INTERNATIONAL www.tennisworldsa.com Issue number 7
The Kingslayer Can Soderling Do It Again?
We interview Sweden’s tennis icon
Masters Series 1000 Rafa Rocks Rome Federer Falls Short in Madrid
Interviews Jeff Coetzee Elena Dementieva Nick Bollettieri TennisWorld sa
Tennis World South Africa Published by Matchball Tennis
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Roland Garros – Will Roger Federer triumph again?
Contributors Pietie Norval, Danie Morkel, Matt Traverso, Jaco Burger, Wendy Chadwick (SATA) Collaboration Tennis World SA is published in collaboration with Matchpoint Tennis Magazine (Italy). Special thanks to director Daniele Azzolini and his editing team. Matchpoint Tennis Magazine, Via Santa Giovanna Elisabetta 36/F 00189 Roma Tel: + 00 39 063 638 2189 firstname.lastname@example.org Nelize Ernst – Subscriptions & Advertising Sales COPY AND CONTENT EDITOR: Philip Maré CREATIVE: Simone “Fela” Micheletti Business Details MatchballTennis (Pty) Ltd 85 Jonkershoek Road Stellenbosch, South Africa email@example.com Advertising firstname.lastname@example.org Subscriptions email@example.com Marketing & PR Nicolette Booyens firstname.lastname@example.org www.tennisworldsa.com
In this issue
Just when Rafael Nadal seemed to be going through a golden period, following his wins in Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Rome, he was brutally knocked out of “his” Roland Garros by an old foe – Robin Soderling. That day ended a string of 31 consecutive match wins at the French Open, a tournament where he had never lost before. “I made the wrong tactical choice,” Rafa said at the time. “I made things easy for him by hitting short. I am not looking for excuses, I lost and that’s all.” Perhaps he should have made a few excuses, considering the state of his knees after event.
But it’s a new year for the Spaniard, and the Nadal that showed up in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid was a very fit one indeed. He showed great feel and awesome power during those weeks, and is as confident as we have seen him in many months. Of course everyone is hoping that Federer and Nadal will once again contest the title match at Roland Garros. The Swiss is definitely one of the strongest players on the Tour, despite his poor form of late. Fatherhood seems to have given him even more confidence and mental toughness, and though he says that he isn’t thinking about the Grand Slam (all four Majors in the same year), it is hard to believe him.
“I won’t move the entire calendar around,” he said about chasing the Grand Slam. “If it happens, it’s great. But it’s not really my number one goal. Similarly, I haven’t put a number on how many Grand Slams I want to try and win. Whatever happens, happens. I really want to just enjoy the Tour, and that’s what I’m doing at the moment. Obviously even more so as a dad.”
On the women’s side, the year’s second Slam is a little less predictable. There are a number of contenders, like the Williams sisters (who are unstoppable when they decide to play) and the two in-form Belgians (Henin and the young Wickmayer). The Serbians also have a shout with Ivanovic and Jankovic playing well, and the Russians are always a threat.
As far as South African tennis is concerned, the recent Davis Cup victory over Finland has once again opened the door to regaining our place in the World Group. South Africa has very strong doubles teams, and our singles play is also improving. One can only hope that Kevin Anderson will place his country’s interests above his own and join the team later this year.
We have some awesome features in this month’s issue of TWSA, as well as a ton of interviews with some of the best players in the world. I hope you enjoy this edition, as well as all of the wonderful tennis that will be on television over the next couple of weeks.
Federico Federico Coppini email@example.com
TennisWorld #7 NEWS
14 32 10 50
Rome Masters 1000 Madrid Masters 1000 Gossip Soweto Open
PLAYER FEATURES 22 24 26 28 30 53
Fernando Verdasco Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Ernests Gulbis Ana Ivanovic Elena Dementieva Dustin Brown
FEATURES 8 Questions and Answers 40 French Open 56 Masters Series 1000 Events
INTERVIEWS 47 64 70 73
Robin Soderling Nick Bollettieri Jeff Coetzee Nikala Scholtz
PRO TALK 58 59 61 62 67
My Africa The Reason Junior Injuries Nutrition for Tennis Players Tips for Doubles
RANKINGS 4 ATP Rankings 6 WTA Rankings MISC
ÂŠ 2010 TWSA. Permission Required to re-use any information in printed or digital format.
ATP SINGLES RANKINGS 24 May 2010 Federer, Roger (SUI) Age: 28 POINTS 10,030 Nadal, Rafael (ESP) Age: 23 POINTS 6,880 Djokovic, Novak (SRB) Age: 22 POINTS 6,405 Murray, Andy (GBR) Age: 22 POINTS 5,565 Davydenko, Nikolay (RUS) Age: 28 POINTS 5,115 Del Potro, Juan Martin (ARG) Age: 21 POINTS 5,735 Soderling, Robin (SWE) Age: 25 Title: 1 16W - 5L POINTS 4,595 Roddick, Andy (USA) Age: 27 POINTS 4,600 Verdasco, Fernando Age: POINTS 3,645 Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried (FRA) Age: 24 POINTS 3,185 4
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100
Ferrer, David (ESP) Cilic, Marin (CRO) Gonzalez, Fernando (CHI) Youzhny, Mikhail (RUS) Monfils, Gael (FRA) Ljubicic, Ivan (CRO) Berdych, Tomas (CZE) Ferrero, Juan Carlos (ESP) Isner, John (USA) Stepanek, Radek (CZE) Almagro, Nicolas (ESP) Querrey, Sam (USA) Haas, Tommy (USA) Wawrinka, Stanislas (SUI) Monaco, Juan (ARG) Robredo, Tommy (ESP) Melzer, Jurgen (AUT) Gulbis, Ernests (LAT) Bellucci, Thomaz (BRA) Baghdatis, Marcos (CYP) Lopez, Feliciano (ESP) Simon, Gilles (FRA) Hewitt, Lleyton (AUS) Montanes, Albert (ESP) Kohlschreiber, Philipp (GER) Karlovic, Ivo (CRO) Hanescu, Victor (ROU) Benneteau, Julien (FRA) Petzschner, Philipp (GER) Garcia-Lopez, Guillermo (ESP) Troicki, Viktor (SRB) Berrer, Michael (GER) Tipsarevic, Janko (SRB) Zeballos, Horacio (ARG) Gasquet, Richard (FRA) Chardy, Jeremy (FRA) Andreev, Igor (RUS) Llodra, Michael (FRA) Schwank, Eduardo (ARG) de Bakker, Thiemo (NED) Mayer, Florian (GER) Kubot, Lukasz (POL) Becker, Benjamin (GER) Chela, Juan Ignacio (ARG) Cuevas, Pablo (URU) Dolgopolov, Alexandr (UKR) Mayer, Leonardo (ARG) Giraldo, Santiago (COL) Mathieu, Paul-Henri (FRA) Starace, Potito (ITA) Sela, Dudi (ISR) Rochus, Olivier (BEL) Stakhovsky, Sergiy (UKR) Greul, Simon (GER) Robert, Stephane (FRA) Seppi, Andreas (ITA) Serra, Florent (FRA) Chiudinelli, Marco (SUI) Nieminen, Jarkko (FIN) Falla, Alejandro (COL) Luczak, Peter (AUS) Istomin, Denis (UZB) Korolev, Evgeny (KAZ) Beck, Andreas (GER) Hajek, Jan (CZE) Clement, Arnaud (FRA) Golubev, Andrey (KAZ) Lu, Yen-Hsun (TPE) Schuettler, Rainer (GER) Marchenko, Illya (UKR) Lacko, Lukas (SVK) Russell, Michael (USA) Blake, James (USA) Malisse, Xavier (BEL) Beck, Karol (SVK) Gimeno-Traver, Daniel (ESP) Granollers, Marcel (ESP) Brands, Daniel (GER) Ram, Rajeev (USA) Mello, Ricardo (BRA) Massu, Nicolas (CHI) Fognini, Fabio (ITA) Anderson, Kevin (RSA) Przysiezny, Michal (POL) Lorenzi, Paolo (ITA) Riba, Pere (ESP) Fish, Mardy (USA) Ginepri, Robby (USA) Brown, Dustin (JAM) Gil, Frederico (POR)
ATP DOUBLES RANKINGS 24 May 2010
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 19 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
Bryan, Bob (USA) Age: 31 POINTS 10,990 Bryan, Mike (USA) Age: 31 POINTS 10,990 Nestor, Daniel (CAN) Age: 37 POINTS 10,880 Zimonjic, Nenad (SRB) Age: 33 POINTS 10,880 Dlouhy, Lukas (CZE) Age: 27 POINTS 7,145 Paes, Leander (IND) Age: 36 POINTS 6,520 Bhupathi, Mahesh (IND) Age: 35 POINTS 5,380 Knowles, Mark (BAH) Age: 38 POINTS 5,135 Moodie, Wesley (RSA) Age: 31 POINTS 4,415 Norman, Dick (BEL) Age: POINTS 3,880
Marach, Oliver (AUT) Kubot, Lukasz (POL) Mirnyi, Max (BLR) Aspelin, Simon (SWE) Hanley, Paul (AUS) Ram, Andy (ISR) Matkowski, Marcin (POL) Fyrstenberg, Mariusz (POL) Cermak, Frantisek (CZE) Mertinak, Michal (SVK) Granollers, Marcel (ESP) Robredo, Tommy (ESP) Querrey, Sam (USA) Lopez, Marc (ESP) Melzer, Jurgen (AUT) Knowle, Julian (AUT) Isner, John (USA) Kohlmann, Michael (GER) Benneteau, Julien (FRA) Lindstedt, Robert (SWE) Cuevas, Pablo (URU) Soares, Bruno (BRA) Kas, Christopher (GER) Butorac, Eric (USA) Polasek, Filip (SVK) Kerr, Jordan (AUS) Tecau, Horia (ROU) Melo, Marcelo (BRA) Ram, Rajeev (USA) Damm, Martin (CZE) Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried (FRA) Brunstrom, Johan (SWE) Rojer, Jean-Julien (AHO) Llodra, Michael (FRA) Clement, Arnaud (FRA) Qureshi, Aisam-Ul-Haq (PAK) Zeballos, Horacio (ARG) Ventura, Santiago (ESP) Levinsky, Jaroslav (CZE) Ullyett, Kevin (ZIM)
NATIONAL ATP Singles The national ranking is the average ranking of the 3 best players of each country
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Spain: USA: France: Croatia: Russia: Argentina: Serbia: Switzerland: Czech Republic: Germany:
7,3 16,3 19 21,3 22 25 29,3 31 37,3 38,7
NATIONAL ATP Doubles The national ranking is the average ranking of the 3 best players of each country
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Usa: Poland: Austria: Czech Republic: Spain: India: France: Serbia: Brazil: Australia:
8,3 15,6 20,6 21,3 22,3 22,3 38 38,6 44,3 44,3
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Singles Rankings 24 May 2010 Williams, Serena (USA) Age: 29 POINTS 8,475 Williams, Venus (USA) Age: 30 POINTS 6,386 Wozniacki, Caroline (DEN) Age: 20 POINTS 5,630 Jankovic, Jelena (SRB) Age: 25 POINTS 4,900 Dementieva, Elena (RUS) Age: 29 POINTS 4,965 Kuznetsova, Svetlana (RUS) Age: 29 POINTS 5,620 Stosur, Samantha (AUS) Age: 21 POINTS 4,405 Radwanska, Agnieszka (POL) Age: 21 POINTS 4,190 Safina, Dinara (RUS) Age: 24 POINTS 4,156 Clijsters, Kim (BEL) Age: 27 POINTS 3,890 6
11 11 12 12 13 13 14 14 15 15 17 16 18 17 19 18 16 19 20 20 21 21 22 22 23 23 26 24 25 25 27 26 28 27 29 28 30 29 31 30 32 31 33 32 34 33 35 34 36 35 37 36 38 37 39 38 40 39 41 40 42 41 43 42 44 43 45 44 46 45 47 46 48 47 49 48 50 49 51 50 52 51 53 52 54 53 55 54 56 55 57 56 58 57 59 58 60 59 61 60 62 61 63 62 64 63 65 64 66 65 67 66 68 67 69 68 70 69 71 70 72 71 73 72 74 73 75 74 76 75 77 76 78 77 79 78 80 79 81 80 82 81 83 82 84 83 85 84 86 85 87 86 88 87 89 88 90 89 91 90 92 91 93 92 94 93 95 94 96 95 97 96 98 97 99 98 98 99 86 100
Azarenka, Victoria Li, Na Sharapova, Maria Bartoli, Marion Pennetta, Flavia Wickmayer, Yanina Schiavone, Francesca Peer, Shahar Rezai, Aravane Petrova, Nadia Martinez Sanchez, Maria Jose Zvonareva, Vera Henin, Justine Zheng, Jie Safarova, Lucie Hantuchova, Daniela Cibulkova, Dominika Kleybanova, Alisa Pavlyuchenkova, Anastasia Kirilenko, Maria Bondarenko, Alona Dulgheru, Alexandra Errani, Sara Cirstea, Sorana Bondarenko, Kateryna Shvedova, Yaroslava Oudin, Melanie Govortsova, Olga Suarez Navarro, Carla Bacsinszky, Timea Petkovic, Andrea Ivanovic, Ana Medina Garrigues, Anabel Vesnina, Elena Dulko, Gisela Razzano, Virginie Szavay, Agnes Wozniak, Aleksandra Lisicki, Sabine Peng, Shuai Rybarikova, Magdalena Hercog, Polona Dushevina, Vera Benesova, Iveta Bammer, Sybille Garbin, Tathiana Sevastova, Anastasija Czink, Melinda Parra Santonja, Arantxa Vinci, Roberta Schnyder, Patty Baltacha, Elena Kvitova, Petra Kerber, Angelique Arvidsson, Sofia Tanasugarn, Tamarine Barrois, Kristina Martic, Petra King, Vania Kulikova, Regina Flipkens, Kirsten Date Krumm, Kimiko Zahlavova Strycova, Barbora Cornet, Alize Brianti, Alberta Voegele, Stefanie Goerges, Julia Kudryavtseva, Alla Zakopalova, Klara Zahlavova, Sandra Pironkova, Tsvetana Groenefeld, Anna-lena Chan, Yung-jan Coin, Julie Malek, Tatjana Voracova, Renata Hradecka, Lucie Meusburger, Yvonne Chang, Kai-chen Olaru, Ioana Raluca Mirza, Sania Rodionova, Anastasia Lapushchenkova, Anna Molik, Alicia Parmentier, Pauline Gallovits, Edina Duque Marino, Mariana Amanmuradova, Akgul Makarova, Ekaterina Morita, Ayumi
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Doubles Rankings 24 May 2010
12 11 11 12 13 13 14 14 15 15 16 16 18 17 19 18 20 19 17 20 21 21 25 22 24 23 22 24 23 25 26 26 27 27 28 28 29 29 30 30 31 31 32 32 33 33 35 34 34 35 36 36 37 37 39 38 38 39 43 40 41 41 42 42 40 43 46 44 44 45 47 46 50 47 48 48 49 49 51 50
Huber, Liezel (USA) Age: 34 POINTS 8,530 Williams, Serena (USA) Age: 29 POINTS 8,440 Williams, Venus (USA) Age: 30 POINTS 8,440 Black, Cara (ZIM) Age: 31 POINTS 8,335 Martinez Sanchez, Maria Jose (ESP) Age: 28 POINTS 6,850 Llagostera Vives, Nuria (ESP) Age: 30 POINTS 6,850 Stubbs, Rennae (AUS) Age: 39 POINTS 6,145 Stosur, Samantha (AUS) Age: 26 POINTS 6,060 Petrova, Nadia (RUS) Age: 28 POINTS 5,080 Dulko, Gisela (ARG) Age: POINTS 5,080
Ruano Pascual, Virginia Pennetta, Flavia Kleybanova, Alisa Medina Garrigues, Anabel Yan, Zi Zheng, Jie Kirilenko, Maria Schiavone, Francesca Makarova, Ekaterina Mattek-sands, Bethanie Peng, Shuai Hsieh, Su-wei King, Vania Peschke, Kveta Raymond, Lisa Vesnina, Elena Chan, Yung-jan Srebotnik, Katarina Benesova, Iveta Zahlavova Strycova, Barbora Niculescu, Monica Radwanska, Agnieszka Groenefeld, Anna-lena Kudryavtseva, Alla Chuang, Chia-jung Hradecka, Lucie Azarenka, Victoria Rodionova, Anastasia Garbin, Tathiana Govortsova, Olga Dushevina, Vera Errani, Sara Amanmuradova, Akgul Rosolska, Alicja Hlavackova, Andrea Hantuchova, Daniela Jans, Klaudia Vinci, Roberta Schnyder, Patty Peer, Shahar
NATIONAL WTA Singles The national ranking is the average ranking of the 3 best players of each country
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Russia Usa Belgium Italy France China Slovakia Spain Czech Republic Ukraine
6,6 13,3 16,3 21,6 26,3 28,6 34 34 47,3 56,6
NATIONAL WTA Doubles The national ranking is the average ranking of the 3 best players of each country
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
USA Spain Russia China Australia Italy Czech Republic Taipei Poland Belarus
2 7,3 13 17,3 17,7 23 27,7 28 41 65
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
WHICH WAS THE LONGEST FINAL IN A SLAM TOURNAMENT?
