Friday, November 25, 2016

This week with TWA: Some falls and a rise

In the spirit of Thanksgiving (at least here in the U.S.), it's a great time to express gratefulness -- and a bit of shock -- about how well men's tennis has stood up despite the absence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Not to say they are not missed. But the ATP Tour finals really showed me something. Not just that Milos Raonic is likely the real deal, despite the occasional presence of that Koozie. Even without Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, there's still plenty of promise in the likes of Dominic Thiem and other young guns who are cutting their teeth against the best in the world. 
But they're not quite ready yet. So let's go back to Murray and Djokovic. When the tour finals began, I didn't expect much out of Djokovic. Given his recent results and struggles with injury, you just got the sense that he was here because this tournament was a big deal, not because he was ready to win it. Then he showed up and handled Raonic and demolished the rest of the round-robin field. (Which, sorry, wasn't that hard. I mean, look at Murray's draw!) It was starting to look like the old routine, where Djokovic assumes the role of buzzsaw. And even though Murray dominated the second half of the season, he had found himself lacking when it came that one opponent -- the same guy he had to play for the year-end world No. 1 title.
Not this time. Murray handled business against Djokovic and that's great for tennis. Because now, anything can happen when they face off. And when you bring back the experience of Federer and Nadal, it will bring back some of the weight and consistency missing from the Top 4 this year. 

One thing I love about the ATP finals is how much love doubles has always gotten. This might be the first year, incidentally, that the winners of the doubles tournament are completely unheard of to me. If you want to talk about changing tides, then I guess it's time to concede that the likes of Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor are no more. They were nowhere near this tournament. The Bryan Brothers were, though. It could be me, though, but in their semifinal match against Henri Kontinen and John Peers, it looked like doubles tennis is starting to take the same turn that singles has taken, especially in the men's game. I'm talking about the rise of the power game. Maybe I missed it, but even men's doubles used to involve some guile and strategy and maybe that's what the Bryans came to do, but more often, the points ended up with a massive overhead or a crushing down-the-line return off of a meh serve. 
Of course, if I'm not completely delusional, that would be terrible for doubles. I guess there's always mixed?

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