Friday, March 18, 2016

Marcelo Rios versus Greg Ruesedski 1998 Indian Wells Final

The winner of this match will get to a career high number 3 in the world.  This is the second title of Rios' three straight Masters or super nine titles! During this run Rios hardly ever double faulted, served with deceptive power, and had a high first serve percentage. As a result he held serve easily. I'd like to highlight some generalities throughout this match. My first topic is:

Marcelo Rios return game
 Reusedski routinely serves over 140 mph. In an interval of a few minutes he has clocked serves of 141 a and 145 mph respectively. Yet Rios is very much alive in these service games. In fact, the amazing thing is that he hasn't broken more often with this short return swing, his perfect lobs, and deadly passing shots.

 Marcelo Rios has an unbelievable return game. Once the point is started his passing shots land effectively short. Throughout the match Rios hit many easy powered well angled return winners. He also muffs a few return opportunities that would have given him a break point.

Still Rios and Reusedski are having a poor returning day. Neither player has had a break point in the second and third sets.

Epic second set tiebreak (not shown)
Greg Reusedski won the second set tie break 17 points to 15. The commentator attributed this result to Rios' nerves. And he mentioned the highest scoring tie break in history occurred in 1979 at Queen's club between Arthur Ashe and Bernard Mitten. The tie break was 31 to 29. A three set match that lasted almost 5 hours. Here is proof of this epic match from 1979.

Reusedski's peculiar volleying

Reusedski makes the difficult waist high angled volley winner look easy. He is really coming alive with these sharply angled volley winners. Reusedski is on right on top of the net and covering each of Rios's shots with explosive movement. He has superb control of his racquet head. Still as close to the net as he is Rios should be lobbing a lot more.

Reusedski demonstrates his variety of control when he hits  a thunderously fast slice serve and then hits a drop volley. And for good measure he hits Rios on the following serve haha.

The one thing wrong with Reusedski's net game, however,  is the high sitter volleys. He is getting over anxious on them and missing. This is due to the tremendous pressure the Rios passing shot game puts on Reusedski's high volleys.

 Rios passing shot game
 Rios stays calm when Reusedski attacks the net. He knows his lefty hook shots will curve to the right every time. This equalizes Reusedski's power. Rios varies his hook shots around the court with widening angles. And he stomps his control on the match by running down every Reusedski drop shot attempt. 

Late in the match Rios starts to hone his lobs. He hits them with perfect trajectory so that Reusedski cannot chase them down or leap up for them. Once Reusedski can't close the net as much, Rios renown rolling passing shots seal Reusedski's fate.

Reusedski lacks a complete game and must compete by coming to net. Even though chipping and charging against Rios is suicide.  

Rios attack
 Rios is giving club players an absolute tutorial on what approach shots to follow to net. The downside for Rios hitting so many angles is that he must be quick to cover all possible angles he is opening up for his opponent.  Rios waits for an opportunity to hit great angled shots. There is a flow to watching him. Streaky players who constantly miss are more painful to watch.

 Rios serves out wide and hits the ball in the opposite deep corner in a devastating one-two-punch. He takes the ball so early and forces his weary opponents into errors after a long point. Rios unpredictably changes direction or pace with the same back swing. You will never see it coming!

Rios hits an unbelievable stop volley around 23:30. Marcelo Rios demonstrates amazing angles and quickness. His off angled forehand forces errors time and again.

In 1998, Rios is the best returner. Rios during this run of winning three masters tournaments in a row hit with a high first serve percentage. He plays an effective kick serve and never double faults. He holds serve easily. In fact Rios has had 9 love service games compared to 2 for Reusedski.

 Lack of Reusedski defense
Engage yourself in this match by listening to the commentary. They talk about how laughable and pathetic Reusedski's topspin backhand is. Yet he is going for down the line winners like he is Wawrinka or Gasquet! The commentators recommend that he slice his backhand to stay in the point and extract a Rios error. He needs to relax and slice his backhand since he is not being hurt by Rios from the back of the court. I think Reusedski just doesn't want to run as much. 

Conclusion of Match

Rios begins his hold for the match with a serve and volley. He is so silky smooth with heavy topspin. Rios arrives easily at triple match point. Rios hits an easy backhand winner to win Indian Wells 1998 over Greg Reusedski.

Marcelo Rios never lost serve the whole match. Reusedski only lost serve twice. Marcelo Rios wins 6-3, 6-7 (15-17), 7-6, 6-4.  Larry Stefanki cheers Rios on. Why does Rios fire Stefanki after winning three straight masters titles and becoming number one in the world? That is truly an Unsolved Mystery.

Marcelo Rios has an exciting style to his game, one missing from today's game. 
Marcelo Rios is more exciting to watch than Nadal, Hewitt, and Robredo.  Unlike Nadal and Hewitt he is not content to hit a thousand balls down the middle of to an opponents backhand. Rios tries for far more daring shots than all three players combined. Marcelo Rios put on a show each match. There should be an excitement hall of fame.

Safin who would have been in both hall of fames spoke about how boringly professional today's players are. They don't care about entertaining the fans but are more concerned with career titles and prize money. Which I certainly would be too if I was in that situation. However, they owe fans a little more excitement. Take the excitement test with your favorite player.

Ask yourself if a non tennis friend would enjoy watching your player's first round Slam match. The efficiently-talented Roger Federer and Marcelo Rios could put up a first round masterpiece. You simply don't know what shot they will invent in the course of a 75 minute beat down. But tune into a Hewitt or Nadal first round match, the commentators will talk about history and anything else, because they will win easily in unexciting fashion. They need world class competition to be part of an exciting match.

The cure for your insomnia is to watch Robredo vs Nadal. Nadal may be the greatest of all time but he plays with very little variation and lacks a complete game. Therefore, I find many players such as Roger Federer and Marcelo Rios far more interesting to watch match to match. A player relying more on skill than athleticism is more eye pleasing to the fans who deserve quick top notch entertainment. What's exciting is how much Rios could make an opponent run with his angles, drop shots, and lobs.

Tennis is in the entertainment business and if we want more people to get interested in tennis we need more show men. Personality isn't the answer, we need players with exquisite style and the ability to torture their opponents in a way club players can't. We need variation of speeds, trajectory and angles. World team Tennis is not the answer for adding excitement to tennis. No color shade on the court will make a Nadal vs. Hewitt battle more exciting than watching a caterpillar form.

I hope these players rise to the challenge of adding more exciting shots in the repertoire and employing these shots a much higher percentage of  the time. Sure this adds to a player's pressure but the fans will cheer all the louder and relax the player to play better. My goal is to increase the fun and showmanship of professional tennis without increasing the suicide rate. The way I see it these top players make more money than God. Many of the working poor are under pressure each day and deserve quality entertainment. These players owe it to the fans to have more of a globe trotter attitude.

And please ESPN and Tennis channel stop trying to get me excited about Andy Murray's career ambition. I don't care. Show me shots I never thought were possible. And show me more matches than Djokovic and Serena. Get some people who know tennis choosing the matches to broadcast. Then we can see more matches from Dustin Brown, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios, Richard Gasguet, Gilles Muller, Juan Martin Del Potro, and Dennis Shapovalov, Fabio Fognini, and Dominic Thiem to name a few exciting players currently on tour.

I want you to list in the comments below, your choice of the most stylistic exciting players to watch; whether from the past, present, or future. Also tell me if you think there has been any good matches at the 2016 Olympics besides Del Potro's man handling of Djokovic.