WHICH COUNTRIES HAVEN’T WON A GRAND SLAM TITLE IN MANY YEARS?
The true marathon runner of the Grand Slams was Mats Wilander. He won the 1988 US Open final against Ivan Lendl after 4 hours and 55 minutes of play – a record that stands to this day. That same year Wilander also won the Australian Open final in another epic match against the local favourite Pat Cash. It went to five sets and was the first time the tournament was held on hard courts.
During the Open Era (since 1968), men and women from 22 different countries have won Grand Slams. Among these, the country that has experienced the longest drought is Italy. Its last (and only) success dates back to 1976, when Adriano Panatta defeated Harold Solomon in Paris. The United Kingdom follows behind Italy: their last success was in 1977 when Virginia Wade managed to win at Wimbledon and had the trophy handed to her by Queen Elizabeth.
As far as the most titled countries go, Germany has been dry for more than a decade (Steffi Graf in Paris in 1999), and the Czech Republic for twelve years (Peter Korda in Australia and Jana Novotna at Wimbledon in 1998). It should be noted that the Czech Republic is one of the three countries (together with the USA and Australia) to have won all the Grand Slam tournaments in both the men’s and women’s events.
Here are the four longest finals in ascending order: 1988 Australian Open Wilander defeated Pat Cash 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6 in 4 hours and 23 minutes 1982 Roland Garros Wilander defeated Guillermo Vilas 1-6, 7-6, 6-0, 6-4 in 4 hours and 42 minutes 2008 Wimbledon Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 in 4 hours and 48 minutes 1988 US Open Wilander defeated Ivan Lendl 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in 4 hours and 55 minutes
WHY IS THE WORD ‘LOVE’ USED TO INDICATE THE SCORE OF ZERO POINTS IN TENNIS? (Nicole Pufeil)
HAS A TENNIS PLAYER EVER WON A SET WITHOUT CONCEDING A SINGLE POINT?
The most popular theory is that expression derives from the French l’oeuf (“egg”). The shape of the zero and the egg are similar, hence the use of the term. Another theory claims that the term comes from the English expression “Neither for love nor money”. A third and somewhat more complicated hypothesis involves the Flemish word “lof”, which means “honour”. Assuming that there was prize money for every match, the expression “amme lof spelen” would have been used to refer to anyone who scored zero points, indicating that they had played only for honour.
This is incredibly rare, and is commonly referred to as a “golden set.” It has only happened once in an official match: In 1983 American Bill Scanlon (who is also famous for having given John McEnroe so much trouble) beat Marcos Howcevar in the first round of the WCT Gold Coast Classic tournament at Delray Beach 6-2, 6-0.
FEDERER’S LOVE FOR AFRICA After conquering his first Grand Slam as a father, Roger Federer felt the need to return to Africa: “As a child I used to travel to Africa often because my mother is South African. She has been the real inspiration for this project.” The Roger Federer Foundation was created in 2003 to assist disadvantaged African children, and every year the Swiss player gets directly involved by visiting the regions covered by his project. This year he went to Kore Roba in Ethiopia, where he played table tennis with his fans. He admitted to having become emotional and truly moved when the children welcomed him on his arrival, singing “Number one, number one!”
SHAKIRA FEAT. NADAL She’s been seen attending his matches, and he’s been seen starring in her music videos. They’ve also been seen dining and hanging out together, but Nadal maintains that they are just friends. Still, we wonder if Xisca (Nadal’s girlfriend) and Antonio (Shakira’s boyfriend) are happy about the two friends spending so much time together…
ELENA DEMENTIEVA Elena Dementieva has signed a new endorsement contract with Maui Jim, the Hawaiian manufacturer of sunglasses, and is now their new global brand ambassador. “I’m excited to partner with Maui Jim Sunglasses, as I really like the durability and style of their products,” she said as the ink was drying on the contract. The company’s International Marketing Manager was beaming after the deal was done, praising the Russian star for her “style and personality.”
BROOKLYN AND ANA IN BIKINIS For once the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition actually had something to do with sport. Brooklyn Decker featured on the cover of this year’s edition, and while she may not play a sport herself, at least she’s married to Andy Roddick, who plays enough tennis for the both of them. Ana Ivanovic also appeared in the magazine – one of her photos features her lying on a bed of pink tennis balls.
SHOPPING PALS Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka might be fierce rivals when it comes to competing for titles, but off-court they are great friends. Their latest photo shoot recently took place in Dubai, where they released a double interview on the basic premise of their friendship: shopping. Caroline only buys Stella McCartney, Malene Birger, D&G, Louis Vitton and Chanel. On the other hand, Victoria admits to having purchased over 25 items from Gucci. However, both agree that “you can’t go wrong with a tight dress, high heels and sunglasses.”
Dunlop Signs Verdasco W
hile Dunlop has lost players like Tommy Haas and Tomas Berdych to rival company Head, they have managed to pick up a few prominent ones as well. Elsewhere in this issue of TennisWorld we talk about Nikolay Davydenko’s new contract with the British firm, but the Russian isn’t the only new player to join the brand’s ranks. Spanish Davis Cup hero and current world number 12 Fernando Verdasco recently announced that he will also start using Dunlop racquets, strings and acces-
sories in the very near future. “Becoming a brand ambassador for Dunlop is a very proud moment for me and I look forward to joining the great players already associated with the brand. I am continuing to work hard and with help from Dunlop I hope to be able to make this my most successful year to date,” Verdasco said shortly after signing his contract. His words were echoed by those of Barry Leach, MD of Dunlop Sports: “Fernando is a world-class
addition to Dunlop and exemplifies the quality we look for at the brand. He plays an exciting style of tennis and if he can build on last year’s performances I would expect him to be a main fixture in the ATP Top Ten this year”. Like Davydenko, Verdasco will also take part in the D-Squad project, which is a Dunlop initiative aimed at identifying junior tennis talent from around the world.
Rafael Nadal Conquers
the Eternal City
The Spaniards have totally dominated the clay court season this year, and nowhere was their supremacy more evident than in Rome. Rafael Nadal lead no fewer than three Spaniards to the semi-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia – it is only the third time in the history of Masters Series events that this has happened. He lead from the front, but in the final the Spanish general turned on one of his own men, shooting down David Ferrer in straight sets. It wasn’t all about the Spaniards, however, as some fresh faces also managed to stir up trouble among the seeds. by Stefano Semeraro
n Monte Carlo they handed him the castle without a fight: a mere 14 games lost in the entire week, with a 6-0 6-1 thrashing of Fernando Verdasco in the final. In Rome at least they made him scale a few walls and knock down some doors, but in the end the result wasn’t any different. David Ferrer was the last man standing, but even his best efforts couldn’t land him a set, and he finally surrendered 7-5, 6-2. It wasn’t as if Ferrer came into the match unprepared, either: he has won more matches than anyone else on the Tour this year, but no amount of victories over other players can prepare you for the onslaught of Rafael Nadal in full flow. But the question on everyone’s minds has been this: “Is he back to his 2008 best?” It’s hard to tell. Perhaps we can say that he is playing the best tennis he is capable of at the moment, and that’s enough to win most tournaments on clay. We don’t know if he’ll ever be the same player he was in 2008, when he absolutely demolished Roger Federer in the final at Roland Garros. That player probably died when Nadal’s knees gave in last year. The new Nadal is still fierce, fiery and capable of overwhelming nearly everyone, but particularly observant fans will agree that he is half a step slower in his court coverage, and his shots don’t have quite as much bite as they used to. As well as he played in Monte Carlo and Rome, it is worth pointing out that he never had to face a Top Ten opponent on his way to the title (Verdasco was not yet back in the Top Ten when they played the final in the principality). The men who have given him so many headaches over the past year – Davydenko, Del Potro, Soderling, Djokovic 14
– are all injured or playing poorly. He hasn’t been tested by the very best, but in Rome he was still tested, even if it was by a relatively unknown young Latvian. Ernest Gulbis pushed Nadal further in Rome than anyone since Roger Federer in 2006, and at times it looked as if he might walk away with the win. His booming serves and vicious ground strokes often left Nadal helpless, unable to contend with the youngster’s power from the back of the court. After two hours and 45 minutes of slugging it out, it was Gulbis’ silly mistakes as much as Nadal’s incredible fighting spirit that saw the Spaniard triumph. Had it been a faster surface, Nadal would surely not have stood a chance. But this is clay, and even when the going gets tough he always seems to find a way to hang in there. Gulbis has been neglecting his talent for years – he’s often been touted as a future Top Ten player – but now he finally seems ready to take his tennis seriously and work hard at it. With Del Potro out until after the US Open, Gulbis might very well take over the roll as Nadal’s tormentor on faster surfaces. He might not have the height or the power of the Argentinean, but he’s still strong enough to constitute a serious threat to the Spaniard’s
efforts at Wimbledon and on the American hard courts. Nadal’s Knights If Nadal is the King of Clay, his fellow Spaniards are certainly the princes. No major clay tournament this year has been decided without at least one Spaniard contesting the final, and in most cases actually winning it. Verdasco arrived in Rome exhausted from a stellar campaign in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, but he still found the resolve to beat then world number two Novak Djokovic in an epic quarter-final. He finally ran out of steam in the semis, but there he could pass the torch to yet another Spanish player, David Ferrer, who has been on an equally impressive run. Between them and Juan Carlos Ferrero (who sadly fell out in the first round here), they have won everything that Nadal has allowed them to by not participating in those events. Like a good king, Nadal lets his princes conquer the minor fodder, but reserves the greatest prizes in the realm for himself. “I didn’t play at the level I did in Monte Carlo,” Nadal said after lifting the trophy. “Winning the tournament in Monte Carlo
losing 14 games doesn’t happen every week, not having to fight like I did here, having to go through some critical moments, against Wawrinka, Gulbis, and David in the first set of the final. I’m probably happier winning without playing my best. It was more of a mental thing.” As if his dominance hasn’t been enough already, Nadal thinks he’s getting better as the season goes on. “Now I feel more confident in my movements, I am
playing well again also on my backhand and this is crucial because it gives me more options and allows me to run less. I served well. After my victories I was overjoyed because when you spend months without winning, perhaps getting to the semi-finals or quarterfinals without feeling ready for the decisive step, to discover that you are still able to get to the end gives you great joy.” The last player to rule the clay courts so decisively was the great Bjorn Borg, who of course retired at the tender age of 26. That’s just three years older than Nadal is now, and many have wondered if he can keep up his explosive style of play for that long. “But look at what age he had started: 15, which makes it 10-11 years on the Tour, and that is a lot,” he said of Borg’s career. “For the moment I want to carry on, but I don’t know what will happen in the future, tennis wears you out. Do I miss Federer in the final? We have had some great matches, but what matters is to win. And I am also glad to see some of my Spanish friends making it to the final.” Federer Starts Clay Season Badly Roger Federer hasn’t exactly been playing
stellar tennis since winning his 16th Grand Slam title in Australia earlier this year. Granted, his poor performance does have some mitigating circumstances. A lung infection kept him out of Dubai, and he was still suffering from its effects in Miami and Indian Wells. The lack of matches has meant that he hasn’t been as sharp as he needs to be on court, which was clearly evident in his losses to Tomas Berdych and Marcos Baghdatis. In
both matches he had several opportunities – even match points – to close out the contest, but he just couldn’t get it done. That troubling trend continued in Rome, where he handed the match to Ernest Gulbis on a silver platter, even though he was in full control of it for much of the first two sets. Again, not being match-fit played a large role in this loss, but we are used to the Swiss star rising above such petty considerations. At least he made it an interesting contest by saving six match points, but his fans won’t find that to be much of a consolation.
find an answer for the Spaniards relentless defensive skills. Novak Djokovic continued his poor run of form in Rome, and though he put up a good fight against Fernando Verdasco in the quarter-finals, he simply couldn’t recapture the magic that saw him make the final here last year. The Serb seems to be in freefall, with both his serve and his groundstrokes abandoning him at key moments of important matches. A couple of months ago people were talking about the possibility of Djokovic taking over the number one spot by the time Wimbledon rolls around, but now it seems that he might not even be in the Top Five by then. A new arena for the sport’s finest gladiators This year saw the opening of the new centre court at the Foro Italico, which increases the seating capacity of the arena by nearly 3000. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a roof, and Rome’s new spot in the tennis calendar does make it more vulnerable to rain. Luckily that wasn’t much of an issue this week, and the organisers have already unveiled a plan to have a rain cover installed for next year’s event. It truly is a gorgeous centre court – one of the most beautiful in the world – and is sure to only increase the stature of this already prestigious tournament.
The also-rans Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has made it clear that he has big plans for himself on clay. The Frenchman has never really taken to the surface, often skipping events during this part of the year – even the French Open – due to injury and a general lack of interest. But all of that has changed now, and he’s determined to make his mark on the red stuff. He’s been doing pretty well so far this year, but almost every time he’s run into a red-hot Spaniard, and Rome was no exception. There were moments of brilliance against Ferrer in the quarter-finals, but Tsonga simply couldn’t TennisWorld sa
The King of Colombian Tennis I
t was a week of firsts in Rome for Santiago Giraldo. He recorded his very first win over a former world number one, and made it to the third round of a Masters event for the first time in his career. All of this from a man who struggled more in the qualification rounds than he did in the main draw. He had to come back from a set down against both Nicolas Lapentti and Jarkko Nieminen in back-to-back matches. After having such a hard time with fellow qualifiers, one would think that he’d quickly lose in the first round of the actual championship. Instead, he absolutely thrashed former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-0, 6-3. It’s worth pointing out that Ferrero has been one of the best players on clay this season, having already won two tournaments. In the next round he took out another veteran of the Tour in Michael Llodra with an easy 6-3, 6-2 win. It required a player of JoWilfried Tsonga’s quality to finally put a stop to the young Colombian’s run, and even then it was a tough challenge for the Frenchman. So what’s Giraldo’s secret? “Every time I go into the court I try to give my best,” he said. “The tougher my opponent, the more I feel motivated to give the best of me. Against Ferrero I was able to express my tennis and be very aggressive”.
The win against Ferrero was his second against a Top 20 opponent this year. At the Australian Open earlier in 2010, Giraldo recorded a good win over Tommy Robredo in the first round, and along with fellow countryman Alejandro Falla became the first pair of Colombians to make it to the second round of the same Slam. Giraldo had only played three Slams up to that point – Roland Garros in 2007-2009 – and always had to qualify. Now, however, his ranking is high enough to gain direct entry into Grand Slam events.
