Thursday, 31 July 2008

Fed on borrowed time

It seems like a long time ago that Rafa was suggesting Djoko would over take him in rankings. After his shock defeat in Rome he said:

"The logical thing is that he goes past me here in Hamburg, or at Roland Garros or Wimbledon."

But since then he's racked up a 29 match winning streak on 3 different surfaces.

Meanwhile Federer is still shaking off the lingering Wimbledon hang-over, struggling to get past Ginepri and (as we speak) Karlovic. And as everyone knows Rafa will unseat Roger if he wins Cincy and Fed fails to make the semis.

And no matter what happens over this weekend an imminent change at the top looks almost inevitable. Roger's likely to be a victim of his own success.

He usually rules throughout the summer hard court and end of season events. But of course this means victory in Cincy or New York, or the Masters, will effectively be tredding water in the rankings contest, whilst Rafa can eat into his lead by surpassing his comparatively poor performance in the second half of the year.

I know this sounds a bit defeatist - and true champions like Federer simply don't think this way - but I don't think it is necessarily so bad for Federer.

It will hurt his pride - and perhaps his confidence - to slip to number two, but also gives him a chance to take it a bit easier in the second half of the year, flush out any last effects of the mono, and come back re-charged in 09.

Or maybe Nadal will go out in the first round of the Olympics or the US and Roger will march on! After all, its been a mixed up kinda year...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Go Carlos, Go

The proto-type for Nadal AKA Carlos Moya chalked up an impressive win in Cincy today against Tipsarevic 7-6, 7-5.

The old champion (without checking the stats, at 32 he must be the oldest Grand Slam Champion left on the tour) has not had the best of seasons and is ranked 41, but he lurks dangerously in the draw, and still has the respect of the locker room.

We've had the return of Safin and so I guess it is too much to ask for the return of Moya(?) but either way I hope he strikes a blow for all us (early) 30 something tennis players and goes deep in at least one tournament this summer.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Play of the week

Mercedes ATP Play of the week. Gilles Simon v Sam Querrey. Simon is on a roll at the moment. And here's why. The guy's got game. Check out this backhand passing shot on the run . Watch it here.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Murray downs Djokovic

Last night’s victory was a huge result for Murray. Djokovic came into the match with a 4-0 advantage, and had served up a bagel in each of their two previous encounters.

But Murray showed his mental strength again and left the stats in the locker room. The result will be a massive confidence boost and is further proof that Murray is making progress and has a future at the very top of the game.

As well as showing his trademark defensive qualities, Murray was also more positive and attacking than he has been in the past. He was also showed good discipline and focus.

Much has been said about Murray’s tendency to over-use the drop shot, and that he needs to curb his enthusiasm for the shot when playing the top players. Well, I watched most of the match and the only drop shots I saw were the two disastrous attempts from Djokovic.

These were symptomatic of Nole’s error strewn game. Andy played well but we’d been fooling ourselves if we over-looked the errors from Djoko as he struggled to get to grip with the conditions.

So next up it’s Nadal. Rafa monstered him at Wimbledon but hard court could be a different story. We’ll have to tune in tonight to find out…

PS - full marks to Djokovic for his smiley congratulations to Murray.

You can watch the tie break and the terrible drop shot below

Thursday, 24 July 2008

What should Roger do?

It’s easy to over-react after yet another defeat for Federer– great players don’t lose it over-night – but it has been a bad year for Roger, and it just seems to get worse. His early exit in Toronto means Nadal can cut the gap to 300 points if he wins on Sunday.

Now we’ve been here before. Back in March the gap between Roger and Rafa was only 350points, the closest it has ever been. The difference being of course that Nadal had so many clay court points to defend that he could only topple Federer if Roger bombed at the French and the Masters events.

But as we enter the hard court season it’s a different story. Nadal has less to defend, making it much easier for him to gain ground.

Now Federer’s won 12 Grand Slams and has been at No 1 for as long as I can remember, so there’s no need for the guy to take advice from the likes of me! But I’ve been racking my brains to think what I would do if I were in his shoes. Here’s my 3 point plan:

1) Hire a coach. The chasing pack have closed the gap. Roger needs to look again at his game to see what he can do to respond to the challenge from Rafa, Djoko, and the next generation like Murray and Gasquet. It’s also hard to appreciate the stress and pressure of being No 1. Roger needs to share the load, and get some fresh perspective.

