Monday, 29 December 2008

Show me the money

Like it or not, tennis is still a middle class sport, and the cost of playing (racket, balls, kit, court fees etc) along with the 'exclusivity' of many tennis clubs, is a barrier to wider participation.

I played a fair bit of tennis as a kid but it was an 'appointment sport' - you had to book a court, well in advance, and you could only afford to play every so often. And new tennis balls were a tennis or christmas present.

Where as we played football at every opportunity, before school (often with a tennis ball, as footballs were forbidden), during breaks, after school, and every weekend. You literally can play anytime, anywhere.

I thought about this today as I was queuing up to pay for 5 tubes of Slazenger Wimbledon balls that I bought at a knockdown price of £2.99 each - bargain!

I was also reminded of a guy I played a few times at my previous club (nice guy, decent player). He worked in an investment bank and had clearly done well for himself.

What sticks in my mind is him declaring that balls are so cheap in the US that most park or club players use new balls every time they play, and that therefore he was going to do the same. (Perhaps some of my friends in the US could confirm whether this is true or not)

I always thought this was a bit decadent. OK if it's good enough for the pro's then why not, but for me part of the charm of amateur tennis is the variety and slight unpredictabiltiy that comes from using the same balls for a few weeks.

On a related note, there was a further reminder today that despite the credit crunch there is still plenty of money to be made in the game. Neil Harman at The Times reports that Andy Murray is considering switching management companies, and has been told that he can make as much as £100 million from off court endorsements. You can read all about it here.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Ho, ho, ho

The Andy Murray charm offensive continues. The latest salvo sees Andy (and many of the other big names) dressed up as santa for the ATP's Xmas vid. You can watch it here.

It's been spun nicely by Murray's PR man Stuart Higgins to the UK press, including the Daily Record

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Bjorn Borg prize for getting out at the top



A special award for a special person, and no prizes for guessing who bags this one.

It is of course Justine Henin.

Even now I still can't quite understand her decision, but you have to hand it to her, she exited tennis in the same way she played the game, with dignity, style, and on her own terms.

I can't imagine we will ever again see a No 1 ranked player and a defending Champion of two Slams, quit at only 25. Astonishing.

How i miss that backhand.

We had hoped Justine would be here to pick the award up in person but unfortunately no one seems to know where she is or what she is doing.

Monday, 22 December 2008

David Ferrer award for over-achievement




So onto our second category, the David Ferrer over-achiever award.

Every season a number of players have truly great years. For some this is the breakthrough season, which signals their arrival in the big time, as they take up their rightful place in the elite (Nole last year, Andy M this year).

For others it's a case of punching above their weight, outperforming, and achieving more than you'd expect given how their game stacks up with others on the tour. It's their chance to see how it feels to be a top 10 player.

Sometimes this is the result of a hot run across a number events. But quite often the over-achievement is built around one big result which amasses a load of points. Going deep in a slam tends to do it.

This award can be mis-interpreted as a back-handed compliment. It's not. There's nothing I admire more than someone who works hard, fights on court, and over achieves.

David Ferrer had a sensational tour last year, ending the year in 5th place. A fantastic achievement but he came into 2008 defending more points than he could ever realistically hope to protect. And so it proved with Ferrer ending the year ranked 12.

So who was it this year? Well the nominees for 2008 are:

Tsonga, Australian Open finalist against the odds
Simon, a fantastic year including beating Nadal in Madrid
Wawrinka, olympic gold winner
Davydenko, the perpetual over achiever

Drum roll as previous winner Marco Baghdatis eases open the envelope, "and the winner is.... Gilles Simon"

Sunday, 21 December 2008

TSTB year end awards

Welcome to the TopSpinTennisBlog year end awards. We'll begin with player of the year. Over to a well known former champion who has kindly agreed to present the first prize. Boris, the floor is all

"The nominees for TopSpinTennisBlog player of the year are Andy Murray, Jelena Jankovic, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams."

Run VT: a burst of video clips showing Murray hitting the running backhand against Gasquet at Wimbledon, and Andy downing Federer in Shanghai; Nadal falling to the ground in his trademark celebaration in Paris and then Wimbledon; Serena playing Venus; and then Jelena playing Ana, and then Serena at the US.

Drum roll. Pause as Boris teases us and then reveals what we all knew.

"And the winner is, the world No 1 Rafael Nadal"

A no brainer really. Any man who can end Roger's dominance on grass, push him off the top spot, and win Olympic gold is a worthy winner. That said - and this is controversial - one of the judges couldn't help but point out that Rafa had a phenomenal 4 months rather than a great year.

The first few months of the season he was below par and nearly lost his no 2 ranking to Nole, and post Beijing he dropped away again.

OK that maybe a little churlish - there's some truth in it - but Rafa is a deserving winner.

Tomorrow, we'll reveal the winner of the David Ferrer over-achiever prize.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Set your recorders

Christmas is all about indulgence as well as being a chance to reflect
on the year gone by.

So tomorrow I'll kick off with the first Top Spin Tennis Blog year end
awards.

In the meantime a reminder to all UK readers, set your Sky+ for the
three tennis specials served up by Eurosport over the festive season.

On Xmas Eve there is a 90 min review of this year's Australian Open
(14.30) - seems so long ago. And then on the big day it's the French
again at 14.30, followed by the US on Boxing Day (same time, same
place).

Eurosport don't have broadcast rights for Wimbledon in the UK so
unfortunately they are unable to provide us with a chance to re-live
the best match of the year (ever?).

Merry Christmas...

Friday, 19 December 2008

Quote of the day

"One number and one match doesn't make me better than Roger".

Rafa continues the mutual love-in between the top two.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Murray ditches Fred Perry

Fred Perry pulled of a coup by getting in early and signing up Andy
Murray in 2004, but I've always thought that they never really made
the most out of having one of the rising mens stars wearing their
threads.

Handled properly it could have been the perfect platform to
reinvigorate their brand.

However, it sometimes felt like their heart wasn't really in it.
Murray's outfits were often a bit dreary and unimaginative, especially
when compared with what Nike serve up for Roger and Rafa.

So it wasn't a massive surprise to read Neil Harman's report in The
Times today (link to follow) that the World No 4 is rumoured to be
switching to K-Swiss.

Apparently the deal will be formally announced at the Abu Dhabi
exhibition.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Federer (& Roddick) finish 7th season in top 10

Was checking out Roger's website earlier and stumbled across this:


This year, Roger finished his seventh consecutive season as a player ranked amongst the Top Ten. Only 13 players have managed to do the same since the introduction of the ATP ranking in 1973. In total, 109 players have ended the year among the best ten players.

André Agassi and Jimmy Connors are the current record holders with 16 years in series, followed by Ivan Lendl (13) and Pete Sampras (12).


The ranking:

André Agassi : 16 times (1988-92, '94-96, '98-2005)
Jimmy Connors : 16 (1973-88)
Ivan Lendl : 13 (1980-92)
Pete Sampras : 12 (1990-2001)
Boris Becker : 11 (1985-92, '94-96)
Stefan Edberg : 10 (1985-94)
John McEnroe : 10 (1978-85, '87, '89)
Guillermo Vilas : 9 (1974-82)
Björn Borg : 8 (1974-81)
Michael Chang : 7 (1989, '92-97)
Roger : 7 (2002-08)
Andy Roddick : 7 (2002-08)
Mats Wilander : 7 (1982-88)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Ouch - eat those bagels

Ouch - eat those bagels

I had a brutal re-introduction to indoor fast carpet courts last night.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago I have recently joined a new indoor tennis club where they have super fast carpet courts. Last night was my first game of singles at the club and it is safe to say I got my butt well and truly kicked.

The guy I played was just so in the groove, serving well, and hitting a series of big, deep forehands, and then stretching me with angled backhands.

And here's the killer - he served up a double bagel. Ouch.

I tend to win more matches than I lose and as far as I can remember I've never lost a set without taking at least two games, so to lose two sets 6-0, 6-0 was a new experience!

Back in the summer I wrote about how tennis is a game of small margins and never has it been more true for me than last night.