Giraldo is the third Colombian to reach the third round of a Masters 1000 event. Mauricio Hadad reached the same stage in 1995 in Montreal, and in 2007 Falla managed to make it to the semi-finals in Miami. “Santiago’s results are not surprising,” Hadad said of his countryman’s success. “It was only a matter of waiting for him to grow. Now he must have the humility to continue along this path and the goal of the Top 30 will be within his reach.” After his success in Rome, Giraldo made his way into the Top 60 for the first time, and is currently at a career-high ranking of 55. He might soon even surpass his friend Falla to become the Colombian number one. “My results did not come by chance,” said Giraldo, who began playing tennis at the age of five. “They are the result of a several factors: hard work, athletic maturity, good physical preparation, more focused tactics and a better approach to the crucial moments of a match. During my winter
training I had decided to approach my life and my career with great awareness, focussing on what I wanted to be and therefore mature both as a person and a tennis player.” Colombia now has two players in the Top 100 for only the second time in 30 years. The first time was in 1976, when Ivan Molina was at number 40 and Alvaro Betancur at number 68. Giraldo turned professional in 2006, and for the first three years of his career spent most of his time playing Challenger events. He won seven of them before he started playing on the main tour regularly. “This year has started very well and this was my goal,” Giraldo said soon before leaving Rome. “I am growing and I have found the right path. I must just carry on like this. I am very pleased by the way I am playing, I am full of confidence and motivation.” Now that he doesn’t have to qualify for major events anymore, we are sure to see a lot more of this young man from Colombia.
COLOMBIANS IN THE TOP-100 1976 - Ivan Molina: number 40 1976 - Alvaro Betancur: number 68 1983 - Jairo Velasco: number 49 1999 - Mauricio Hadad: number 78 2010 - Alejandro Falla: number 58 2010 - Santiago Giraldo: number 55
Everyone Else’s Mistakes (ITF, ATP, WTA) by Rino Tommasi
ow that the dust has settled and the results from the Rome Masters 1000 are in, we can finally confirm that Rafael Nadal has completely recovered from the ailments that have held him back over the past year. He stole the show by winning a record fifth title at the Foro Italico, but there were plenty of other stories to follow during the week. One of the biggest ones was the emergence of the young Latvian, Ernest Gulbis. The tennis world has known about his talents for a long time, but it’s good to see that he is finally taking the sport seriously. David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco also provided for some great entertainment during the course of the event, and both of them are playing some of the best tennis of their lives. They are definitely worth watching out for at Roland Garros. Indeed they went a long way to making up for lacklustre performances by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, as well as the absence of Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Potro and Nikolay Davydenko. I write these notes in a press room left as deserted as the stands on the gloomiest day of the tournament – the first day of the second week. Since the Italian Federation decided to change the tournament’s dates, it is much more susceptible to inclement weather, which is a shame. I have been dwelling on
this topic because I believe that it is fair to set the historical record straight. It is not true that they have been forced to accept a decision made by the International Federation and the two tennis unions (ATP and WTA). As a matter of fact, the German Federation, which at the time wanted to protect two of its events (the World Cup in Dusseldorf and the women’s tournament in Berlin) paid the Italian Federation US$450 000. Since the German Federation is not a charity organization, it is more than evident that they were prepared to pay that amount only because the Italian Federation could have said no. Unfortunately, that sum was only paid once, whereas the consequences of date change will be felt for a very long time. Another situation that damages the Italian tournaments is the unfortunate decision by the two unions to reduce the draws of events like the Rome Masters to 56 (instead of 64). In this case, the Rome organizers have nothing to do with the decision, as it is entirely dictated by ATP and WTA. These two bodies are at the whim of the stronger players, who prefer to join the tournament a day later in the second round, even if this means risking an early exit(see Federer). I apologise for my lengthy complaints, which will no doubt reinforce the notion that I repeat myself too often, both when I write and when I talk. The problem is that I am stubborn, especially when I know a great deal about a specific topic.
net. Of course the ultimate tests still await Nadal in Madrid and Roland Garros, where he will also have a chance to influence his ranking more than he was able to do in Rome. He won this tournament last year, so he couldn’t pick up any points, but in Madrid and especially Paris he has the opportunity to climb the rankings once again. Gulbis provided an interesting distraction for tennis fans, who have been disappointed by the poor performances of Djokovic and Murray, who not so long ago were hot on the heels of Federer and Nadal. It’s always nice to mix things up with some new faces, but hopefully those old faces will rediscover their form soon. With both the French Open and Wimbledon on the horizon, now is the time for them to do so.
Anyway, I think Nadal’s comeback has been confirmed here in Rome. Though he did play well in Monte Carlo, his triumph there was too easy to be considered a clear indication of his form. Here, however, he was made to work for his wins, especially against Gulbis and, to some extent, against Ferrer. Some continue to be surprised by the extra errors that the “new” Nadal is making, but I believe these are more than made up for by his newfound aggression, especially at the
Rome Men Scorecard Rafael Nadal 9/10
After playing some of the most perfect tennis of his career in Monte Carlo, Rome was bound to be a letdown in some ways. Indeed he didn’t play as well here as he had in the principality, but he was still strong enough to lift the trophy in the end. It’s hard to deny that the pre-injury Rafa was a couple of steps quicker, but Nadal is trying to compensate for that by adding some more variety to his game. Will it be enough to reclaim the Rolland Garros title? We’ll have to wait and see.
David Ferrer 8/10
Not too many people would have bet on Ferrer making the final, but he overcame a tough draw to make it to the championship match. He may not
be the most talented player on the Tour, but nobody works harder at his game than the Spaniard and his persistence has truly paid off this clay court season. His defensive capabilities are truly breathtaking, and he makes his opponents toil for every single point. This was a great week for Ferrer, and one that bodes very well for the French Open.
Ernest Gulbis 8/10
Tennis enthusiasts have long known that Ernest Gulbis is one of the most talented players in the world. Unfortunately, he’s never really seemed particularly keen on making the most of his abilities, opting to party instead of practice. But the young man has matured in recent months, and has finally started taking his tennis seriously. An explosive
serve and tremendous ground strokes are complemented by a fantastic net game. Gulbis is definitely one to keep an eye on, especially at Wimbledon.
Fernando Verdasco 8/10
Verdasco had played 14 matches in 19 days before his loss to David Ferrer in the semi-finals at the Foro Italico – many of them three setters. He’s been incredible on the clay this year, and we’ll forgive him for letting that one match slip by. Rest up, Fernando, the French Open is going to be a great opportunity for you!
Juan Carlos Ferrero 4/10
In one of the biggest upsets of the year, Juan Carlos Ferrero lost to qualifier Santiago Giraldo in the first round. The
scoreline wasn’t very healthy either – 6-3, 6-0. Ferrero has played such awesome tennis on the clay this season that this was a real shocker. He seemed truly lost out there, and when the match ended he looked almost relieved. We just hope he can recapture his form for Roland Garros.
Roger Federer 4/10
As has been the trend over the past few months, Federer got himself in to an incredible position to win his match against Gulbis, only to throw it all away. It was one of the poorest performances we’ve seen from the world number one in months – maybe years. He has a lot of work to do before he can even think about defending his title in Paris. Come on Roger, we know you can do better!
QUOTES FROM ROME – MEN “Yes, at last! It took me 21 years…” Ernest Gulbis on being able to play well on clay “My coach and I went to Barcelona, where I trained on clay for two weeks. I think it’s too much but I did it nonetheless. That is the hardest part, training regularly each day and doing what you have to do. If you don’t train for three days you can mess up your entire week.” Ernest Gulbis on his dislike for training “No. I was more surprised when you used to call him a finished player. He is still number one on clay and I think he is going to show it.” Federer when asked if he had been surprised by Rafa Nadal’s level of play at Monte Carlo “Stanislas is paired with Tsonga. We are only partners for the Olympic Games, and then ignore each other.” Federer jokes about partnering Yves Allegro in the doubles instead of Stanislas Wawrinka
“I think it is important to keep up traditions in tennis. What makes a good tournament is not a fabulous stadium, but the history, the results, the winners of the past.” Rafa Nadal, happy that the new stadium is located where the old one used to be “Playing here is great. People are very warm, especially with me. They all remember me for my successes and my impersonations.” Djokovic on playing in Rome “I would like to say that I am the big favourite, but I don’t think so, even though I won the tournament last year. In Monte Carlo Nadal has shown once again what he is made of. In the past years he has been the leader on clay. His defeats can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and he only lost once in Paris. That’s why I think he is still the favourite.” Roger Federer on who is the favourite in Paris “At the stage where I am in my career I know I need one and a half months to be ready for Roland Garros. At this point I need four or five matches in a row, and this is why I am happy
to be going to Estoril.” Roger Federer on what it takes for him to get used to clay “Today I could feel my game was not up to speed. My serve was not working at all, the first serve wouldn’t go in and I wasn’t playing well from the baseline. It is frustrating when it happens. It is already the third match that I end so poorly.” A disappointed Federer after losing to Gulbis “You suffer. For a professional player, tennis is a way of life. Naturally, when the boat starts taking in water, many want to get off. But those who stay on are the people closer to you and you enjoy being able to please them by achieving results again.” Filippo Volandri on his recent struggles “Injuries are always around the corner for us players, but you can’t think about it all the time. They can happen, but it’s better to not think about them and concentrate on the matches and the training”. Nadal and his injury philosophy
Rome Women Scorecard Maria Martinez-Sanchez 10/10
At a time when all of her peers are playing the exact same brand of tennis, Sanchez is mixing thing up with some oldschool strategies. She could easily have fallen in the first round, but a series of tough matches made her a true battle-hardened warrior for the final, and even a resurgent Jelena Jankovic couldn’t stop her. To think she nearly quit tennis after a series of injuries and other problems. Well done Maria!
her long-lost form and fitness though, and should do well at the French Open.
Serena Williams 8.5/10
Williams hasn’t played a lot of matches recently, but she performed very well in Rome. She had her chances against Jankovic, but ultimately fell against the wily Serb, who is much more comfortable on the clay than Williams. She
Jelena Jankovic 9/10
probably won’t win Roland Garros, but she might go pretty deep in the draw if she can remain focused.
Venus Williams 6.5/10
She managed to reach the quarter-finals after playing some rather patchy tennis for much of the tournament, but Jankovic proved to be too much for the American. Physically she is as fit as she’s ever been, but mentally she isn’t as focused as she needs to be. She lost her concentration too often against Jankovic, and at this level you won’t get away with that for too long.
Ana Ivanovic 8/10
She played well up until the final, but a poor serving performance in the championship match cost her dearly. She seems to have rediscovered
Welcome back, Ana! After a rough couple of months (well, years really), she is finally
back to her old self. In fact, she seems more focused than ever, and her coach Heinz Gunthard has helped her mental game tremendously. She couldn’t do much against the unstoppable MartinezSanchez, but the future is looking bright for the young Serb.
Caroline Wozniacki 5/10
Another victim of Martinez Sanchez, Wozniacki will be disappointed with her performance here. She failed to mix up her play against the Spaniard, and stubbornly stuck to a losing game plan. She has enough talent to fight through these kinds of matches, but she wasn’t able to this time. To add insult to injury she also lost her number two ranking. Not a good week for the Dane.
QUOTES FROM ROME – WOMEN “I am so happy I still can’t believe it. It is difficult to find the right words. This is a very important moment, I am a part of history, and I’ve been working so hard for this.” A very excited Maria Martinez Sanchez after the final “Defeating the Williams sisters one after the other was tough and I felt a bit tired. I was feeling a bit down. She made me run up and down the court and in the end I had no more energy left.” Jelena Jankovic after losing the final “She plays very differently from most girls: lots of drop shots, serve and volley and she is left-handed.” Jankovic on the difficulties of playing against Martinez Sanchez “When I laugh, it means I am nervous…I have not yet got over the defeat. To tell you the truth, I am still convinced that I won the match. Maybe tomorrow I will show up to play in the final…” Serena Williams on the difficulty of accepting defeat against Jankovic
“When I was a small girl I used to like watching Martina Navratilova on TV. I used to like the way she played. When I was little, I always shoved the ball and went to the net.” Martinez Sanchez, a born net player
even though there are few weeks to go. I like to always wear something new. Being a designer is one of my passions.” Venus and her fashion choices for Roland Garros
“In the first round I was down one set and 4-1 in the second, and I could have packed my bags. You never know. The secret is to keep fighting and never give up.” The winning philosophy of Martinez Sanchez
“You should be asking my sister this. She holds these fun press conferences and I would like to be there. Anyway I could probably define myself … fun and cool” How Venus sees herself, Serena said she thinks of herself as “sexy and naughty”
“You have to play as many matches as you can and I needed to play more. You go through dark times and things are never the way you would like them to be. You mustn’t focus on the fact that you fell, but on how to get up again. I am glad that my tough training is bearing fruit here in Rome.” Ana Ivanovic speaks about her comeback “Actually I won at Roland Garros too, so…” Serena annoyed at being asked why she plays better on surfaces other than clay “I will have something new to wear in Paris,
“I think that the only good thing about this match was that my back didn’t hurt or give me trouble.” Dinara Safina after losing to Alexandra Dulgheru “I still need to find myself out there. I felt really bad in the first set, I started to play better in the second and third. But then the match was over. With so few matches behind me it is hard for me to win.” Svetlana Kuznetsova after getting knocked out in the first round
sat down and ordered what I wanted…” Your favourite dish? “In my family’s restaurant [“La Bola”], the speciality is the “cocido madrileno”, a meat soup. But it is only good in winter because it is a hot dish. Generally, I like meat. Ham, entrecote – I am crazy about it”.
Andre Agassi bets on him. More than that, he has trained alongside him with Gill Reyes and Darren Cahill. But being a top clay courter in the Nadal era is not easy. Fernando accepts his role as number two on clay, but is still thinking big: “I want to end with a Slam win.” by Stefano Semeraro
Federer, Djokovic, Nadal: what do they have that you are still missing? “They have won Slam tournaments, and that is my career goal: to retire with at least one Slam title under my belt.”
A final in Monte Carlo, a victory in Barcelona, a very good performance in Rome... You are the fittest player of the moment. “It is the result of my training. I played well also in Miami, I almost beat Berdych and before Monte Carlo I trained again in Madrid. The final in Monaco gave me the right confidence, and Barcelona was my most important win.” You come from Spain – some say the strongest tennis nation on earth – but you train in the USA. Why is that? “Indeed, I train in Las Vegas at certain times: before Australia, before Miami and Toronto, before the Asian tour and before Valencia and Bercy in November. But I also train in Madrid. In America I have found people with great experience who know all about tennis, like Andre Agassi, Gil Reyes and Darren Cahill. The three of them are trying to get the best out of me, but I am also being helped by Vicente Calvo in Madrid, and by my father who has been travelling with me for three years.” Do you see yourself as more of a clay court or hard court tennis player? “If I had to choose, I would say outdoor hard courts. Indian Wells, Miami, Australia. Hard but not too fast. But all of today’s top players are stronger on hard courts, which makes it difficult to win matches on that surface. Federer, Murray, Djokovic, Roddick, Davydenko, Berdych, Tsonga – they all play better on hard courts than on clay. I think that the only one that plays better than me on clay at the moment is Nadal. And the confidence I gained in Monte Carlo and Barcelona has convinced me that I can win many matches on red clay.” As a Spanish tennis player, does it hinder or help to exist alongside a strong player like Nadal? “Nadal is Nadal, his nationality doesn’t really matter. When he plays his best tennis, he is unbeatable on clay. But at times he does not 22
team. We had to support the Spanish team... even if I find it hard to admit it.” Are you any good at PlayStation? “No, I don’t play much. Rafa is definitely much stronger than me at that.”
feel great, other times he is tired or his knee hurts…Nobody can function at 100% every day and in those cases one can lose. But the Nadal that I saw in Monte Carlo is the number one on clay.” Are you and Rafa friends? “We get along well. It is hard to be really friends in tennis, because one day you might have to compete against each other on court. The fact that he is number one in Spain and I am number two certainly doesn’t help, because of the rivalry, the competition. But I am a realist: I know that Rafa is the best tennis player that Spain has ever produced, one of the greatest in history, possibly the greatest of all time on clay. I am not jealous. Rafa deserves all he has achieved. I can only try to play my best against him and beat him, but off the court there is no reason to be rivals. We can watch football matches together.”
