the perils of round robin

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Humility at the top

For as many perks allowed by reaching the year-end top eight of men’s tennis — the glory, the attention, the serious cash, not to mention those crazy year-ending suits — participating in the Tennis Masters Cup (Shanghai) also has a potential downside: losing multiple matches in a week.

In fact, the round-robin draw makes it so a few players have to lose two matches in the week. There’s even a chance that at least one formerly-confident fellow will take an ego beat-down and lose three. I recall Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2003 walking off the court humbled and frustrated after losing his third (and final) match. More recently, Guillermo Coria racked up consecutive 0-3 TMC records — in ’04 and ’05.

This year, thanks to Kolya squeaking out a round-robin win over the spent Gonzo, the 0-fer honor went to Nole Djokovic. If it weren’t for the signs of burnout that Novak had coming into the Masters Cup, he’s about the last player of the octet you’d expect to get served a big slice of that humbling pie.

Novak put up a good fight in each performance — and he had his overzealous stage parents cheering him on — so I’m pretty sure the showman and athlete we got to know this year hasn’t disappeared. Something tells us that after some rest in a place “far, far away from everybody”, he’ll come out alright in ’08.


Michael Shaw writes about tennis and other subjects for the
Los Angeles Times, and is also an artist. He can be reached at michaelshaw_sar AT yahoo DOT com. Read his previous posts for TSF here.

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One Response to “the perils of round robin”

  1. Joshua Says:

    I’m not a big fan of round robin in general, but I think the TMC (and the WTA Sony Ericcson yada yada) show off the best aspects of round robin pretty nicely.

    In this format, which includes only the best eight players of the year, fans are guaranteed marquee matches. You don’t have to worry that Roddick won’t advance far enough to play Federer, because they have to play no matter what! (assuming they’re in the same group at least.) And indeed, they can actually play twice, if the winners of the same group win the semifinals.

    In lower tier events, the only reason to have round robin is to protect precious Roger Federer from a humiliating loss. [Even in the TMC it served to do that to an extent, since Federer lost his first match -- his third loss in only a few weeks -- and still walked away the champ.] But when the only people invited are the best in the world, it’s worth it, to me, to make those players work against as many of the other top ten as possible.

    Oh, and the Serbs haven’t done so hot in this format, have they? Djokovic joined compatriot Jankovic as an 0-3. Ivanovic at least advanced to the semis!

    Djokovic’s 0-3 surprises me a lot less than Jankovic’s — Ferrer has had a shockingly good year, Nadal is Nadal and Gasquet is, during those three minutes of a match when he plays well, probably a better player than Djokovic. So, while I thought he’d advance, I’m not surprised that it fell apart. Jankovic, on the other hand — I can see why she lost of Henin, and even to Chakvetadze — but to Bartoli? Seriously?

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