Djokovic Wins Title in Eastbourne + Wimbledon Draw

As we enter the second half of the season Djokovic just won his second title of the year. The last title he won was at the beginning of the first half of the season. After that, the struggled continued. Will things turn out differently this time around?

It has been just about exactly one year since Djokovic’s slump started. That is quite a long time for a player of his quality. So it wouldn’t surprise me if this time around he is back for real. That said, it is just an ATP 250 event and he failed after his runs in Doha and Rome.

I don’t want to get carried away and as a fan, I am just taking it once match at a time. The title is Eastbourne is already quite special for Djokovic because it is only his 4th grass court title. Today he beat Monfils 6-3, 6-4 in a very decent performance.

I couldn’t watch but it certainly seems to be his best match of the week. Playing Eastbourne turned out to be a good decision because it has given him the ideal preparation for Wimbledon. If you want to read more about the final you can check out my Facebook page by clicking in the right sidebar.

  • Highlights

  • Wimbledon Draw

Speaking of Wimbledon, the draw was made yesterday and it looks like a well-balanced draw. Djokovic has Del Potro in the third round again which seems strange and he also has Lopez in the fourth round. He could also play Thiem again in the quarterfinals but Thiem is not that great on grass so he could well play Gasquet or maybe even Berdych.

Then Djokovic and Federer are in the same half which makes for an interesting potential semi-final in the bottom half but like I said with Djokovic I am not looking past the first round while with Federer I am already assuming he will be in the semis.

Federer still has to be the favorite at this point but his road to the semis is not exactly a cakewalk either with the likes of Dimitrov and Raonic/A. Zverev in his quarter.

In the top half, Murray has Wawrinka in his quarter which is a tough one and he also has the likes of Fognini, Kyrgios, and Pouille as potential opponents. Not easy at all for someone with a very mediocre record at number one.

As for Nadal, he also has a tricky draw with Istomin/Young in round two, Kachanov in round three, Muller/Karlovic in round four, and Cilic in the quarters. So really none of the big four has it easy and there is a lot of tennis to be played before the semis.

I’d be surprised if they all four make it through to the semis but that sure would be interesting!

Who will win Wimbledon?

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Federer and Lopez Claim Titles in Halle and Queens

Last week two 35-year olds won the ATP 500 titles in Halle and Queens and showed once again that the age for men to play their best tennis is getting older and older. Federer easily disposed of A. Zverev 6-3, 6-1 to win his 9th Halle title while Lopez defeated Cilic 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(8) to win his 6th career title.

Lopez also made the final of Stuttgart the previous week so he is on a strong run and has one of the best grass court games around. With his big serve and very solid volleys, he will be someone to watch out for at Wimbledon. Federer lost his first match in Stuttgart and then same as he did after losing to Donskoy in Dubai he won the next tournament he played.

This was Federer’s 92nd overall title and 4th title of the year. The way he disposed of Zverev in the final was particularly impressive. I think he wanted to send a little message after losing to Zverev in the Halle semis last year. Zverev had no chance at all and Federer was superb.

After watching Nadal dominate clay with his endless baseline grinding it was refreshing to see Federer play a masterclass of offensive tennis. Federer is the overwhelming favorite to win Wimbledon. Even if he lost to Zverev he would have been the favorite but now he looks especially lethal.

Peak Djokovic is the only player who can stop this Federer from winning an 8th Wimbledon title and Djokovic is pretty far from that right now. Speaking of Djokovic, he is playing in Eastbourne this week to get some matches and Agassi will also be with him at Wimbledon for as long as Djokovic needs him.

You can never write any of the big three off. Like we saw with Federer and Nadal this year they can come back to their best when you least expect it. That said, I don’t have any expectations for Djokovic. It’s now a similar situation as with Nadal at the French Open. The only guy with a legitimate shot at beating Federer would be peak Djokovic but it is a far safer bet to go with the guy who has been winning the most this year.

Federer almost won Wimbledon last year when he was struggling badly. This year he is in far better shape so he must be the overwhelming favorite. Federer has always owned Murray in big matches and Federer has turned his head-to-head around with Nadal. Nadal has also not been past the fourth round at Wimbledon since 2011.

Tomorrow Djokovic plays his first match in Eastbourne against Pospisil. His draw in Eastbourne looks pretty decent but he will already be tested in his first match. There is no telling what will happen in his current form. But he is still in the top 5 and in the run to pass Federer for consecutive weeks in the top 5 so it would help if he can win some matches.

It doesn’t look like Djokovic is currently in any danger of leaving the top 5 but a deep run at Wimbledon will help him and for that, a decent week in Eastbourne will help too. Federer was in the top 5 for 548 weeks before he fell out and Djokovic is currently in 3rd place at 525 weeks.

  • Highlights

How Does Nadal’s 10th French Open Title Affect the GOAT Debate?