Of course, since you are both Real Madrid supporters. “Indeed, and we team up against Barcelona supporters.” Then you must have been pleased by Inter’s victory in Rome … “Well, that was Barcelona against a foreign
Is Federer still the best in the world, regardless of what the computer says? “He is still very strong, even though he is struggling to find the right pace after the Australian Open. Just as Rafa, he too has his good and not-so-good weeks. I also think it has become harder for him to be 100% focussed since he became a father”. Roddick believes that your forehand is the best on the tour: would you agree? “It is not up to me to say, even though I may think so. There are many players with very a strong forehand: Tsonga, Gonzalez, Nadal, Federer…Let’s say I would count myself in the top five”. Your goal for 2010? “Doing better than in 2009. Last year I finished at number nine in the world and I played in the ATP World Tour Finals. Now I aim for the Top eight, perhaps Top five. But it won’t be easy”. Your father manages some restaurants in Madrid. Kei Nishikori’s father also owns a restaurant and he said that if he hadn’t become a tennis player he could have become a chef. How good are you in the kitchen? “Disastrous! I have never even tried to learn how to cook, although I wouldn’t mind being able to do it. My whole life I have just
Do you need to improve to achieve that? “I do, a bit in everything. I need to be more solid, I am still lacking some experience, but I believe I can win a Slam one day.” Is it true that you like sports cars? “Yes, my favourites are Aston Martin DB S and Audi RT.” Do you support Fernando Alonso in Formula One? Would you like to test drive his Ferrari? “Naturally I am a fan of Fernando, but I don’t think he would ever let me drive his Ferrari. And I wouldn’t be able to anyway.” You are a football fan… give us your predictions regarding Spain’s performance in the upcoming World Cup. “I hope we can finally win the Cup. This is perhaps the strongest Spain ever – we are the favourites together with Brazil. We can do it, we only have to be confident in our strength.” Did you have fun posing for the Calvin Klein underwear adverts? “Yes, it was an interesting experience. Calvin Klein is a major brand. When they asked me if I wanted to do it, I was very happy to accept.” TennisWorld sa
he narrowly lost to a red-hot Juan Carlos Ferrero in the best match of the week. In Barcelona he played outstandingly well, losing a dogfight in the quarter-finals against Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker. His first match is against the wily Serb, Victor Troicki. He’s no slouch on clay, and many people expect a close match. On the contrary, Tsonga delivers an emphatic 6-2, 6-3 win. His next match is against Santiago Giraldo, one of the tour’s rising stars who knocked out Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round, 6-3, 6-0 – he’s not to be trifled with on this surface. But somebody must have forgotten to tell Tsonga, because he eases through the match 6-3, 6-4. If anyone was watching him for the first time, they’d swear he’s been playing on clay his whole life. Serving smartly instead of big, and moving his opponent around with his forehand, he makes everything look easy. The long rallies he was so averse to in 2009 are now his bread and butter, and he moves around the court like he was born on the red dirt. Instead of going for broke on every shot, he plays loopy shots with tons of
top spin, pushing his opponent back and opening up the rest of the court for the Frenchman. We’re not used to seeing Tsonga play like this, but we like it. In the quarter-finals he faces an entirely different animal, however. David Ferrer has won more matches on clay than anyone else this year, and Tsonga quickly discovers that he cannot unlock all of the surface’s secrets in one year. If he wants to hang with guys like Ferrer, he has a lot to learn. But he doesn’t mind – in fact he relishes the challenge.
Tsonga is loved around the world for both his charisma and explosive game. This year he seems to be neglecting the latter in favour of a more thoughtful, tactical style of tennis, but the fans don’t seem to mind. In Monte Carlo they were going mad whenever Tsonga won a point, and the atmosphere was almost like that of a Grand Slam final. When a worn-out Juan Carlo Ferrero met Tsonga at the net, they both seemed complementary of each other’s performance. He might not have said it, but Tsonga was certainly thinking: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
by Gianluca Comuniello
et us travel back to 2009, when a first round match at the Foro Italico saw two of the best French tennis players in the world squaring off against each other. The stands were packed, and people were expecting a mammoth contest. The first set didn’t disappoint, with Richard Gasquet barely managing to squeeze it out in a tense tie-breaker. It wasn’t a match of long rallies, with Tsonga going for broke whenever he was given an opportunity, and dominating on his serve. But in the second set, Gasquet showed the crowd how clay court tennis is played, while Tsonga displayed just how uncomfortable he is on the red stuff. Gasquet bullied his countryman, pushing him around the court, and Tsonga simply couldn’t keep up. At match point, with Tsonga exhaust24
ed – clearly not used to the special kind of exertion that clay requires – Gasquet hit a delicate drop shot. Tsonga did his best to get to it, but didn’t even come close. That one point summed up the whole match, really. Tsonga didn’t know how to play tactical tennis on the dirt, and no matter how big your game is, if you can’t think two shots ahead on clay you are doomed. Fast forward to the same tournament a year later, and things have changed substantially. Tsonga is here once again, but he is carrying the French hopes of a title by himself. Gael Monfils is injured, and Gasquet hasn’t regained his ranking since coming back from his brief ban for alleged cocaine use. But Tsonga is playing a different kind of tennis this year. He’s already reached the third round at Monte Carlo, where
Ernests Gulbis The Heir to the Throne
t was a case of the spoiled young prince versus the king that has dominated the realm for seven years. The day was cold, rainy and grey – just like Roger Federer’s mood after the match. He had lost to young Latvian sensation Ernests Gulbis after being in complete control of the match for nearly a set and a half. But like so many times in recent months, his game deserted him at the most critical time, and he couldn’t fight off the young upstart’s booming serves and stinging groundstrokes. Gulbis is only 21 years old, but people have been talking about him for a long time. Like Federer, he was tagged at a very young age as a future Top Ten player and, like Federer, he has struggled in his early years on the Tour to live up to those expectations. But the major difference between the two is one of work ethic. Even when he was struggling, the Swiss maestro worked hard every day to try and improve his game. Gulbis, on the other hand, has never really been that bothered about it. The son of a millionaire, he has no financial reason to make a success of his tennis career. For a long time it has been more of a hobby to him, and he has never taken the sport very seriously.
by Daniele Azzolini and Stefano Semeraro
So why has he suddenly woken up? Many say it is his new coach, Hernan Gumy, who has managed to get Gulbis to practice hard and focus more on his tennis. But even the best coach in the world cannot teach tennis to someone who doesn’t want to learn. After all, Gulbis has had great coaches in the past. He trained at the world-famous Niki Pilic Tennis Academy as a child, often receiving attention from Pilic himself. No, it has nothing to do with coaches – although Gumy, who used to work with Marat Safin, is certainly an excellent one. The person that finally convinced Ernests Gulbis to be serious about tennis is none other than Ernests Gulbis himself. The ability was always there, it was just the will that was missing. Pilic used to say “if only he was hungry, he could become a champion.” Now it seems that the Latvian has finally worked up an appetite. He explains his recent success in simple and honest terms: “I just started concentrating more on tennis, treating it more like my job, not my hobby. Now I have a perfect team, a better system. I am slowly coming back, I have slept for long enough.” He is also very clear about what went wrong in the past, and is quick to lay the blame squarely on his own shoulders. “Before I was practicing maybe three days and then going out with
friends for two days. This is no longer the case. And this win over Federer has been a real shock.” Perhaps a bigger shock than the victory itself is the surface that it came on: clay. It’s Gulbis’ least favourite surface, and if he can play this well on the red stuff, one can only wonder at what he will be able to do at Wimbledon and the US Open. “It has taken me 21 years to learn to play well on this surface,” he said just 24 hours before defeating Federer. But when he was trying to close out the match, his uncertainty on clay shone through for everyone to see. He missed six match point opportunities, and gifted Federer a break in the third set to level the match at 5-5. He admits that his nerves got the better of him: “I couldn’t put a serve in, I was shaking, I didn’t know what to do. It was a terrible feeling. When he handed the serve back to me, I thought ‘Thank you, Roger!’” Indeed it was perhaps a match that was lost by Federer rather that won by Gulbis. However, a win is a win, and he took a lot of confidence from it – so much in fact, that he nearly defeated another King, this one of clay, in the semi-finals. But Nadal put a stop to his run, though it took nearly three hours of hard toil. The young prince has learned a lot from the two kings in Rome, and maybe one day he will rise to the throne himself.
This lazy attitude towards his job became clear in 2009, when he was seemingly incapable of winning back-to-back matches. It wasn’t that his talent had suddenly disappeared, but rather it was a case of his not working hard enough. “I have never enjoyed training,” he openly admits. But in early 2010 something changed. In Memphis, he suddenly started playing proper tennis again, recording solid victories over Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych before falling to Sam Querrey. He built on that success in Delray Beach, where he came out of nowhere to win the title, beating Ivo Karlovic in the final.
she says of her childhood. “I will never forget that period: schools were closed, nobody went to work, and everything was on hold.” She would not remain in the war-torn region for long, however, and a chance meeting with Swiss entrepreneur Dan Holzmann changed her life forever. He decided to invest $500 000 in the young Serb, and his decision to do so quickly paid off, as Ivanovic bloomed into a fantastic young tennis player.
By Tiziana Pikler
She’s got lots of money. Modelling contracts, photo shoots, endorsement deals – she’s got all of those too. Hordes of adoring fans, magazine covers and news coverage – but no Grand Slams. We aren’t talking about Ana Ivanovic, but another Anna – Kournikova, in fact. The first glamour girl of women’s tennis, Kournikova received a lot of attention for her lucrative dealings off the court, but she didn’t get a lot of respect for them. Some tennis fans didn’t like her at all, and loudly wondered why the
most celebrated woman in the sport hasn’t really achieved anything. That reputation haunts Kournikova to this day, though she has long since retired from the game, partly due to injury and partly due to her off-court activities. But her legacy lives on, and it seems to attach itself to some or other player every couple of years.
her fair share of criticism for not winning big events. However, after winning three Slams, even her fiercest critics have backed off somewhat. Though the label of “Glamour Girl” has passed to a number of players in the past few years, it seems to have stuck with Ana Ivanovic in particular. But is this really justified?
For a long time that player was Maria Sharapova. Initially much more successful in her dealings off the court than on it, she received
Ivanovic was born in 1987, and grew up in Serbia during the worst excesses of the Kosovo War. “I recall very well the bombings of 1999,”
“I recall my first encounter with a real player, the ones you only see on TV,” she recalls about her early days as a professional. “It was Venus Williams. I was playing in the junior French Open and I was with my friend Sanja Ancic. We were in the change rooms when I saw Venus. I thought it would be nice to have a photo with her, so I asked her. I still have that photo.” Inspired by her brush with tennis royalty, Ivanovic quickly began collecting titles instead of photos. Her first WTA trophy came in 2005 at a tournament in Canberra, where she had to play the qualifiers to gain entry into the main draw. In that same year, she reached the third round at the Australian Open, the quarter-finals in Miami, the third round in Rome and the quarterfinals in Paris. From 2004-2008 she was a constant presence in the Top 20, and in 2007 she reached her first Slam final, losing to Justine Henin at Rolland Garros. 2008 was her breakout year, and she reached the final of the Australian Open (lost to Sharapova) and won the French Open, beating Dinara Safina in straight sets. Though she didn’t know it when she walked on the court to play the championship match in Paris, she had become world number one. “I only heard that I had topped the WTA rankings when I went back to the change rooms,” she remembers. “My entourage had kept quiet lest I got too excited. And in fact I was brought to tears, but I did not want to lose my concentration before the final – I would have kicked myself if I had lost it as world number one. In Australia I had spent a sleepless night before playing my critical match against Sharapova, and I didn’t want that to happen again. I believe that rankings follow results. I was much more interested in winning my first Slam than becoming world number one and losing the final.” Those were heady times, made more so by the fact that fellow Serb Novak Djokovic had won the Australian Open that year as well. But after enjoying her short stay at number one for only 12 weeks, things started going wrong in a big way for Ivanovic. The slide started when
she withdrew from the Olympic Games later that year. “Being forced to withdraw from the Beijing Olympics was the saddest time in my career. I had been dreaming about playing in the Olympics for years and I injured myself just a few weeks before the Games. I did all I could to try and recover in time, but it was too late. It was a huge disappointment.” Since triumphing at Roland Garros, Ivanovic has played only thirty tournaments, with one win (Linz, 2008) and one other final (Indian Wells, 2009). Her tennis was not the only thing that was suffering, and the heartbreak she suffered on the court was mirrored in her private life. Her well-documented relationship with Fernando Verdasco fell apart, and she started working harder on her modelling than her tennis. It was at this time that comparisons to Anna Kournikova started making the rounds again, and the general impression was that she was pretty, but not much of a tennis player. Only 18 months after she became world number one and won a Grand Slam, she was being written off as just another Glamour Girl – the sports world has a very short memory indeed. But she was not going to fade into obscurity like the Russian beauty she is so often compared to. In the early part of 2010 she announced she was working with Heinz Gunthardt, who coached the great Steffi Graff for years. Her tennis started improving drastically, and her private life also settled down (she is currently linked to Australian golfer Adam Scott). In Rome, she was born again, storming through the draw and beating some of the best players on the Tour, including Victoria Azarenka (ranked 10th), Elena Dementieva (ranked 6th) and Nadia Petrova (ranked 18th). She finally ran out of steam in her semi-final match against the eventual champion, Maria Martinez Sanchez. Her run in Rome brought her back into the Top 50 (number 42), and she says she is finally having fun with her tennis again. “I know that I still have what it takes to go back to the top, but I needed to play a few matches. Finally all my hard work has begun to bear fruit in Rome. You go through dark times and things are never the way you would like them to be. You mustn’t focus on the fact that you fell, but on how to get up again.” Ivanovic is determined to shake the “Glamour Girl” image that the media has once again placed on her. Perhaps once she has won three Slams, they will leave her alone as well.
The Relentless Russian: An Interview with Elena Dementieva By Fabrizio Fidecaro your country. You realise that you are not just on court for yourself, but for your entire nation, and you can feel its support. For me this is a great source of inspiration. Ever since I was a child I dreamed about taking part in the Olympics, and winning gold had always been my main objective in tennis.”
Her voice is soft, almost a whisper. Her facial expression is always calm, but her iron will is clearly evident from the way she carries herself. At the age of 28, Elena Dementieva can look back on a very successful career: she’s won 16 WTA titles, a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics, reached two Slam finals in 2004 and was the world number three in April 2009. But that’s not enough for the Russian, and she hopes to reach even greater heights in the years to come. The main goals for every tennis player are to win a Slam and become world number one. You came close to achieving both, but didn’t. What do you think was missing? “It’s hard to say. True, today these are the main objectives in my career and to achieve them I am working hard, trying to improve my game,
Does this mean that in Russia an Olympic gold medal is considered to be more important than a Slam title? “Oh, yes, definitely. There is nothing like the Olympic Games: it is the biggest sports event in the world. Winning the Olympics means a lot, it is the most amazing success an athlete can ever obtain. The gold medal in Beijing was simply the most beautiful moment in my career.” Do you have any regrets about your career? “No, I really don’t have any. I believe that I have worked hard every year and I have nothing to reproach myself with. I have always tried to give my best on the court and in training, day after day. I have achieved some great results and, actually, it’s great that I still have some motivation left. No, I have no regrets.”
year after year. I have achieved some good results in the Slams, I have reached a few finals and semi-finals, but I haven’t yet secured a title. Certainly pursuing this goal is what keeps me motivated to carry on.”
You have been in the Top Ten for many years and you have defeated other top players many times. How much has women’s tennis changed during this time? “I think it has really changed a lot. It has become more powerful, I would say more aggressive. I remember the way I was at the beginning, some ten years ago: the game was very slow, defensive, rallies were longer. The young players arriving on the Tour today are in great physical form, tall, strong. The serve has become the most lethal weapon. It is a game based on power, and you have to be always in top form to compete with younger players. Tennis has evolved a lot, especially from a physical point of view.”
