Notes and notions as Paris approaches.
TRUTH IN OUR TIMES: After the king of clay Rafa Nadal won the Italian Open, his first title of the season, Steve Weissman noted, “All is restored in the world of clay court tennis.” Following “un-Rafa-like” defeats in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, the Spaniard won his record ninth Italian Open and his 34th Masters. In the Rome final, Novak Djokovic suffered his first 6-0 loss in 142 sets of play against Rafa.
THE NOT VERY NORMAL NORMALITY OF RAFAEL NADAL: Rafa has been rather philosophical of late.
- After his Monte Carlo loss he proclaimed, “What happened tonight is what happens in real life. What happened in the last 14 years on clay is not the normality…All my life I think I’ve taken the victories…with a lot of normality. With the losses I’ll do the same.”
- After his Italian victory he said, “Win a title is important, but the most important thing is feel myself competitive, feel myself healthy and feel myself improving and then if I reach my level…normally I will have my chances.”
- In Italy he said, “What happened in Monte Carlo – happened. And what happened in Barcelona happened and what happened in Madrid happened. And here we are – we are in Rome.”
NOT MUCH NORMALITY IN ROME: At the Italian Open we saw Federer complaining. He was unhappy with wet lines. Tournament bosses doubled prices for his matches, one of which was rained out. Making matters worse for the Italian organizers, Roger then pulled out with a leg ailment. It was only the fourth time in his career that he’d withdrawn from a match. Due to the rain, many players had to play two matches in a single day. Nick Kyrgios was annoyed by fans, had a major snit, tossed a chair in the not-so-great tradition of Bobby Knight and was tossed out. A testy Novak Djokovic claimed he was a political victim and then he was bageled by Rafa. The colorful, longtime Italian writer Ubaldo Scanagatta was banned from the Open, apparently for writing a critical article. In the end, you could say only one thing normal happened: Rafa won.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING: After Paul Annacone noted that in tennis, “The times are a-changing,” Brett Haber quipped, “Slowly, glacially.” BTW: Over the last nine years, 68 of last 83 Masters have been won by the Big Four and they’ve prevailed in 51 of the last 56 Slams. Djokovic is the only one to win all nine of the Masters.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Victoria Azarenka
“When I’m tanking matches, I don’t care that you paid for tickets, you guys treat me like crap anyway.” – Nick Kyrgios to Ben Rothenberg
“Call the police! Officer, I have just witnessed Novak Djokovic steal a set from Rafael Nadal in broad daylight in the middle of Rome.” – Cindy Black
“In windy conditions, I’m the worst top 10 player ever.” – Alexander Zverev
“We found that this guy who we thought was invincible was ‘vincible.’” – Brett Haber on Novak Djokovic
“Once you have seen one trophy ceremony, you’ve seen every tennis trophy ceremony.” – Ted Robinson
“He’ll never be the GOAT for me… I’m sorry but if you can’t beat me you are not the greatest of all time…He has a sick obsession with being liked. He wants to be liked so much that I can’t stand it. It’s so cringe-worthy.” – Nick Kyrgios on Djokovic
THE FOG OF FOGNINI: Simon Briggs suggested that Fabio Fognini would land up “in any rogue’s gallery of wild and wacky tennis players,…Nobody could be more Italian than Fognini. He stands just 5 ft. 10 in. – titchy for a top tennis player – but once on the court he puffs his chest out and struts around like a peacock. When his game is flowing, he preens, poses and pouts, showing off his Johnny Depp cheekbones. If he starts missing, he waves his hands angrily at his coaches, or smashes rackets…[and at] 2017’s US Open, he called chair umpire Louise Engzell “whore” and “cocksucker.” He was thrown out…[and then said] with little apparent remorse, ‘They’re all moralists these days.’”
SERENA’S JOURNEY: Since returning from giving birth here’s what Serena’s done:
Withdrew – French Open 2018, Round of 16, Miami round 3, Italian Open round 2
Round 1 Miami and San Jose 2018
Round 2 Cincinnati
Round 3 Indian Well 2018, Indian Wells 2019 retired
Quarterfinal – Australian Open 2019
Final – Wimbledon and US Open 2018
GO FIGURE: Ricky Dimon noted that in Rome, “Nadal baked a ridiculous array of bakery products (4 bagels, 3 breadsticks) in five matches” – that’s four 6-0 sets and three 6-1 sets …Lauren Davis and Tommy Paul are America’s wildcards into the French Open.
MORE SUPER THAN THE SUPER BOWL: Jon Wertheim noted that Rafa and Roger, who met in the finals in Madrid and Rome, have played more matches (54), against each other than there have been Super Bowls. Rafa has more Slams (17 to Novak’s 15) and more Masters titles (34, to Novak’s 33) and has a 17-7 record against Novak on clay. But overall Novak has a 34-32 lead over Nadal.
HEADLINE OF THE MONTH: KIKI THE KONQUEROR (After Kiki Bertens won in Madrid.)
MISSING IN ACTION: Maria Sharapova withdrew from Roland Garros. The two-time Paris champ has played there only once in the last four years and has played just eight matches this year. Tennis’ twin towers – John Isner and Kevin Anderson – will also pass on the French Open due to injuries. Nick Kyrgios and Tomas Berdych are also out and Andy Murray is still recovering from hip surgery.