Archive | May, 2012

Azarenka – down and nearly out.

29 May

Va Victoria Azarenka went very close to being bundled out in the 1st round of the French Open. In an error riddled, nervous and just plain awful exhibition, Azarenka, the current world #1 didn’t have things all her own way against Alberta Brianti of Italy.

In fact Brianti led by a set and 4 love with a break point for a 5 love lead. Azarenka hit a tight first serve – faulted – and was really staring down the barrel of defeat. She did what champion players do so well. Dug deep. Hit a second serve ace, got herself out of trouble and scrapped her way back into the match to win in 3 gruelling sets. And in doing so avoided being the first women’s top seed to go out in the first round in Paris.

Vika did what Brad Gilbert described so eloquently in his book – “winning ugly”. She lives to fight another day – and will want to put this one well and truly behind her.

RODDICK HORRENDOUS

And on the mens side of the draw Andy Roddick was not so fortunate, going down to Frenchman Nicholas Mahut – who is most famous for being on the losing side of the epic Wimbledon encounter with John Isner that went for 3 days. Roddick in his post match press conference confirmed what we were all thinking – he “played and moved horrendously”. Andy has never been one to mince his words.

 

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Slam or dunk.

24 May

 I mentioned in a previous post that Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is in with a chance to win his 4th major title in a row, not a Grand Slam, but dubbed the “Serbian Slam” by some. The other possibility is that Raphael Nadal could achieve something even more unique.

Rafa has been runner-up to Nole at the past 3 slams which gives him the chance to feature in the record book. Rafa could become the first player to hold all 4 runner-up trophies concurrently. And what do our friends in the press dub this one – perhaps the Anti-slam, or even the Nada Slam (nada is Spanish meaning nothing).

And whilst Djokovic is seeking some tennis immortality – he is chasing his first French Open title –  at the other end of the draw Rafa is a 6 time champion at Roland Garros.

Novak has stated during his post match press conference following his loss to Rafa in the Rome Masters final that he “feels good and will make a few adjustments before Paris and I will be in top form”. He will need to be. Rafa for French Open number 7 for mine – and that way we get nada. (No Serbian Slam for Djokovic, and no Nada Slam for Nadal)

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Rafa – take 2.

22 May

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />             GREGORIO BORGIA/ASSOCIATED PRESS<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his final match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Monday.” /></p> <p>Pictures: AP. RAPHAEL NADAL WINS A RECORD 6TH ITALIAN OPEN MEN’S SINGLES TITLE. and celebrates.</p> <p>Rafa defeated ATP world #1 Novak Djokovic for the second consecutive time in a Masters event final this clay court season. This will help erase some of the demons of the 7 straight losses in finals – including Rome last year – that  he suffered at the hands of Djokovic.</p> <p>In his post match press conference, Nadal acknowledged last year that Djokovic had a mental advantage over him after all those losses.</p> <p>“You need to accept your losses because this is a game and in this sport you will always lose, but it is normal that you lose and you need to be patient to wait for your moment,” Nadal said. “I accept my losses and try to keep being competitive. You win a few points and you lose a few and you can lose a match. Today I won and that’s the difference. You don’t need to find great things — it is the small things that make the difference.”</p> <p>The Rome Masters win was Rafa’s  49th career title – and 35th on clay – but the real prize is that Rafa has again gone past Roger Federer and moves  back to ATP#2. This is a big deal coming into the French Open as it means Nadal is safe from a semi-final with Djokovic, something I’m sure Federer himself was trying to avoid. And some ominous words from Rafa also at his press conference - ”I don’t think I played that well. I can do better,” Nadal said. “When you are not serving 100 percent perfect then you are in trouble because he returns hard. I am trying to play more aggressive and I am hitting the ball better than last year.”</p> <p>It was the record 7th win at the Monte Carlo Masters earlier this month that got “the monkey off the back” in Nadal’s head to head count with Djokovic, and with this straight sets win for a record 6th singles title in Rome, the undisputed King of Clay – Raphael Nadal looks re-invigorated and hungry for French Open success. Long live the king of clay!</p> <p><strong>The PRO</strong></p> 												<p>Tags: <a href=

Raphael Nadal won his 6th Rome Masters singles title earlier today. Rafa defeated ATP world #1 Novak Djokovic for the second consecutive time in a Masters event final this clay court season. This will help erase some of the demons of the 7 straight losses in finals – including Rome last year – that  he suffered at the hands of Djokovic.

In his post match press conference, Nadal acknowledged last year that Djokovic had a mental advantage over him after all those losses.

“You need to accept your losses because this is a game and in this sport you will always lose, but it is normal that you lose and you need to be patient to wait for your moment,” Nadal said. “I accept my losses and try to keep being competitive. You win a few points and you lose a few and you can lose a match. Today I won and that’s the difference. You don’t need to find great things — it is the small things that make the difference.”

The Rome Masters win was Rafa’s  49th career title – and 35th on clay – but the real prize is that Rafa has again gone past Roger Federer and moves  back to ATP#2. This is a big deal coming into the French Open as it means Nadal is safe from a semi-final with Djokovic, something I’m sure Federer himself was trying to avoid. And some ominous words from Rafa also at his press conference – “I don’t think I played that well. I can do better,” Nadal said. “When you are not serving 100 percent perfect then you are in trouble because he returns hard. I am trying to play more aggressive and I am hitting the ball better than last year.”

