Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Blood

Oz has come and gone but I didn't want to forget about Joker's victory over Tsonga to win the title. 

Tsonga has all the tools. Now comes the hard part: dealing with sudden fame, learning about consistency, figuring out how to use all those tools to win matches, and staying healthy.  To be fair we really ought to evaluate him 18 months from now to see how he handles himself.

Joker's straight-set domination of Federer was shocking. However, I did predict his ascent to the top of tennis. Hey, I'm wrong enough to make sure I point out that when I'm right, I'm right. When I first decided Joker was going to insert himself into the debate between Nadal and Federer, it seemed a little preposterous. The Mighty Fed and Nadal have such a rivalry, and their tennis is so many levels above everyone else it seemed hard to imagine anyone else joining the party. But when I saw him win Miami and I heard him talk, I just knew that the Serb with the unpronounceable name had the game and charisma to be an unlikely star.

Many observers are now noting that it's hard to remember another 20-year old with a such a complete game. Joker was already a mega-star in Serbia so I doubt his win will affect his ability to get through life. His work ethic is already phenomenal and he's not satisfied with one grand slam. As he said two years ago, his goal is to be number 1. To do that in this era you really have to want it, because Fed and Nadal aren't going anywhere. Having Joker get some of the attention will probably temporarily help Nadal, who has some issues in his game that he needs to work through. It takes the pressure off Rafa to be Fed's main rival. But clay is just around the corner for him so he will be fine. Fed, however, may not get his mojo back until Wimbledon.

Speaking of Wimby, Joker had this to say:
“And Wimbledon? My first memory of tennis was watching Pete Sampras lift the trophy. I think I was 6. I felt I should have been in the finals last year, but I was hurt. I have always imagined myself as Sampras.

“To be Australian Open champion is wonderful; to win Wimbledon, that would be amazing.”

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