I had 4 unconverted breakpoints, took him to Deuce in at least 4 games, and believe it or not played well, hitting a number of great points. (I'm still taking a crumb of comfort from a blistering forehand down the line to win a long rally, and a classic one-two with a serve out wide to the ad side, followed by a cross court forehand winner in the deuce court)

It wasn't a question of beating myself with double faults or unforced errors. The other guy was simply the better player.

I felt a bit like Hewitt when he came up against Nadal at the Olympics. It took an awful lot of running and battling by me to stay in points, but when it mattered he had the extra quality and form.

But you know what? I came off the court buzzing and with a smile on my face.

OK I got slaughtered but the level of tennis was so high and so enjoyable. Indoor carpet tennis may or may not be proper tennis (discuss) but it is great fun and brings out the best in you.

I've got a long way to go before I get used to the surface, and even then I'm going to struggle against this dude. But that's why I joined the club. I want to improve and the only way is to play better players.

I never thought getting a double bagel could be so much fun!

After the match I found out that my opponent is top of the club tennis ladder. Which made me feel a little better. And he was kind enough to say I'll do well in the ladder. Time will tell !

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

You gotta read this - Roger 1st among equals

Check out this superb post from Rob York from the Bleacher Report. He looks at how Roger's years of domination - in which every season he achieved more than Sampras at his best - have now been replaced by a new era in which Federer is first among equals.

And there's a bold prediction. Roger to win Wimbledon and the US and re-capture the No 1 spot! You can read it here.

all of which is a nice excuse for a video of the master at work...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Federer cuts back on clay events

Federer cuts back on clay events

I've been a bit slack with the blog for the past few days. Nothing to do with the off season.

I've just taken a short break from planet tennis due to a busy run at work, including a flying visit to Belgium.

While I was in Brussels I briefly reflected on how I miss both Justine and Kim, and how quickly two of the biggest names in the women's game have disappeared from public view.

As I sit on a late train home after a colleague's leaving party I'm trying to catch up on what's been going on. Sampras v McEnroe was a great box office event but what caught my eye was Roger's decision to cut back on the clay.

As you may have heard he announced yesterday that he is skipping Estoril, Monte Carlo and Hamburg. A different approach to 2008 when he played Estoril, Monte Carlo, Rome, Hamburg and Roland Garros.

It's a shame for Monte Carlo (and the other two tournaments) but no surprise now the event has been downgraded by the ATP, effectively giving the big players a free pass, now Monte Carlo is no longer a mandatory event.

It's a smart move by Roger and further proof that Slams now mean more to him than regaining the top spot.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Fancy going to Wimbledon next year?




Want to see if Roger can re-claim his crown? Or if Venus can win again? Want to check out the new roof on centre court, or swing by the outer courts to see the stars of tomorrow?

Well don't forget to stick your name in the ballot for tickets.

Firstly, you need an application form by sending a self-addressed envelope to:

Ticket Office
AELTC
P.O. BOX 98
London SW19 5AE

The deadline for applying for forms is 15th December.

And if you are applying from overseas they suggest you enclose an International Reply Coupon (in place of a stamp) where possible.

For more see the Wimbledon website

That was a public service broadcast from TopSpinTennisBlog. Over and out. And good luck!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Fed heads keep the faith

An ATP poll shows that tennis fans are keeping the faith with Roger.

Here's the extract from the ATP website:

In a poll of more than 65,000 fans, 44 per cent of ATPtennis.com readers believe that the Swiss will join Ivan Lendl as the only player to regain the year-end No. 1 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings after losing it.

Lendl claimed the year-end No. 1 ranking in 1985, '86 and '87 before finishing No. 2 behind Mats Wilander in 1988. He then regained the year-end No. 1 in 1989 and remains the only player in the history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings (since 1973) to achieve that feat.


Quick Poll: Who will finish No. 1 at the end of 2009?
Player Percentage of Vote

1 Roger Federer 44%

2 Rafael Nadal 34%

3 Novak Djokovic 11%

4 Andy Murray 8%

5 Other 3%

What do you think?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Andy Murray to bulk up...



... to improve his strength and endurance.

The key is sushi, protein drinks, and his Gran's Christmas dinner. The Telegraph has the story here

(Photo Reuters)

Monday, 24 November 2008

Say hello to the next Serbinator



Belatedly I'm just picking up the buzz about Felip Krajinovic, the hot favourite to be the next Serb tennis star.

The 16 year old is currently 901 in the world and has just beaten his first top 100 player, Robbie Kendrick, in the Knoxville Challenger event.

Here's what Brad Gilbert had to say on Felip:

"During my stay at the Academy we trained many kids. However, one of them caught my eye. It’s Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic, who’s got incredible talent. The way he plays at the age of 16 is impressive and there’s no doubt there is a glorious tennis career ahead of him, if everything goes according to plan,”


Nick Bollettieri is also raving about him

“I remember Filip’s arrival at the academy and I can tell you I could instantly tell how much love that youngster had for the game. We can already say that he is now – at 16 – one of the most talented tennis players in the world. His main characteristics are powerful shots, his forehand and backhand shots that he hits very early and with very little spin, and his footwork is great. I’d say he reminds me a lot of Andre Agassi, with a slight difference in that Krajinovic is much better at net play,”


Check out Nick B's website and the Serb paper Blic for more.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

You gotta read this: Sampras interview


Even now, 6 years after his retirement, Pete Sampras still casts a long shadow over men's tennis. He continues to define success and greatness. Roger Federer may have had some titanic matches against Nadal but his one true rival remains Pistol Pete.

With Rafa he is competing for individual slams. With Sampras it's the right to be regarded as the best (or if not the best, the most successful).

Any yet despite his enduring and pivotal place in tennis, for many people Sampras remains an unknown. A bit of an enigma. Which is why I so enjoyed reading the interview with the great man by Paul Kimmage in today's Sunday Times, which is part of the pre-publicity for next month's Blackrock Masters at the Albert Hall.

It explains who he is, and why he is what he is, through a series of interesting insights and anecdotes. Including his up and down relationship with McEnroe; how his love of fast cars got him into trouble with the law; and why he has decided to return to the game.

There's so much to enjoy about this article, especially the little details - Kimmage had to have his DNA swabbed before entering Sampras' exclusive country club where the interview took place. You can read it here

Friday, 21 November 2008

DC day 1: All square

As a British tennis fan I find it hard to get excited about Davis Cup.

I really like the history behind the event, and the atmosphere in some
of the ties is like nothing else, but for me DC is synonomous with
Britain being humbled by Ecuador and other tennis minnows.

So while others get revved up by DC fever I'm usually slightly
disinterested.

But it's hard not to get excited about Spain V Argentina, even without
Rafa.

My (slightly rash?) prediction for the weekend was that Argentina
would win 4-1. It's still mathematically possible but Lopez downing
Del Potro in 3 today was a massive result which leaves the tie
delicately balanced.

I'm sticking with Argentina - still reckon they will be too strong -
but the dubs will be crucial...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The first ever tennis video game

Along with all other things tennis related, I love tennis video games.

My favourites are the tennis game which was made for the original Nintendo gameboy in the early 1990s; any version of virtua tennis (especially the arcade machine); and super tennis for the old Nintendo SNES.

(I've only played Wii tennis once, and couldn't get on with it, but I'm sure that given the time and opportunity I could grow to love it.)

So I was really interested when I heard about this tennis videogame designed in 1958 on an oscilloscope at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Very cool.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Roger tour bus stops off in Malaysia

As you've no doubt heard, Roger has combined his trip to Shanghai with a couple of exhibitions and promotional events in Malaysia, including The Showdown of Champions in Kuala Lumpur, where he played James Blake in a 1 set exhibition (Roger won), and then teamed up with Borg to play McEnroe and Blake for some dubs. HCFoo's blog (THE place to go for all Asian tennis news) has all the photos and background.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

I'm a tennis legend, what am I doing in here?



I'm a celebrity, get me out of here, is car crash TV. But there's no denying the strength of the format. It may be trash but it can be compelling and at times hilarious viewing.

The show sees D list celebrities (ie former soap actor, fading sportsmen, and glamour models) competing to be King or Queen of the Jungle. With the public voting to decide which celebrities compete in Bushtucker trials (which tend to involve some form of ritual humiliation with insects, rats or worse) and who should be evicted.

