Tag Archives: Novak Djokovic

Winners should be grinners. They’ve earned it.

12 Feb

To the winner goes the spoils.. we all look at the prize money, the trophy cabinet, the endorsements, the celebrity of playing wNovak and Mats Eurosport studioinning tennis (or any other sport or winning at business). There is a whole lot more that goes into the total package. Don’t fall for the “all sports people / entertainers are so overpaid” line. As a very small insight into the extra-curricular demands on a Grand Slam winner, Novak Djokovic was still in his match gear and had only stopped in the locker room for 90 seconds to embrace his entourage before being shunted out to seven TV studio and live interview sites (as pictured in the Eurosport live studio with Mats Wilander) – all prior to doing his mandatory press conference, including radio’s, one on ones and then compulsory drug testing… Over 2 hours later he made it back to the locker room. And his was a short version of what happens when Roger Federer, for example wins, more requests, answers in 3 languages… These guys deserve their paycheck. And the current crop at the top are all really decent human beings. Credit to them. Role models one and all.  The PRO



Rafa rules. OK

8 Jun

Rafael Nadal whizzed through his quarter final against Stanislas Wawrinka. The Spanish 3rd seed took the win in 3 sets, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

Rafa was stretched to the limit, but rules Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic almost did what he said he would do, claim victory over Raphael Nadal in the French Open semi final. It took Rafa all of his renowned athleticism, fighting qualities and mental toughness to hold off the belligerent Serb over 4 hours and 37 minutes of roller coaster tennis. The result a 9/7 in the 5th set win in a match that just adds to the back catalogue of classic Nadal / Djokovic  matches. In the other men’s semi David Ferrer, the Spanish ball machine, set up an all Spanish final by thrashing local favourite Jo-Wi Tsonga in straight sets.

While Djokovic licks his wounds and counts an 0-5 win loss record at the French against Rafa, he also rued the lack of support from tournament staff when he asked for the court to be watered as “it was too slippery, it was difficult to change direction, I don’t understand, it was wrong that they didn’t water” – perhaps in a rivalry where it is the smallest of details that can give one player the edge this excuse says more about Djokovic’s state of mind.

As for Rafa – his post match comments leave no doubt, excuses do not enter his thought process. “I lost a match like this in Australia. This one today was for me”. And in a telling philosophical moment he confided to the gathered media – “You need to love the game and appreciate every moment. I have learned to enjoy suffering in these matches”. Uncle Tony would be proud.


PS follow the link to The PRO’s blog on the importance of learning to “suffer” on clay.


French Open semis. The pointy end.

6 Jun

Muscle man

Rafa rips a forehand

With apologies to Roger Federer the men’s semi finals at this year’s French Open line up as most would have expected. And what a tantalising pair of matches these semis will be. The bottom half of the draw pits the bulldog, Spanish ball machine David Ferrer, against raging crowd favourite, the French entertainer – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. And while this will be a great match, it will serve as the curtain raiser to the main event.

In the most anticipated match of the tournament and a replay of last year’s final, world #1 Novak Djokovic takes on 7 time French Open champion, and current #4 Raphael Nadal. Both are in blistering form. Nadal is coming good, as he said in his courtside interview after demolishing Stan Wawrinka “very, very good” at just the right time.

After a long layoff with serious doubts being raised about the durability of Rafa’s knees, the King of Clay is well and truly looking to hold onto that crown. It is a stat that we all know, but almost incomprehensible to think about – Rafa has lost only once at Roland Garros – that’s 57 wins, one loss. He owns the place and must feel bullet proof everytime he steps onto Philippe Chatrier Court.

Nadal and Djokovic have met 34 times with Rafa holding a 19-15 edge and a 12-3 clay court edge – while this seems a solid case for Rafa – recent form is in Novak’s favour. Of the past 16 matches Novak has an 11-5 edge and more importantly they have split the last 6 clay court matches 3-3, and it was Djokovic who won their last meeting on the surface 1 month ago in straight sets.