How do you explain your excellent performance at the Olympic Games? You won gold in the singles in 2008, and silver as a very young player in 2000… “I think that playing in the Olympics, or even in Fed Cup, is a very special way to represent
Many argue that women’s tennis hasn’t really evolved much, considering how easily players such as Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin came back after a long
absence and immediately achieved extraordinary results. Kim won the US Open and Justine reached the final in Melbourne… What do you think of this? “I think that Kim and Justine are two extraordinary tennis players. They are truly unique athletes. We shouldn’t look at what they have achieved and assume that any other player could do the same. No, I believe they did something that no other player could match. Coming back after two years, playing at top level right away, winning a Slam: it is all truly impressive. I think that having them back on the Tour is wonderful for tennis. For me, as a player, it is interesting to be able to compare myself to them. For the public too it is more exciting to follow the tournaments because the Tour has become more competitive without a doubt.” Things might be getting harder for you in the big tournaments [Elena has already faced Henin twice since her return, losing both times]… “Sure. Now it is really a challenge at top levels, especially on clay. Everyone knows that Justine loves to play on clay, and Roland Garros is probably her favourite tournament. I think that it is really interesting to play against someone like Justine or Kim. It is the only way to improve one’s game, challenging the best in the world and putting your tennis to the test, comparing your game to theirs. It is the best way to build experience.”
In such a competitive world like tennis, do you have some friends? “I have a very good relationship with most of the girls, especially the Russians and Italians. I used to play in the doubles with Flavia Pennetta, and I also get on well with Francesca Schiavone. There is a small group of girls with whom I used to play in the junior competitions some time back. We have been together since those days, it has been great to travel with them through the years, and still is. We share a lot of common memories.” Together with Flavia you reached the US Open doubles final. Do you have any particular memories from the time when you were doubles partners? “I have played in doubles with many different partners, but with Flavia I really had fun. She is great support on court. She is a very friendly person, down to earth, besides being a very talented girl. We have had some great times together, and achieved some excellent results too: we have won a few tournaments, made it to the final in the US Open, it has been a great experience.”
What is your opinion of Italian women’s tennis? What do you think it would take for the Italian players to replicate their Fed Cup results in singles tournaments? “Well, when I see the Italian girls play in Fed Cup, I am always so impressed. Tennis is a very individualistic sport, but the Italian girls, somehow, manage to feel and play like a team, and that is critical in Fed Cup. They help each other a lot, they have very good relationships with one another. I don’t think there are many other women players who experience the Fed Cup in the same way. It is their strongest point, and it is what has got them to the final once again, and they will again be fighting for the title. It seems to me that when they wear the blue jersey, they are truly inspired. They want to show their country a great performance, and it is all great to see.” Italian women have played very well at the Foro Italico against the Czech Republic, but, in the space of a week, they have had a few problems in the individual tournament. Is it just a matter of team motivation?
“They also had a very tough schedule. Flavia and Francesca played in the Fed Cup, went to Stuttgart, and then came straight back to Rome. There is so much pressure on each match, and it is very hard to handle those situations, also from a physical point of view.” You have been travelling around the world for many years with the WTA Tour. What are your favourite places and why? “My favourite city is Moscow, because I was born there, but I love New York, Paris, Rome. I like Madrid…There are many stunning places”. Did you include Rome only because we are here? “No, no [smiles]! Rome was one of the first cities where I went to play when I was small, to take part in the Lemon Bowl. I am talking about a long, long time ago. I stayed with a Roman family for a month, and it was a truly fantastic experience. I began to learn Italian, I would take walks around the city centre. I simply have some wonderful memories of this city.”
By Daniele Azzolini
year later, and not much has changed: Roger vs. Rafa. After all that has happened over the past 12 months, only fate could have brought these two together again at the very tournament where they last met. On that day in 2009 it was Federer who came out on top, and many would argue that it was in Madrid that Nadal’s many troubles began. It is fitting then that Madrid is the place where he caps his comeback with a record-breaking 18th Masters Series 1000 title.
contest were put to rest during the very first service game, when Federer held to love with little trouble. Their clashes have always been close. Apart from the infamous blowout at Roland Garros in 2008, none of their matches has been completely one-sided, and nearly all of them have been hard-fought, epic affairs. Theirs is a rivalry of inches, the greatest in the sport – the greatest in all of sport. So how did Madrid 2010 stack up against the best of Roger and Rafa’s past classics?
Of course many people feared that a renewed rivalry between the two tennis greats would lack the spark of their previous meetings. Federer, after all, has played very poorly since winning the Australian Open in January, not reaching a single final before he came to the Spanish capital. Nadal on the other hand has been on an absolute tear during the clay season. In Monte Carlo he barely broke a sweat as he ripped through the draw, never even coming close to dropping a set. In Rome, too, he dominated, even though he lost that one set against Gulbis. But fears of a one-sided
CLASH OF THE TITANS As I said, Federer has not been playing well lately, though he did do better in his matches leading up to the final in Madrid. He built up a nice rhythm against Benjamin Becker and Stanislas Wawrinka in the early rounds, but was made to work hard by Ernest Gulbis in the quarter-finals and David Ferrer in the semis.
While four solid matches did a lot for his confidence, they couldn’t quite make up for the lack of play he’s had over the past few weeks, and going into the final he was definitely not yet at 100%. From the very start of the match Nadal made his tactics clear: go for his backhand, and go for it often. He was relentless, never allowing Federer to dominate from his forehand side. The Swiss maestro found some help from his serve, using it smartly to keep as many points short as possible. As the evening wore on, however, the cooling conditions made it tougher for Federer to gain any kind of traction with his ground strokes. The cooler air made the ball much heavier, and
Nadal dug in for some very long rallies. In the end it was only one break of serve that decided the first set, and it was much closer than the 6-4 scoreline implies. The second set also saw many breaks of serve – there were seven in total for the match – and Nadal held the advantage towards the tail end of it. Federer managed to break back though, sending them to a tiebreak. Several times during the tie-break it looked as if Federer would send the match into a deciding set. He led by a mini-break twice, and Nadal looked a bit nervous. Sadly, some poor forehand errors put an end to Federer’s challenge, and a clearly relieved Nadal extended his head-to-head lead over his Swiss rival. THE FINAL STRETCH But the big question is this: what does the Madrid final mean for Roland Garros and, for that matter, Wimbledon? Some people think that Nadal sealed Federer’s French Open fate in Spain, and if they do meet in Paris, Nadal is sure to win. However, the numbers tell a different story: Nadal only managed to win one point more than Federer in Madrid (the final tally was 85 points to 84). It could have gone either way, and the Spaniard’s performance was far from dominant. Also worth considering is the path both players take to the final. Will Nadal’s knees hold up if he has to play several long matches? What if he meets someone like Djokovic in the semi-finals? In Madrid last year they played for more than four hours to complete three sets. If they go to five sets in Paris, it could last well over five hours, which would give Federer a major edge if they should meet in the final. Federer’s physical status isn’t a concern, but the state of his game certainly is. Many potential dangers await him at Roland Garros. He’s already lost to Albert Montanes and Ernest Gulbis on clay this year, and if they should be cast in his side of the draw, it could make things very interesting indeed. This is especially true if they meet the world number one in early rounds. He usually paces himself so that he peaks during the second week of the tournament. If they can catch him off-guard in the second or third round, it could mean trouble for the Swiss. That being said, these two guys are definitely the favourites to once again meet in the final of the French Open. Should that happen, we can all expect a very close contest – perhaps the closest they have ever fought.
MADRID Scoreboard By Paolo Bertolucci
Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. 6/10
His technique is strange – even ugly – but nobody can say that he isn’t a fascinating player to watch. From his bizarre drop shots to his strangely effective serve, this youngster has burst onto the scene in a big way. Even the great Rafael Nadal was confused and often simply outplayed by the crafty Ukrainian. It’s hard to know whether he’ll be able to translate his style of play into titles, but we are certainly very interested to find out if he can.
Roger Federer 8/10
Federer finally found his feet in Madrid, playing some awesome tennis from the very first round. Things were looking gloomy against Gulbis for a while, but he showed why he is the world number one by coming back from a set and a break down to avenge his Rome loss to the Latvian. He played well against Nadal, and if it wasn’t for a few silly decisions he could very well have won. A solid
performance that Federer can build on going into the French Open.
Ernest Gulbis 7/10
He was on the verge of beating Federer for the second time in as many tournaments, but was eventually given a tennis lesson by the Swiss maestro. Still, it was a solid week for the Latvian, and if he can keep improving he will definitely soon become a major threat at Slams.
Nicolas Almagro 8/10
Almagro has always fallen short in these big events, but this week he proved that he can really bother the big dogs when the mood takes him. If he had managed to convert some of those break points in the second set against Nadal, he may very well have come away with a win. He’ll take a lot of confidence away from the tournament, and hopefully he can get himself into the latter stages of the draw more often from now on.
David Ferrer 8/10
It seems incredible, but Ferrer has won more matches on the ATP Tour than anyone else in 2010. The Spaniard’s consistency has been incredible, and his match against Baghdatis was by far the most spectacular of the whole week. He had his chances against Federer in the semi-finals, and the last set was much tighter than the score implies. Ferrer takes a lot of momentum into Paris, and we’d be surprised if he’s not there in the second week.
Nadal didn’t play particularly well throughout the week, but that didn’t stop him from winning the title anyway. The final against Federer was a touch-andgo affair, and the Spaniard was lucky to close the match out in straight sets. He is the red-hot favourite to once again triumph at the French Open, and it will take a truly mammoth performance to stop the King of Clay.
French Open 2010
for success has finally been sapped. Early losses in Indian Wells and Miami have been followed by defeats at the hands of Ernests Gulbis and Albert Montanes on the clay. Federer is a different animal in the Slams over five sets, but after four successive finals at Roland Garros this could be Federer’s turn for an early exit.
By David Cox David Cox presents a sneak preview of the action to come at Roland Garros. It’s nearing the end of May and the game’s top dirtballers have been sliding and grinding on the clay for well over a month, and it’s all coming to a climax in Paris. From 2005-2007 it was the Rafa and Justine show at Roland Garros, as Nadal and Henin each bagged a hat-trick of French Open titles. Fast-forward three years and the duo are once again odds on favourites to triumph on their beloved clay. So who’s hot and who’s not going into the second Slam of the year ?
Men’s draw Hot
Fernando Verdasco: Verdasco has never been past the fourth round at the French Open, but that should be set to change this year. The Spaniard’s form has been electric, seeing him win the Barcelona title and finish runner-up in Monte Carlo by beating the likes of Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling along the way. Verdasco’s big forehand and serve are tailormade for the faster, bouncier clay of Roland Garros – just don’t put Nadal in his section of the draw. Verdasco has never beaten his compatriot in ten matches and was annihilated 6-0, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo final.
Robin Soderling: “One-hit wonder” was the phrase on many people’s lips after Soderling’s rollercoaster ride to the 2009 French Open final. However, the Swede has proved his doubters wrong and is established in the Top 10 after strong showings on the American hard courts. He has not enjoyed as much success on the clay leading up to Roland Garros this year, but the faster courts in Paris will suit him better and as a tough competitor you can never count him out. Crucially he is the only man ever to beat Nadal over five sets on the dirt.
David Ferrer: Ferrer has been impressively consistent on the clay in 2010 and beat Murray, Tsonga and Verdasco to reach the Rome Masters final. Twice a quarter-finalist at the French Open, he could go one better this year.
Not Roger Federer: The defending champion appears to have mysteriously lost his mojo since the Australian Open. Having won pretty much everything in the game, maybe Federer’s drive
Novak Djokovic: Djokovic has been solid but unspectacular for much of this season. He played some outstanding tennis during this stretch in 2009, going toe-to-toe with Nadal in some epic finals but the spark seems to be missing right n ow. The Serb’s usually reliable serve has gone walkabout and more than anything he looks like a man in need of a lengthy break. It’s hard to see him challenging for the title in Paris. Andy Murray: Murray’s form appears to be mirroring Federer right now. The Brit played the best tennis of his career to reach the Australian Open final but that has been followed by an alarmingly sharp slump in form. He made the quarters in Paris last year but clay is his weakest surface and when he’s playing passively he’s too easily outmanoeuvred by the experienced dirtballers. With his serve in
the doldrums he will do well to make the second week.
Dangerous outsider (Ernests Gulbis): Gulbis is on the edge of being seeded but if he misses out he could be a nightmare first round draw for one of the big names. The mercurial Latvian has finally started to make the most of his abundant natural talent this year and took out Federer in Rome. Is the only player to have pushed Nadal to three sets on the clay in 2010.
Women’s draw Hot Justine Henin: The four-time champion will be feared by everyone in Paris. At her best, there was no finer exponent of clay-court finesse than Henin. Her preparation has been mixed, a title in Stuttgart was followed by a
first round exit in Madrid but that may be a blessing in disguise ahead of a physically draining fortnight in Paris. Serena Williams: Serena has never added to her sole French Open triumph back in 2002 and has only made the semi-finals once since then. Clay is not a natural surface for the twelve-time Grand Slam champion and her
Rafael Nadal: Nadal appears to have learned the lessons of 2009, when he pushed his body a step too far during his quest to monopolise the world’s biggest clay-court crowns and ran out of steam at the French Open. It’s hard to imagine but he currently looks better than ever on the clay and destroyed elite fields to claim the Rome and Monte Carlo Masters shields. With a reduced schedule this year, he is overwhelming favourite to win in Paris for a fifth time.
Roland Garros sparse schedules have not aided her chances in Paris over the years. It is always hard to gauge her form until the Tournament starts but as ever it will take a very good performance to beat her. Jelena Jankovic: A twotime French Open semifinalist, Jankovic achieved the prized feat of beating both Williams sisters in successive days on her way to the Italian Open final. One of the most battle-hardened competitors on the Tour, Jankovic’s wall-like consistency makes her a formidable opponent on clay and she will be hoping to end her long wait for a Slam title.
toss woes are behind her. The jury remains out on this one but none of the seeds will want to face her in the early rounds.
Not Svetlana Kuznetsova: Kuznetsova could be forgiven for feeling a little forgotten leading up to the French Open. The defending champion’s form has been so poor since she triumphed in Paris last year that no one is even talking about her as a contender. Early losses in Stuttgart and Rome have not helped her cause. However, Kuznetsova has not failed to make the second week in Paris since 2003, so maybe she will pull it together.
Dinara Safina: World number one a year ago, Safina’s hopes for a first Grand Slam title were ground into the dust by Kuznetsova in the 2009 final. Safina has suffered injury after injury in 2010 and has barely played. She will do well to make the second week. Maria Sharapova: Sharapova once memorably compared her movement on clay to a cow on ice and it is a testament to the sheer grit and determination of the Russian that she actually managed to reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros three years ago. However Sharapova has been blighted by injury in recent years and her latest tentative return to the Tour resulted in a first round exit in Madrid.
Ana Ivanovic: The glamour girl of the Tour was one of the world’s best players on clay a few years ago, winning the French Open in 2008. Her subsequent slump was equally dramatic but in recent weeks the Serb seems to be rediscovering some of the old magic. She beat Azarenka and Dementieva on the way to the Italian Open semi-finals and claims that her ball
Clijsters Out of Roland Garros
“I am very disappointed to have to pull out of Roland Garros. It’s almost like a home tournament for me, being so close to Belgium, and I played my first Grand Slam final there nine years ago, so there are many special memories there. Unfortunately, despite trying everything I could to be fit in time, and having seen a specialist this morning, I still have some pain in my foot. Therefore I had to make this difficult decision. I hope the extra rest will mean I can be ready for the grass in a few weeks’ time.” With these words, Kim Clijsters ended her French Open campaign for 2010 before it even began. It is a shame, since the world has been looking forward to a possible clash between her and Justine Henin at Roland Garros. Hopefully she will heal quickly and come back strong at Wimbledon.
Davydenko’s Wrist Not Yet Healed
Russian star Nikolay Davydenko announced that he will be withdrawing from the French Open due to continuing problems with a broken wrist. He has already missed nearly two months due to the ailment, and there is no word on when he’ll be back. Other players in the men’s draw to pull out with injuries include Igor Andreev, James Blake and Tommy Haas.