Now that a big three member won a grand slam title again we can once again look at how it affected the GOAT debate. Just to be clear, I don’t believe a GOAT can be determined. There are too many variables and intricacies. But just because it can’t be determined it doesn’t mean there isn’t one, so it is worth discussing. And besides, it’s interesting and fun.

First of all, a 10th French Open title is an unbelievable achievement and will be the most difficult record to beat of all the records. That said, 10 is not very different from 9, and it didn’t tell us much about Nadal that we didn’t already know.

In fact, it made Nadal’s already unbalanced resume even more skewed toward clay. Nadal is not merely a clay court specialist. He is actually the only player in history that has won more than one slam on each surface, a fact that only very recently occurred to me.

But as far as a 10th French open title goes it only raises the ratio of clay court slams to other slams and clay court titles to other titles. With a 10th French Open title, Nadal has now won exactly two-thirds of his slams on clay(10/15). That is 67%.

Some other stats:

1- More than 72% of career titles won on clay.
2- More than 73% of Masters 1000 titles won on clay
3- Failure at retaining any title outside of clay

4- Unimpressive head-to-head records outside of clay :

– Djokovic: 9-19
– Davydenko: 1-6
– Federer: 10-12
– Hewitt: 2-4
– Brown: 0-2
– Coric: 1-2
– Ferrer: 5-5
– Ljubicic: 2-2
– Gonzalez: 3-3
– Monaco: 1-1
– Del Potro: 6-5
– Blake: 4-3
– Soderling: 2-1

Other than that Nadal spent 141 weeks at #1(7th all-time) and won 0 World Tour Finals titles because he invests so much energy into the clay court season that he is always a spent force post-US Open. He is also a lousy indoor player compared to other all-time greats with only one indoor title.

The reason he spent so many fewer weeks at number one than Federer(302) and Djokovic(223) is that he is only an all-time great on clay and therefore can’t dominate outside of clay which is needed to hold the number one position for extended periods of time.

Nadal is clearly one of the all-time greats but as I always insist, balance is of supreme importance when it comes to the resume of a GOAT candidate. Surely, a GOAT candidate must be able to master all conditions and surfaces. That is clearly not the case with Nadal.

Big three surface rankings

Surface/Conditions Federer Djokovic Nadal
Hardcourt(Australian Open + US Open) 10ย (1st) 8ย (2nd) 3ย (3rd)
Grass(Wimbledon) 7ย (1st) 3ย (2nd) 2ย (3rd)
Clay(French Open) 1ย (2nd) 1ย (2nd) 10ย (1st)
Indoor(World Tour Finals) 6ย (1st) 5ย (2nd) 0ย (3rd)
Overall ย (1st) ย (2nd) ย (3rd)

You wouldn’t say he mastered indoor tennis or even grass or hard courts. Indoor tennis is not an actual surface but it doesn’t make it any less significant and it as historically been a very important part of tennis. There used to be a much longer indoor season.

As opposed to Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are the better hard court, grass court, and indoor players. Federer is a better grass court player than Djokovic but Djokovic is a better clay court player than Federer. Indoors and on hard courts they are quite even.

It should be obvious that Federer and Djokovic have far more balanced resumes than Nadal and that their games are also far more complete.

  • Nadal’s Personality

In many ways, Nadal has benefited from modern tennis. The homogenization of surfaces, racquet and string technology, and the lack of indoor events have all tremendously benefited Nadal.

And yet, he complains far more than Federer or Djokovic. If it’s not the fact that there are not enough clay court tournaments(even though there are far more clay court events than grass court events) then it’s the fact that the World Tour Finals are not played on clay(thereby confirming how dependent he is on clay) or the fact that umpires are too tough on him for taking endless times between point, or the fact that the tennis calendar is too crowded, or the fact that he has to play with different balls, or the scheduling.

The list is endless to the point that articles such asย Is Rafael Nadal in Danger of Being Labeled a Whiner? has been written. At the French Open this year he threatened umpire Ramos and told him he won’t chair his matches again. He also demanded a ban on umpire Bernardes after getting into a dispute with him.

Nadal portrays a humble persona but his actions often reveal someone who is self-centered and selfish. Federer and Djokovic seem far more altruistic. This is another reason Nadal is not in my top tier of GOAT candidates. You would think he would be grateful for all the changes to tennis that has benefited him but instead, he selfishly whines about conditions.

This is not the characteristic of a GOAT candidate in my view. And neither is his one-dimensional playing style. It amazes me how Nadal can still win a slam at age 31 given that the basis of his game is endless defense and grinding. But I suppose all the time he has taken off due to injury hasn’t hurt.

If Nadal becomes the first player in the open era to win the double career slam I will be forced to reconsider him for my top tier of GOAT candidates but for now, I simply can’t have him in my top tier due to shortcomings in his resume, playing style, and personality as outlined in this post.

What do you think?

Should Nadal be in the top tier of GOAT candidates?

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