The line up for this year includes Dani Behr, Brian Paddick, Joe Swash, Carly Zucker and Martina Navratilova. Yes, that's right. A bunch of nobodies and Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest tennis players and athletes of all time (the winner of 59 singles and doubles Grand Slam titles !!!!!).

I can't for the life of me work out why she opted to do it. She doesn't need the money and she already has a TV career and fairly high public profile. Why would she cheapen her personal brand in this way??

Still from what I can gather she seems to be making the most of it. After all Martina made a career out of beating younger, less talented, (more attractive?) competitors. And old habits die hard.

I've successfully resisted the pull of the show so far but according to one of the tabloids, yesterday she defeated one of the glamour models / footballer's girlfriend in a swimming contest. Like there was ever any doubt who would win. Go Martina!!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Last man standing




I mentioned before that Djokovic is a bit of a lucky general. Don't get me wrong the guy is hugely talented and - despite his idiosyncrasies - good for the game. But he also has a knack of being in the right place at the right time.

In Rome back in May he was still in the draw when Rafa lost his first clay court match in living memory and went onto to bag a Masters event without having to play a top 20 player.

In Shanghai he went one better. He won the Master's Cup, the event where the worlds elite pit themselves against each other, and only had to play 1 top 5 player all week. (And that was Davydenko)

And just so we are clear I'm not knocking him. He can, after all, only play the opponents he comes up against, and luck, like it or not, is an important factor in sport. It's why we keep coming back for more.

So bravo Nole!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

A tough end to a rough year for Roger

A tough end to a rough year for Roger

Roger Federer entered the year with his aura of invincibility intact, amid expectations from the tennis world that he would seal his place in history by equaling or even surpassing Pete Sampras's record.

He exit's the year with the Federer Fear Factor - which in the past used to beat his opponents before they even stepped on the court - all but gone.

He lost his final game of the season to Andy Murray. Didn't see it but by all accounts it was a cracker. And for the second time this week Roger lost after going a set up. 

For some time it's been clear that the chasing pack of next generation players has caught up with Roger.

But - and it pains me to say this - it's also starting to look like that it's not just a case of Roger standing still and the pack raising their game to catch up.

In fact while Murray, Nadal and co progress, Roger is slipping back. Sure he is still brilliant, but it's no longer enough.

The big question is 2008 a blip and will he come back as strong as ever in January, win some slams and re-capture the No 1 spot?

Or is it the beginning of a new phase in which he continues to bag the occasional Slam but has to come to terms with the fact he is no longer the man?

On the basis of the fighting spirit he showed yesterday in refusing to quit despite being in severe pain (and nearly beating Murray) the hunger and pride is still clearly there.

So as I'm a glass half full kinda guy, I'm going to predict that after a much needed rest Roger will get the top spot back next year, and break Pete's record!

What do you think?

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Want to know how the eviction process works?

If Roger beats Andy tomorrow and Simon beats Stepanek then there will be 3 players in the Group who have won two matches each. And as you know, only two can progress.

So how do they decide who gets the chop?

This is from the Master's Cup rule book:

If two or more players/teams are tied after the round robin matches, the ties will be broken as follows:

1. Winner of match between the two players tied;
2. Player with the highest percentage of sets won;
3. Player with the highest percentage of games won.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Eat my shorts




I like Gilles Simon but what was he thinking with those ill fitting
yellow shorts he was wearing today?

A friend of mine used to have the perfect expression for such poor
fashion choices: "savage".

Roddick out of Masters Cup...

... due to an ankle injury. Replaced by Stepanek.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Quote of the day

"It was a second accident"

Gilles Simon on beating Federer and establishing a 2 - 0 head to head record over Roger.

Rafa out of DC

Rafa out of DC

Rafael Nadal's awesome year is officially over with confirmation yesterday that he is out of the Davis Cup final against Argentina.

"After a very long and positive year, it is terrible for me not to be able to participate at two of the events that were part of my goals this season, Shanghai and the Davis Cup final.

This is a very difficult time for me, but at least I know I've done everything possible to be in the final. It was a goal of mine to be there."

The most revealing comments were about how - because of his style of play - he is accustomed to playing through the pain:

"I'm used to playing with pain, but this pain is different, new in a way. I can't control it."

Doesn't sound good. I'm a Roger fan but the sport is poorer for Nadal's absence. So get well soon Rafa!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Quote of the day

Thanks to FreakyFrites for this gem from Roger:

"it doesn't change a whole lot, I just don't like the ring of it when
I'm being introduced on centre court saying 'and this is the number
two in the world', it just sounds wrong. Either I'm Number One or a
Grand Slam Champion. But I'm not number two."

That's the spirit...

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Indoor tennis

I asked the question a week or two ago about whether indoor tennis is real tennis.

The answer is: it is highly enjoyable but it's not authentic. Indoor is just too perfect to be real. But I do enjoying playing indoor and in winter it is the only way to continue to play week in week out.

For the pros the indoor season runs from late September to mid November. But here in the UK because of the lousy weather in starts in September / October and runs to March / April.

As I've mentioned before I used to be a member of David Lloyd's in Raynes park, just down the road from Wimbledon. I left the club and its 16 carpet courts a year ago.

Today I played on carpet again for the first time in 12 months. It was at St George's in Weybridge. The home of the second best grass courts in the world.

The courts are better than Queens - I've played at both a few times - but I'm guessing, and let's face it I'll never know for sure, that the Wimbledon courts are the best. But that's another story.

Today it was heavy rain so we played on the indoor carpet and boy was it quick. I'd forgotten how quick carpet can be. Too quick. At times you dont have time to play the correct shots and find yourself improvising or using a half take back or block shot.

Don't get me wrong it's fun - you can feel like a pro as you drive a passing shot down the line - but for club players who wish to improve, the surface is a hindrance. It flatters to deceive and players get found out when they play on a different surface. Or move outside.

Since I left David Lloyd's last year I've played on a variety of surfaces - grass, hard, clay, indoor hard and indoor synthetic clay - but not carpet. And my game has come on so much. It can't be a coincidence.

Still needs must and so yesterday I joined David Lloyd in Woking, which is closer to where we live, and has 8 superb indoor courts. It may not be real but the bottom line is I can play no matter how dark or wet it is outdoors for the next 5 or 6 months.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The line up for Shanghai

The line up for Shanghai

Here's the line up for the Master's Cup group stage

Red Group

Federer

Murray

Roddick

Gilles Simon

Gold Group

Djokovic

Davydenko

Del Potro

Tsonga


Nole travels to China on the back of a slump in form so my prediction is Tsonga and Del Potro to advance from Blue Group and face Roger and Andy M.

The fun kicks off next Wednesday.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The audacity of hope



I'm a friend of the US. I admire the country's values around freedom and opportunity, I grew up on American pop culture, and above all I'm grateful for what America has given the world.

Andre, Serena, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Sesame Street, Michael Jackson, the iPod, the Marshall Plan, and the lives of thousands of young men who died in the World Wars. These and countless other gifts to the world, are what make America great.

So it troubles me that America's reputation and standing abroad has taken such a hit in the past few years - there’s far too much knee-jerk anti- Americanism in Europe and beyond. The election of Barack Obama is a truly historic moment, and a wonderful opportunity for 'change'.

He comes to office with impossibly high expectations but if he can achieve only one thing it should be to restore the health of the US brand and re-connect with the global community.

So good luck Obama we're all counting on you.

[OK, that’s the first - and probably last - political post from me. Normal service will resume tomorrow]


#end

Monday, 3 November 2008

Wow, just heard the news...

Wow, just heard the news...

... that Rafa is out of the Masters Cup due to fatigue. The Spaniard admitting that his drive to No 1 this year has harmed his physical condition.

Am off to bed now after an enjoyable night out at the House of Commons (sorry can help name dropping) so no time to mull over the significance other than

i) I'm pleased Gilles Simon gets to make the trip he deserves it

ii) it just shows you how impressive Roger's run was that Rafa is feeling the burn after less than a year at the top.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Great Sunday Times preview of Doha



I'm a big fan of the women's game, and in particular a big fan of
Serena and Justine (how I miss that backhand!).