Djokovic loves the big occasion – and there will be none bigger. He has beaten Rafa in every slam but this one (even if it took 5 hours and 53 minutes to do it in the epic 2012 Australian Open final) and hasn’t shied away from the fact that this is the tournament he has set himself for this year. With all of that on board, The PRO is making a bold prediction and going with the head – and not the heart – Djokovic in 4 sets.

The PRO.

Wow-rinka. Stan you are the man

4 Jun


Richard Gasquet – dreams of a French Open 1/4 final bite the Roland Garros dust.

In one of those epic 4 and a half hour 5 set contests, Swiss #2 and French Open 9th seed, Stanislas Wawrinka defeated hometown hero, 7th seed Richard Gasquet 6/7 4/6 6/4 7/5 8/6. Wawrinka, often described by legendary tennis critic John McEnroe as “having the best one-handed backhand in the game” was looking down the barrel as Richard Gasquet, with arguably as sweet a backhand swing and a partisan Parisian crowd egging him on, almost stole the match in straight sets.

Wawrinka is having a watershed year and is now back to his previous career high ranking of ATP #9. The catalyst for this could well have been the heartbreaking 5 hour “war” with Novak Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open – where Stan the Man won everything but the match, going down 12-10 in a gruelling 5th set. Gone are the days of Wawrinka surrendering meekly, and after treatment for a thigh strain he steadied to take the next 2 sets and the ascendency into the 5th. Gasquet would be the one on the mat as trainers tried to pump some life back into the Frenchman’s legs. Wawrinka prevailed 8-6 in the deciding set.

And what looms next for Stan the Man – a 1/4 final against Raphael Nadal – who must have been relishing the spectacle of his potential next opponent locked in a physically taxing “epic” – and Rafa also safe in the knowledge of a 19 and 0 win-loss aggregate in his favour against the pair of them.


Land Of the Rising “Son”

3 May

It’s not just Kei Nishikori that is on the fast track to success on the ATP tour, but Japanese tennis in all forms is on the rise. Specialist Talent Development Coach Jamie Parrott explored the courts of Japan to find out more.


While we scour Europe and the USA for development programs and pathways to model, a quiet revolution is under way in nearby Japan. Courts may be limited and on-court time precious, but while viewing training programs in Tokyo, Kyoto and Sapporo it became obvious that this shortage worked as an advantage. The Japanese are certainly three things:  respectful, efficient and disciplined. With sometimes up to 20 players on a court and coaches pumping out single ball fed ball drills, it was obvious that respect, work ethic, concentration and focus to the task at hand were paramount. These qualities were evident at each centre I went to, and go a long way to explaining Japan’s rise in the game.



Kei Nishikori is the face of a surging Japanese interest in tennis, and with Kimiko Date-Krumm’s continued success and longevity on the WTA tour, there is no shortage of good tennis news for Japan. Nishikori is as close to a rock star as one can be playing tennis. He is feted by WowWow the Japanese television network and admired by all and sundry in his homeland. His is an incredible story – Nishikori was nicknamed “Project 45”, as the stated goal from the Japan Tennis Association was to get a player ranked inside Shuzo Matsuoka’s career high of ATP #46 in 1992. Nishikori arrived at Nick Bollettieri’s tennis academy in Florida at the age of 14, he was very shy and spoke no English.   

Nishikori battled with bouts of homesickness, but never lost sight of his dream. He is one of the most athletic and tenacious players on the tour today, with a huge forehand and electrifying footwork. Kei Nishikori is the real deal – and his play is just the type to inspire a nation. The fact that last October he became the first Japanese player to win the Japan Open in the event’s 41 year history certainly added fuel to the fire. Kei is BIG in Japan.

While Nishikori may be the flag bearer on the men’s tour, the Japanese can also look to the women. Kimiko Date-Krumm (WTA# 25) at the ripe old age of 43 is inspiration personified and is a “story” every time she plays. Girls can also be inspired by the 31st ranked Ayumi Morita who is in career best form. Both players are sponsored by Yonex, and the Japanese racket manufacturer is in a strong growth position with Yonex endorsed by marketable players from Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki and China’s Zheng Jie to Stan Wawrinka, and our own Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic, among many others.

