debate is concerned. What a difference just one match can make. Some breathing room is very welcome, but there’s no point feeling safe when things happen so quickly, and the 30-year barrier doesn’t seem to stop players anymore. It’s a long way up to 18 slams, but I agree it’s not the only thing that counts. If Djokovic claims a second RG trophy/double career slam he has a very strong card and the pressure is back on. Wouldn’t bet against Nadal claiming more trophies either if he continues this form. Exciting times!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Whatever the case may be it is an incredible story. I just read today Djokovic said that it is a massive boost for tennis. Couldn’t agree more. Who could have written such a plot? One almost feels like it can’t be mere coincidence. I think Federer probably has GOAT wrapped up at this point but not necessarily indefinitely. Let’s just see what Djokovic can do.

    “I am not surprised that Federer won the title because you can always expect him to play at the highest level when he is fit.

    “He was sidelined by injury for six months but having entered the tournament fresh and fit, he played outstanding tennis and I can only congratulate him.

    “The final between him and Nadal was one of the sports hallmarks of the year, going beyond tennis itself, as it’s been one of the greatest rivalries of all time. Nadal, too, played very well and they both showed why they are great champions on and off the court. It was a massive boost for tennis any way you look at it.”

    http://linkis.com/www.sportinglife.com/bUzXQ#.WJCvo7DfBkI.twitter

    [Reply]

    Charlie Reply:

    It takes me back to a quote from Murray after losing the Dubai 2012 final. He said, “if all the courts were this fast, Roger would still be No.1”. I still think that on a good day he is still the best fast court player around. Obviously I’m not going to get really optimistic. But assuming he stays healthy, I see no reason why he can’t challenge at Wimbledon and the USO. But Ruan I wouldn’t worry about Novak, he’ll be back to his best before you know it.

    [Reply]

  8. Hi!
    Good blog. However, just my opinion, Djokovic and Murray did not loose because of faster courts. I saw his game in the first match, he wasn’t playing well at all. It seemed like he doesn’t care anymore but I know he will be back. He is seriously suffering from motivation issues which is very normal given what he has achieved in the last few years

    You know am a balanced Fedfan so thought would give you my 2 cents. The article feels like it’s more of a praise for Djokovic than for Federer winning his 18th. Nevertheless, I will continue to follow and read your blogs as I know you are passionate about this game

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks, Ganesh but I don’t think so. Djokovic was great in his first match beating Verdasco who defeated Nadal last year.

    ‘You know am a balanced Fedfan so thought would give you my 2 cents. The article feels like it’s more of a praise for Djokovic than for Federer winning his 18th.’

    I have to wonder if you are a balanced Fedfan after reading your second sentence. That wasn’t what this article was at all. I think I already praised Federer enough in my previous post. If you want more praise you are reading the wrong blog. Try to read the article without the bias of a Fedfan and remember that I am a Djokovic fan.

    [Reply]

  9. [“Yes, Federer fans can be annoying but the ones who stayed faithful you can’t accuse of not staying loyal and having faith.”]
    Something you couldn’t do Ru-an. When he suffered heart-breaking defeats, you left his side and became a Djokovic fan. I have read all your explanations as I follow your blog but never commented before. Yes, I agree, some of the Federer fans are really annoying. I know who they are. They regard Nadal as a doper because he came back from long injury breaks to win titles repeatedly. They accused Djokovic for taking MTOs. In this AO, Federer has done exactly the same – winning slam after a six month injury break and took MTOs before fifth sets of semifinal and final but they are just happy with that. No question of doping or cheating since it’s Federer. But what did YOU do? You got disgusted by these Fed-fanatics and left Federer’s camp and started supporting Djokovic who was virtually winning everything at that time. Not surprisingly, you were called a glory-hunter by some Fed-fans. It is still not clear to me what was going through your mind and how a passionate fan like you can get so distracted by some crazy fanatics? You said you enjoyed so much as a Djokovic fan which is understandable as he kept winning title after title. But let me tell you, we the “loyal” fed-fans have enjoyed more! We suffered a lot, but cheered our man for his unbelievable spirit. He lost those important matches one after another and more and more we embraced him. We threw a lot of shit at him but loved him like anything and never ever thought to leave him. You are unfortunate enough to miss the agony. Obviously, you are also missing the extreme joy and ecstasy now. I have a lot of respect for Rafa and Novak. I like your blog too as your thoughts and insights on tennis amazes me. But I fail to respect someone as a human being who gives up supporting his hero for silly reasons. Sorry!

