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Feliciano Lopez returns the ball to Felix Auger-Aliassime  during their men’s singles semifinal match on  June 22 (Alastair Grant)
Feliciano Lopez returns the ball to Felix Auger-Aliassime during their men’s singles semifinal match on June 22 (Alastair Grant)|Associated Press
Tennis

Tennis Sunday - Abrams Picks Men’s Finals in Noventi Open and Fever-Tree Championships, Federer, Goffin, Lopez, Simon

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

NOVENTI OPEN

Roger Federer over David Goffin

How many accolades can you really write about Roger Federer before you start to sound like some kind of sycophant, or a Stepford Wife, at the very least. To put my position in proper perspective, I do not believe that Roger is the Greatest of All Time. He’s pretty damn amazing, a fantastic player, for sure, but the player who is the best tennis player ever? No, I don’t think so. I’ve said before that in order to be the greatest of all time you must be a dominant over those competitors put in front of you, and as amazing as Fed is, he has not dominated all the players out there. If he retires with winning records against his nearest rivals, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokavic, both of whom hold win-loss advantages over the Swiss Master in lifetime matches, then I’ll join the chorus. But for now I must ask how can you be called the greatest of all time when you are not even the greatest of your own time?

With that said, Federer is simply amazing. He just keeps on winning, at 37 years old, when most tennis players are long retired, and contemporaries (the only contemporary I can compare to Federer is Serena Williams) are way past their primes, holding on for the glory, for the money, or simply because they haven’t realized what Nature has already told them: that their time has come and gone. But Fed just keeps beating other fantastic athletes much closer to their primes than he is, and he makes it look easy, to the point that his awesomeness is often overlooked.

Saturday he dismissed 28-year-old Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who is playing his best singles ever, with the ease of a veteran symphony conductor leading the local elementary school orchestra. His 6-3, 6-3 triumph was so routine, that if you weren’t looking closely it was easy to miss his incredible half-volleys (on grass, no less), his destructive returns of serve, the ease with which he holds serve, and the grace and elegance with which he accomplished it all. In fact, that’s one of Federer’s biggest charms. He is so smooth, so flattering while he plays that his matches look more like choreographed exhibitions than the destructive slaughters that they really are, that make you just love the man, let alone the player.

Okay, he now plays 28-year-old Belgian David Goffin, against whom he holds a lifetime record of 7-1. Goffin has run through Guido Pella, Radu Albot, second-seeded Sascha Zverev, and finally the red-hot Italian Matteo Berrettini with some pretty dominating play, himself. But against Federer, Goffin is no more than cannon fodder, frankly, and as much as this guy deserves to be here, he will present little more resistance against Federer than any of the other pretenders.

This match is Federer’s to win, and the betting line will be so heavy in the Swiss Master’s favor that you might as well just watch it and marvel at the athlete that we are lucky enough to be able to admire.

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FEVER-TREE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Feliciano Lopez over Gilles Simon

If ever there were two ATP players who are peaking at just the right time, it is Spain’s 37-year-old lefty Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Simon, the smooth clay-courter from Nice, France. To put how well these guys are playing right now in proper perspective, Simon came into this tournament sporting a 14-14 won-loss record year to date, while Lopez, who has already begun his post-athlete career as a tournament director, won just 3 out of 11 matches! Now, they’re playing for the first prize of 429,955 Euros, and the 500 ranking points that go along with it, notwithstanding their extremely mediocre efforts in the first six months of the year.

This tournament started out with Stefanos Tsitsipas, the newest phenom on the Tour, last year’s Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson, former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, another former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, and rising Canadian stars Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov in the draw, and these are the two warriors left standing.

In fact, just as an afterthought, I’d mention that there was a single Yank in the tournament, Frances Tiafoe, who quickly went out to qualifier Nico Mahut in the first round. For those American fans who are waiting for the USTA to produce at least someone who can challenge for a title somewhere, sometime, the wait will be a long, lonely one, as long as the NCAA insists on promoting foreign players and not home-grown talents in it’s colleges and universities, and then makes them all play no-ad tennis, with little or no emphasis on doubles play, which teaches players how to serve and volley.

At any rate, I expect Feliciano Lopez to walk away with this title, for pretty much the same reason I picked him to go this far. He holds winning records against the opponents he played here. He had a good first round win over Marton Fucsovics, whom he had never played before, then got a walkover from the jinxed Argentine del Potro, who cracked his knee-cap in his win over Shapovalov, and couldn’t walk on the court for his second round matchup with Lopez. I picked him to beat Raonic in the quarters because at the time he held a 4-3 head-to-head advantage over the Canadian, and won three out of the past four matches they played (now it’s 5-3 and four out of the last five). And then he just surprised me by beating the red-hot FA2 in a match that I thought the 18-year-old Canadian would take after his own meteoric run with wins over Dimitrov, Kyrgios, and Tsitsipas here, which showed that the grass doesn’t deter him at all.

But Lopez came up big when he had to and he’s now going to win the title because he’s 5-2, lifetime, against Simon, and Simon doesn’t have the firepower to blast himself into a different gear. When the dust settles, Lopez will be holding the trophy, cashing the big check, and smiling from here to London.