Sunday, 8 March 2009

Between a Rock and a Hard Court....

I just wanted to say a quick word about where I think Djokovic is at right now: and it's not a good place.

You'll remember I was all too willing to give him the benefit of the doubt after his win in Dubai last week, where he dispatched Ferrer in straight sets in the final and only had to face one other top tenner (Simone) en route to the title. The poor attendance is not his fault after all.

Well that's fine and the win was just dandy, but it's also a little worrying that only a week later facing the same opponent in a Davis Cup Tie, he's unable to leverage any kind of confidence from that win, going down instead (from what I can tell) fairly meekly in straight sets.

(DIEGO TUSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Yes I know it's clay and I know Spain were at home and I don't have any problem with his 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 loss to Nadal, but I really thought he had it in him to squeeze past Ferrer (or at least to take a set or two).

For one thing Djokos actually pretty good on clay. He's made the semis the last two years at Roland Garros and the quarters in 2006 (losing on all three occasions to Nadal): a feat as of yet beyond Murray with all his lauded variety. He seems to me to be untroubled by the sl
ower surface as he retains his superb ability to generate pace and hit winners past his opponents.

Also, I don't know if any of you have noticed, but Ferrer hasn't posted the type of results that befit someone of his clay court prowess for a couple of years now. I think he won a title at Valencia last year and made the quarters at RG. He also had a couple of quarter final appearances at Monte Carlo (which for now, is still a Masters event...kinda). I don't want to knock him too much as he made up for it in a way with that superb run on the hard courts at the end of 2007, and somehow also pulled of a grass court title at Hertogenbosch last year.
But really, in a field sadly running a little thin on quality clay courters (Rafa not withstanding), you would have expected a guy like him to make more of an impression.

Maybe they're all scared of Rafa - Almagro went through the tennis equivalent of having his kneecaps removed last year at RG (I shudder to think how Guy Ritchie would have depicted Roger's loss in the final..) - a guy who many at the time were calling the 3rd best clay courter in the world. So much for that.

The point is Ferrer is beatable on clay nowadays, and for Djoko to not just lose to him, but to be unable to win even a single set, is not very world-number-3 like in my opinion.
As good a win as that was in Dubai last week, I think it would be a near crisis if he didn't win.

I'm a little disappointed to say this, as I've been harping on about how great it would be if he were to get competitive at the big events once again, but I'm not convinced Djoko is back just yet, and with Murray's virus Indian Wells may turn out to be a two horse race again. Nothing wrong with that of course, but we've had over four years of the big two and only little under a year of the big four. It would have been thrilling (not to mention instructive) I think, to have them all slugging it out at IW close to the best of their abilities.
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