Oct/12

28

Fed Comes Up Short Again & The Mystery of Marcus Sundh

Roger Federer dropped a third-set breaker to Juan Martin Del Potro at his home tournament in Basel and then promptly pulled out of the Paris Masters with some “niggles.” Ever since Fe embarrassed Djoko to win Cincy, he has been knocked out by Berdych, Murray and now Del Po. Last year, Fed dominated the indoors circuit. Now he needs to win London to set himself up in 2013 as a potential favorite at the first slam.

If you ever doubt how good these pro players are I’ll tell you a little story of Marcus Sundh. He’s a pro in suburban New York at a club my son takes some group lessons. I was watching Sundh, a Swedish player who grew up competing against Robin Soderling and then played at the Univ of Kentucky, teach a private lesson to a nice junior girl player. And I was impressed by how he rarely missed rally shots with her. He hit with a beautiful flowing style, open forehands and nice sliced one-handed backhands along with smooth, short back swing two-handers. He looked absolutely impenetrable, like the only way you’d be able to beat him would be to have a major power game.

So I thought to myself, this cat must have played some pro tennis and gotten at least into the top-200 in the world. But when I tried looking him up on the ATP site, his name didn’t even come up. Now who knows, maybe he didn’t have the money to go on the tour or maybe he just really likes teaching tennis for a living. But his bio at the club said he played Swedish club tennis with the likes of Magnus Norman and Joachim Johnannsson. It just goes to show you that even guys with beautiful games may never have made a dent in the rankings.

Finally, do you realize that Big John Isner is the only American to play in the Paris Masters? Not even Querrey or Brian Baker or Ryan Harrison tried qualifying. That is astounding. It’s like the Americans have bailed out of the Asian and European Indoor Circuit.

Double finally, has anyone ever seen Monica Niculescu play? Her game makes Fabrice Santoro’s game look conventional. She literally hits about 3 out of every 4 forehands with a shovel, under spin motion. She actually played Venus Williams in the the Austrian Indoor finals the other week and this girl is funky beyond belief.

And did anyone see how David Ferrer reacted when he won the indoor event in Valencia today against Dolgopolov. He dropped to the ground with his hands over his face, lied on his back like he’d won Wimbledon and then ran up into the stands to kiss Juan Carlos Ferrero. That Ferrer guy has some serious passion

21 comments

  • mat4 · October 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    I thought writing something like this for some times now, since I noticed how much the best players copy each other.

    I have always felt that Nadal has brought a revolution (although it is always the same, just like the perennial alternation of the aesthetics of poiesis and mimesis in poetry) in the middle on the last decade: after years of dominance of attacking tennis (FO excepted) that Roger Federer embodied in its ultimate form, Rafa showed that you can rely not on tennis virtuosity, but on will, strength, speed, focus and on defence. The duels of Rafa vs Fed always reminded me, in a twisted way, of the “Rumble in the Jungle”, where Ali parried all, defended using the ropes, to eventually knock out Foreman, the ultimate attacker.

    But the tide has turned in the last two years. After the thesis and the antithesis, it is time for a new concept: although Rafa is a vicious counter puncher, the new paradigm is pure aggression. As we have seen in the Rafole matches, or in Shanghai more recently, this aggression starts from the return. It is not any more Foreman vs Ali, it is more Calzaghe vs Atkins: the attacker doesn’t take risks, it is ready to launch one punch more, and he is also able to wait for an opening.

    Rafa said it after the USO, last year: Novak was playing one more ball. But Rafa too is a specialist of the “one more ball”. I believed intermittently that you couldn’t win a point against him. But that ball wasn’t the same: it wasn’t the defensive, unexpected get that dazzled Rafa, it was Novak’s ability to attack once more, to displace the defender completely. But you can’t play that way forever. You have to finish the points, and when displaced, defenders always have one last weapon: the slice. Against the slice, you have to volley. It was clear in the semi of Indian Wells. For the first time I saw Federer playing that one ball more a whole match, and with his big forehand and excellent volleying, he didn’t allow rallies to be reset.