    [“It also shows us how boring tennis could have become if they didn’t slow down court speeds in recent times. Federer may have won something like 25 slams by now and dominated for even longer which would have been awfully boring.”]
    Boring? Is it really? It could have been very exciting to you. As you might have remained a Federer-fan then!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    You have grossly misunderstood me. But that is nothing new. Here is something you Fedfans still haven’t gotten and probably never will because you think Federer is the perfect human being:

    I LIKE Djokovic more than Federer. That is why I am his fan and why not being a Federer fan when he won #18 means diddly squat to me.

    Sorry to disappoint!

    [Reply]

    cornel Reply:

    Ankur, how can you feel so strongly about who any person chooses as their favourite tennis player? Can you please explain how you cannot have respect for somebody if they decide to change their favourite tennis player?

    This type of fanatic behaviour is just childish. It is our right to change our opinion every god-damn day. I bet you would not mind now if Ru-an decides to change back to Federer?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I think they were hoping I would change back to Federer when he won #18 so they could feel justified in calling me a glory hunter when I became a Djokovic fan. Oops.

    [Reply]

    Ankur Reply:

    Cornel… you lose your bet.

    [Reply]

    Ankur Reply:

    You have also misunderstood what I was trying to say. I am not a fan of Federer because I consider him as a perfect human being. His tennis is simply beautiful along with his love and passion for the game. I have a lot of respect for Djokovic and Nadal . I do think all these three players have made each other better. I just could not accept your sudden turnaround. Sorry for being too harsh… and I am not disappointed. Will continue to follow your blog.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    It’s fine. No hard feelings. Glad to have you here.

    [Reply]

  10. I can’t see my comment!

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Because it wasn’t approved yet? Settle down.

    [Reply]

    Ankur Reply:

    There is a problem in my laptop’s web browser… I am still unable to see my comments and your replies there. It’s ok.

    [Reply]

  11. I think speeding up the courts here at the AO was a great idea. They should do it at more tournaments. There are plenty slow hardcourt tournaments and clay court tournaments. A few more faster hardcourts and a few more grass events couldn’t hurt. I also think it would be better if they would change the World Tour Finals in London and play it on different surfaces once in a while, they do it at the Olympics. From the 9 Masters 1000 they play 3 on clay and 6 on Hard court. At least switch one to grass. They even switched Hamburg to Shanghai and sitched from Hard to Clay in Madrid.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like watching some baseliners battle it out, and Novak, Andy, Stan, Rafa and Roger all play great from the baseline. what I miss are the matchups from the late 80s and 90s when I grew up watching Pete battle Andre, Edberg and Boris battle some baseliners like Courier or Goran play Andre. Sure, slowing down the courts made matches longer, but it’s not always fun to watch players wait for the opponents error rather than someone stepping it up and coming to the net or finish with a winner. The baseliners get 80-90% of the tournaments, give the Mischa Zverevs a few fast courts too, those matches were amazing.

    As for the GOAT debate, I don’t see anyone ever being “the GOAT”, even as a Federer fan. Not even Federer. Head to heads, matchups, eras, technology, surface, balls, age differences, players not playing each other in their “primes”. You can’t compare really. Too much What ifs.
    Even if Novak breaks most of Federer’s records (and he probably will) , I say well deserved, hats off to him. It doesn’t take away from the others.

    Ru-an, as a Fed-fan I can say I fully understand your switch to Novak from Roger. I switched from Andre to Roger, I didn’t even like Roger at the beginning, cause he beat Andre. A few years ago I also didn’t like Rafa and Novak, mainly cause the beat Roger, that’s how it goes. You pick a guy and don’t like it when he loses. That’s what a fan is, it stands for fanatic. :-)

    But as much as I love Roger as a fan, I love Tennis more than a single player. Sure, in every era I pick one or two I like and watch the most, but I still watch like 50 matches every grand slam event. So when Roger retires I’ll still watch tennis and root for another guy.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Me and you are on the same page Mardn. I followed tennis in the 90’s like you and although I enjoyed it, it bored me as well. There were too many big servers and short points. One of the reasons I switched to Agassi. It’s the same principle when I switched from Federer to Djokovic because I got bored of Federer’s serving himself out of trouble all the time.

