Monte Carlo Surprises

Tennis_Prose_Rolex_Monte_Carlo_Masters_01What is wrong with Novak Djokovic? He struggled to eke through his first two rounds and now is down 26 to the miniature marvel David Goffin. Could he be in physical decline after all those grinding battles over the years? Could the $100 million man have been ordered off a banned substance like Sharapova was (meldonium)? One thing is for sure, Novak Djokovic has lost his aura of invincibility and dominance. And it all happened so suddenly. A year ago in Miami I remember asking Svetlana Kuznetsova if she had any suggestions how the ATP players could beat him. Now Djokovic is struggling to get to the semifinals of Masters Series events.

Diego Schwartzman continues to thrive. He defeated Struff of Germany and is into the quarters of Monte Carlo. After seeing the miniature Argentine crush Ferrer in Miami 61 63, it should have come as no big surprise.

The top half of the draw lost Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, now one of Lucas Pouille, Marin Cilic or Alberto Vinolas-Ramos will reach the final.

Rafa Nadal looks like he’s approaching his unbeatable-on-clay level again. The way he totally destroyed Alexander Zverev 61 61 delivered a very strong message to the rest of the ATP. Rumors about Rafa’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.Monte_Carlo_02

Photographs by Henk Abbink and Daniel Abbink.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · April 21, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Vinolas defeated Cilic and Djokovic is ahead 5-3 in the second set vs Goffin -

  • Hartt · April 21, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    And of course the big shocker is that the “miniature marvel” Goffin just beat Novak in 3 sets.

  • catherine bell · April 21, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Well – Djokovic beaten – I tend to believe he might indeed be in physical decline. Some people’s bodies aren’t built for the long haul – and taking into account the strenuously physical game Djoko plays. He’s not Federer.

  • Hartt · April 21, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    And age 29 -30 is often when the top players, who have played so many matches in their careers to date, start to show some weakness. Novak turns 30 next month, so he has reached that age.

    Fed is just a freak of nature, along with his playing style and good decisions about extending his career.

    The younger players, like Goffin, are now in their primes, so if they are ever going to win big titles now is the time.

  • Matt Alic · April 21, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Roger didn’t start winning and playing 70+matches/year until his age of 22-23.
    For 4 years from 18 – 21 he didn’t play such grueling schedule.
    That could be one factor too why he is still playing well.

  • Matt Alic · April 21, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Rafa, Novak were good very young and put a lot of more wear and tear on their bodies.

  • Chazz · April 21, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    You’d have to think Nadal is the runaway favorite for Roland Garros. I would have difficulty putting my money on anyone else.

  • Dan markowitz · April 21, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Welcome to the site, Matt. Surprising indeed to see a Goffin after losing to Djoko 14 times in a row finally beat him. Djoko doesn’t look in physical decline to me. He’s just not the monster like other GOAT nominees like Nadal and Murray are. Monte Carlo seems a bit thin w/out Fed, Krygios and Sock.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 21, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Incredible win by Goffin. Shockingly impressive. Now if Schwartzman can fight back from losing the first set vs Rafa 64 we could have the smallest Masters 1000 semifinal in history :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 21, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Agree Matt. Rafa and Djokovic and Murray have a lot of mileage on their tennis odometers. Also everybody who plays them plays them with the energy inspiration and excitement that it’s one of the biggest matches of their lives.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 21, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Rafa has to be the favorite now, Chazz, but also I rate highly Pouille, Kyrgios, Federer, Goffin, Carrena Busta, and Sock.

  • Hartt · April 21, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    So we were denied the smallest Masters SF ever!
    Schwartzman was still impressive in making it a fairly competitive match against the “King of Clay.”. Great going for a guy who is just 5’7″. See he is a clay court specialist, as you would expect from a South American player, with all but 1 of his Tour and Challenger finals on clay.

    I was quite proud that I had predicted Pouille would make the SFs. The only other one I had right was Rafa, but that was not exactly rocket science. :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 21, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    Schwartzman really impresses me – Just typed up his Biofile and he has a great attitude and is an interesting player – Will crack the top 40 and you have to think he can go to top 25 – I like the way he more than holds his own with Federer and Nadal -

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 3:11 am

    Fed Cup news –

    GB Team photo shows a bunch of heavily made-up check-out girls off to a hen party :)
    Not a tennis racquet in sight. Or a Union Jack for that matter. Is this sport or a Miss UK competition ?
    And Nastase being his old self and everyone in a tizzy – storms blowing in from the Black Sea.
    I foresee a thrilling tie and predict many ‘inappropriate’ and possibly ‘offensive’ comments :)

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 4:44 am

    Konta’s first match cancelled – can’t find out why.