  • Author comment by Dan Markowitz · October 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Well, Federer even says he doesn’t find today’s tennis as exciting as when he first entered the tour. The game is dominated by athleticism now rather than talent. It used to be guys like McEnroe and Connors weren’t in gladiatorial shape, they just had great strokes and hands. And then Lendl started to change that.

    People thought Pete’s game was boring so they slowed the courts down again. Fed says about today’s game, “It’s really a whole lot harder. You neutralize your opponent and you sort of wear him down. Eventually someone is going to miss.”

    That’s not a ringing endorsement of today’s game. “Eventually someone is goind to miss.” Fed says he’d liked it when half-volleying and “flicking” shots was more the norm. Now it’s all about hitting “winners” he says rather than displaying artistry. And I agree.

  • Mitch · October 28, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Querrey is playing Paris. Has Verdasco in the first round. Fed could win every match in London 6-0 6-0, but Murray and Djokovic would still be the favorites for Australia.

  • mat4 · October 29, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Dan, I don’t agree. But the, who am I not to agree with RF?

    Anyway, the game definitely has changed. New racquets and strings bring a level of power and control unimaginable only ten years ago.

    Agassi said, in a interview, that the luxilon strings had a major impact on the game, and that he felt he was cheating when using them. Those strings marked the end of Pete career. He wasn’t so much in decline, but the passing shots and the spin became just more vicious.

    I don’t agree about the speed of the courts. I rather think the rebound — and the balls — matters more, although I know that the speed, the rebound and the balls are all in relation, but the pure speed only affects the serve in a negative way.

    But, to be honest, I believe that new racquets, strings and surfaces or not, the game would have change. Santoro recently stated that today, players in the top have no weaknesses: in the 90, he said, you could always count on a weak spot in your opponent game. Today, players like Rafa, Ferrer or even Tipsarevic, who seldom goes to the net, have all excellent volleys. Just name a weak spot in Djokovic’s game.

  • Author comment by Dan Markowitz · October 29, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Djokovic has no weaknesses? You ever see the guy volley, especially with his forehand? If Djoko played in the 70′s-90′s, he would not be Top-5 player. Compare his game to Mac’s or Becker’s or Sampras’s, he can’t serve and volley or play the front court game with great elan.

    The 90′s players had no weaknesses, but equating the training and racquets and strings, are Fed, Djoko, Murray and Rafa better than Mac, Borg, Connors and Lendl?

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · October 29, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Like the boxing analogies Mat4. Rafa was Ali to Fed’s Foreman, sort of, though Fed has far more grace and technique than Big George who relied on his brute strength and iron will more than his technical artistry. And now Djokovic is like a more athletic Rafa, using defense defense and then at the right moment, strikes with the KO blows. I see Djokovic as the superior player to Nadal, best for best. BTW Mat4, I recently read a Playboy interview with Ali and he said he changed his gameplan to the rope-a-dope after the first round. Check this out…

    http://www.examiner.com/article/muhammad-ali-explains-why-he-changed-gameplan-vs-george-foreman-1974

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · October 29, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Dan, One could be tempted to call sour grapes on that Fed comment. Because he doesn’t dominate like he used to, it’s easy to complain about the quality and style of the players he struggles most with. Agree with the comment Djokovic has no weaknesses when he is on his A game Mat4, he is the ultimate tennis machine.

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · October 29, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Dan who is the female in the photo, looks like Fed’s sister maybe or is it Niculescu? She looks like Federer quite a bit.

  • Author comment by Dan Markowitz · October 29, 2012 at 9:59 am

    That’s the Romanian, Niculescu. She’s cute, I guess I see a little Federer in her. Of course, Borg first married a Romanian.

