US Open 2015: Novak Djokovic and the Odd Case of Tennis’ Eiffel Towers

Does Novak Djokovic Need to Worry after Cincinnati? or Fun with Logical Fallacies

I think Novak Djokovic is still the US Open favorite even if Andy Murray and Roger Federer recorded tune-up wins over Nole.  In Montreal, Nole had not played since winning Wimbledon and could understandably be suffering from a 9th Grand Slam hangover.  In Cincinnati, well something works against Novak in Cincinnati.  Namely, a visible Eiffel Tower.*

Mason, Ohio and The City of Lights?

I have lived in or near the Ohio River Valley for a good portion of my life.  As a child, it was a summer treat to make a 2 hour journey from the Derby City of Louisville to Mason, Ohio’s Kings Island amusement park.  Santa Claus Land**/Holiday World was closer, but the scope of that park paled when compared to Kings Island. When Kentucky Kingdom opened in Louisville, Kings Island still reigned.

Central to Kings Island’s look is a 1/3 replica of the Eiffel Tower.  The replica tower is quite visible from the Linder Family Tennis Center that hosts the popular Masters 1000 and WTA event two weeks prior to the start of the US Open.  Mason, Ohio is an exurb community that is part of greater metro Cincinnati.***  Despite having little in common with Paris France, Mason, OH does have an Eiffel Tower of its own, and these two different communities have frustrated Novak Djokovic’ pursuit of history.

Novak has Played Well in Paris & Mason but Has Never Won

No one can really say Novak doesn’t play well at Roland Garros or Masters Cincinnati.  Novak has reached the championship match 3 times at Roland Garros. Nole has also posted multiple second week runs that fell short of the final in Paris. Most notably, Novak pushed Rafa to 5 exhilarating sets in a 2013 French Open semifinal.  Finally, Novak is one of two players to ever defeat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.  Novak has come close to completing his career Grand Slam, but to this point Nole has not won the French Open.

Similarly, Novak is missing only one of the nine Masters 1000 titles.  Being a 5-time runner-up in Cincy means that Novak has had more near misses in Cincinnati than he has had in Paris.  The humidity and high pollen count in the Ohio River Valley may bother Novak more than other players due to his asthma, but why let facts get in the way of a fun theory about a tower?

The presence of an Eiffel Tower is the one constant in Novak’s frustration.  What about the Bercy you ask?  Novak has claimed the indoor Masters 1000 title in Paris 3-times (2009, 2013, and 2014).  One may think this fact that turns a silly correlation equals causation argument on its head.  However, the indoor play at The Bercy Arena could also shield Novak from the full Eiffel Tower effect.

Does Novak Have Cause to Worry in New York?

I do not think the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Mason represent Minas Morgul and Orthanc for Djokovic.  I think Novak will one day win both Roland Garros and Masters Cincinnati.  His bigger concern at the US Open may be a history of falling just short in New York.  The heat and humidity of New York mirror that of Cincinnati at times. Novak lost to Kei Nishikori last year in part due to unfavorable elements.  Novak is 1-4 in US Open championship matches despite being an incredible hard court player. If Novak can navigate the elements in New York, he has a great shot at claiming Grand Slam title #10 and US Open title #2.  To be sure, the lack of an Eiffel Tower in New York can’t hurt Nole’s chances either.


* Ben Rothenberg liked my quip about the Eiffel Tower enough to ask if he could use it in a column he wrote for the NY Times.  I of course said yes, and I liked his manner of using the towers.  I also thought I should do something more than tweet about Novak’s Eiffel Tower woes.  So I wrote this piece of tennis satire.

** Holiday World is now a very nice amusement park that has come a long way from the Santa Claus Land complete with a vague memory of a tic-tac-toe playing chicken whom my older brother kept getting a draw against in the early 1980s.

*** Jon Wertheim who was raised in Bloomington, IN and went to Kings Island as a kid.  In 2009, we discussed childhood trips to the amusement park.  He and I both remembered Mason being a rural community in the not so distant past.  Mason has shifted from an amusement park surrounded by farms into an exurb.

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