26 Jan


As followers of this blog know, we have already detailed why you should root for Stani and how he could win.  The latter offers solid guidance to what a Stanislam victory would look like: aggressive baseline ball-smacking, high first serve percentage, and seizing on opportunities.  Many have described this as Stani’s finest moment, offering praise on his development with somewhat tacit  but clear resignation to Nadal’s inevitable domination.  Stani’s never taken a set off him, let alone challenged him in a match, they say.  Nadal eats one handers for breakfast.  The blistered Iberian bull is at the height of his powers, and the funny named Wawrinka will have to settle for Swiss number 1.

I’m under no illusions that Rafa is not a brutish destroyer on the court.  However, you have to be wary of tennis analysis you find on non-Balke Bros websites.  Remember: these folks are really bad at writing about tennis.  If you want superficial analysis reflecting outdated narratives, read Greg Garber on ESPN.  For the rest, there’s Balke Bros.

And Balke Bros see the hope for Stani, and I would add one final addition to Daniel’s list, perhaps even replacing divine intervention: keep doing what you’re doing.

After the nascent Stani surge was halted by Rafa’s 6-2 6-4 victory in Madrid last year, Stani continued his secretly improved run, making the quarters at Roland Garros where he fell again handily to Rafa.  Failure, repeated embarrassment at the hands of superior players.  He exited Wimbledon early, offering ample evidence to doubters of his ability to make a sustained run.  He can’t break through.

He surged to the semis at Flushing Meadows, only to fall to longtime rival Djokovic, yet his ability to come so close, to hang tougher with the best than any non top tier player, furthered another narrative, that Stani was undeterred by the past, incessantly improving, moving forward in fits and starts.  He qualified for the year end finals in London where he made it past the round robin stage only to face Rafa, this time on hardcourts, in the semis.

If you read other tennis analysts, this match was merely another thread in a string of Rafa’s dominance over the inferior Stanislas.  Yet another W for the record.  Straight sets even. Nothing to see here.

Even a cursory look will tell you otherwise.  Stani held tough throughout the match, coming back from breaks, from being down in service games, to force two tiebreaks, tight ones.  And it’s easy to discount such close losses as “woulda coulda shouldas” from a partisan like myself, yet you cannot say a loss like this isn’t a meaningful improvement over Stani’s past thrashings.  He came within two points and had a set point in the first and second sets, respectively. More important was the nature of the match, the points themselves which speak volumes about why Stani has a chance in the finals Down Under.

Yes, he has a one hander, yes Nadal has beaten two straight one handers, yet Stani has a very different backhand than most, one that might just stand a chance on these hardcourts.  His swing, short and compact, provides a uniquely powerful stroke, even on high shots.  Time and again in the London match, Stani replied one of Rafa’s high topspin forehands with a deep backhand of his own, putting pressure on Rafa and opening up opportunities for Stani’s aggresion.  His backhand is more often taken on the rise, so, even despite his ability to hit deep high backhands, he doesn’t have to since he rips short hopped one handers so cleanly and powerfully. Moreover, Stanislas’ forehand has taken enormous strides – which was evident even in the match with Rafa in London – capable of dictating points, smacking winners, or merely entering a slugfest knowing he has a shot.  More so than Federer, Stani the Mani can hold tough against Rafa, with his ability, to put it crassly, to smack the shit outta the ball.  This was apparent in London, where he dictated points, stayed poised and relied on his shots when behind, and came within reach of taking that second set.

There is nothing structurally precluding the Stanimal from victory, especially on hard courts.  He’s more or less famous for two things: one handers and five set epics with the most physically fit human the Balkans have ever seen.  Stani can hold tough, fight Rafa’s forehand, and hit powerfully to either side of the court with ease.  The key is confidence and, now more than ever, he has it.  He’s over the hump, he knows he can beat champions.  Keep doing what you’ve been doing, Stanislas.  Continue to build, to take more from your losses than your wins, to put your failures behind you and hold confidence in your ability to rise to what you’ve worked so hard for, to be a champion.  The world is behind you. Viva Stani, Viva Tenis, Viva el Pueblo!

The time is now for the Manislas to rise.


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