    I think you’ve got it mixed up, Scoop. I’d say Rafa was the Joe Frazier/Foreman to Fed’s Ali. I couldn’t think of two more different athletes than Ali and Rafa. Ali won with finesse mostly, and the Ali shuffle. Rafa is much more of a right-in-your-face player.

    Niculescu was Top-30 at beginning of year, but now she’s around 70. Her game is the fugliest you’ve ever seen on a pro court. I think Venus couldn’t believe that Nicu was trying to fend her off with her spatula forehand.

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · October 29, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Marcus Sundh must be a great player as we know there are a lot of great players. All those guys who never made it, it’s not like they can’t hit, they all can hit and have pro shots. SO few of them make it. The coach of Jose Antonio Salazar Martin from Spain who played at the US Open and stayed in NJ I saw him hit and he was like a pro, he played Bjorkman lost 76 75, played Corretja, etc, but he didn’t have the money to travel and never got an ATP point. Bjorkman asked him after the match, how many points do you have? That was his first question. Bjorkman was shocked when he found out he had none. Said he had to be able to travel and play but he couldn’t pull it off. Now Miguel Perez lives in NJ and is starting to coach people as a side activity. Think I’m going to hit with him and get some pro coaching. Going to run his info here later in the week if anyone is interested.

  • Steve · October 29, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Fed is back at #1 and still playing great. He’ll play a reduced schedule next year. I think it’s a great idea for him to rest. He’s play a lot of tourneys this year.
    Delpo is back on top form and will be a tough opponent for anyone.

    Lots of great players teaching here & there at clubs but you can always judge by pretty strokes.

  • Steve · October 29, 2012 at 10:22 am

    ^^ correction –you can’t always tell by pretty strokes.

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · October 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Fed pulled out of Paris, think it’s the right move for him long term. Not much left to prove, just to keep his body healthy for as long as he can. Delpo is in Djok’s half of the draw in Paris, looking forward to that one. Delpo might be ready to make it the Fantastic Five not Four. Yes, you can spot the top players/coaches around NJ by their form and strokes. Just saw Barry Rubach on the public courts hitting with an older guy, could spot his fine game within seconds, he had ATP points a couple decades ago. He’s one of the best coaches in NJ also still a great player though he rarely plays tourneys now.

  • Author comment by Dan Markowitz · October 29, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I love the Paris Indoors. Been watching this morning and they have a secondary court I just watched Falla beat Mayer on where’s there’s maybe 100-person seating capacity and the camera for the match is behind a netting. If you watch Falla play, particularly his forehand, you’d think the guy was a wrestler rather than a high-ranked tennis pro. They’ve got Youzhny on now, and he’s the exact opposite, some of the most exquisite strokes in the game.

    I thought back to the 2007 US Davis Cup Finals victory against Russia and thought, isn’t it funny, of the top 4 players in that draw, only Youzhny is still playing top tennis. Roddick’s gone, Tursunov has lost his top stuff as has Blake.

    Bummed, I thought they’d show Stepanek-LLodra now, but apparently that’s tomorrow. One of the best match ups in tennis, the Czech and the Frenchman. Another note, this year’s Final 8 in the men are all great players, unlike year’s past when a Tipsy or a Fish would sneak in. You can legitimately say that any of the Top 4 plus Del Po, Tsonga, Berdy and Ferrer could win it, well, maybe not Ferrer.

  • marc nichol · October 29, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Great interview with Ali Scoop…for a secondIi thought it was current, but still great..hope he’s doing as well as could be expected

  • Author comment by Scoop Malinowski · October 29, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks Marc I found it in an old Playboy compilation book of interviews give to me by LeRoy Neiman. Had never heard Ali explain the details of that strategy adjustment before so it was fascinating to read.

  • Gans · October 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Guys, I predicted that DelPo would win this one.