But for some reason when I blog 9 out of 10 of my posts are on the
mens tour. Not sure why, it's certainly not a conscious decision, it
just seems to work out that way.

And without wishing to over theorise, maybe it reflects the fact that
often the womens game (as good as it is) is still over shadowed by
Roger and Rafa.

But this week, is the womens week in the sun, with the end of season
tournament in Doha, beginning on Tuesday.

One thing the WTA tour has got right is it's naming partner Sony
Ericsson. And the guys at Sony Ericsson deserve credit for what they
invested in helping increase the profile of the womens game.

Like a number of other big brands who are involved in music or sports
sponsorship they have rightly sought to be a partner rather than mere
sponsor.

A perfect example of this is their media partnership with the Sunday
Times this weekend. The Times, the biggest selling 'quality' Sunday,
today carried a 4 page pull out preview to the Sony Ericsson
Championships.

For far too many people in this country the tennis season begins with
Queens and ends at Wimbledon. No paper could ever justify spending the
money on something like the end of season round robin event, so by
making this happen Sony Ericsson and The Sunday Times have given the
profile of the game a boost, and done the sport a real favour.



What's more in a nice touch, Sony Ericsson have also developed a new application - Mobile Event Guide - which fans attending the end of season event can download for free. The app is updated by Bluetooth when users walk through Sony Ericsson kiosks at the venue, and provides schedules and results, video and pictures of matches player info and post match analysis. Very cute.

Being a sponsor means slapping your logo on something, but as Sony
Ericsson have shown, to be a partner you have to put more in, but you
get so much more back.


The centre piece of the preview is a feature on Serena. You can read it here.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Murray downed

Murray downed

All good things must come to an end. That master of the indoor season Nalbandian beat Andy in two, 6 and 3.

Which means unlike Rafa, Roger, Nole and most of the other leading lights, Nalbandian can still boast an undefeated record against Murray.

And you've got to say that with Nadal's incredible year taking its toll on Rafa, Nalbandian and Co must fancy their chances on the indoor court for next month's Davis Cup final.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

You gotta read this: Overend on Murray

Here's Jonathan Overend's post on Murray becoming a man, if not quite the man (not yet).

Two tournaments remain in this extraordinary year for Andy Murray and this time it doesn’t matter what happens in Paris and Shanghai - 2008 will go down as the most successful season for a British tennis player since the days of Mr Perry.

Murray has collected five titles in the season - a nice geographical spread from Qatar to Russia via France, Spain and deepest Ohio, USA - he's also climbed to number four in the world, collecting a fearsome reputation as autumn’s in-form player.

He’s in Paris this week for the final Masters Series event of the year before heading to China for the big one, the end-of-season showdown, The Masters Cup.

That’s the one with the best eight players of the year - so no riff-raff, no byes, no Vince Spadea, just serious big-time tennis.

Murray’s second half of the season has been extraordinary, with a quarter-final at Wimbledon followed by the Cincinnati title, a first Grand Slam final at the US Open and then back-to-back titles in Madrid and St Petersburg.

The only blip was in August after Cincinnati - that strange exit from the Olympic Games to Yen Hsun Lu, a defeat which looks more inexplicable with every passing day.

But that remains his only bad loss since the start of May. Every other match he should have won, he has won. Major progress.

Earlier in the year, a search for tennis court perfection appeared to hold him back from concentrating on the simple things. Now it’s all about getting the win, however it comes.

But forget the notion of “winning ugly”, endorsed by his previous coach Brad Gilbert, Murray has been winning spectacularly.

Since the start of August, he's beaten Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic - the only three players ahead of him in the rankings.

Performances of aggressive intent have been backed by real steel under pressure and a revelation of a first serve.

And one of the really interesting aspects of this sequence, 18 wins from his last 19 matches, is the way talented opponents have been crushed, almost beaten mentally before the match begins.

Three matches stand out on this point: Wawrinka in New York, Monfils in Madrid and Verdasco in St Petersburg. Top 20 players with plenty of ability, but freaked out by the mental ordeal of facing Murray. The result? Three consummate thrashings.

Murray, of course, has more than enough ability to beat these guys toe-to-toe, but he’s now beating them in the mind the way Federer used to (perhaps still does?) during his years of domination. That is a considerable factor when you’re still building your reputation on the tour.

And what a reputation. Every interview with an ATP player in advance of Paris appeared to make reference to Murray as “the form player” or “the world’s most dangerous” or “the best in the world right now”.

Careful scheduling, another real improvement from 12 months ago, means Murray still has plenty of energy left at this late stage of the season.

He’ll give it everything for two more tournaments and then take the off-season to prepare for 2009 and the Australian Open, where he will start as one of the favourites to challenge for Djokovic’s title.

And as we come towards the end of a difficult year image-wise, with media spats, TV comedy lampooning and a premature autobiography, one can only praise the way Murray has turned his attitude around.

Everything about him, from the waves to the crowd to the positive approach in interviews, is an improvement.

The world is no longer against him - of course it never really was as long as he could prove he could win matches - and I think he now realises that when his name gets in the paper, it adds several dollars to the bank account. It’s all good.

“Kevin the teenager” appears to have stomped out of the back door. The “miserable git” (Tim Henman’s famous aside from the summer) has cheered up and come to the party after all. Murray’s tennis is doing the talking, and these last few months it’s been magnificent to watch.

In short, as Mr Federer observed, he has "become a man".


The article is from BBC 606 forum. You can read it plus the resulting comments here

Querrey freaked out by Murray

Querrey freaked out by Murray

Murray chalked up his 19th win in 20 games beating Querrey 6-2, 6-4. Further proof that he is the form player right now.

I didn't see it (was lucky enough to be at the Emirates to see Arsenal draw 4-4 with Spurs) but on paper it was an intriguing match-up: one of the best servers in the game against one of the best returners, on a fast indoor surface

By all accounts Murray dealt with the serve comfortably, winning 6 straight games in the first set after losing the first two, and then breaking Big Sam twice in the second.

Querrey had 3 double faults in one service game. Maria had something similar at Wimbledon and I wrote then about how park players the world over responded to that with a quiet, knowing smile - we've all been there and it is heartening to see a pro (and multiple slam winner in Maria's case) fall part on serve.

But at least she had an excuse with the blustery conditions. But shame on you Sam!

When you play indoors the occasional double fault is bad but 3 in one game, ouch that hurts. I played 3 sets indoors last night and only had 2 all night, and believe me my serve is not a Querrey bomb.

The only explanation is that Murray intimidated Querrey and got into his head in the way he has against others in recent weeks.

Murray beating players in the mind (a la Roger) is something Jonathan Overend writes about in a great post on the BBC site. I'll provide a link or maybe even the text tomorrow.


Sunday, 26 October 2008

Federer beats Nalbandian

Roger and Nalbandian go back a long way, coming up together through the juniors. And in the early days on the pro tour Nalbandian eclipsed Roger winning their first five encounters.

But then Fed won 8 of the next 9 matches. So Roger went into today's final in Basle with a slender 9-8 head to head record.

Today Federer denied Nalbandian a chance of equalling that record beating the Argentine 6-3 6-4 to secure his 57th career title. The key was Roger's serve (he only dropped 7 points on serve all match)

You can watch the final game below

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Tennis is the best medicine

Afraid it's more blogging on my own tennis - sorry, I can't help myself!

I had one of my sweetest victories today. The standard of tennis wasn't good as it has been in recent weeks, but the bottomline was I won in difficult circumstances.

I was playing my personal Nadal - the hitting pro from the local indoor place. As ever we kept it to just an hour.

He must win 8 out of every 10 games we play. And today I was feeling lousy (I've not had enough sleep this past week and today it felt like I was coming down with a bug. No energy and felt spaced all day.)

But I went ahead with the tennis on the basis that it would be kill or cure, with the smart money being on the former rather than the latter.

Despite having a cracking headache i got off to a good start holding serve, breaking, and holding to go 3 - 0 up. My opponent then held and broke back to close the gap to 3 - 2, but I then won the next 2 games to go to 5 - 2.