Del Potro Out Until After US Open
Juan Martin Del Potro underwent wrist surgery recently, and has announced that he will not defend his US Open title later this year. The Argentine has been struggling with wrist problems since the end of last year, and tried a number of different solutions after the Australian Open in January. However, none of them worked and he was forced to turn to undergo surgery in an American clinic. “I don’t want
to get desperate in rehab and I’m comfortable with the fact that if I do my time I’ll be playing again on the circuit,” he said recently. “I know it’s going to take a long time to get back to being among the top players like I was before, but what I want more than anything is to return.”
Paris Wild Cards:
Carsten Ball (AUS), David Guez (FRA) Nicolas Mahut (FRA), Gianni Mina (FRA) Josselin Ouanna (FRA), Laurent Recouderc (FRA), Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA), Ryan Sweeting (USA)
Stephanie Cohen-Aloro (FRA) Claire Feuerstein (FRA) Stephanie Foretz (FRA), Jarmila Groth (AUS), Mathilde Johansson (FRA), Christina McHale (USA), Kristina Mladenovic (FRA), Olivia Sanchez (FRA)
Rankings Drops and Drop Shots The Importance of Paris By Stefano Semeraro
ne year ago the tennis world was rocked to its very core when Rafael Nadal was eliminated in the fourth round of the French Open. It was the greatest upset the sport had ever seen, and it turned both the tournament and the rest of the season on its head. With Nadal gone, Federer could finally claim the last major prize in tennis that had eluded him – the trophy at Roland Garros. With that huge monkey off his back he could relax and just enjoy his tennis for the rest of the year, and enjoy it he did, winning Wimbledon and reaching the final of the US Open. Nadal, on the other hand, went into freefall. His knees finally gave in, keeping him out of tennis for the better part of two months. When he came back, he was a shadow of his former self, and he didn’t win a title for almost a whole year. It was in Paris where it all started, and it might be in Paris where it all ends. If Nadal wins the title and Federer falls before the semi-finals, Nadal regains the number one ranking. It will be almost impossible for Federer to regain the number one ranking this year should he lose it in Paris, since Nadal is not defending any points at Wimbledon and will likely take it beyond the reach of the Swiss maestro for a long time indeed. Even Djokovic has a shot at the number one spot, though he’ll need to win and hope Federer loses early, neither of which seems likely. Both Juan Martin Del Potro and Nikolay Davydenko are of course out this year due to injury, and they will lose all the points they gained at the French Open last year. This will likely cause them to move down in the rankings significantly, so the Top 10 is likely to look very different after the year’s second Grand Slam finishes.
While a change at the top of the rankings is likely after the tournament, a change of tactics during the event is a certainty. The clay courts at Roland Garros are completely different from the ones at Madrid, and reward an entirely different style of play. The surface is fast and bouncy, and many players like to camp out way behind the baseline for most of the rallies. This situation makes the need to play cleverly a necessity, especially when it comes to one of the most delicate shots in tennis: the drop shot. Many have argued that it was the drop shot that won Roger Federer the French Open last year, and it’s hard to deny that it played a big part in his success. During the early stages of his career, Federer loathed the drop shot, preferring to win points with stinging topspin winners. But as he has grown older, he has also become wiser, realising the enormous potential that the drop shot has on clay. Federer has also been experimenting with the rest of his game on clay. In Madrid he employed serve and volley a number of times – a risky strategy on the surface, but when used at the right time it can be deadly. One need only look at a player like Maria MartinezSanchez to see how effective serve and volley play can be on clay. She recently won the Italian Open in Rome with her unusual mix of volleys and drops shots, and showed everyone that playing on the red stuff doesn’t have to mean long rallies and powerful shots. If the Swiss maestro is to retain is Roland Garros crown with King Rafa in attendance, he will have to make use of all these tactics and more. A lot is at stake in Paris, and like last year the rest of the season may very well depend on what happens on the clay courts of the French capital. We can’t wait!
An Interview with Robin Soderling
By Stefano Semeraro
obin Soderling has many reputations. Some say he is aloof or even rude in the locker room. Others say he is a killer on the court. What you won’t hear, however, is that he is polite, friendly and exudes a quiet confidence – yet this is exactly what we found when we sat down with him for a chat. He told us about his new life at the top of the game, as well as his hopes for the future. Did last year’s victory over Nadal change something in your life? More contracts... more pressure? “A little bit off-court. But then I continue to lead the same life, I train, play my matches. I have never had a problem with external pressure from the media. I suffer more from the pressure I put on myself, because my goal is always to do well, always to be perfect.” Has your success helped Swedish tennis to some extent? “Yes, quite a bit. Even though I don’t spend a lot of time in Sweden.” Does it bother you to have to compare yourself with your country’s past tennis legends? “No, I would rather say that it has helped me. When I was small, I used to watch a lot of tennis on TV, and there was always a Swede who did well in all the tournaments. Sweden was winning in Davis Cup. Those successes have inspired and encouraged me even when I arrived on the tour. Now I think that my victories can in turn encourage young boys to play tennis. I would like to convey to them some of the enthusiasm that I felt.” Who was your favourite Swedish tennis player? Edberg, Borg, Wilander? “No, maybe they had won a few years earlier. I used to admire Thomas Enqvist a lot, his type of game, even though there were many strong Swedish players around.” How do you explain the fact that that the highest ranked Swede behind you is Andreas Vinciguerra, who is ranked below 280?
do you feel any pressure to repeat last year’s performance? “No, not really. It will be great to be back in Paris, also because I now know that I can play well there. I am not concerned from a points perspective. Even if I had to lose in the first round, I would still have more points than last year. I know it will be hard because today there are 10-15 players who can win the big tournaments, but that applies to everyone.” Is Rafa back to his 2008 self? “Hard to say. I watched him for a while in Monte Carlo, where he played some great tennis. On clay he is an entirely different player than on hard courts. He is the best in the world. But nobody can play every match at their best, neither him nor Federer, so one can always hope to defeat them, even though it is not at all easy.” Before beating him, would you have ever believed yourself capable of doing it? “Sure, I had come very close to that at Wimbledon, when I lost in five sets [6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6, 7-5 in the third round in 2007]. Besides, I always walk on the court thinking that I can defeat anyone, otherwise there would be no point.”
“I wish I could explain it! It has to do in part with our bad luck with injuries. Vinciguerra is a good player, and he used to be ranked around 30 in the world. Joachim Johansson has been in the Top 10, and both were seriously injured, and Magnus Noman before them. But it is also true that tennis in Sweden is no longer as popular as it was 10, 20 years ago, and there are fewer children who choose to pick up a tennis racquet.”
hockey or football? “I grew up in a small town, and I tried a bit of every sport, including football. It was easy for me to go to the sports fields, it took five minutes by bicycle But everything is more complicated if you are born in a big city. My father used to play some tennis, and when I got to 12-13, I chose tennis primarily because it is an individual sport.”
Don’t you feel a bit lonely in the Tour at the moment? “Indeed, as I said before, when I joined the pros there were plenty of Swedes, it was easier and more fun to travel and have meals together at the tournaments. Now it’s just me and a couple of doubles players, it’s no longer the same.”
Your first tennis memory? You were just five when Edberg won his last Wimbledon. “Indeed, against Boris Becker, wasn’t it? I have very few memories of Edberg. Maybe the first memories that come to my mind are Sweden’s Davis Cup victories over the US, in the semi-finals in 1994, and in the final in 1997. Both times in Goteborg.”
Why did you choose tennis, and not ice
With Roland Garros about to begin,
How different is today’s Soderling from the player of one or two years ago? “Not too different, but today I know that I can beat the best even without playing my best tennis. And this is what makes Roger, Rafa or even Djokovic and Murray special. They play their best tennis five or six times a year, but they know how to win also on their not-sogood days. They can beat Top 10s and Top20s even without being super. And this is what I have learnt to do in the past year.”
in close contact with him because, unlike Wilander and Enqvist, Borg did not get involved with the Swedish Federation.” If you had lost that match against Rafa last year in Paris, do you think you would have still got this far? “I like to think so. But it is true that confidence means a lot in tennis, and that match has been very important from that point of view. After defeating Nadal I got into the final, I did well at Wimbledon, and I won the tournament at Bastad.”
“Plenty of times. Even in December they would say to me: “Well done, good show with Nadal.” At the end of last year I would hear people say “Hey, that’s the guy that beat Nadal”, “Where did he beat him?”, “I don’t know, but he beat him”, that kind of stuff. But then, I wouldn’t want to be remembered only for that match. Fortunately I have continued to win after that.”
How many times have you looked back to that victory? “Not many. There is always another match to play, which is both the best and the worst thing about tennis. You win a tournament, but the following week you may be out at the first round and people have already forgotten you. But then, if you lose, you can make up for it quickly.”
How would you describe yourself as a person? Some say you are shy, or even aloof. “I don’t know if I am shy. I am certainly a different person away from tennis, from the matches. During a tournament I am very focused on what I have to do, it is my job and I want to do it at my best. Outside I am much more relaxed, and I try not to think about tennis. I spend time with my friends and family, I go fishing near my parents’ home, one and a half hours from Goteborg, I watch ice hockey or football…”
Have you watched a recording of the match? “No, never. Magnus [Norman, his coach] has, but for me it is too long.”
Do you support Ibrahimovic? “Yes, I like him, I often watch his matches with Barcelona. But the level of the Swedish championship is not really that great.”
A shot you will not forget? “Obviously the match point, when Rafa missed his volley.”
Three players that you fear in Paris? “Rafa, of course, and Federer. Actually, I think that there are at least 10 players that could do well at Roland Garros. Among the younger players, I like Cilic a lot.”
How many times have people congratulated you on your win?
What is the quality that makes you a Top 10 player? “My game altogether. I have a good serve, my forehand is good, my backhand very solid. I don’t have any real weakness, and this is what sets a top-ten apart from the rest. On top of that, is the fact that I don’t have a favourite surface. I can play well anywhere.” Magnus Norman is your coach...how do you feel about him? “Magnus is a great coach. For me it is important to have a coach who has also been a top player, who has played some top level finals, won big tournaments and been at the top of the rankings. We can exchange experiences, I can ask him how one feels in certain situations.” How many new contracts did you sign after the Paris final? “New ones: just one. But I have reviewed the others. In any event, I am not one who worries about contracts too much. I would probably be playing even if I wasn’t earning anything. On the other hand, it is not bad to get paid to do what you enjoy most in life!” What did Magnus say to you last year, before your match against Nadal? “That the following day I would see my picture in the papers and an article about my victory. The mental side is very important in our sport. To be able to win, you must first of all think that you can win.”
Did you think you would become so strong when you were starting your professional career? “No, quite the opposite. I recall that when I first entered the Top 100 in 2003, I said to my then coach: “Well, at least I have made it this far”. There are so many strong players, I thought that was already a lot to achieve.” Do you still wear Bjorn Borg-branded underwear? “Oh, the underwear… No, I stopped wearing it, but not because I got into the final in Paris. In any event, Bjorn’s intimate wear range is becoming very popular, and not just in Sweden.” Do you still exchange SMS messages? “Yes, occasionally after some of the tournaments, and I really enjoy it. But I am not TennisWorld sa
By Philip Mare
he Soweto Open might not be the most prestigious tennis tournament in South Africa, but you’d never be able to tell from the enthusiasm with which the event was celebrated in the country’s most famous township. The stands at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium were packed with local tennis fans, who were bussed in for free by the City of Johannesburg. Entry to the event was also free of charge, a move which was calculated to stimulate interest in the sport of tennis – and boy did it work. Crowds roared with approval at every given opportunity, especially when a South African player took to the court. The result was an electric atmosphere that was desperately in need of a local hero to step up, and that hero turned out to be Izak van der Merwe. The world number 222 put together a magnificent run and fed off the crowd’s passion to make it all the way to the final, playing some incredible tennis along the way. Unfortunately there he ran into Jamaican
Dustin Brown, who had made it to the quarter-finals of the South African Open earlier in 2010. Brown’s ranking has shot up almost 400 places over the past year, and the brutal serving that has carried him to just outside of the Top 100 was in full force on finals day. It proved too much to handle for South Africa’s last man standing, who is no slouch in the serving department himself. Van der Merwe had played a fiercely contested match against Alexander Peya the day before, which went well over two hours and ended in a tense third set tie-break. Clearly jaded by that mammoth effort, he was unable to deal with Brown’s mix of sneaky drop shots and heavy ground strokes, and finally succumbed 7-6, 6-3. The crowd wasn’t too sad that Brown won, since he had become a bit of a fan favourite as the week progressed. “The support all week has been tremendous,” Brown said. “I congratulate Izak for giving me a good game even though he beat me in a doubles game.”
It is the second time that the Jamaican has triumphed in a Challenger event, and he also has three Futures titles to his name. No other South Africans managed to make much of an impression on the draw, though Raven Klaasen and Izak van der Merwe made it to the doubles final, where they lost to French veteran Nicolas Mahut and his Croatian partner Lovro Zovko 6-2, 6-2. Notable by his absence once again was South Africa’s number one player, Kevin Anderson. Instead of coming home to play in the Soweto Open, he chose to go to America and play in a Challenger tournament there. Ironically enough he won the event, but the points and prize money were much greater at the Soweto Open, and had he brought his good form here he would have done much better for himself. Fans have been missing Anderson, who also declined to take part in the South African Open in February. We hope he returns soon, because he would have
made a great addition to the field at Soweto. Sadly the women’s side of the tournament didn’t produce a local finalist, and the South Africans in the draw struggled to make an impact. However, Chanel Simmonds did reach the second round and lost a nail-biting affair against Mandy Minella of Luxembourg. In the end the final was contested between unseeded Russian Nina Bratchikova and second seed Tamarine Tanasugarn, and the underdog prevailed in a tight match that ended 7-5, 7-5. It was the Russian’s fourth singles title to go along with her 13 doubles wins. “I am happy, just happy,” she said after her victory. The women’s doubles final also saw an upset, with the pair of Vitalia Diatchenko and Eirini Georgatou prevailing over Marina Erakovic and Tamarine Tanasugarn in an epic match that ended with one of the longest tie-breaks of the tournament. The final score was 6-3,
5-7, 16-14. It is only the second year that the Soweto Open has been held, but judging by the enormous amount of local interest that the tournament has generated it seems set to become a major stop on the tennis Tour for
years to come. It was the great Arthur Ashe himself who donated the money needed to build the tennis centre in 1976, and it was his hope that someday a child from the township would become one of the sport’s great stars. With South Africans reaching the final for two years running, it’s only a matter of time until someone breaks through and claims the trophy. Who knows, maybe Ashe’s dream will indeed one day come true.
Photos by Will Labuschagne 50
The Reggae Rhythms of By Federico Coppini
ustin Brown is the Bob Marley of tennis. With his unorthodox technique he is the poster boy for self-taught tennis hobbyists, but he’s taught himself something much more important than tennis – how to win. On the court, Brown strikes a unique figure. His dreadlocked hair covers almost his entire back, and his colourful shoelaces make him stand out among his peers. He rarely sits down during changeovers, and throws his racquet at the slightest provocation. When he gets excited – and he often does, even after routine points – he lets out monstrous screams of “come on” that would put even Lleyton Hewitt’s best efforts to shame.
But how is it that this young man, at the tender age of 20 and with almost no experience at a professional level, managed to fight his way to the Top 100 within four years? There is one overriding factor: confidence. Confidence in himself, his ability and his motivation. Confidence slowly reinforced by winning a match here and a match there. Confidence that now allows him to regularly serve at over 200km/h, hit incredibly delicate volleys and strange, unorthodox shots that bewilder his opponents.
Confidence is the key, even though in Brown it can reach levels of pure arrogance on the court. However, he often displays some wonderful sportsmanship by applauding his opponents’ shots, which goes some way to offsetting the bombast. He still has a long way to go in terms of his game, but Dustin Brown is definitely moving in the right direction. His colourful personality, passion and unique style makes him an asset to tennis, and we can only hope that he continues his good run of form into the Top 100 and beyond.