    It took longer though because Federer is certainly less one-dimensional than Sampras. And he has more personality. So I am glad they slowed down things because it is better to see long rallies and tactics than aces or points that last 2-3 shots.

    But like you I also enjoyed Zverev at the AO and think there should be a balance. I think Djokovic, for instance, can adapt well to fast courts like he did at Wimbledon and the US Open. Same with Nadal even.

    [Reply]

  12. You guys must be very young. To me it’s bizarre that you all make such a big deal out of switching who you are a fan of at the moment. Be a fan of tennis and quit all this silly bs already. Who cares?? I have been a fan of Connors, McEnroe, Edberg, Sampas, Federer, Djokovic, and even have gained a lot of respect for Nadal. Why would I have to stop being a fan of Federer to become a fan of Djokovic. I enjoy Dimitrov, Thiem, Zverev, and hope they rise to a level where I become their fans too. We’ll see. What is it about people that they need to find anger, resentment, conflict in what should be joy and entertainment? Get a grip folks.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    ‘Why would I have to stop being a fan of Federer to become a fan of Djokovic.’

    You don’t have to but if you are like me you have outgrown Federer and Djokovic is just the next step in your evolution as a tennis fan. Nothing wrong with having favorites.

    [Reply]

  13. Ruan have a look at this blog: http://tennispurist.blogspot.bg/?m=1

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I know about this guy, Toni. Haven’t seen the article though and it is probably accurate. People need to believe in the fairytale of Federer winning an 18th just like they need the happy ending at the end of a movie. That doesn’t make it true. And of course, it is highly profitable to design it that way.

    When it comes to profit you don’t give people the truth. You give them what they want to see or hear. Since Federer won the AO I couldn’t get out of my head how incredible the plot was, like it was a movie written beforehand. And that is probably what happened.

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    Interesting. If one’s favorite player isn’t winning then every else is doping. Earlier it was Rafa and now it is Federer.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    No, that’s what you Fedfans do. I’ve grown as a tennis fan and thus become more objective. You have stood still and still believe contrary to evidence that there is no way Mr. Perfect can be doping. You probably didn’t even read the article. I suggest you do.

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    [You have stood still and still believe contrary to evidence that there is no way Mr. Perfect can be doping. You probably didn’t even read the article. I suggest you do.]
    Am I being bullied here? I had read the article before commenting. Most of the content is speculative in nature. Speculative, not deductive because there is NO evidence. However, If he gets caught in a test I’ll be the first to curse Federer. Going by the same yardstick, Djokovic could have been doping during his wonder years. Even Murray for that matter. After all, it took a Herculean effort for him to supplant Djokovic at the top of ATP rankings late last year.

    Why is it so hard to accept that Federer won? Barring Nadal, he’s had considerable success against every top 10 player he beat. The conditions were faster, he got a welcome break in the form of Zverev, who is a far easier opponent than Murray. Nadal didn’t recover as well after the match against Dimitrov as he did against Verdasco in 2009 (the difference between being 23 and 30). A lot of things came together, resulting in a victory for the Swiss.

    [No, that’s what you Fedfans do. I’ve grown as a tennis fan and thus become more objective.]
    Yes, I am a Federer fan. I’ve experienced joy when he was at his dominant best. But I’ve also been in awe of the prowess that Nadal has shown on clay. I also believe that off the court, he is the nicest guy on tour. I’ve felt the anguish that tormented Andy Murray when he failed to convert any of his first four major finals. And have felt equally good when he broke through. I’ve cheered for Djokovic when he was the underdog and marveled at the audacity of his shots down match points against my own favorite player. I’ve also cheered Wawrinka regardless of who is on the other side of the net , including Federer, because in full flow, he is the best to watch.

    You’ve become objective eh? Not sure I can believe that buddy. I’ve seen you accuse Nadal far too many times of cheating without ever raising a doubt about Djokovic’s magical vegan diet or Murray super human endurance and rugby-player like built.

