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

(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

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


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


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