I’m not sure what on earth Novak Djokovic was thinking. He beat Roger Federer in the semifinals at Indian Wells, and then beat Rafael Nadal for the title. Afterward, Djokovic publicly proclaimed that Nadal was the greatest of all time, known in tennis as the GOAT debate.
“I think he’s the best ever because, even though he’s 24 years old, he has done so much already,’’ Djokovic said. “Many years in front of him to, I think even to overtake Roger in the Grand Slam trophies.’’
Why would Djokovic bother choosing sides between Federer and Nadal (I’m still not sure Pete Sampras should be eliminated from GOAT talk).
Apparently, Djokovic doesn’t mind ticking off Federer, who he thinks, I can only assume, is in the rear-view mirror for good. Maybe so, but Federer is just one small change away from being back in major contention.
Anyway, a lot happened during nearly two weeks at Indian Wells, and in the spirit of Djokovic giving Nadal the Goat award, here are a few more awards. (I reserve the right to write full columns about these things later).
MOUSE: (Most Outstanding U.S. Emergence): Donald Young beat No. 4 Andy Murray. At 21, Young is finally learning that hard work might equal better results. It was huge for Young, and the first time anyone had talked about him for actually winning a match. But the MOUSE in Indian Wells was Ryan Harrison, who beat Milos Raonic. No, Raonic is not at Murray’s level yet. But Murray tends to fade away, and Raonic is the future arriving. Maybe the U.S. can be part of that future, too? Harrison has a long way to go, but it seems possible now.
FIREMAN: This goes to the person whose fire has been put out in the most surprising way. I’ll go with Maria Sharapova, usually the tour’s best fighter, looking completely dejected while losing 6-1, 6-2 to Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals.
WTF? (Worst Tennis Focus): Sam Querrey. This is just how it’s going to be with him. Coming into the tournament, he seemed to be have completely lost interest. Then, he beat No. 9 Fernando Verdasco in straight sets. OK, he was back. Then, he dozed off against Tommy Robredo, getting crushed and saying he didn’t know why his head wasn’t in it. Let us know when you find out.
BS (BEST SERVE): Federer said he would like to have John Isner’s serve. Better choice: Ivo Karlovic’s serve. He is absolutely making the most of himself.
???? (FALL AFTER REACHING the TOP): This could be renamed the Ana Ivanovic Award, which would be a little more delicate, for sure. But Ivanovic was great against Jelena Jankovic, and doesn’t deserve the award anymore. Jankovic? Nope. People were encouraged by Dinara Safina’s victory over Sam Stosur. Watch again: It was two players choking as much as possible. Safina still gets the award.
BEST RACQUET: I have said for months that Federer must stop being so stubborn about his ancient flexible Wilson racquet and move to something modern. To me, just that one little switch would put him back over Djokovic again. Someone wrote me that Fed’s racquet is the best one ever made. If so, it rates right up there with the old steel T-2000 and the wood Kramer Pro Staff. They all belong on the same shelf.
TIE (Timing is Everything). Also could be called the HURRY UP, SERENA WILL BE BACK SOON award. Goes to Caroline Wozniacki, who won her biggest title this weekend after Kim Clijsters pulled out with a shoulder injury. Wozniacki is ready to defend her way to a major as long as no one with strong will, nerve and aggression is out to take it from her.
ASKING FOR HER COAT AWARD: Cover your ears all you want. Kim Clijsters is dropping strong hints she’ll retired again soon, like after next summer’s Olympics.
GPM (Greatest Player of this Moment): Djokovic, for sure. He won the Australian Open, beating Federer. Now, he beat Federer and Nadal. He is ranked No. 2.
GPNM (Greatest Player of the next Moment): Juan Martin del Potro. He’s still not back to form yet. Wait till mid-summer. Remember, he had passed Federer and Nadal before, beating both at the U.S. Open. That’s even more impressive than what Djokovic has done.
GP: (Greatest Player): Nadal still has won three of the past four majors and is ranked No. 1. A loss to Djokovic on a hard court doesn’t drop him down. At this point, Djokovic’ run has been short.
GOAT: Federer has won the most majors, including each one. Sampras dominated a tougher era, but never won a French. Nadal is still young, and still will have years to add majors, or not, and to show that he can stay ahead of Djokovic and del Potro, as well as Raonic (and Harrison?). So put his down in pencil, but Nadal’s dominance over Federer head-to-head is impossible to overlook. Nadal is GOAT. For now.
BEST NICKNAME I CAN THINK OF: People have tried to come up with a nickname for the Federer-Nadal rivalry, along the lines of Bennifer, etc. So far, Fedal seems to be most accepted. Now, we’ll go with this: Fedalkovic. Heaven forbid when del Potro gets back up there.