What are the cards telling me? As you know I follow trends. The trends this year are that the overwhelming favorites are not winning the titles. Often times they are getting to the finals but never winning it. The team/person that wins it all has a feel good story associated with it.
Cam Newton for Auburn (although, you can debate whether that is a feel good or bad story), look at Green Bay barely making it into the playoffs and finally getting the demon of Favre off their back against Pittsburgh who was looking to become a dynasty. Look at UConn winning the NCAA basketball title with all the top seeds being knocked out. Look at the UConn women falling along with Stanford and Texas AM taking home the crown. Djokovic winning the Australian open after a 2 year hiatus from winning a major.
Now let us move to the present.
Well, Djokovic was a close favorite, and rightfully so, for the French Open. The guy had not lost in over a year. If he was not going to win then everybody assumed it would be Nadal. Again, rightfully so; the only time he has lost on clay in France was against Soderling a couple years ago. The whole time, Federer, despite winning more major championships than anybody in history, was flying under the radar. Again, rightfully so. The French was the last of his majors to complete his career Slam, and the weakest of his surfaces and plus he avoided Nadal that year in winning since Soderling took out Nadal. Add to that that he has only won one tournament this year and has not looked very impressive this year. Let us look at what he has done: set the record for the most consecutive quarterfinal appearances in majors, only lost one set so far in the tournament, broke the Djokers match streak. I am seeing glimpses of old in his play. I think his current slide has been subtle and can be pinpointed to a couple small things. First off, competitive matches are decided on a few points and that was more obvious against Djokovic. For instance, Djokovic had set points in the first set albeit on Federer’s serve and lost in a close tiebreak. Djokovic had break points against Federer in set 2 to get back on serve but could not close it. In set 4, Djokovic was serving for the set at 5-4 and could not close the deal. In the last couple years, at close moments, the Fed was no longer getting freebie points on his serve. In this French open, he has been doing so and it was evident in his play against Djokovic. No more so than the 4th set tiebreaker where he got 2 free points at 4-3 to make it 6-3 and then an ace to close it off. This is a return of old. Finally, this year’s french has faster balls which helps fed utilize his power on the serve and groundies which is why Isner was able to take 2 sets from Nadal. Lets see how it goes. Playing with the theme, Federer was under the radar but has a feel good story attached to him. The old man who was counted out who has never beatan Nadal on clay and Nadal was one of the favorites coming in so according to the cards, he cannot win.
Li is the same story. Came close in Australia but fell apart. Her coach left to coach Sharapova. The favorites coming in were Wozniacki, Clijsters, Sharapova, and Schiavoni along with a couple others who have all been knocked out apart from Schiavoni. Schiavoni won it last year and so now it is Li’s turn. Now coached by a Dane who was introduced by Wozniacki. She represents a country and is trying to the be the first person from China to win a major. It is her turn. A good story and under the radar.
Now the Mavericks. Lakers and Celtics were the favorites. Both out. The Heat do not have a feel good story about them. They complain a lot about everything including the media and have not embraced the role of the villain despite creating the aura of being a villain. They show boat in front of the bench of the opponent before the game is over, they bump their coach when they are not happy, they cry in the locker room, they were not under the radar. On the other side, the Mavericks still have pain from 2006, they were not considered a threat in these playoffs despite a great team and record but based off previous failures. They have a likable star in Dirk Nowitski and Jason Kidd. Under the radar with a feel good story. It is there time.