Archive | June, 2012

What a game!

14 Jun

With Wimbledon just around the corner, have a look at this clip featuring some extraordinary rallies all in the one game between Michael Llodra and Andy Murray from the 2012 Australian Open. This should get you in the mood for some more tennis. Enjoy.

The PRO

Rafa and Maria HAD to win.

13 Jun

PosterIt has been a colourful French Open..

You probably wouldn’t have caused many to doubt your sanity for stating quite confidently that Raphael Nadal and Maria Sharapova would triumph in this years French Open singles titles a few weeks ago. Both went into the event as the form players of their tour. Both had a point to prove, both are either at the top or very close to it in the rankings.

Despite all of this, somewhere along the way it takes a certain amount of confidence, belief, professionally executed recovery plans, a firm foundation of tactical, physical and unwavering mental strength on court. Rafa has all of this in spades. But even he must have been facing some demons. Lose this final and he was 0-4 against Novak Djokovic in Slam finals – a mental abyss that may have proved too hard to come back from. Rafa HAD to win this final.

Sharapova too, facing Sara Errani for the chance to take a “career Slam” also HAD to win. Lose this match against a player who had not been able to triumph in a match – let alone a title against any top 20 players, and Sharapova could deem her runner-up effort a failure. Both got through. Both proved their resilience. They both possess some very similar characteristics – determination, tenacity and the ability to “will” themselves throughout their careers and matches. They are also blessed with talent. Sharapova won Wimbledon at 17. Rafa was a standout on the mens tour at 16. Can they back it up in the ridiculous 2 week turnaound to grass courts? If anyone can it is these two warriors.

Bring on Wimbledon.

The PRO

Raphael Nadal triumph’s… again.

12 Jun

<br /><br /><br /><br />
            GREGORIO BORGIA/ASSOCIATED PRESS<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.   Photo

The King of Clay in 7th Heaven. Rafa wins title 7 in Rome (Left) and now 7 in Paris (Below).

Photo

Bambi on ice – here comes Sharapova.

8 Jun

Heavyweight hitter Sara Errani is having a “breakout” tournament at this year’s French Open at Roland Garros. Her result in making the semi at a slam was her best to date. Along the way she has defeated previous French Open singles winners Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic. Her win over Angelique Kerber was her first ever over a top 10 player (in fact Errani was 0 wins for 20 losses against top 20 players prior to the win over Kerber).

Then it got a whole lot better. Her victory over Sam Stosur sets up a final showdown with Russian Maria Sharapova. It will see her ranking rise well inside the top 20. Errani has now gone past Francesca Schiavone as Italy’s #1 female tennis player, and to top it all off, last night she and partner, fellow Italian Roberta Vinci topped their runner-up effort at the 2012 Australian Open with the French Open doubles title. Errani and Vinci have now won 6 doubles titles on the tour this year.

Errani’s confidence is high. She is the form player in the female draw. Will it be enough to triumph over Sharapova, who herself has again risen to the WTA #1 ranking this week. Sharapova is chasing her own slice of history and is striving to become only the 11th female player to hold all 4 slam titles. A career slam. Sharapova, who famously described herself as “Bambi on ice” when asked about her footwork on clay early in her career, has a lot riding on the match. She was in scintillating form against Petra Kvitova in the semi and exacted revenge of some sorts for her loss to Kvitova in last year’s Wimbledon final. The Pro thinks Sharapova will have too many guns for the feisty Italian and win in straight sets.

The PRO

Roger – sliced and diced by rampant Djokovic.

8 Jun

Federer practice session The Swiss maestro, Roger Federer – eyes on the ball, executes a slice backhand against Novak Djokovic.

There is a crack appearing in the male tennis fraternity’s famous ATP Big 4. Yes it is true the past 2 years have seen many semi finals fought between ATP #1 Novak Djokovic,  # 2 Raphael Nadal, #3 Roger Federer and #4 Andy Murray. While matches are highly contested and other contenders bob up (Del Potro, Raonic, Ferrer) – the reality has been the big 4 is an exclusive club.

