Well, it's been a long time to say the least. I have not been keeping track of the Blog as much as I should have (explanation, well, sort of, offered below). However, like old friends, it should take us no time to carry on where we left off. [Z: Uh-uh...you don't get to shake off going AWOL for 2 years that easy...]
For those of wondering "WHO the HELL is this guy?!?", and there have been enough changes to the Blog and its readers to make me think that's a sizeable proportion of you wonderful people, I am an old (and hopefully good) friend of Zafar's - he used to be called Topspin - what happened to that?! [Z: Think its probably ok to use my name after 3 years ;)]
The last time I posted must have been around the 2009 mark, around the US Open time. A lot has gone on and a lot has changed. Firstly, I have changed job and location to one where internet is more expensive (But I still pay for it! Hey, I don't have a TV!) and the work is more stressful. That's a super combination to keep me off posting, but hey, I got there in the end - question is, will Andy Murray?! [drums and cymbal] [Z: To quote Mr President: YES HE CAN. AND WILL :( ]
(On a side note, whilst I am quite a fan of Muzza, it is not because of his image as David Lloyd suggested. I did like Murray's retort of 'stick to building fitness clubs') [Z: I like the shaggy look - its not like he went 'George Bastl' on us :p ]
Another change has been to my tennis game (hence my nick?). I have abandoned the two-handed backhand for a Federeresque (in my dreams, anyway!) single-handed. I have found that it is more consistent, I feel as though I have far more control of the ball and I find it easier to get into position for it. Also, funnily enough, I can deal with higher balls far better - Roger, give me a call and we'll talk! [Z: HERESY. After all the grief you gave me over the ONE time I tried hitting with two hands...]
So, that would make something of a Born-Again Single-Hander. In light of this, must I now change my nick to BASHer?! However, if we've done away with nicks, then my name is Asad.
OK, well the story so far is...Novak Djokovic is whupping EVERYONE - good night! [Z: No sh*t] Seriously, the guy has come leaps and bounds both on and off the court. For I...uh-oh, humble pie time...used to be quite a critic of Nolé. [Z: Again...no sh*t] I found the impersonations were becoming rather tiring as was dedicating every victory as a tribute to how hard life was a Serb in the 1990s. [Z: ...]Also, on court, he would seem to "lose the will to live" on occasion giving up after a good start or not being able to get started in the first place - particularly against Federer and Nadal.
Now? WHOA! For a start, he is now starting to beat Federer more regularly and convincingly. His groundstrokes have always been strong on both wings but his backhand really is nearly on par with his forehand. [Z: I quite liked his BH, but you're right both strokes equally dependable....] His volleying has improved, though he's always looked more natural at the net than Nadal. [Z: Nadal/Nole have both learnt to volley admirably well - but I still think they both look like a couple of street-hustlers at the net] More natural than Tsonga? Erm, no! Also, he has finally found his rhythm with that new service action and not to mention the new racquet.
I think I used to call him Chokovic! That, too, has now been formally retracted.
And now, I must challenge a few things, if I may. [Z: Uh-oh] I would say that he did play his best tennis in many respects against Nadal, both mentally and mechanically (if that makes sense). His shots during the 1st, 2nd and 4th sets (more about the 3rd set in a bit) were fan-diddly-tastic! He was playing like a man possessed. He destroyed Nadal in the 2nd set (in fact I thought Rafa must have had a bust-up with his girlfriend or something because a significant part of him was not in the game). The way he was mixing up the pace of serves was genius. The way he went after Nadal's backhand was also a brilliant tactic which worked a treat. [Z: Agree..I actually think Nole elicited a lot of Nadals "unforced" errors - my point was he didn't need to be as good as he was say in IW/Miami...but I almost prefer us to disagree :P ]
The 3rd set, Rafa kind of decided to show up and play. However, maybe nerves got to Nolé as he was hitting a lot of balls out and his serve somewhat desserted him. I thought that the old Chokovic Syndrome might start kicking in then. He broke early in the 4th set, but quickly got broken back. This is where he really showed his new-found mental strength: he got it out of his system, dug deep, went for his shots and it paid off. [Z: Rafa thinks this level might not last...I don't get it - relying on his opponents level to fall has never been his style either on court or in a presser :-O ]
Whereas Tsonga showed us the masterclass on how to beat Nadal at the 2008 Aussie Open, which was by and large from the net [Z: I have a bone to pick with Jo...], Nolé has managed a few times now (not to mention on clay!) to beat Nadal at his own game - with high, loopy topspin from the back of the court. This is why I feel rather cheated that they didn't get to meet at RG and in a strange twist of fate, were deprived of a Rafole final at Wimby. I think Nolé believes he can 'bother' Rafa at RG now... [Z: You're right - that would've been something - but I liked Feds win as well.....]
So, Novak has finally come of age and he fully deserves the No. 1 ranking for he is, so far this year, the best player on the planet. He has matured incredibly, OK it came after a few bad seasons and injuries but I take my hat off to him... [Z: Ditto....]