He was serving to stay in the match and I somehow squandered 3 matchpoints before he closed it out and then broke me to bring the score to 5 - 4.

I was feeling terrible and at the back of mind I couldn't help but think that if it went to 5 all I would struggle to stay in the match. So I stepped it up and hit two big returns from the ad court to tee up two break points, and clinched the match on the the second with a fierce backhand approach shot from which he netted the volley.

I came off court with a headache but also feeling pumped, and when I got home I felt so much better. Proof that tennis really is the best medicine.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Good luck to...

Good luck to...

...Laura Robson who plays her first match on the WTA tour today. She takes on Iveta Benesova from the Czech Republic at the Fortis Championship in Luxembourg.

Go Laura!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Murray on the up



Andy Murray has had universally good PR for the past few days. (Not often you can say that but his winning ways have done wonders for his rep).

As ever, Jonathan Overend was on the money this morning when giving his verdict on Murray. He listed Andy's achievements over the past four months which have seen Murray win two masters, reach his first grand slam final, reach No 4 in the world, and beat Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. The guy is on a roll.

To his credit Murray is prepared to put in the graft. Something his PR and new media team have highlighted to great effect with photos and video on his website.

The hard work is paying off. On the evidence of the past week his serve is much improved. What was a major weakness is now one of his main strengths. Ditto his fitness.

If I was Djoko I'd be starting to get a little nervous, especially with all those points to defend in Melbourne.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Play of the week

Mercedes ATP Play of the week. Richard Gasquet v Kei Nishikori. My man Kei is out-manoeuvred by Gasquet thanks to a classy, Murray-esque dropshot. Watch it here

Friday, 17 October 2008

We were on a break!

Sometimes we forget that the pro's are human. It's not surprising
given that most the time they move around the court like super heroes.

But everyone needs a break every now and then and Roger, Rafa, and
Andy M all seemed to have benefited from the post New York lay off.

The standard of tennis from all 3 of them this week has been top
class. I've not had a chance to see Federer (plenty to watch on tape)
but I keep hearing good things and I've seen the quality of Rafa and
Andy's shot making for myself.

So this weekend we are in for a treat with a Fed v Murray re-match
followed hopefully by either a Federer / Murray v Nadal final.

And I keep thinking ahead to the New Year and the prospect of a
recharged Federer coming out to make history. Good times ahead.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Hard yards pay off

Team Murray spend a lot of time working on Andy's sprinting during
their off court fitness sessions.

And you could see why today. Murray was a break and 5-4 down and
Cillic was serving on set point. It was a lovely second serve
resulting in a short ball for Cillic to put away in the deuce court.

And yet somehow Murray not only made the ball but then hit a superb
forehand cross court winner. Awesome.

It must make all the hard yards seem worthwhile.

(I'll try and find the video of the point).

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Is indoor tennis proper tennis?

Is indoor tennis proper tennis?

I play a lot of indoor tennis. Mainly because the weather is so lousy in the UK and I don't have much time to play. So if it rains on a Sunday morning and I'm due to be playing outdoors, there goes my hitting for another 7 days.

Until last year I was a member of David Lloyd's in Raynes Park, London. It's a stones throw from SW19 so if it rains during Wimbledon fortnight you sometimes see the pros practising on one of DL's 12 indoor carpet courts. Venus and Serena were rumoured to have been there a few years back but there's no photographic evidence!

I always enjoy playing indoors but - and this maybe controversial - it's not proper tennis.

There's no wind, no glare from the sun, or bad light, and the bounce on indoor carpet or hard court is usually extremely consistent.

In short the experience is good, too good. Some days on indoor (super-fast) carpet you can feel like Federer as you hit a flashing backhand pass down the line. But then you go outside and get found out.

Despite all that I'm enjoying what little I have seen of the action in Madrid. There's been a buzz about Gulbis for sometime and yesterday he again lived up to the hype as for the best part of the first two sets he outplayed and outhit Rafa.

Elsewhere Roger seems to be feeling the benefit of his break - can't wait to see him take on Tsonga.

And Djokovic must have been pleased to see Hanescu retire injured in the third after the Romanian took the first and took the second into a tie break.

So don't get me wrong indoor is great to watch and I'm so glad its a fixture in the tennis calendar because the gap between the US and Australia is too long. But its not the real deal.

Tennis is an outdoor game.

Monday, 13 October 2008

It's not Jelena's fault

I'm starting to feel sorry for Jelena.

It's not her fault she's no 1.

It's not her fault there are (at least?) three better players who
currently don't hold the top spot.

It's not her fault two of the three (Justine and Maria) are out of the
game at the moment and the third (Serena) puts Slams ahead of being No
1.

It's not even her fault that the system allows a player to be No 1
without holding a Slam - even though it doesn't feel right.

All Jelena has done is put in the hard yards, played a full calendar,
and won more than she's lost.

And the reason she is No 1 is largely because the system wants to
reward and incentivise players for playing all year round.

Part of me wishes it wasn't this way and that more emphasis was on
slams.

But the fact of the matter is, the reason Jelena is No 1 is the same
reason why us tennis addicts are able to watch high quality tennis
from world class ballers for 11 out of 12 months a year.

And if we can't bring ourselves to celebrate this, we should at least
accept it and give Jelena a break.

Nobody who has made the sacrifices a pro (and their family) have to
make just to break top 100, should be made to feel embarrassed for
being No 1.

Phew, got that out of my system! Now back to enjoying Madrid :)

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Play of the week


Mercedes ATP Play of the week. Andy Roddick v Viktor Troicki. Nice play from A-Rod. He runs down a lob volley from Troicki and spins to hit a winner down the line. Watch it here

Friday, 10 October 2008

Great Sharapova video from Nike

When it comes to blogging I try to stick to two rules:

1) don't drone on too much about my own tennis matches.

2) don't pinch things from other people's blogs.

I broke the first rule earlier in the week when talking about last Sunday's match and now I'm shamelessly flouting the second by lifting this video from Gototennis, which regular readers will know is one of my favourite blogs.

It's the new Maria Sharapova Be Your Own Fan video from Nike which beautifully charts her journey from a childhood in Siberia to becoming a three time grand slam winner.

It's one of a series of animated ads from Nike aimed at inspiring young women in Europe. This from the Guardian tells you a bit more:

Nike's ad highlights the criticism and negativity that Sharapova had to overcome – such as she was "Just another pretty face" – in becoming a global sports star. It ends with a call for women to "Be strong like Maria".

The other ads feature 400m runner Sanders, Swiss triathlete Nicola Spirig, Sicilian triple jumper Simona La Mantia and French martial arts expert Delphine Delsalle.

"Their stories, like the young women themselves, are as charming as they are impressive and inspiring," said Betsy Decker, associate creative director at W&K Amsterdam.

W&K chose to show the athletes in animated clips – as opposed to more typical slick live action shots of the women – because it was felt that the approach "humanised" them more.

"By humanising these young athletes… we hope to show girls of all ages and fitness levels how sport strengthens self-belief," added Decker.


And it really is lovely, as well as being strangely reminiscent of A-ha's take on me video...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Feliciano Lopez also loves tennis

We had a fantastic fortnight's holiday in Spain a couple years ago. We divided our time between Deia, a wonderful village in the hills of Rafa's island of Majorca, then moved to the neighbouring island of Menorca (highlight was sipping cava in the sun on a catamaran trip around the island on my birthday), before travelling to Barcelona, one of my favourite cities.

I remember watching Roger v Rafa in the hotel in Deia, and lying in the sun reading the brilliant Double Fault by Lionel Shriver. (BTW if you've not read this brilliant portrayal of rivalry and failed ambition among 2 aspiring tennis pro's, do check it out. So good)

So there I was watching and reading and thinking about tennis but I couldn't get a game with anyone. By the time I got to Barcelona I was itching for a hit!

So I dropped by the Sanchez-Casal academy to join in an afternoon of drills in the baking sunshine on superb clay courts.

Their trademark was a variety of different 4 ball drills. You'd start with a deep ball to the forehand to which you play a defensive return, short ball hit to your backhand for the approach shot, a deep ball to your backhand that has you back peddling before a short ball to the forehand which is crying out to be smacked down the line. Repeat again and again with different combinations of shots.