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Konta playing Cirstea – Simona made short work of Watson.
    Nastase bound and gagged.

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Well you can’t say Fed Cup is lacking in incident.
    Wonder if Roumania will be suspended or even expelled from competition this year ?

    My mind goes back to that infamous Davis Cup tie in early 70s in Bucharest.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 9:32 am

    In Romania apparently Nastase is up to his old tricks and the Fed Cup tie with Britain is descending to major chaos -

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 9:44 am

    That’s what I was referring to. Don’t know if there will be any more play.

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Simona is defending Nastase, she wanted him to be captain and likes his coaching and seems to understand him, but I think the ITF will want some punishment even if he apologises.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Nastase is a larger than life legendary figure in Romania – no way anyone or a young player can defy or criticize him – Very interested to see the videos and read the reports of what actually transpired -

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 9:58 am

    How about this Albert Ramos Vinolas? Into the finals of monte carlo – Big lefty veteran could be pulling off an Andres Gomez or Thomas muster -

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Daily Telegraph UK has a report and quotes from Simona, if you can access it.

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 10:33 am

    So we’ll have Konta/Halep tomorrow but the events of today might see Simona demoralised. Konta and GB will win.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Wow – this is the wackiest week ever in pro tennis! In the second rubber, GB’s Jo Konta was leading the Romanian Sorana Cirstea by a set. Just after Cirstea held to go 2-1 up in the second set, Romanian Fed Cup captain Ilie Nastase (who is currently being investigated by the ITF for his conduct at the draw ceremony – accused of making racially inappropriate comments about Serena Williams, and sexist behaviour) was given a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct, and it appears asked to leave the bench. Niculescu replaced him, to the protests of Team GB.
    Following this, and the delay, play resumed and Cirstea broke Konta to take the lead in the set. Konta then dissolved into floods of tears, and couldn’t seem to get on top of the emotion. Play was suspended, drawing this time protests from the Romanian team, and Konta left the court, with captain Anne Keothavong telling her “to just take a minute”. Halep then got on the microphone to speak to the crowd and appeal for calm.
    BBC comms are suggesting something was said in the crowd, and then Nastase responded to it in some manner that upset Konta. Also pointed out Konta found out from an inquest that her former sports psychologist had committed suicide – could potentially have something to do with her head space.
    Bizarre circumstance.
    Update: Simon Briggs, British journalist, reporting that Nastase called Keothavong and Konta “fucking bitches” twice, and following being warned called the match referee a “fucking arsehole”. He’s been escorted from the court, no word on what’s happening but apparently the rubber could be defaulted to GB.
    Further update: play resumed…
    Update 3: Konta breaks, and it’s back on serve!
    Update 4: Konta has broken and is a game away
    Update 5: Konta won 5 straight games after the restart to win the match and level the tie at 1-1. Play over for the day now, doubles rubber and reverse singles tomorrow. I’m sure there’s a lot more to come out of this.
    Final update: Simon Briggs reporting from Romania http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tennis/2017/04/22/ilie-nastase-calls-anne-keothavong-johanna-konta-fing-bitches/?WT.mc_id=tmg_share_tw

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Goffin goes up 4-2 but a terrible overrule by Cedric on an out ball by Rafa steal the game from Goffin and they play it over and Rafa eventually wins the stolen game and it’s 3-3 – Terrible call cheats poor Goffin who is now crumbling – This is proof that One bad call can change and ruin a great match – I wonder if corruption is involved?

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    The whole Roumania thing was so unnecessary – Nastase is 70 years old, from another culture and era and known for his unorthodox views and unihibited expression of them. He needs managing only there was no one to do that.
    I really think Ann K could have shrugged off his comment. Have women become so dainty and sensitive that they can’t distinguish between what’s just foolish and/or inappropriate and what’s really bad ? There is a difference.