Whilst baseball and football (soccer) are the national pastimes, notable parts of corporate Japan are aware of the push toward tennis. UNIQLO, the Japanese “‘life wear” manufacturer struck gold when they signed world number one, Novak Djokovic  as a “global ambassador” – they did pretty well with their other  global ambassador signing too – Aussie golfer and US Masters winner, Adam Scott.

Japan’s tennis structure is very similar to Australia’s. The governing body for all tennis in Japan is the Japan Tennis Association. The JTA has a strong community tennis network, and whilst courts are relatively scarce in comparison with Australia, Japan, like Australia, has a network of club, adult and school leagues. Regional associations serve the broader tennis community. National teams and squads are fully supported and travel extensively to internal and external competitions. Competition for places in the national academy and teams is fierce and the hard work is paying off at all levels for Japanese tennis. 

On the men’s tour Japan currently boasts 3 players inside the top 100, Kei Nishikori (#15), Go Soeda (career high #47) and Tatsuma Ito (career high#60) with many others such as Yuichi Sugita and Hiroki Moriya knocking on the door. Nishikori’s success as a ¼ finalist at the 2012 Australian Open and as a 3 time ATP tour singles winner has given the motivation and belief to all Japanese players that they too can do it. Go Soeda’s coach, Italian Davide Sanguinetti speaks of the self-belief factor in a recent interview. “Now, they do believe in themselves, especially at hard-court events where they have more experience.” Soeda himself is aware of the Nishikori factor, and sees this as a good case of “anything you can do, so can we.” Soeda embraces the fact there are now many Japanese players pushing each other up the rankings, and says “It also helps when we travel, we can practise together, go eat, hang out and relax together. We need that on the tour.”

As with most growing tennis programs, if you scratch the surface there will be an Australian coaching  connection somewhere along the way. In Japan’s case it is the evergreen Bob Brett, who has spent many years working in Japan, firstly with Mr #46 himself, Shuzo Matsuoka, and then through a talent development program that Matsuoka and Brett devised – the Shuzo Challenge. In many ways the Shuzo Challenge has been the catalyst for change and development of Japan’s male tennis brigade. It has brought all the current crop of players together and has the understated Bob Brett footprint of strong technical fundamentals and a consistently tough environment.

While Brett and Matsuoka maintain strict discipline, which ideally suits the Japanese temperament, I left Japan wondering if Australia too can instil programs that embrace hard work, discipline and respect, and would we be able to adopt and adapt. There is no easy way out, tennis success today is earned, and just like Kei Nishikori – work hard and work smart and do your best every day.


Roger – thumbs up

17 Oct

Roger Federer - 2012 RomeThe race to the year end ATP # 1 ranking is looming as a showdown between rejuvenated Roger Federer and a rampant Novak Djokovic. Novak won the points in the latest instalment by triumphing this week at the Shanghai Rolex Masters event. He survived an epic contest in the final with Scot Andy Murray – who must also have a slim chance of finishing the year at #1, after Murray had 7 match points.

Federer’s problem is his stellar end of year run last year means he is defending champion at the next 3 events – and can only lose ranking points at this stage. Its very hard to defend points on such a successful run. But that is what Roger has always done. Last week he celebrated another milestone –  the first player ever to hold the #1 ranking for 300 weeks. Pete Sampras was among the first to congratulate Federer.

Sampras said, “It’s an incredible achievement and accomplishment to be ranked No. 1 in the world for 300 weeks. It is a testament to his consistency at the top of the game for so many years.” Sampras himself spent 286 weeks as tennis’s #1.

So its off to the Kremlin Cup in Russia, and then the Swiss indoor, before the tour heads to London for the season ending Masters Cup. Who will be last #1 standing?



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.