Monday, 29 December 2008
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
It's been spun nicely by Murray's PR man Stuart Higgins to the UK press, including the Daily Record
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
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
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
"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
on the year gone by.
So tomorrow I'll kick off with the first Top Spin Tennis Blog year end
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
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?).
Friday, 19 December 2008
Saturday, 13 December 2008
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
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
Friday, 12 December 2008
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).
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
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
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
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.