    Nastase’s also a little precariously balanced under stress – he probably wasn’t the best captain on court for this tie but Simona wanted him. With luck he could’ve lasted out two days on an even keel but luck wasn’t around in Constanta.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 22, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Nastase a long-time racist. Ashe in one of his books said Nastase walked around calling him Negroni. I like that he’s still wearing an earring. Great player though, loved watching his game.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 22, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Uh Catherine, being calling a “fucking bitch” is pretty disturbing I’d say coming from an old fart like Nastase who was apparently yelling disparaging remarks at Konta too. I didn’t see it, but by the sounds of it, and also what Ilie said about Serena and the color of her baby, but to say that women have become too “dainty” because they object to a misogynist yelling course remarks at them, is like saying Mexicans shouldn’t get upset at Trump for calling them “rapists and criminals.”

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    I’m saying that Nastase isn’t too well balanced and sometimes his behaviour goes beyond what’s acceptable.
    That’s well known. Whether he should have been treated differently when younger, whether he was indulged to the detriment of his mental state, I don’t know, can’t say.

    My point, which may be indefensible I suppose, is that it would have been better to have passed over his comments at the draw, however innappropriate they may have seemed, and then he wouldn’t have been primed to go berserk later on. That abuse did of course go beyond the pale and he had to be banned.

    You might reply well in that case he should never have been made captain and we shouldn’t make exceptions, which may be true enough, but as I said above Simona wanted him as captain, and she probably isn’t judging some of the inane things that come out of his mouth.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    I would think Nastase was trying mind games on Keothavong sort of like Bouchard’s handshake fiasco – I think everyone is overreacting to that harmless silliness which probably snowballed into the nastier stuff though I don’t have the exact timeline of events – I also don’t think his comments about Serena were all that inflammatory and nothing compared to what Serena screamed at that lineswoman at US Open – Political correctness is getting insanely ridiculous -

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Dan; Nastase calling A Ashe “negroni” is not racist – and it’s absurd to level that accusation at him – negro is a word in our dictionary and adding the ni to the end of it is silly but possibly endearing – I have heard other top players have called Ashe the n-word and that is far more offensive -

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Trump did not call all mexicans rapists and criminals but a considerable percentage of the illegals that come to USA are later arrested for rape and crime -

  • catherine bell · April 22, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Scoop –
    Yes – I agree with your perspective in that I don’t think what he said was that terrible and it was the overreaction which lit his very short fuse. Certain journalists made a big thing of it and took a self-righteous stand which seems to me pompous and silly.

    And Serena is being treated like a saint these days – she’s far from that. People have short memories.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    So true Catherine and where were the righteous press when those nasty Israeli fans called Aga Radwanska a slut and whore during their Fed Cup tie years ago? Where was the outrage? Crickets – and Aga did not whine or cry to the press about it – Aga was tough and let of roll off her shoulders – Now everyone wants to whine and cry when they get called a bad word or whatever – I thought both sexes were equal? I thought ladies can take it just like the guys? If Aga can take it so can they – It’s silly how the world goes crazy for a few spoken words or insults – Yet the world and the world media is ignoring the most evil satanic demonic scandal in the history of mankind: Pizzagate and pedogate which is satanic child rape child trafficking and ritual sacrifice – Direct the outrage to exposing and arresting the global elite cabal involved in that satanic sick stuff -

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    Cirstea claimed Konta had “overreacted”.
    “Someone crying cannot stop a match,” she told BBC Sport.
    “From a tennis point of view, Johanna deserved the win – she is a better player than me – but the behaviour of the British team was exaggerated.
    “Why did we stop? Only because Johanna cried? I have never cried on the court because someone told me something. You have to toughen up.
    “OK, at 2-1 you take our captain out, that was the right decision, but then at 3-1 I break you and now you cry. I am not saying it was fake, but it was not logical.
    “Next time I’m in trouble I will cry, maybe I can go off the court. As Romanians we get double insulted because of our nation but it’s OK, we are tough. Tougher than British people apparently.”
    ‘I’ve played all over the this world, they called me from gypsy to b***h to a******e to idiot,’ she added, ‘I never cried and left the court, I stay there and I play.
    ‘Then when she came back on court she said to me: “I’m sorry.” So she knew she exaggerated.
    ‘I don’t think the crowd did anything. Everyone was so nice, we treated you guys so nice.