2) Can the exhibitions. When Sampras was chasing history he had little time for Davis Cup let alone exhibitions. They may be fun for the fans (and for Federer) but the bottom line is they are a waste of time and energy.

3) Cut himself some slack. This is a bit more radical but here we go… Fed’s been at No 1 for 234 weeks. An amazing run. But something has to give eventually, and when it comes to it Greatness is measured in Slams not weeks at the top spot. Far better for Federer to win the US Open (and / or the Olympics) and finish the year as No 2, then burn himself out for next year playing two many minor tournaments to defend his ranking. So bin Stockholm.

Let me know what you think. Am I missing anything?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Are you a 'Fedophile'?

Freakyfrites - who has been on fire with her blogging in recent weeks - has a great post on how some ultra Federer fans are hyper sensitive to any criticism of Roger. She even coins a new word: fedophile. Check it out here

As I said in a comment below, I am a fully paid up member of the Federer fan club, but on the Wimbledon finals day his best was not quite good enough. He'll be back. In the meantime some people need to move on.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Speaking of the BBC

Last week I wrote about how the BBC had a very good Wimbledon. But it turns out not everyone agrees. Apparently some viewers complained to the BBC about a pro-Nadal bias in the commentary for the men's final.

Don't buy it myself. Here's the response from the Beeb:

Our television commentary team were full of respect for the five-times champion Roger Federer; however in the early part of the match, there was no doubt that Rafael Nadal was playing the better tennis as he took a two set to love lead which we reflected in our commentary.

The BBC commentary team did subsequently catch the great drama of Federer's extraordinary comeback, and duly praised him for it.

Nevertheless, Rafael Nadal was in line to become the first Spanish men's champion in over forty years and the first man since Bjorn Borg to claim both the French Open and Wimbledon titles in the same season.

It was therefore appropriate for our television commentators to discuss this remarkable achievement and the fact that Nadal had displaced the player who had dominated Wimbledon for most of this decade.

Thanks to the BBC press office for the response. Much appreciated.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Play of the week

Mercedes ATP Play of the week. Fabrice Santoro v Vince Spadea. A between the legs special from 'The Magician'. We'll miss him when he's gone. Watch it here.

Friday, 18 July 2008

A star is born...

Apparently an asteroid has been named after Rafa by the observatory on his home island of Majorca. If you want to see planet Nadal for yourself it is somewhere between Mars and Jupiter. Cosmic.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Hats off to the BBC

I've been meaning to write about one of the true stars of Wimbledon fortnight, the BBC. FreakyFrites at Gototennis has written about her understandable frustrations with the US networks eccentric scheduling.

But no can accuse the BBC of not doing a first class job. Their 'multi platform' (sorry, I'm a sucker for media jargon) coverage was superb.The action was covered live on TV, Radio 5, and online at with realtime text commentary.

The TV coverage was interactive so viewers had the choice of up to 5 matches. This worked really well. For example on the Friday night at the end of first week when two seeds were on centre court (I'll be honest I can't remember who) but I wanted to watch Safin v Seppi who were playing at the same time.

The tennis was also broadcasted in high def on the BBC's HD Channel. The best thing about this was that when play finished in the evening the HD channel played re-runs of the day's best game(s).

Not highlights but full ball by ball re-runs. So those of us who have to work were able to watch Federer and Venus and co in glorious HD when we got home.

I spent more time in the car listening to the radio than I did watching tennis on TV. And this is where the BBC rule, with Michael Stich sparking off Jonathan Overend and Todd Woodbridge.

And the icing on the cake was McEnroe. His commentating, along with his analysis on the today at Wimbledon highlights show, plus his 6-0-6 phone in were all pure class.

The BBC is a bit of a soft target at times - and let's be honest its far from perfect - but big, blue ribbon, sporting events, like Wimbledon, the Olympics and the World Cup, is when it comes into its own.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Be cool

Tennis is no stranger to technology - hawk eye is one of the great
innovations in sport in recent years.