It was a great experience all round. As well as working on the strokes it was so cool to walk around the grounds where so many pro's have cut their teeth.

I'm still on the distribution list for their e-newsletter which arrived in my inbox the other day. It includes an interview with Feliciano Lopez who trained at the academy before the hard court season. In it he speaks of his love for the game, not just the benefits from the lifestyle but also how tennis, like any sport, creates healthy habits and disciplines.

So good to see a pro who is clearly still enjoying what he does.



Interviewer: What values are important for you as an athlete?
Feliciano: “The sport helps create habits, a discipline and routines that help you in your professional and personal life. It is very healthy and I recommend it; because you move around a good atmosphere no matter what sport you practice, and especially in tennis, which is my sport and I love it. Any child who practices a sport will be in contact with good things; the sport helps you think positively and in tennis more so.

I: What does tennis contribute to you and how does it help your life?
FL: “Since I was a kid I practiced much sport, quite a lot, and tennis is a marvelous sport. Mainly having to travel to so many countries gives you experience, you meet many people, different people, talk different languages…that helps you mature; travelling to many places…tennis helps you mature, and mature very fast.”

I: How does a player live the change from Junior to Professional?
FL: “In Spain we are very lucky because all young players have the option of competing in many tournaments at different levels, without having to travel too far. That is one of the most important aspects and that is why we have so many players who are currently standing out from the rest. I began to gain experience in these tournaments, playing in much in Spain, with illusion and then slowly I was able to begin taking the first steps in the professional world.”

I: What message do you give, as an athlete, to other young players?
FL: “What is most important is to be involved in sports, to enjoy it and to continue playing and having fun. Tennis, at the professional level, is very difficult and you must like it very much if you want to continue involved with what you are doing. Besides having qualities, you must have the illusion, motivation and like what you are doing. It is a great sport and all tennis player who I know that are standing out and getting good results, love what they do and feel the tennis game inside of them.”

Sunday, 5 October 2008

I love tennis

I try to avoid blogging about my own tennis matches - after all who's interested - but I had one of those games today, the kind of game you are lucky enough to play in once or twice a year.

I was playing my personal Nadal. We usually play on hard but today was indoor synthetic clay, which is slower and at times has an unpredictble bounce.

It was one of those truly special games where we both brought out the best in each other. It helped that it had only been 3 or 4 days since we last played so the level was good from the start and it just got better as we traded shots.

Don't get me wrong it wasn't all faultless technique (I wish) and fizzing winners (although there were a fair few of those). There was also some scrambling, lunging 'gets' as shots you didn't think would come back were somehow retrieved. Not to mention a few unforced errors...

My favourite moments were two serves to the ad side which went out wide and where returned to my forehand, allowing me to blast clean cross court winners. It's something you see the pro's do routinely, but usually I lack both the technique and confidence. Maybe my concerted effort to watch the ball is starting to work!

The only downside was that we only had the court for an hour so we couldn't play a full match. In fact we only managed 8 games, finishing with a marathon final game which must have lasted 10 minutes or more and saw me eventually break back to end all square at 4-4.

It was a killer to have to finish at the point but in a funny way it seemed fitting that noboby lost.

I was buzzing on the way home, reflecting on how days like these make up for all those games where you are battling against the wind, or strangely off the pace, or your serve is mis-firing. And it reminded me why we love tennis.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Play of the week



Mercedes ATP Play of the week. Tommy Robredo v Dudi Sela. I've never heard of Sela (No 66 in the world, where have I been?) so this clip is worth it for novelty factor alone, but it's also worth taking a look to see how Robredo returns the drop shot with a lunging lob, and then, thanks to some great reflexes at the net, turns defence into attack. Watch it here

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Roger takes a break

Sweden has given an awful lot to tennis – Bjorn, Edberg, Wilander, enough said – so I often think it’s a shame that they only have a second / third tier event, an event that is regularly bypassed by the leading players.

That said, I’ve felt for sometime that Roger was putting himself under unnecessary pressure by opting to compete in Stockholm, and so it’s no surprise to see him pull out.

But it did surprise me a little that he appears to have listened to the advice of many Federer fans, and has decided to take an extended break. Here’s the statement from his website


"2008 has been a tough year for me as I was always playing catch up after being diagnosed with mononucleosis at the beginning of the year. I feel fortunate to be healthy again, but I want to remain at the top of the game for many more years to come and go after the #1 ranking again.

In order to do that, I need to get a proper rest and get strong again so that I am 100% fit for the remainder of the year or next year. At this point, I am not sure when I will be ready to play again, but I hope to be back at some point before the end of the year.

I apologize to the tennis fans in Sweden as I was looking forward to playing in Stockholm again. The country has produced so many incredible tennis players and the tournament has such a great history. I hope to be able to come back at some point in the future."


You wouldn’t expect anything else, but good to see the explicit statement of intent about staying on top and regaining No 1. Like Roger I still think that’s possible but when it comes down to it Slams are now more important than the ranking, and this break will give him the best possible preparation for the best possible way to start 2009 - winning the Aussie Open and equalling Pete's record...

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Reasons to be cheerful



After a pretty desperate weekend of Davis Cup action at Wimbledon, in the past few days there have been some encouraging signs for British tennis fans - who, by definition, are eternal optimists.

Firstly, Laura Robson reached the semi's in the LTA event in Shrewsbury, an impressive run for a 14 year old in her first pro event. In the end she was beaten by Maret Ani (the second seed) but Robson went down fighting taking a set of Ani who is 105 in the world.

Even the eternal optimists have just cause for giving up on womens tennis in the UK so Robson is a breath of fresh air. I really hope she is the real deal.

Meanwhile fellow Brit Ross Hutchins won the dubs in China with his Aussie partner Stephen Huss. He'll enjoy the win and lets hope the winning feeling is catching.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Play of the week


Mercedes ATP Play of the week. Gilles Simon v Jose Acasuso. I've not seen any tennis for the past week which has only exacerbated my post US Open cold turkey. (What gives with the decision not to screen the Bangkok Open?)

But if this is anything to go by I've not missed much. Simon does well to get the drop shot and then cut off the passing shot, but it's nothing special. Watch it here.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Djoko's mini me


I'll be honest. Until today I didn't even know Nole had a younger brother, let alone that he was also an aspiring tennis pro about to join the tour. Rich at Down the line has the story.

Got to say I feel for Marko. It can't be easy to measure up to the success of his older brother. The question is will he be forever over-shadowed by his big bro (step forward Patrick McEnroe) or will he match or even one day surpass his sibling (Safina, Sanchez-Vicario)?

It's too early to say, but it wasn't the most auspicious of beginnings - Marko Djokovic got his butt kicked 6-2, 6-0 by Jarkko Nieminen.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Watch the ball

It's been a while since I read Winning Ugly but I'm sure Gilbert had a
phrase along the lines of "it's the pretty strokes that crumble under
pressure".

(that's by no means a literal quote but you get the point).

I don't really have the pretty strokes so less of an issue for me but
what I have noticed in recent weeks is that under pressure I all too
easily forget the No 1 rule of any coach (or parent teaching their
kid): watch the ball.

Not sure why but as things hot up I guess I'm too preoccupied with
where my opponent is or where the ball is heading, and so I'm failing
to watch the ball onto the strings.

When I get a moment I must google tips on how to get yourself into the
habit. Surely it can't just be a case of concentrating? If so I'm
doomed.

As ever the role model is Roger. I love those close up photos of him
staring at the contact point as the ball speeds off back towards his
opponent. He's perfected keeping the head still and the eyes locked.

Goes without saying that no part of my game will ever be in the same
league as the maestro, but it got me thinking - is it possible for a
weekend park player to be able to watch a ball as well as a top 10 pro?

Or do they have some sort of superhero vision thing going on?

As ever, your thoughts are always welcome. As are any tips on how to
condition myself into watching the ball.

I'm sure it was also Gilbert who said 'read the writing on the ball'.
Is that really possible?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Oh dear, oh dear

Another disappointing weekend for British tennis. It's hard to understand how a team with the World No 4 and a Grand Slam winning doubles specialist can lose. Lose against Austria.