For the past seven years his ranking has fluctuated wildly, hampered by constant injuries and inconsistent play. In the last 12 months, however, his rise has been almost meteoric, and he’s gone from being barely in the Top 500 to knocking on the door of the Top 100. It’s clear that the Jamaican doesn’t have a very clear grasp of the technical subtleties of the sport, something that is easily observed in his movement and ground strokes. This deficiency is due to the fact that though he was born in Germany, he spent most of his childhood in Jamaica, where there is no tennis culture and he received little support. There were no clubs and no good coaches, and it was up to him to try and get his own game in shape. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to Europe to play in the tournaments there, so Brown had to build his career at home, piece by piece. He tried his best at junior level, and during 2002 and 2003 took part in a number of Futures events in Jamaica. He managed to reach the final of the tournament in Montego Bay in 2002, but it soon became clear that he had exhausted his options on the island nation, and in 2004 his parents bought him a motor home with which he drove around in Europe, taking part in as many events as possible.
NATION RANKINGS Players W F S Q Matches 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39.
By Rino Tommasi
he Masters 1000 series of tournaments provide some very interesting research material for assessing what has happened at the very highest levels of tennis in the past 20 years. Of course the Grand Slams still remain the most prestigious events on the Tour in the eyes of the public, the critics and the players (especially the stronger ones), but the Masters 1000 events are right behind them .They are played on a variety of surfaces in different parts of the world, so they allow almost all the players to compete in an event where their specialities are catered for. Seven of the nine stages of the “Masters Tour” have remained unchanged for many years, with the notable exception of Indian Wells and Miami, which both now boast 96-player draws – a rather dubious feature in my opinion. Many readers accuse me of being too repetitive with some topics, but it is not my fault if tennis management persist
with certain planning errors. At the risk of sounding like one who fights pointless battles, please allow me the freedom to support the right causes. I dislike 96-player draws (which feature 32 56
byes) for the same reason I hate 56-player draws (which feature 8 byes): everyone doesn’t play the same number of matches in order to reach the final. I don’t understand why organisers use these draws, because they run a double risk by doing so. If a top player’s first match is in the second round, he faces an opponent who has already played at least one match, and is used to the environmental conditions and courts. This puts that top player at risk of being eliminated in their first match, since they aren’t as prepared as their opponent. The second risk relates to the public attendance for first round matches. If top players aren’t playing, the public won’t care as much and the organisers won’t make as much money as they could. Anyway, it isn’t likely to change anytime soon so I’ll return to my overview of the Masters 1000 events. After Indian Wells and Miami it’s the turn of the clay court Masters tournaments in Monte Carlo and Rome, with Madrid having joined them recently after Ion Tiriac managed to secure the rights to the tournament. After the three clay events (and following the two Slams) we head to the outdoor hard courts of Canada and Cincinatti, bringing the number of cement Masters to four. Shanghai and Paris round out the Masters season, and bring the hard court tally to six (compared to three for clay). The tour ends with the ATP World Tour finals in London, which is also a Masters event, but features more ranking points. If you look at the rankings derived from 182 Masters 1000 level tournaments since 1990 (of course back then they weren’t called that), it becomes clear that Nadal and Federer have had a much easier time in adapting to the different surfaces of the Masters Tour. In fact both the Americans
each only managed to secure one clay Masters shield (Monte Carlo in each case), while Federer and Nadal have both claimed several on both clay and hard courts. Agassi still holds the record for the most Masters 1000 titles, but both Federer and Nadal are within a few wins of surpassing him. Djokovic and Murray are both far behind, but their youth counts in their favour. The Masters tournaments are a proud tradition of the ATP Tour, and they are incredibly hard to win. Consider this: Juan Martin Del Potro has won the US Open, but has yet to win his first Masters 1000 trophy. If that doesn’t indicate just how prestigious this series of nine tournaments is, I don’t know what does.
United States Spain Switzerland Russia Sweden Germany Austria Argentina Australia France Chile Serbia Brazil Great Britain Ukraine Czech Republic Croatia Netherlands South Africa Canada Romania Slovakia Belarus Morocco Israel Ecuador Italy Thailand Belgium Georgia Cyprus Finland Japan Latvia Norway New Zealand Peru Uruguay Zimbabwe
34 25 4 8 17 13 5 17 11 19 3 2 1 2 1 11 6 7 2 2 1 3 1 3 2 2 7 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1
46 33 16 10 10 8 8 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
31 22 11 11 8 10 2 15 12 10 5 5 5 4 1 9 8 5 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
68 59 11 22 29 23 5 16 17 23 12 6 3 10 0 15 16 2 5 2 1 1 2 2 0 7 3 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
129 110 23 39 54 37 11 48 24 41 13 9 6 14 5 32 31 26 10 5 5 10 2 6 3 5 14 2 2 0 1 3 1 1 1 2 4 1 1
274 224 61 82 101 78 26 84 58 79 35 25 19 33 10 59 58 35 18 9 8 13 5 9 4 12 17 4 3 1 1 3 1 1 1 2 4 1 1
INDIVIDUAL RANKINGS W F S Q Tot Agassi USA 17 5 10 12 44 Federer SWI 16 9 7 11 43 Nadal SPA 15 7 8 7 37 Sampras USA 11 8 12 14 45 Muster AUT 8 2 4 5 19 Chang USA 7 2 6 10 25 Courier USA 5 10 12 27 Becker GER 5 6 4 5 20 Djokovic SER 5 5 6 6 22 Kuerten BRA 5 5 3 6 19 Roddick USA 5 4 10 13 32 Safin RUS 5 3 1 7 16 Rios CHI 5 2 6 6 19 Edberg SWE 4 5 10 9 28 Ferrero SPA 4 2 6 3 15 Murray GBR 4 1 6 5 16 Medvedev UKR 4 1 4 9 Moya SPA 3 3 7 9 22 Enqvist SWE 3 1 4 8 16 Davydenko RUS 3 4 7 14 Hewitt AUS 2 5 12 4 23 Ivanisevic CRO 2 5 7 12 26 Coria ARG 2 5 1 4 12 Nalbandian ARG 2 4 5 5 16 Rafter AUS 2 4 3 4 13 Krajicek NED 2 4 1 14 21 Bruguera SPA 2 3 6 9 20 Corretja SPA 2 3 3 5 13 Forget FRA 2 3 1 1 7 Chesnokov RUS 2 3 3 8 Stich GER 2 1 6 7 16 Ferreira SAF 2 1 4 10 17 Henman GBR 1 3 4 9 17 Ljubicic CRO 1 3 3 11 18 Costa A SPA 1 2 5 7 15 Korda CZE 1 2 3 12 18 Pioline FRA 1 2 1 3 7 Haas GER 1 1 5 6 13 Grosjean FRA 1 1 4 2 8 Mantilla SPA 1 1 3 2 7 Canas ARG 1 1 3 5 Rusedski CAN 1 1 2 4 8 Philippoussis AUS 1 1 1 7 10 Pavel ROM 1 1 1 5 8 Robredo SPA 1 5 10 16 Sanchez E SPA 1 4 5 10 Berdych CZE 1 3 5 9 Joihansson T SWE 1 1 5 7 Tsonga FRA 1 1 2 4 Woodruff USA 1 1 2 Norman SWE 1 2 3 Novacek CZE 1 2 3 Aguilera SPA 1 1 2 Carretero SPA 1 1 Pernfors SWE 1 1 Portas SPA 1 1
THE REASON By Salvatore Sodano Norman Farquharson Born in Johannesburg on 18 July, 1907, Norman Farquharson began playing tennis at a very young age. He recorded a number of successes at the South African junior championship in 1923-1925, and went on to win the Blue Prize at Cambridge in 1927. Two years later he became the captain of the Cambridge University tennis team. In 1931 he reached the doubles final at the French Open with his partner Vernon Kirby, but Farquharson also recorded some excellent singles wins, including a victory over Fred Perry in the 1933 Wimbledon Championships. He won the singles and doubles trophies in Wales in 1933, and triumphed in singles at the South African Championship in 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1938. He also took the doubles crown there every year from 1931-1937. In 1946 he reached the singles and mixed doubles final in the South African Championship, and in 1946 he won the Western Province Championship in both singles and doubles. Farquharson was also a stalwart for the Davis Cup team, playing several times from 19291937. He was the number one tennis player in South Africa in 1934, 1935, 1936, 1938 and 1939, and after the War was ranked third. He lived for much of his life at “The Huts” near Claridge in KwaZulu-Natal. Eric William Sturgess Eric Sturgess was born on 10 May, 1920 in Johannesburg and died on 14 January, 2004. He won the Border East London Championship in 1937 and 1939 and the South African Championship in 1939, 1940 and 1946 (as well as the doubles in 1946, partnering G. D. Balance). He won the mixed doubles at the South African Championship in 1946 (with Sheila Piercey Summers), and triumphed at the Southern Transvaal Championship singles event in 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1945. He also won the Southern Transvaal Championship doubles tournament with G.D. Balance in 1940, 1941 and 1945, and the mixed doubles at the same event in 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1945 (not to mention the famous Natal tournament in 1946). He reached three Grand Slam singles finals in his life, but was never able to lift the trophy at those pres58
tigious events. In 1947 he lost to Hungarian player József Asboth (6-8, 5-7, 4-6) in the French Open final, and to Jaroslav Drobný (36, 3-6, 3-6) in 1951, again in Paris. Sturgess was a fighter pilot during the Second World War and was shot down over enemy territory and taken prisoner. Despite that experience he was able to continue playing tennis competitively in the years after the conflict. He won three Grand Slam doubles tournaments – one in Paris in 1947, and two mixed doubles victories at Wimbledon in 1949 and 1950. Trevor Fancutt Regarded by some as the true inventor of topspin, Trevor Fancutt unfortunately couldn’t translate his discovery into many titles. His game was perhaps a bit too complex for his time, but he was nevertheless able to bother the great Australian Lew Hoad during the years he dominated Wimbledon. Fancutt used to say that he would hit the ball with his mind before he hit the ball with his racquet. He often annoyed his opponents with his strange style of play, using tons of spin on both his ground strokes and serve. During his career he took part in many tournaments, including the Spanish Conde de Godó, but only won one Major – the Australian Open doubles in 1960, partnering Jan Lehane.
John-Laffnie de Jager Known as “JL” to his friends, John-Laffnie de Jager began playing tennis at the age of five and won his first tournament when he was 12. Inspired by Bjorn Borg, tennis was JL’s true passion, although he also enjoyed other sports like rugby. He became a professional in 1992 after having won the doubles event at the 1991 junior US Open with Karim Alami. He briefly tried his hand at singles, but found most of his success in the doubles arena. His love for doubles stems from his passion for team sports, and he reached two Grand Slam finals in mixed doubles, narrowly losing both. Like his idol Bjorn Borg, de Jager retired from the sport early, embracing the motto “Live your life wherever, however, always – because it can be taken away in a moment.” He continues to have fun playing various sports – almost always team sports – and tries to impart his sportsmanship, values and principles to youngsters. . Bob Hewitt Though he is Australian by birth, Bob Hewitt is one of South Africa’s most famous tennis players. He won an incredible 65 titles in his career, including fifteen doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. After residing in South Africa for three years, he was included in the South African Davis Cup team in 1966. He was a key player in the only Davis Cup title that South Africa has ever won – in 1974. He played professionally for more than twenty years, finally retiring in the early 1980s. In 1992 he was deservedly inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
s with many things in life, we often ask ourselves about the reasons behind all our efforts. I once heard someone say: “One million rand later and none of my children are playing tennis anymore”. So it might feel for many of us trying to give our children a chance in life. We give everything – our time, money and sacrifice – just to realise one day that they are not interested. Because of this, I think we need to address some issues when we take up an activity like tennis. We need to ask ourselves and our children a couple of questions. The first is: “What would I like to achieve with this program?” I often think about this when I suddenly receive a cancellation of lessons after many hours of hard work. There are several reasons why a player might decide to just give up, but no matter what the reason it is always frustrating. This is especially true when a player is on the verge of making a breakthrough in terms of their game. Instead of persevering, either the parent or child decides that enough is enough. It doesn’t matter what the reason for quitting at the time was, almost always the player comes to regret the decision after a couple of years. I hear people tell me “I should never have stopped playing. Tennis is such a nice game to play. Look at my weight, I lost it completely. If only I had just stayed in the game…” and so on. It all boils down to one problem: we did not sit down together and work out a set of goals by which we can measure success. Every person needs to feel like they are succeeding to a certain extent, no matter what they are doing. Over the past 20 years, there
have been many success stories in tennis, but what brings this success to a select few? In sports, the answer is talent, a great attitude, a big heart and 10 000 hours of hard work. Many of us do not like to sweat too much and don’t want to hear this, but it’s true. Whatever it is you would like to achieve, it is always important to keep a long-term goal in mind. However, there is a big difference between learning the basic strokes and playing the game at recreational level and playing at a competitive level. Individual competitive sports like tennis usually teach youngsters to work hard, manage stress, perform under pressure and maintain an emotional and physical balance. H o w e v e r, they can also impose pressures that are damaging if handled incorrectly. Research has shown that tennis is one of the healthiest, least injurious sports youngsters can play. Tennis is a lifetime sport. It builds selfconfidence and selfesteem. It teaches self-discipline, self-reliance and respect for others. But, above all, it provides a good way of performing physical exercise while having fun. Today, more children than ever before are playing tennis. Taking everything into consideration we can only come to one conclu-
sion: tennis is a great game to try and master. Before taking up the game it is important to sit down with the child and to discuss all the benefits with them. Help them to understand that it will take sweat and sacrifice to master the game, but drill the long-term benefits into their minds. You as a parent want to help your child to manage this new situation, as you do in other aspects of their lives: school, friends, family etc. You want your child to be happy, to have fun and to learn to play tennis at a reasonable level. That is probably why you encouraged them to get involved with the sport in the first place. You know that it is not easy to be a good parent and it is even harder to be a good parent to a tennis player. Knowing what is best for you child is difficult, and often there are no clear answers to turn to or guidelines to follow. Advice for parents Be sure you know why your child is playing tennis. It must never be because you didn’t achieve what you wanted to in the sport, and are looking to your offspring to do so. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on the child. The benefits that the sport has should be the one and only reason you want them to play the game. The following tips might be of some help: • Focus on performance instead of results. • Reward effort and hard work ahead of success. Avoid rewarding only results. • Promote the perspective that tennis is only a sport. Emphasise its value as a preparation for life. TennisWorld sa
Lower limb injuries in the junior tennis player By Danie Morkel
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Do not make tennis an overwhelming focus in the child’s life. For example, don’t put tennis above schoolwork. Recognise that it can be a tool to open doors like scholarships and bursaries, but don’t become obsessed with it. As a tennis parent, try to understand and have empathy with the emotional pressures and the complexities of the sport itself. Do not underestimate the stresses of an individual sport like tennis. Give your children tasks and responsibilities which will, in time, build self-confidence and independence. Avoid making them overly dependent on you. Ensure that the competitive experience of tennis is a positive one. Keep the focus on developing the person. Emphasise the important elements of sportsmanship, ethics, personal development, responsibility and positive attitude towards others. By doing so you can share with your child a healthy interest in a great sport.
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Do not let training and competition become negative experiences for you or your child. Realise that children not only have the right to participate in tennis, but also to choose not to participate. Let your child know you care about their activity and are there if they need help. Avoid becoming overly involved in your child`s tennis. Be prepared to listen and learn. Do not think that you know everything about tennis.