But for better or worse tennis is more often a follower rather than a
leader. Personally I don't think that's a bad thing, and the game has
been good at taking what works well elsewhere and adapting.

It therefore can only be a matter of time before the pro's start using
something I've just spotted flicking through the latest edition of

The Nike PreCool works on the assumption that 75% of your body's
energy expenditure goes to temperature regulation. So for the Olympics
in 2004 Nike came up with a pre-race ice vest to help marathon runner
Deena Kastor keep her core temperature under control.

Quite literally very cool. And something that could transfer easily to
the tennis lock room. Specially for the clay season.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

And the answers are...

After much delay here are the answers to the Wimbledon Quiz

Q 1 Who did Pat Cash beat in the semi en route to winning Wimbledon in 87?

A: Jimmy Connors.

Q 2 In what year did Edberg make his last appearance at Wimbledon?

A: 1996

Q 3 How many Wimbledon doubles titles did McEnroe win?

A: Mac won 4 doubles titles.

Q 4 What was the furthest round Michael Chang reached at Wimbledon?

A: Grass was never Chang's thing, Wimbledon being the only Slam he didnt win or reach the final. He got to the quarter final in 1994.

Q 5 Who won the 1996 boys singles title?

A: Vladimir Voltchkov beat Ljubicic.

Q 6 How many sets did Federer drop en route to winning 2005 title?

A: Fed dropped one set in 2005 to Kiefer in the third round.

Q 7 In the modern era which mens player has played in the most Wimbledon tournaments?

A: Connors (This is the only answer i've not been able to independently verify so if you have a different answer we may have to agree to disagree)

Q 8 Who did Boris beat in 1991 quarter final?

A: Boris beat Guy Forget.

Now time for me to start thinking about that US Open quiz...

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Rafa in training

Here are some great photos from my brother Nick (who was lucky enough to have tickets for the Williams Final) of Rafa working on his strokes on the practice courts last Saturday.

It's the first time I've ever seen Rafa on court without his trademark sleeveless T-shirt!

UPDATE: The photo's were actually taken by Sarah Bartholomew, my brother's wife (sorry Sarah). And she has also promised me one of Venus with the trophy plus a shot of some of the BBC pundits. Watch this space...

Monday, 7 July 2008

Wimbledon wrap up

Phew, well I've started to recover from yesterday's final. An amazing match. I've got to say it was so tense at times that it became almost (but not quite!) unenjoyable. Can't imagine what it must have been like for Mirka and Rafa's parents.

So we have a new champion. And a new British hope in Laura Robson. Whilst Andy Murray showed that he has got what it takes, but is not quite there yet. As Nick Bollettieri said in the Independent today:

You only had to see what Rafael Nadal could do to Roger Federer yesterday to know he's capable of making mince out of Titans, let alone out of a hugely promising but still developing 21-year-old in his first Slam quarter-final. Andy got as far as he was meant to. Past the last 16. Out before the semis. He can now go away and get better.

It was so good to see Safin back on fire. Federer and Nadal are on a different level at the moment with Djokovic not far off, but who knows maybe Marat still has one last slam in him. If Ivanisevic can do it. At the very least I hope he can take this form and confidence onto the summer hard courts in the US.

Venus and Serena showed once again that when their heads are in the game you can never underestimate them. Maybe the seeding committee will seed Venus No 1 next year?

And we saw how much the women's game misses Henin. I'm a massive fan of team Williams but whilst they continue to pick and choose their events the tour will miss having an out and out No 1.

Looking ahead to the Olympics, we also saw that on her day Zheng Jie, on home turf, has the potential to take out almost anyone in the Women's game.

And finally I've picked my moment of Wimbledon 2008. It was Rafa serving at Championship point in the 4th set tie break and Roger coming up with the unbelievable backhand passing shot to save the match.

PS - for those of you still waiting for the answers to Wimbledon quiz I'll post them tomorrow or Wednesday.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Congratulations Rafa!

Was that not the best Wimbledon final you've ever seen? Unbelievable stuff.

I'm a Federer fan but if someone had to beat him I couldn't think of a more deserving player than Nadal. He was magnificent today and showed real balls to overcome the set back of failing to convert those match points in the tie break.