It was the record 7th win at the Monte Carlo Masters earlier this month that got “the monkey off the back” in Nadal’s head to head count with Djokovic, and with this straight sets win for a record 6th singles title in Rome, the undisputed King of Clay – Raphael Nadal looks re-invigorated and hungry for French Open success. Long live the king of clay!

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70-68 in the 5th…who could forget this epic.

22 May

Yes, I know it is the French Open coming up – and John Isner v Nicholas Mahut was Wimbledon – but the sheer length of the match, in particular the 5th set – which went for OVER 8 HOURS, and Mahut is French afterall.

I couldn’t help but put this one up to get you in the mood for some fierce 5 setters at the  Stade Roland Garros… I don’t think anyone will be serving 112 aces in a single match anytime soon.

Enjoy the (very condensed) highlights, courtesy of ESPN.

The PRO.

Lleyton awarded wildcard.

20 May

Wild west

Aussie former world # 1 Lleyton Hewitt on court at Roland Garros.

HEWITT – C’mon.

Little Lleyton Hewitt has been granted a wildcard into the main draw of the 2012 French Open. Hewitt has just returned to the court following  successful foot surgery. His original goal was to be on track for a return at Wimbledon in 6 weeks time – but the foot has healed better than expected. Hewitt looked comfortable on court, and his manager David Drysdale was pleasantly surprised with Lleyton’s timing. Drysdale said “Lleyton is one of those players who has the ability to hit well straight away following a lay-off. He does not lose his ball striking capabilities and can come out and hit like he has not been away at all”.

The womens  wildcard was awarded to prodigious young Queensland talent Ashleigh Barty. Barty will be hoping to gain confidence from her first main draw Grand Slam outing at Melbourne Park earlier this year. Other Aussies in main draw action are Bernard Tomic , Matt Ebden and Marinko Matosevic in the mens singles and Sam Stosur, Jarmilia Gajdosova, Casey Dellacqua and Anastasia Rodionova in the womens event.

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Clay court masters.

19 May

                  Nine of the top-10 men in the ATP rankings learned to play primarily on clay or had extensive clay court training. It’s no surprise the best coaches are advocating getting their players on the clay – and fast!

Even the clay allergic Americans, Aussies and now the Brits have woken from their slumber. Mastering clay is the corner stone of an elite players apprenticeship.

“You can’t just bang your way to victory in today’s tennis anymore,” said Patrick McEnroe, former US Davis Cup captain. “You need to know how to build a point, use different spins and angles, to mix offense and defense. Those skills are exactly what playing on clay teaches you.”

The reality is that even if you are uncomfortable on clay courts, training on clay will improve your game for all surfaces. It teaches players the need to use angles, spin, the different heights over the net. It teaches resilience, determination and structure. There is the need to be mentally strong, to grind it out, and of course to be physically strong. The simple fact is that you have to hit so many shots, to build and construct a rally. It’s hard work – you need to be switched on and nothing comes easily. Clay teaches you patience, the art of working for success, and that in turn builds strength and confidence.

For your own game to profit from clay court training The PRO suggests you start by developing your endurance base. Once this is consolidated shift the physical focus to agility and speed  as your movement and court positioning must be first-class. Develop your serve and return to defined and aggressive target areas. Keep working on your consistency – but always with specific target areas for all hitting sessions. Shore up your weaknesses, develop your baseline weapons, and become a good “finisher” – whether be at net, mid-court or the baseline.

Jose Higueras, the revered Spanish coach who now works for the USTA states: “Clay teaches you how to suffer.”

And finally, from me, don’t just suffer – keep learning – stay mentally tough and enjoy the battle.

The PRO

The French – it’s Open.

18 May

As the combined forces of the WTA and ATP tours descend upon Paris for this year’s French Open at Roland Garros there is a real sense that there are a number of contenders in the frame for the singles titles.

A quick glance at the current clay court (be it red or blue) form on the mens side would only assist in putting a line through Andy Murray. Realistically it looks as though the mens will be a race among 3 – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer; Behind them Ferrer, Del Potro and Berdych all have good lead up form and must be given an outside chance. And battling for 1/4 finals and then beyond you would look to Raonic, Murray, Tsonga, Simon, Almagro and Tipsarevic. My gut still says Rafa, my heart Roger…

The womens is a little bit easier. Serena Williams. If she wants it badly enough – she will win. If her fitness (or temper) falters then look to Azarenka, Sharapova, Li Na, Schiavone or Stosur. I do think that Sam Stosur can make semis – and like all events once it gets to the pointy end it suddenly is game on.

The singles final saw current World No.1 Victoria Azarenka face former World No.1 Serena Williams.Victoria Azarenka serving up a storm on the blue clay of Madrid . Look to Vika for a strong showing in Paris. Stosur to have a bold run – provided she gets through the first week jitters…. but the title is Serena’s, if she wants it enough.

The PRO