    Partly understand where she’s coming from (in the way that she herself has been treated on/off court by other crowds). But she’s only airing because she lost, and has to find some way to defend Nastase after all.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Look at this racist rant by Floyd Mayweather, and nothing happened no fine no ban no suspension – it’s far FAR worse than anything Nastase said. Double standard for white and black racial words:

    “I’m on vacation for about a year, about a year,” Mayweather said. “As soon as we come off vacation, we’re going to cook that little yellow chump. We ain’t worried about that. So they ain’t gotta worry about me fighting the midget. Once I kick the midget ass, I don’t want you all to jump on my d—. So you all better get on the bandwagon now. … Once I stomp the midget, I’ll make that mother f—– make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice.”

  • Andrew Miller · April 22, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Konta could slam in 2017. I thought it impossible last year. But I didn’t see Kerber winning two slams ever was possible either.
    Such is the parity tour…
    As for our friend Novak, he was once a comedian, then all time champ. Now just atop tenner.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Andrew; Novak Djokovic is the no 2 player in the world -

  • catherine bell · April 23, 2017 at 6:03 am

    Straightforward for Simona v Konta. Either Konta still affected by yesterday or Simona cranked up her game (without Cahill).

    Poor Angie struggling v Svitolina (Ukraine). See her out early in Stuttgart. No end to her travails.

  • catherine bell · April 23, 2017 at 8:32 am

    This thread’s about exhausted – but just to note Romania won Fed Cup tie comprehensively. GB perhaps did not prepare well, seemed to have no idea what conditions they would face in Constanta and turned out mentally frail. Konta apparently needs ‘time off’ after being abused by Nastase.
    Where have these women spent their lives ? I’ve been called worse things than f****** b**** at work and nobody gave me time off. You just have to get on with it. Men also get called nasty names by other men.
    But it was good to see Simona step up and beat Konta so easily after her meltdown in Miami.
    The British press will no doubt blame Nastase.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 23, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Catherine; Think it could be that Halep is at her best on red clay and Konta’s least favorite surface is clay – And the revenge factor -

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 23, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Catherine; Konta has to toughen up and quit crying – Djokovic and Nishikori suffered and endured FAR WORSE verbal abuse by Roddick and bounced back from it and have had great careers – They did not go public and whine about it they toughened up – women are equal to men right? Konta is a great player and she should not be showing such weakness like this -

  • catherine bell · April 24, 2017 at 2:56 am

    Scoop –
    Konta’s not a ‘great’ player yet – let’s see how she does this season. And yes, she needs to toughen up.

    Simona isn’t always good on clay – she’s not done much in Paris the last couple of years. I think it was being hyped up by the occasion, and the revenge factor.

    I’m sick of the sanctimonious outpourings from the media – Nastase has been around for nearly 50 years and should have been dealt with before now.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 24, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Catherine: Konta has beaten a long list of great players – if you beat a great player you are great :) Yes Donskoy is now great :)

  • catherine bell · April 24, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Hmmmm – not sure if I follow your definition of ‘great’.
    Great to me means reaching the top and spending some time there. And top means the top ranking.
    Konta’s yet to do that :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 24, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Konta is close to doing that and she has beaten players who have done that = great :)

  • Thomas Tung · April 24, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Yes, tennis players should “toughen up” in terms of keeping the good old “stiff upper lip”. I grew up in the Bronx and had plenty of nonsense tossed my way on the tennis courts there — much more from spectators/passer-by than from fellow players, but the idea is there, and I wasn’t alone; some of my friends experienced that garbage too.

    As Brad Gilbert said in his book “Winning Ugly”, Jimmy (Connors) is Jimmy. You’re not here to make him a better person, and he’s not going to change for you. You just deal with it and move on.

    That having been said, I’ve always felt that Stan Smith’s win over Nastase in the 1972 Davis Cup match (US v Romania) was (and still is) one of the absolute greatest wins in all of tennis history. Dealing with linesmen who were cheering for your opponent during points? Check. Biased umpire? Check. Unruly crowd (that would put a rough South American crowd to shame)? Check. Bad line calls making it necessary for you to hit your winners within a foot of the lines? Check. Horrible on-court behavior from your opponent? Check. And still, Smith won. That win from Stan is easily in my Top 5 greatest tennis wins of all time. I honestly don’t think that Lendl would have won under similar circumstances (for all his perceived iciness).

  • Hartt · April 24, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    I read about the tie between the US and Romania in a history of the Davis Cup, and agree that what Stan Smith did was remarkable. It is one of my favourite stories about the DC, one that should be better-known.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 24, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    Thanks Thomas for sharing those memories of Stan Smith vs Nastase – That really is a signature moment in tennis history and one of the greatest matches to ever be played -

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