Tennis 2019: Tennis without Andy Murray


#41

I’ve never quite understood why the fans are so cool to Djokovic. He’s got his unpleasant tics, like everyone, but no worse than the others. But you can pretty much count on every crowd rooting for his opponent. Some of the fans actually booed him when he came on the court today,


#42

Djokovic is a well-spoken, thoughtful guy who has never been a whiner on the court. He’s also funny at times, like when he does impersonations on the court of other players. I don’t know why he isn’t liked better. Probably because he’s not Federer or Nadal, I guess.


#43

I never took to Djokovic partly because of his playstyle. He’s too defensive for my taste. Of course, Nadal’s way more defensive than Djokovic, but I gave him a pass early on because I used to resent Federer for winning all the time—plus I liked Roddick—and Nadal was the one guy who could beat him consistently. However, later when Federer declined, I started rooting for him since I no longer had a reason not to. Nadal was never as dominant as Federer or Djokovic (aside from 1/4 of the season) so I never got fatigued of seeing him win all the time. Murray was probably the one guy I would tend to support Djokovic when they would meet, for reasons mentioned upthread. Also, I’ve always had kind of a thing for underdogs and Djokovic has rarely been that.

It is strange that crowds are almost universally against Djokovic since they tend to support champions. I think part of it, as mentioned, is who his primary opponents have been. Federer’s playstyle is technically sound and aesthetically pleasing, it gives him a cool, elegant look on court. That’s easy for fans to latch onto. Nadal’s basically the opposite, a proletariat to Federer’s aristocrat (even though I’m pretty sure that Nadal’s family is considerably wealthier than Federer’s and certainly Djokovic’s), but he appears humble in interviews and his grunting and physical playstyle makes him seem like a hardworker. That’s also easy for people to root for. Murray, well, Murray’s British so I guess that helped.

Frankly, some of it is probably an inherent bias against Eastern Europeans in the tennis-playing countries, or at least some culture difference that makes Djokovic seem like an ‘other.’ Lendl and Kafelnikov weren’t especially popular either, right? (Safin is an outlier I guess.) But Djokovic isn’t stoic like Lendl was. He reacts on court same as others. Maybe it’s that he is willing to confront fans in the crowd which makes him look like a villain, though those fans probably deserved it. Part of it may be that his English (and French) skills were not quite on par with, say, Federer early on and this made him seem kind of bland in interviews at first and he was never able to shake that image, but the same was true for Nadal as well.

It could simply be that narratives are easier when there’s a villain around. It certainly was not going to be Federer or Nadal, and Murray and all the others were never on the same level. So that left Djokovic as the heel.


#44

I am not a Tennis expert, but I think of Djokovic’s play style as ‘vanilla Tennis executed perfectly.’ Nadal and Federer each have their own distinct styles which set them apart, in my view.

With that said, some of the finest tennis matches are the Djokovic vs. Wawrinka epics that occurred three years in a row at the Aus Open. 2013 and 2014 all went very deep into the fifth set, if anyone has some time to kill and doesn’t remember what happened I recommend you give them a watch as they were incredible. 2015 also went into a fifth set but was a tad anti-climatic.

This year’s Aus Open was one of the most disappointing that I can remember (at least for men’s tennis). The semi-finals were both terrible and the final was a big letdown. The most interesting parts of the tournament were some of the women’s matches.


#45

I’m with @Tim_N. I would describe his style as technical perfection. That doesn’t mean it translates as fun to watch but rather he controls shots and the game in a smothering technical style. If I described him in Top Gun terms, he would be Iceman. Nobody really likes Iceman. Everyone loves to watch a Maverick.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t fantastic, he is, but … it’s dry watching a technical game.


#46

I confess I don’t understand that view at all. Djokovic does things that no one else seems ableto do. He gets to unreachable balls, makes impossible shots. Anyone who watched that match on Sunday and thought ‘it’s just vanilla tennis he’s playing, though he’s playing it well’ would probably find themselves in an argument with Rafa Nadal.

But chacun a son gout.


#47

If you’re a Novak fan, don’t take my grumbling to mean I don’t think he’s a fantastic player. He certainly is, his technical ability, superb accuracy and ball control make him look like … well, like a machine playing tennis. You hardly ever hear him, he rarely makes a ruckus, and he will wear down opponents with skilled play.

I missed a ton of the Nadal match but caught the round before it where he ruthlessly destroyed Pouille. Hell, it made Pouille look like some schmuck out of high school coming to play in a tourney. It was that one-sided (6-0,6-2,6-2) Look at the stats here. Technical perfection.
https://ausopen.com/match/2019-Novak-Djokovic-vs-Lucas-Pouille-MS601#!stats

He’s Iceman. He follows up with his lone shaking fist of victory. Val Kilmer will play him in the movie.


#48

That’s really what I meant when I said ‘executed perfectly’. By vanilla I did not mean to imply anything about skill, just style.