Well not any more. The first to be cast aside was Scotland’s Andy Murray – no slam titles, injuries and a mounting sense of vulnerability – even from his own statements about the strengths of the others. Murray, one feels, was probably always only included as a guest in Big 4 discussions without any real fabric to support the argument. So big 3?

While Rafa and Roger have been swapping the #2 ranking over the past month, reality stared us down last night. Roger Federer is that special type of “generational”athlete. He has always been the exception to many of the basic fundamentals of our sport. Many coaches qualify comments to young players with – “well of course, except for Roger” when chastising a player for an audacious shot selection. He is one out of the box – there is no comparison. He is fluent, graceful, potent, surgical in his execution of his opponents.

Federer is also 30 – and the way he was brushed aside by Novak Djokovic was alarming. The writing has probably been on the wall for sometime, and perhaps many of us have ignored the signs. Roger Federer is proud and he knows Wimbledon will level the playing field. But for now it is the Big 2.

The PRO

Life begins at 30.

7 Jun

Battle of the Spaniards

Hard to believe – but I think David Ferrer would agree – he is a better tennis player today – at the age of 30, than he was – say 5 years ago. Even the stats and ranking would concur – Ferrer sat around the ATP top 30 for many years before breaking into the top 10 – and top 5 in the past 12 months. How? Ferrer is the consumate professional, possessing supreme athleticism, a fierce desire to compete – hidden by his locker room manner. If you ever get to meet the quietly spoken David Ferrer, he is thoughtful, courteous, interested.

Ferrer is a true tennis player. Tenacious. No point is over until the ball bounces twice. He competes, harries, hustles and claws his way into matches. I would be proud to have him in my corner.

Will he beat Rafa at Roland Garros? Don’t be silly. Murray is at one level – good as he is, and 6 straight Slam semi finals are testament to his ability – but he will always be vulnerable to some real dog-fighting, but he aint no Rafa – At the French Open, Ferrer will fight, he will not throw in the towel – but he will also go down in straight sets to the King of Clay, Raphael Nadal.

The PRO

What do Sam Stosur and Steve Bradbury have in common?

6 Jun

Whilst maybe a little tongue in cheek, there is something about Sam Stosur’s run at this years women’s singles at the French Open that brought back memories of Australia’s first gold medal at the Winter Olympics. Check out the clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z6GnUTVAF0

Bradbury, of course was the ultimate journeyman. He coached at the local rink and even made his own skates. His success came by playing the percentages – stay at the back, stay out of trouble, but stay close enough to exert some pressure on the more-fancied skaters – and wham down they ALL went.

And whilst it appears everyone is falling over in the women’s draw – as I write the event has lost previous French Open title-holders in Venus and Serena Williams, Li Na, and Francesca Schiavone. To add to that list we have also seen the exit of current WTA #1 Victoria Azarenka, former #1 Jelena Jankovic as well as seeded players such as Lucie Safarova, Maria Kirilenko and Jie Zheng among many others.

Australia’s Samantha Stosur, despite her stature – and her propensity to sometimes go missing on the big stage – is standing tall. She is a bona-fide member of the WTA top 10. A multiple slam doubles winner, a US Open singles title-holder and a French Open runner-up. She has worked very hard on her game, her fitness and her mental strength. She is playing her best tennis – and is capable of winning on her terms. Her semi-final opponent is the diminuitive Italian Sara Errani. Errani’s success at Roland Garros have elevated her to be Italy’s new #1 ranked player, pushing ahead of Francesca Schiavone. She has had difficulty at this level – having lost 28 times in a row previously to top 10 players. She also has a head to head against Stosur of 5 losses no wins – all straight sets for Stosur.

In a topsy turvy singles draw the signs all point to Stosur to get through to her second French Open final. Unless she falls over….

The PRO