    At the start of the match Robby Koenig announced that Fed will get the job done. And I started laughing because I couldn’t believe he doesn’t see what I see. These guys are sitting and watching every ball and still can’t see through things. A lot of them out there don’t seem to be able to think right! :)

    Delpo was all over Fed in FO and let him off the hook because of fitness reasons. Then he had him on ropes again in Wimbledon. I have not been watching much of tennis lately, but I did see parts of Federer’s semifinal match. His backhand looked pretty vulnerable- as bad as Dimitrov’s! :)

    I saw this coming. DelPo has improved his athleticism and also handles the slice pretty well. His problem is going to be Djokovic and now, Murray. Djokovic has overcome Nadal and Federer, but I have a feeling that Murray will be his nemesis.

    Coming to think of it, even though Federer’s BH looks stylish I would go with Djokovic, Murray or Nadal’s backhand on any day. They are steadier and consistent. Federer’s BH is flashier, prettier but seems to be quite easy to penetrate.

    Scoop, thanks for the link. Nice read about Ali-Foreman.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 30, 2012 at 3:46 am

    You know, if you’re looking for a young hopeful, how about Jerzy Janowicz, 21 from Poland, who knocked off Kohlschreiber yesterday in Paris. Both his parents were pro volleyball players and he looks like he’s got a nice solid game. He’s ranked No. 69 and besides Raonic and Dmitrov, I think he’s the youngest guy in the draw still in the event. And get this–he’s 6-8, 200 pounds!!

    Funny, the last three young guns in the last regular tournament of the year hail from Canada, Bulgaria and Poland. That is ridiculous.

  • mat4 · October 31, 2012 at 6:05 am

    @Scoop:

    About the Rumble: yes, it was clear when you watch the match that Ali changed his strategy very early. He rushed on Foreman, failed to knock him out, then he adopted the rope a dope defence.

    I don’t completely agree that Novak is primarily a defensive player. I rather believe that he improved this part of his game after the lacklustre change of racquet and serve motion, during 2009 and especially 2010. He has a very offensive mindset. It is the main difference between him and Murray – Djokovic rather plays offense, Murray rather plays defence. It is a bit paradoxical, because Murray has much more power than Djokovic and could be much more aggressive.

    @Dan:

    Novak’s has an excellent backhand volley, although you are right, his FH volley is his weak point. I don’t mention the smash, something he probably won’t ever learn.

    But I have the impression that you have changed, and that your attitude toward Djokovic has changed. It could be that you are disappointed by that missed interview. Usually you are very balanced in your articles and comments.

    Both comparisons make sense, BTW, Roger (Rafa)/Ali or Roger (Rafa)/Foreman, for different reasons. A better one could be Rafa/Eubank vs Fed/Calzaghe, but it is not as inspiring as the Foreman/Ali one, especially since Eubank and Calzaghe are British boxers. Perhaps Naseem Hamed/Barrera?

  • Dan Markowitz · October 31, 2012 at 7:59 am

    My attitude toward Djoko hasn’t really changed. I still think he’s a good guy, albeit a little bit of a phony and he runs an excessively tight ship–or his manager does. I’m the guy way back in 2007 who said Djoko was going to win 12 slams and I still think that number is not out of reach. I have always seen the brilliance of his game and his tremendous desire.

    That being said, I’m not a big fan of his style of play. I kind of agree with Mats Wilander that seeing a Djoko v. Djoko match is akin to watching a Borg v Borg match. Djoko is not an artistic player. He doesn’t have great hands the way Fed and Murray do. That being said, his athleticism is amazing, as his ball-striking, but he’s lacking a flair. Djoko is said to be a more fit and athletic Agassi, but Andre played the game with much more flair than Djoko and was a lot more honest and up front with his feelings. Of course, Agassi took a much more wild path to the top than Djoko.

  • Steve · October 31, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Spent my last bit of laptop battery power watching the classic fed/nadal wimbledon. It was worth it. Much has changed since 2009 including nadal’s serve but fed is still making finals. The length of his run is astounding. ….djoker is not always the prettiest volleyer but he gets the job done. His weakness is that he can be prone mistakes. He goes for his shots but thay can go off for long stretches.

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