And Roger showed all the hallmarks of a true champion: the gutsy comeback from 2 sets down, and the magnanimous comments at the end.

A wonderful and fitting final for what's been a fortnight of superb tennis.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Robson wins Wimbledon

For the second year in a row there's a British Wimbledon winner. Last year Jamie Murray had his moment in the sun, this year Laura Robson won the girls junior event. At long last it looks like British tennis is heading in the right direction.

To put her achievement in context it's worth remembering that players up to 18 can enter the tournament and Robson is only 14. And en route to the title she beat both the No 1 and No 3 seed.

All the signs are that she has a bright future ahead. But it's also worth remembering that the previous British women's player to win junior Wimbledon, Annabel Croft, never made it past the third round of a Slam and quit the game at 21.

So it's great to have a potential future star but it's not a given that she will be able to make the step up. The good news is she seems so grounded and normal that I don't think the success will stop her putting in the required work.

But hey, we can worry about the future another day. For the time being lets bask in the glory of another Brit winning on grass!

Click here to see brief highlights from the BBC including a down the line winner Federer would be proud of.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Whisper it quietly...

... but it looks like at long last British tennis may have unearthed a talented female player. I've not seen her play but Laura Robson's run to the girls juniors final is arguably THE story of Wimbledon.

Robson beat the top seed Melanie Oudin in the second round, and then today the 14 year old beat Romana Tabakova (who is 3 years her senior) 7-5 6-4.

She showed real guts and quality in yesterday's quarter final coming back from 5-3 down to win the first set 7-5. Just the kind of fighting spirit that's been lacking in British women's tennis for too long.

Here's the 30 seconds biog: she's a leftie with a big serve and powerful forehand. Born in Melbourne, lived in Singapore and then moved to the UK when she was 7.

You can watch her post match interview here She comes across as a smart, modest, and well adjusted teenager. Precisely the sort of person who hopefully won't let all the hype go to her head.

In tomorrow's final she plays Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, the No 3 seed from Thailand. Go Laura!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Suddenly it's Thursday night...

... and much of Wimbledon has been and gone.

It has been a great tournament so far with a good mix of upsets and great tennis from Fed, Nadal, Marat, Andy, and Venus and Serena.

What's more we have the dream Williams v Williams final and realistically only Safin stands in the way of a dream Roger v Rafa re-match.

My only regret is that its all gone so quick and I've not watched nearly enough. I'll have to book time off next year!

I had a plane trip with work today and flicking through the papers on the way home I read two good pieces on why the top two in the mens game are the top two.

Richard Williams in the Guardian likens Rafa to Agassi, in the way in which he has prospered at Wimbledon, not by turning himself into a grass-court player, but by making the grass work for him.

Nick Bolletterri in a typically great piece in the Independent explains why being a nice guy helps Federer.

Highlights of Federer v Ancic below

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Hearts and minds

Roger and Rafa both put in dominant displays today, highlighting once again that the top two (plus Djokovic) are still some away ahead of the chasing pack.

Didn't see much of either match but from what I hear Murray was never in it, and the result and the performance have punctured the Murray hype.

Meanwhile, two letters from tonight's London Paper (the free sheet) show the lasting damage done by Andy's 'joke' about supporting anyone but England at football, and that Murray's PR blitz plus on court heroics, have won over some, but not everyone:

I want him to lose
Two years ago "British hero" Andy Murray publicly announced that he wanted England to lose in the World Cup. I'm publicly announcing that I want Andy Murray to lose at Wimbledon.

Matt, Sawbridgeworth.

Murray the Man
In reply to your question "is Andy Murray now a genuine tennis hero?": he definately hasn't done enough to warrant hero status yet but I will admit that he is winning me over. Up until his match on Monday, I always thought of him as a whining adolescent with a bad attitude: a bit like Harry Enfield's Kevin the Teenager character.

But give him credit he seems to have grown up. He showed his passion to the crowd during the Gasquet match and they responded. And you have to admire his fight. He seemed genuinely humbled by the support he received, and he acknowledged the part it played in his victory. I'll be backing Murray from now on.

Miles, Blackheath