    Personally, I believe non of them are doping. There is far too much at stake for each of them to take such risks . I have never gone down that line of inquiry before – against any of them and I don’t intend to start now.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    ‘You’ve become objective eh? Not sure I can believe that buddy. I’ve seen you accuse Nadal far too many times of cheating without ever raising a doubt about Djokovic’s magical vegan diet or Murray super human endurance and rugby-player like built.

    Personally, I believe non of them are doping. There is far too much at stake for each of them to take such risks . I have never gone down that line of inquiry before – against any of them and I don’t intend to start now.’

    When exactly was the last time I accused Nadal of cheating, buddy? That’s right, you can’t recall. Hence ‘I’ve become more objective'(notice I said ‘more objective’ which of course you changed to suit your agenda).

    You missed the point in the second part. There is in fact far too much at stake for them NOT to be doping given the weak doping controls. That’s the whole point. You have to be pretty naive to exclude the possibility that they could be doping.

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    I have no agenda. My comments are based on what I’ve read in your post and the post that you’ve cited.

    [You missed the point in the second part. There is in fact far too much at stake for them NOT to be doping given the weak doping controls. That’s the whole point. You have to be pretty naive to exclude the possibility that they could be doping.]

    By ‘they’, I am assuming that you are referring to not just Federer and Nadal, but also Murray and Djokovic.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    What else? I’m not as biased as Fedfans. I can easily admit that Djokovic can be doping.

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    [What else? I’m not as biased as Fedfans]
    or as biased as Nadal/Djokovic/Murray/Stan/Dimitrov/../.. Fans. Fans are inherently biased. If you feel that you can be less biased than most fans, that’s great.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    It is great. Try it.

    [Reply]

  14. I believe in your premise that the faster courts contributed in Djokovic’s loss. But i disagree that it was the main reason. Djokovic has lost his competitive spirit that he once proudly showed off. Remember after the 2nd set tiebreak in the 2015 Wimbledon final, Djokovic was yelling, cursing and giving his box the business. Most people take this the wrong way (non novak fans) but as a former collegiate athlete i can see that this is passion. Now take a look back at the Denis Istomin match. No passion or emotion after the first service game or at least not at the level we tennis fans are accustomed to. And hypothesize that the court was fully responsible. Don’t you find it concerning that he lost to Denis Istomin. I could understand losing to Roger, Rafa or other good fast court players but not Istomin.

    Novak’s big test is about to happen. If he doesn’t win the french, then he doesn’t hold any majors which hasn’t happened since 2014 after Australian. If this happens then it doesn’t look good for Wimbledon or US.

    But then again he could win the French and erase all doubts.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Like you said, we will see at the French. It is too early to tell. He lost to Istomin where one or two points made the difference on vastly different courts from previous years. He was on his way back judging from London and Doha.

    [Reply]

  15. I defintiely agree that the faster courts play into the hands of the more attacking players. Djokovic after all won in Doha and looked pretty good at times. Given his losses, the melee around his lack of form and his break up with Boris it could actually take Djokovic longer than normal to return to the top of the game.
    Does he have the stomach for another 6 grand slams? Time will tell. He has the game for it, even as he enters into his 30s.

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    I would bet at him picking up a couple at the Australian open as well as the French. That would take his count to anywhere between 14 and 16.

    Would like to see how he fares at Wimbledon and the US open. With Becker in his corner, he would have probably looked at volleying as a more consistent strategy on faster courts. Not sure now, given the success he’s had by playing from the baseline.

    Might catch a few glimpse of what’s in store as early as Indian Wells/Miami. My hunch is that he’ll defend both.

    [Reply]

  16. Not sure if I buy the argument that court speed made all the difference. Reading your blog made it seem like the outcome of the match is deterministic once the speed of the court is known.

    Look, I buy the argument that in an almost evenly stacked match up, court speed can make a difference. But to blame Djokovic’s loss to Istomin mostly on court speed? C’mon! Sure court speed is probably faster than Djokovic anticipated and he may have lost a few points in the match due to that, but overall he is a way better and complete player and Istomin should have no business in even taking him to set 5 regardless of court speed, period.

    And how do you explain Raonic’s loss to Nadal? By some measure Raonic is THE most offensive player on tour (followed by Federer) – so shouldn’t court speed made him an even bigger favorite – especially after he just beat Nadal on a similar (yet probably tad slower) hard court this year already?