#49

I’m just surprised that you deem this — the ability to do things no one else can do — boring.

It doesn’t matter. We like what we like.


#50

That’s true, and like I said above some of my favourite tennis matches of all time were watching him play Wawrinka in the Aus Open. Maybe it’s irrational, but when I think of player styles I think Federer, Nadal, and even players like Raonic etc. to have a more interesting and distinct style of play than Djokovic. I don’t know, I can understand why it would be frustrating to hear this if you’re a fan of Djokovic and wondering why more people don’t find him as engaging.


#51

For no particular reason I would like to post this anecdote by Bud Collins which always makes me smile:

DURING his first Wimbledon men’s final in the commentary box, Bjorn Borg looked at me and Dick Enberg in astonishment as though he were penned with a couple of loonies. This was 1983, and the man who was a hero to millions of New Zealand sheep (as well as the few scattered citizens) - Chris Lewis - was about to play John McEnroe for the singles title.

Borg, the five-times champion, was on home territory but as close as he would ever be again to Centre Court. He was flanked by me and Enberg in the NBC booth, a low-lying bunker in the arena’s south-east sector. As the closing act of a brief, unwanted career (two tournaments) as commentator, Bjorn was involved in the customary shtick known as the opening stand- up, a three-way discussion on the afternoon’s prospects.

After I’d rhapsodised on the unseeded Lewis’s incredible odyssey to the highest level, through upset after upset, and the odds he now faced, Enberg called on Borg: “Bjorn, what does Chris Lewis have to do to beat McEnroe?”

Borg, who had lost his own Wimbledon eminence to McEnroe two years before, stared, stunned, wondering why these two madmen were applying such window- dressing to what he knew as the truth. His shocked reply, in three words: “Lewis can’t win!”

Oh.


#52

This thread needs a title edit. Murray’s absence isn’t the only thing that happens in 2019. Probably.


#53

That is funny.

I enjoyed Collins enthusiasm at times, but as a commentator I felt like he never wanted to get into real commentary but instead was just pushing for sensationalism. I think McEnroe can be a much better commentator. He will actually point out things, criticize players for shot selection, etc.

Borg and McEnroe are good friends now. Put them both in the booth and let them say whatever they want to say. I would love to hear that.


#54

Mac is a great commentator.


#55

So Reilly Opelka won the New York Open by hitting 43 aces in a three set victory. He’s taller than Isner at 6’11" and only 21. My guess is a guy his size will have too many holes in his game to ever be a top 5 player, but he’s going to beat a lot of people with his dominating serve.

43 aces in three sets is about 14 per set, or 3.5 service games of nothing but aces. That’s not even counting the serves he likely hit that were touched but still not put back in play. On a fast court he’s going to at least get into a lot of tiebreakers with that serve.


#56

So, I’ve been really frustrated that I can’t watch my favorite tournament the last few years (Rolland Garros), not even if I have Hulu LiveTV or SlingTV or YoutubeTV or PS Vue. It has to be cable, with Tennis channel.

Anyway, during the Australian Open this year my dad showed me something interesting on Youtube: people put up these videos of matches on youtube where they show you every point, but they edit out all the parts where no tennis is being played. So a match that’s several hours long gets condensed to about half an hour, for instance, and you still get to see every point. It’s not ideal, but it’s a fairly cool way to see a match for someone who doesn’t have time to watch everything. Back in the day it used to be fast forwarding on the DVR until the end of sets, so maybe now it’s watching these type of youtube summary matches.


#57

I’m not so sure. At minimum, Opelka seems to move much better than Isner ever did and is at a much higher level of development than Isner at the same age. Looking at the scores, it seems like he’s better at getting breaks than Isner too. I’m not saying he’s a future slam winner, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him in the top 5 one day. The only thing giving me pause is that I can probably think of at least five players from the same age group I expect to be better than him. But then Isner had to deal with Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Wawrinka, del Potro, Cilic, Tsonga, and Berdych, not to mention older guys like Federer, and still nearly made it to the top 5 so who knows. Of course, being ranked #5 and being one of the five best in the world are different things (Anderson’s ranked fifth right now, for example).


#58

Hmm, I bought a 1-yr subscription from ATP for about $110, so a bit less than $10 a month. I use their app on my Amazon Fire box and I get all the matches from every ATP tournament. I can even replay them afterward if I miss one. The only thing it doesn’t carry is the slams, but ESPN coverage of those is quite good anyway. You might want to try that.


#59

Sounds pretty good. Though that still doesn’t solve my French Open problem. ESPN doesn’t carry the French Open for the last few years, and won’t for the next few. It will be Tennis Channel only.

So this year I’ll be looking on Youtube.


#60

Hmm, I watched the French Open on ESPN this year. In Latin America, but still. If you’re an ESPN subscriber you ought to be able to watch their coverage on the ESPN3 app.