The answer of course is take away the Murrays and there is not much left in mens tennis in Britain. Once again - hate to say it - but Bogdanovic folded, losing both his matches despite winning the first set in each rubber.

Bogdanovic has game but lacks the mental toughness and fighting spirit of Andy M. And the sad thing is this weekend will only further undermine his already fragile confidence.

What's more as Neil Harman points out in The Times why should Murray take time out of his pursuit of Slams for DC when we are now stuck back in the Euro-Africa Group playing India or Belgium. Not good.

Here's the damning verdict from Murray on Bogdanovic's performance:

"The way I play shows i love the Davis Cup but I make sacrifices to play. I want every single person to make those sacrifices, I want them to come here physically able to play for all three days even if it is for three five set matches. I want to know that everyone in the team wants to win as badly as I do and if I don't feel everyone has that attitude it will definitely demotivate me....

... today I didn't see any fist pumps, or racket throwing. He didn't really show enough that he wanted to win the match."

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Play of the week



After a few weeks away, it's back by popular demand (!!), yes it's the Mercedes ATP Play of the week. Richard Gasquet v Dmitry Tursunov. Nice play from Gasquet as he pulls Tursunov out of position with a drop shot, and then finishes with a routine overhead. Watch it here

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Clear as mud

Clear as mud

The danger in pulling out a quote from an article is that you sometimes lose the context or meaning.

So in the comments on the post below Freakyfrites asks a couple of good questions about Roger's remarks:

Q: When was Roger studying these images?

Q: And they were or weren't images of this year's Wimbledon?

Q: Why was he only sleeping for 20 minutes?

Here's the deal. Roger was so pumped after defeating Murray and winning his 13th slam that he only got 20 mins sleep that night. (I guess this also had something to do with media interviews and sponsors parties etc).

Before he did finally hit the sack, he went online to check out photos of him performing back at his very best in the US Open final.

Reading between the lines I get the impression this is something he usually does after winning a slam. He wants to re-live his performance and see it through the eyes of the fans.

But by implication, defeat to Nadal at Wimbledon 2008 was so traumatic that he has not been able to bring himself to check out the photos.

BTW - also check out Freakyfrites' comments on the post below on the importance of the ego for any dominant champion. As ever she is on the money.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Something Roger never wants to see




Like Freakyfrites and other Fedophiles, over the past week I have enjoyed flicking through the match reports and reaction to the US Open final.

I was intrigued by the quote below reported by Neil Harman in last Wednesday's Times which shows how much Nadal has got under his skin, and that Federer, like many great sporting champions before him, has (deliberately or inadvertently) slightly re-written history to protect his confidence and motivate himself by righting a perceived wrong.

I'm a Fed fan and the Wimbledon final was a classic but - and OK I wasn't there - I don't believe more people left feeling more sorry for Roger than they were happy for Rafa.

Roger clearly blames the failing light for his defeat. But the truth was Nadal was marginally the better man that day. If Federer had closed out the second set, who knows it may have been a different story.

'Before he managed his twenty minutes of shut eye the champion went on to the internet to study images of his performance. "I wanted to get a sense of what the fans saw," he said. "I like to see the pictures before I go to bed. I would never have done that for Wimbledon this year. I have never seen a picture of Rafa holding the trophy and it's something I don't ever want to see.

I'm still a little disappointed a match like that was decided at night. I understand it was appropriate to finish it because of the special occasion we were under. Fair play, the crowds were there and they wanted a proper ending. But I think more people left feeling sorry for me than they were happy for Rafa, which hurts me a little.

At the same time, I appreciate that tennis went up a notch with that match and that's what I strove to do in my five years as No 1, to make tennis better, more popular and I admit that Wimbledon final achieved all I had wanted even if I lost it".


What do you think?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Rafa & Andy blazing a trail in social media



I’ve not been too well in the past few days so have taken a break from the blog. Had some sort of virus which wiped me out. Walking up the stairs felt like walking on the moon and once again it made me think how hard it must have been for Federer earlier in the year to play when still feeling the after effects of mono.

But enough of that. I’ve meaning to write for some time about how blogging and Social Media are starting to change the way in which sports stars interact with their customers, the paying public.

Traditionally it’s been one way communication such as interviews in a paper or on TV, or captain’s notes in pre-match football programme, or maybe even a fan club newsletter.

But now many of the younger and leading tennis pro’s are using blogs and SM to keep in touch with their fans and build their brand and profile.

Rafa paved the way with his blogs for US Open and Wimbledon on The Times website.

As well as his reflections on his progress through the tournaments and insights into what he gets up to in his down time, the blog also has a Q&A feature which brings the fans closer to Rafa, and where you learn everything from Rafa’s to dislike of snakes, to how hard it is to read Djokovic’s serve.

To give you a taste of the blog here is a really nice post from Rafa with his reaction to his defeat by Murray.

Hello and goodbye to all,

I am writing a short note as my last blog post from New York. You know I normally don't do this after I have finished a tournament but thought I should do it today since I lost against your player. I am flying back home to Spain and will have 3 days of rest. Andy played better than me both yesterday and today and he deserved to win. No excuses, no complaints. Some have asked if I had something to say about yesterday and the match being changed of courts, etc. The conditions are the same for both players and he simply played better. I had said on my previous blog that I knew this was a very, very difficult match. That Andy was playing great and that I knew this could happen. Well, it did.

Tomorrow it will be his first Grand Slam final and I am happy for him. it will be difficult for him since Roger is still Roger. I remember when lots of people were saying he was finished. I always said that Roger deserved more respect, and that he is still there, the favourite always. Well, he is in the final, again. Good luck to both and let's hope we see a great tennis match.


Speaking of Murray, the new World No 4, has also embraced Social Media, with his own Twitter page. You can follow it here

Throughout the US Open Andy used Twitter to keep those who were following up to date with what he was up to. Everything from the heat on court, to shopping at Bloomingdales, and bumping into his old orthodontist, to cheering on his brother Jamie in the doubles.

It’s fun, it’s interesting, and for a player who has had more than his fair share or bad PR, it’s a really nice way to make himself accessible to the fans. And of course it doesn’t involve much work for Andy, just a few texts every day.

Hat tip to PR-Media-Blog.

Friday, 12 September 2008

How did you do?

Here are the answers to the TopSpinTennis US Open quiz.

It was a tough quiz - I've got to admit that I struggled myself with most of these, unlike the Wimbledon quiz which was mainly about my tennis era (mid 80s onwards) this time I deliberately threw in a few 1970s questions - so if you got 5 or more you were doing extremely well.

So hat's off to Van who scored 4 plus a bonus point for Connors. Nice work Van!

Q1) In which year did night tennis make it's debut?

A: 1975

Q2) Who lost three women's finals in a row in the mid to late 70s, including two back to back against Chris Evert?

A: Goolagong has this unfortunate claim to fame. Always a bridesmaid...

Q3) In 1990 Pete Sampras won his first US Open. At the time he was the lowest seeded player to win the tournament. What was his seeding?

A: Pete was seeded 12th

Q4) Who did Lendl beat in the 1986 men's final?

A: Miloslav Mecir

Q5)Who handed who not one but two bagels in a men's US Open final?

A: Federer humbled Hewitt.

Q6) When was the last US Open played on grass. (and a bonus points for men's and women's singles winners)

A: 1974 (Connors and Billie Jean King)

Q7) How many sets did Graf drop en route to winning the women's championship in 1996?

A: Steffi didnt drop a single set that year.

Q8)Who did Roger beat in the 2004 semi?

A: Tim Henman

Q9)How many singles championships did Navratilova contest?

A: 21

Q10)Who lost to Gasquet in the 2002 juniors and Tsonga in the 2003 juniors?

A: Marcos Baghdatis

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Quote of the day

Quote of the day

"To be three sets away from winning the US Open is a good effort at my age, but I don't want to be remembered for losing in the final of the US Open. I want to win one of these tournaments."

That's the spirit...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Roger sends a message to the doubters


Two words: Pure Class.