    But wait… Nadal won that match b/c he fought hard…in spite of the court speed… but when he lost to Federer in the final, oh that’s b/c the court speed tilted it in Federer’s favor.

    My point is simple: it’s easy to play Monday quarterback and anyone can extrapolate based on a few examples (and conveniently ignoring facts that doesn’t fit the story).

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    ‘it’s easy to play Monday quarterback and anyone can extrapolate based on a few examples (and conveniently ignoring facts that doesn’t fit the story).’

    Why do you do it then?

    [Reply]

    Paul Reply:

    Of course we all do it. That’s not the point. The point is to do it with some type of rigor, at least – not selectively pick and choose evidences just to make your story.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    ‘The point is to do it with some type of rigor, at least – not selectively pick and choose evidences just to make your story.’

    Right, that’s what the rest of us do. So why don’t you do it too?

    [Reply]

  17. While at it, I will also add that while the older Zverev beat Murray using serve and volley only, but when Zverev tried that on Federer, he got demolished in little over an hour.

    Btw., Murray and Zverev have known each other a long time, so unfamilarity of style was not an issue here.

    Let’s face it, there are many factors that probably played a role in Murray and Djokovic’s loss, but given the caliber of players they both are, speed of the court is the least of all factors.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Judging from your comments you are a die hard member of the Federer cult but even if you are not you are just flat out wrong. Yes, court speed does make a difference and yes Federer did win the AO because of it at 35 and after a 6-month break.

    Or maybe you are right in which case there can be no doubt whatsoever that he is doping.

    [Reply]

    Paul Reply:

    Lol. I love how you avoided answering my question of why Zverev and Istomin had no business of even making it a close match with Murray and Djokovic regardless of court speed due to caliber differences.

    Instead, you just went on attack with some baseless assertions with zero evidence behind it. Did we just talked about selective bias? C’mon – even for you this is a new low.

    While on the subject of doping – it’s Djokovic who’s using the highly controversial high-altitude chamber which gave him similar beneifts of enhancement drug use…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Well, you pretty much just admitted that Federer is doping. Can’t say that I blame you!

    [Reply]

  18. Ruan,

    Back in the day when this used to be your Federer blog, there was someone called Steve who would comment on the articles here. He’d have some wonderful insights on Federer’s game and tennis in general and came across like a wise old man. He’d write in such a way that you’d feel you’re reading some prophecy and not just some hypothesis :-) He said he felt that Roger would retool his game and probably have success even late in his career , another run as #1 and would maybe beat Nadal at the FO one day (IIRC). This was I think in 2010 or so around the time Federer hired Annacone and before Fed’s 2012 run. After all that has happened in the past few years, it is really amazing how Steve’s other prophecy did come true after all. Ok, it wasn’t the FO alright, but beating Nadal in the AO final at age 35 is a big deal and something no one could have imagined after Fed’s injury, decline and surgery.

    So here’s a shoutout to Steve – you probably don’t comment here anymore, but if you see this – just want to say, you were so right, buddy, cheers and I hope you enjoyed the AO !

    And Ruan, I hope for old times’ sake, you’ll publish this comment :-) . Best.

    Found this from your archives :

    Ru-an Reply:
    June 7th, 2011 at 2:41 pm
    Thanks Steve. Like i said to Neil, you and Ed and all my readers are like my family almost. A kind of Federer soul/family/brotherhood. I am grateful for having that at least.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Haha yes, those were the days. Steve sure knew how to hype Federer and the Fedfans loved him for it. Of course, Federer beating Nadal in the FO final was bordering on insanity but at least he got another slam win over Nadal at long last. That certainly was a surprise, all be it on courts that suited Federer’s game.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Are you Steve btw? 🤔

    [Reply]

    M Reply:

    No, I am not Steve. I am surprised that even after having read all those posts of Steve on your blog, you’d think that he’d come here for glory hunting about his old predictions posting as a different person. That is just too condescending , Ruan. Sorry. I actually came here to ask if you may have Steve’s email id from his older posts so you can reach him, but never mind.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I’m sorry if Steve doesn’t impress me as much as he does you. Even when I was a Fedfan I thought he was unrealistic and over the top. Imagine what I feel like now after I became a more objective tennis fan.

    [Reply]

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