Roger was awesome last night and reminded us all of his GOAT credentials. As a colleague said to me today, you knew from almost the second he crunched down his first serve to start the match that he was going to win. That point and the rest of the game was a statement of authority.

He backed that up with his forehand, which in the first and third set, was back to its beautiful, brutal best. And unfortunately Murray couldn't repeat the level of tennis he showed in the semi. More than anything the serve, which was so strong against Rafa, let him down.

Murray will no doubt beat himself up over the performance - which is the natural reaction of a winner - but he can take satisfaction from how far he has travelled in the past few weeks.

And he provided the moment of the tournament, the moment when Murray proved that Nadal is human after all. It's something I'd never seen before.

Rafael Nadal bent over, struggling to regain his breath, after being bettered physically in a base line rally. Proof that Murray's victory was no fluke. You can see it for yourself below

UPDATE: You can read the match stats here and the figure which leaps off the screen and underlines how below par Murray's serve was, is Federer won 41 of the 81 points he received. Roger won more points on the Murray serve than Andy. Ouch.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Back where she belongs



So good to see Serena win and return to No 1. The best player in the world is back where she belongs. Didn't see the match, had to head to bed after Murray v Nadal, but it sounds like a cracker.

Here's her reaction from the BBC

"I'm so excited," she said. "This was magical. It was everything coming together like magic. I wasn't even going for number one and it's just like an added bonus. It is that special because I've been working so hard."

Williams has now won one French Open, two Wimbledon, three Australian Open and three US Open titles, adding to her victories of 1999 and 2002 in New York. Asked to compare this US Open to the other two, Williams said they are all special in their own way.

"Each one means a lot," she said. "The 1999 one was special because I knew I was going to win it. I just felt it. I wanted it so bad in 1999. It was my first Grand Slam so no one can take that away. I won doubles that year too."

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Wow!

What a result! What a performance! What a match!

Murray comes of age. Big heart and big shots. 65 winners as he beats
Nadal two days in a row. Truly awesome.

Now come on Serena, make it a perfect night for Top Spin Tennis Blog.

Who does Roger want to win?

Well I'm sure the official line from Fed is "I really don't mind,
happy to play either, both great players etc".

But I've a sneaky feeling that deep down Roger will prefer Murray to
win in five.

The Scot may have a 2-1 head to head record but he's never beaten
Federer in a final of a slam or taken 3 sets off Roger, unlike Rafa
who has done it four times.

Of course there's nothing Roger would love to do more than beat Rafa
in a final but after the trauma of Wimbledon and Paris I think he'd
prefer to take revenge another time.

So the ideal outcome for Federer is Nadal comes out blazing and pushes
Murray to the limits but Andy M wins it after a marathon and draining
fifth set.

Me I don't care how Murray wins, as long as he pulls it out.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Rain stops play



Rain can change matches. It can change tennis history.

If it hadn't been for the rain Agassi would not have won the French and completed his career slam. And if it wasn't for the rain Henman would have probably made it to the final of Wimbledon in 2001, who knows he may even have won it.

So despite being hugely impressed with Murray today, I've a horrible feeling Rafa may come out tomorrow and win it in five. Watch this space...

Friday, 5 September 2008

A-Rod downed, Nole booed off



Well, it was nice while it lasted but Andy's out and my dreams of a pay out are over. The only crumb of comfort is that we avoid a Federer - Roddick semi in which I would have been torn between heart (Federer getting back on track) and head (money).

I missed the match so haven't got much to say about Djokovic's comments, other than I quite like the Djoker, he's shaken things up, has been good for the game, and has a great back story, growing up in war torn Serbia.

But let's face it, he doesn't do himself any favours. Whether it's the 'hilarious' impressions (stop it Nole, you are killing me!), the endless ball bouncing before serves, or the parents dis-respecting Roger, he has a habit of winding people up.

Now don't get me wrong, a bit of personality goes along way, but he needs to dial it down a bit.

You can hear his court side interviewing where he takes on the crowd and post match interviews with A-Rod and Nole on the BBC

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Here's my kiss of death for A-Rod

Over the past 4 years Roger has made it look so straightforward, that it is easy to forget that winning a Slam is one of the greatest achievements in Sport.

To be come a Grand Slam champion you have to win seven games in thirteen days, beating the best in the world on the way.

The results and performances from an individual round are just a snapshot and can never tell the full story of a Slam. So we shouldn't read too much into the outcome of the past two days.

That said, I can't help but feel that Roddick is in the best shape when you look at the bottom half of the draw.

Federer and Djokovic struggled through in five last night - Roger was mis-firing and Djoko looked dead on his feet at the end - but Roddick eased through in 3 comfortable sets against Gonzo, making only 7 unforced errors.

The odds are still stacked against Roddick winning on Sunday - to pull that off he'll need to beat Djokovic, and then Federer, and then probably Nadal -  but (and I'm sure I'll be eating my words tomorrow) looking at A-Rod's form and confidence, and comparing it with the big 3 , I feel more confident he can go all the way than I did when I put my speculative bet on at 50-1 a couple of weeks ago.

Or maybe that's just wishful thinking...

Either way, as Sky says "it matters more when there's money on it." 

Monday, 1 September 2008

Keiwatch

There's been some superb tennis over the weekend - Roddick continues to impress - but the stand out performance for me was Nishikori downing Ferrer.

Didn't see it myself but the scoreline tells the story. Nishikori took the first two sets but was then reminded that beating top 10 players is never a cake walk.

Here's Nick Bolletieri's summary:

Nishikori won the match 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 7-5. It seemed like every time Ferrer broke Kei in key spots, Kei was able to break back to get the match back on track. Kei is now the first Japanese male in the Open Era (since 1968) to reach the fourth round of the US Open, and is the second Japanese man to ever reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam. The last Japanese men to reach the Round of 16 here were Fumituru Nakano and Jiro Yamagishi in 1937. He is also the youngest male to get this far since Marat Safin in 1998, and the is youngest man to defeat a Top 4 seed here since 17-year-old Bjorn Borg defeated No. 3 seed Arthur Ashe in 1973 3rd round.


Looking forward to watching him against Del Potro, one of the other up and coming teenagers, later today. Also hoping to catch some of Nadal v Querrey.

You can watch Kei close it out below

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Groundhog Day



It seems like only yesterday that Murray celebrated coming back from two sets down in a 5 set thriller by flexing his muscles. And today we had a repeat performance.

Not everyone likes Murray - I get that - but who could not appreciate the strength and guts he showed today in coming back to beat Jurgen Melzer in five?

As he showed back at Wimbledon, Murray may not do it the easy way - and he's not always easy to like - but he's a fighter.

And that combination of talent and guts will take him top 3 one day.

UPDATE: Match stats below. And as you can see Murray's second serve is still way too slow. It was punished by both Melzer and Llodra in the previous round.


Friday, 29 August 2008

Is this the best we can do?

Is this the best we can do?

There's a bit of a buzz in the media about Anne Keothavong's run to the third round, where she was beaten earlier today by Dementieva.

I'm pleased for her - the past few days will be good for her confidence and her ranking - and it shows that the LTA under Roger Draper is making progress.

But there has to be a reality check. Feel good press coverage about Keothavong masks the scandal which is British women's tennis, where the idea of a player making the second week is currently simply out of the question.

I was staggered to read that the last time a British woman made the third round in NY was 1991. It tells you all need to know about the drift and loss of direction in British tennis in the past 20 years.

So full marks to Anne for punching above her weight but there is a long way to go. Let's hope Laura Robson delivers....

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Roddick clears the first hurdle...

... the human banana skin that is Fabrice Santoro, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

So the dream lives on.

I know I have a vested interest after putting my money where my mouth
is for once - maybe I'm looking through dollar tinted spectacles - but
Roddick looked good.

The serve was on fire and he was aggressive, taking charge of most
points. But what caught my eye was the (much maligned) back hand, from
which he unleashed a string of cross court and down the line passing
shots.

But before I get too carried away it's worth noting that Santoro looks
past it. And he lost respect for his bizarre refusal to play the final
point after taking it a bit too personally when a crunching bomb of a
serve from Roddick nearly took his head off.

Gulbis won't be as easy.