If you manage to keep all of this in mind and end up spending a million rand on your children’s tennis you won’t regret a single cent, because it helped them to become the people God intended them to be. People with great loving spirits that give you all the pleasure you deserve. I wish you all a pleasant tennis experience, and may you build up a bank full of positive memories you will never forget. Charl Basson ITF Level II Professional Coach Former SA Vets Player
he junior ranks make up a large percentage of the tennis players in South Africa. Junior tournaments and competitions have in the last few years become even more competitive than elite or senior tournaments. I have become aware of an increasing incidence of overuse injuries in junior tennis players in my practice. The majority of these can be prevented. Injuries in the growing tennis player are different in many regards to senior or veteran tennis players. In this month’s article we will only focus on the bony and joint injuries of the lower limb that is associated with playing competitive junior tennis.
other end of the patellar tendon at the patella itself is called Sidling Larsen Syndrome. The other commonly affected growth plate is at the back of the heel where the tendon Achilles insert, Sever’s disease. More rarely the outside of the foot can also be affected at the base of the outside (5th) metatarsal.
It is important to remember that the nutritional demands of the growing bones, muscles and brain are different than adults. A kilojoules limited and saturated fat deficient diet that is healthy for adults might be detrimental to the growth of bones, muscles, cartilage and brain of the growing player, especially if he or she has a demanding sports program.
The other serious overuse injury of the knee that I see regularly in junior players is overuse injuries of the kneecap (patella) and that is mostly cartilage softening due to overuse. This injury should be treated with caution, because this can lead to permanent damage and problems.
The weakest part of the skeleton in the growing players is the growth plate and most at risk for acute or chronic injuries. In the mature players it is the tendons, ligaments and muscles that will fail or get injured rather than the bone. In the older or lets we say, very mature, players it is the joints and cartilage that will fail under repetitive stress of tennis. All growing bones have growth plates that can be injured and although all growth plates are at risk the more commonly injured are the specific growth plates where the strong tendons insert. Most of these injuries are caused by chronic overuse and the most common in the lower limb is at the insertion of the patellar (kneecap) tendon in the upper part of the tibia (shin bone). This condition is called Osgood Slatter’s syndrome or tibial tuberosity apophysitis. The
Another form of failure of the growth plates under too much load is osteochondritis dessicans of the knee or the talus of the ankle. Although there could be a genetic factor in this condition, excessive loads in the young sportsman certainly plays a role. Osteochondritis dessicans can lead to permanent joint surface problems in the severe cases or when it is diagnosed too late.
The treatment for these injuries is obviously prevention. 1) Stay away from high impact exercises and control the amount of hours on the court in the young player. 2) Rather do less and shorter coaching sessions but be more focussed at each session. 3) In Sever’s disease the players can play with a silicone heal raise inside the tennis shoe and manage to carry on participating, but excessive running must be stopped. 4) In Osgood Slatter’s syndrome a Velcro strap device can be applied around the tibial tuberosity, but this will not heal the condition in the early or severe cases. 5) Any swelling of joint or limb should be investigated, starting with X-rays. 6) Good balanced diet with enough proteins, vitamins and kilojoules for a growing body
injuries will also increase if there are too many different sports. Coaching and play should focus on technical aspects of the game and not on the physical side until players are older than 12. The years from 12-14 should be focussed on core muscle strengthening exercises and after 16 on muscle strength improvement. Please note that girls reach bone maturity before boys, but generally will be more prone to stress fractures for the rest of their careers. I can not emphasize enough core stabilizer exercises, like slow squads, lunges, leg presses and the various forms of “plank” and “bridging” exercises. All injuries in growing children should be treated with respect. It is a brave coach of parent who puts their trust on paramedical and very often unscientific treatment methods. Remember the growing player has different joints, bones and muscles than adult or veteran tennis players. Most of the overuse growth plate injuries will heal with adequate rest and will not lead to any complications. As a general rule these injuries take about 6 months, with enough rest, to settle. In next month’s edition we will cover upper limb, back and abdominal injuries
There is enough tennis specific studies out now that confirm that there is a lower incidence of injuries in young players that play more than 1 sport until they are at least 14 years old. But the incidence of growth plate TennisWorld sa
IS YOUR ENGINE RUNNING ON EMPTY?
By Sofia Foguet and Jaco Burger
Are you neglecting the nutritional aspect of your tennis? Due to a lack of guidance and education from coaches and trainers, many players fail to address this important feature that influences performance. A proper diet allows you as tennis player to train and compete to the best of your best ability. Yes, sportspeople follow basic nutritional diets for general health and disease prevention, but this is not enough. The physiological needs of competitive sportspeople require diets that are different from those of other individuals. Like everything else in sports preparation, it’s important to keep in mind that the best diet for you is one that that caters to your personal needs. The ideal diet for a sportsperson depends on a number of factors: • • • • •
Age Sex Body size Genetics Environmental training conditions • Frequency of training • Duration of training • Intensity of training The most common reasons why sportspeople seek nutritional guidance are related to weight loss, weight gain, travel eating, nutritional supplements, pre-competition eating and, most commonly, performance. Sports nutrition is a very wide field, but the primary focus of this article will be to guide you on what to eat before competitions and after exercise. What you eat before and after training and competition can have both physiological and psychological effects on performance. It is important to note, however, that the performances of sportspeople depend more on long-term dietary practices than short-term measures.
Pre-competition Meal The pre-competition meal should provide adequate carbohydrate energy and ensure optimal hydration. Fasting before training or competition makes no sense physiologically, because there will be a rapid depletion of glycogen in the liver and muscles. A lack of glycogen will have a negative effect on performance.
Time You should eat three hours before competing or training. It gives your body sufficient time to digest, absorb and benefit from a carbohydrate-rich meal. Consuming fluids before training or competing is also important. You must aim to start exercise in a hydrated state in order to avoid dehydration. Consuming at least one litre of fluid two hours before activity is ideal. Practical considerations A general rule on competition day is that you should stay away from foods that are high in lipids (fats) and protein as they need a lot more time to digest. Carbohydrates – not protein – serve as the main energy nutrients for high intensity aerobic and anaerobic exercise such as tennis. Liquid and pre-packaged meals are also considered useful for long tournament days that don’t provide you with sufficient time to digest solids.
tend to empty from the stomach quicker than small volumes. High Glycemic Index sports drinks should be avoided since it inhibits the stabilisation of sugar levels. A better option is to have a bottle of water as a main source of hydration and maybe a sustainable energy release drink such as an isotonic drink as a secondary source. Your pre-competition meal should provide you with enough energy for the match. Another option is to consume solid foods such as fruits and cereal bars along with water. It’s important to test before competition whether you can tolerate solids and beverages. Serious complications that can arise if sweat losses are not replaced as body temperature rises. This can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death in extreme situations. Consuming adequate fluids before, during and after training and competition is essential to optimise aerobic performance. Fluid imbalance is one of the main causes of muscle cramping .This is purely due to the loss of electrolytes. The major electrolytes lost in sweat are sodium and chloride. Athletes who sweat profusely for days and are not acclimatised to the heat or who have a low sodium intake can experience cramps resulting from sodium depletion. If you are prone to muscle cramping you must increase your daily salt intake several days before the competition.
Post-Exercise It’s a good idea to consume high-glycemic, carbohydrate-rich foods as soon as possible after training or competition – preferably within 30 minutes.
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Regular heavy training Tournament competition with qualifying rounds Events scheduled with only one or two days of recuperation
Optimal glycogen replenishment benefits individual such as tennis players who are involved in:
Rehydration is very important. Continuous sweating during prolonged training can exceed 1.8 litres per hour. Athletes who sweat profusely for several hours per day may need to consume an extra 11-15 litres to replace losses. Adding salt to beverages or food promotes faster rehydration. If you are playing a tournament and need rapid rehydration it is advisable to drink a sports drink that contains sodium chloride. Remember that the replacement beverage depends on the environmental temperature, duration and intensity of the exercise as well as your personal preference. This article is aimed at providing you with a general information base to make you aware of the importance of nutrition and the consequences it can have on your performance. If you are interested in improving your eating habits in order to assist your performance, make sure you consult a sports nutritionist first. Remember that the best diet is one that is individualised – it’s not “one size fits all”, so make sure you get professional advice. Please feel free to contact us regarding any aspect involving sports science or tennis at email@example.com.
During Exercise High intensity, long duration aerobic exercise such as tennis benefits from consumption of about 60g of liquid or solid carbohydrates each hour during exercise. Carbohydrate feeding postpones fatigue by 15 to 30 minutes. The main goal of fluid replacement during exercise is to provide a volume that matches sweat loss. Athletes should start drinking before sensing thirst and continue drinking at regular intervals. It’s recommended to take big sips because greater volumes
listen more to the players, because they are the ones going out on the court. Even if it is at the cost of sacrificing some tournaments”.
Nick Bollettieri By Federico Coppini
Q: You have been like a second father to Andre Agassi. How did you react when Andre admitted to doping? “I was shocked and very sad. I only hope that everything he said does not erase the good Andre has done in his life. I hope that people can forgive him”.
Q: How could the Davis Cup and Fed Cup be re-launched? Top players often desert team events. “One way to save them would be to make them more similar to the soccer World Cup - a great event that is played every two or three years”. Q: A year ago Rafael Nadal seemed unbeatable, today he is in crisis. Will we see him play at his highest level again? “The gap between him and Federer and all the others is no longer that well-defined. Rafa will have to work very hard to return to his levels, and returning to number one will not be easy. But you cannot consider him finished”. Q: Should he concentrate on clay tennis? “No, people would not consider him as a true champion. He has already proved he is able to win everywhere”.
Q: He also criticised you... “Once when he talked about me he said it is thanks to me that he managed to win Wimbledon. Now he accuses me and his father of being bad people. His father has never encouraged him to take drugs. His father used to tell him not to do it. Andre has a foundation through which he assists 400 children, how can he expect children to believe in him after what he wrote?”
Q: Roger Federer too, after winning at Paris and Wimbledon, is having some difficulty. “Yes, but it is easier for him to stay at the top, he needs to work less. But he suffers from the curse of the best, having to always do better, having to surprise every time. I would simply recommend to him to just go on the court and have fun”.
Q: Should tennis punish him? “It is not up to me to judge. There are a lot of people who would like to take away all his trophies. But he was like a son to me. I am a great optimist, very few things in life can make me sad. I was a paratrooper for three years, I was never afraid, but this has made me really sad. Had it not been for what he wrote, I am sure that in the future Andre would have been remembered more than Sampras and Federer”.
Q: What do you think of Andy Murray? “He has all the qualities to win a Slam. He is my type of tennis player”.
Q: You have managed many number one players. Who had the purest talent that you ever worked with? “A left-handed player who was number one only for one week - Marcelo Rios” Q: Would the best Sampras beat the best Federer? “I appeal to the fifth amendment! Sampras believes so”. Q: Women’s tennis is in crisis. Dinara Safina, who has never won a Slam, was number one for a long time. Are there any solutions? “Women’s tennis needs rivalry. The return of Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters can only be good for it. As for Dinara, if I was the one training her I would give her a kick in the butt and tell her to play instead of complaining”.
Q: Do you believe that tennis is a ‘clean’ sport? “Lawyers, doctors, teachers, students - drugs are not only in sport, they are everywhere in the world. I do not believe that doping will ruin tennis, but I think that something will happen...” Q: And that is? “Tennis should punish those tested positive with very harsh penalties, three or four years of disqualification, immediately. Even if it had to be the top players. No mercy”. Q: What role do parents have in the growth of a tennis player?
“The ideal is that coach and parents be in harmony. And parents at a certain point must have the ability to push the child to reach his limits”.
Q: A problem with today’s tennis is the injuries. It is true that players play too much? “I believe that those who govern tennis should
Scott’s Three Tips for
Two “P’s” in doubles. Doubles is a very active, fastpaced game for players who have good touch and movement and like to exploit angles. You and your teammate must think of the two “P’s” for great doubles. They are Positioning and Placement.
Juan Martin Del Potro’s new racquet (Wilson BLX Pro Tour Raquet)
The first P is for positioning. To be a great doubles team, you need to know where you and your partner need to be on the court at all times in order to cover your opponent’s highest percentage shots. This requires you to move together as well as separately around the court. The second P is placement. To be an effective doubles team you need to know where to hit the ball and place your shots. This is very important and one reason that most good singles players do not necessarily make good doubles players. It is more about placements in doubles and not just hitting the ball hard. If you can master the two P’s you will increase your chances of winning the majority of points.
Who covers the middle? Many players think that the player that covers the middle is the person with the forehand in the middle or the stronger player. It is important that the correct person cover the middle in doubles so that neither of you is out of position for the next shot. It is a very basic rule, but in my opinion a lot of players and some coaches get this wrong. It is not always “the strongest person”, or “the forehand person”. The golden rule is the player cross-court from the ball should be covering the middle of the court. If the ball is in the deuce court on the other side of the net, the person in front of the ball covers the alley, the person crosscourt from the ball, the opposite deuce court, covers the middle. This way you have the two highest percentage shots covered – the down-the-line return and the shot up the middle. The extreme angle crosscourt shot is a very low percentage one. However, most of those shots can be covered as well if you learn to move with angles at the net. The roles will be reversed if the ball is played from the ad court. Some exceptions to the golden rule are an overhead down the middle or a ball that floats through the middle. At this point the forehand can take the chance by moving across and putting away the volley.
Hitting the gaps There are three basic gaps on the court in doubles. One is through the middle of the court and the other two gaps are towards the two alleys. I refer to them as the three “T’s” on the court. There is a T in the middle of the court (service line connecting to the center service line) and then sideways T’s on each sideline (service line connecting to the singles sideline). When trying to hit a volley winner, most recreational players use power to put the ball away. They think if they hit it hard enough their opponents can’t return it. Sometimes this creates a big swinging volley and they lose control of their volley. Instead of trying to hit it harder, keep the volley motion simple and aim for one of the three gaps on the court. If you aim for a gap, you will either hit a winner right away or set up the next shot to be your volley winner. When trying to hit a volley winner, it is not how hard you hit the ball, but where you hit the ball that counts.
By Federico Coppini
Jeff Coetzee When did you realize you wanted to become a professional tennis player? I knew from a young age when I left my home town of Okiep in the Northern Cape. I thought “if this is what it takes and what I must sacrifice, then so be it. I will do whatever it takes to make it in the wonderful game of tennis.”
When did you start playing tennis? I started at the age of 9. Why did you choose tennis? I had to choose between soccer and tennis at a young age and the main reason I could not play tennis first was because of the colour of my skin. When I did well in soccer the same thing happened and I could not play with white people so I decided to play tennis because it was individual. I would have no one to blame but me if I don’t make it. My mom said to me: “let the racquet do the talking.”
What music do you listen to? I like all sorts of music. Do you listen to music before a match? I love to listen to music before a match. Reggae relaxes me.
Does anyone else in your fam-
What is your routine before
– I have to do that. What is never missing from your tennis bag? Tennis balls and my iPod. Can you explain a typical day when you’re playing a tournament? Get up in the morning before breakfast, mobilise my hips and a do a little core stretching. I have to do shadow swings with my racquet, I’m not sure why but it feels right to me. I will have breakfast and go off to the courts depending on the time I play. I like to hit closer to the match but also after warm-up I will shower and have lunch if I
me and we get on really well and I’m so happy she is on my side. She means so much to me and I truly adore her. It is tough at times because she does not travel with me, but we make the most of it and chat everyday and Skype a lot. Do you ever play video games? What kinds do you like? When I was younger I liked a lot of games but now not so much. Do you like reading? If so, what kind of books do you prefer? I like reading John Grisham’s books as well as biographies.
keep it simple and only concentrate on the ball, not the player. I try to do the best that I can in all situations and the results will take care of themselves. How do you feel after losing important matches and how do you cope with that feeling? I think you should ask my fiancé! Just kidding! After a match I will try figure out what I did wrong. Sometimes your opponent just played too well. I like to talk about it and I’m just very happy my fiancé understands the game more now and I can chat to her or will write an e-mail to my coach, Pietie Norval. I think it is good to let it out and go work on it, so next time you get there you take it head-on. Tennis is a tough sport sometimes since you deal with it by yourself, but the sooner you move on and learn the better. Don’t dwell too long over it. What has been your most memorable tennis moment? Representing my country. I love
When was the worst patch of your tennis career? In ‘03 after the Australian Open. I thought “wow, now I’m on top of the world” after making semis. Then I had a terrible accident and lost my five-year old nephew. It took some time for me to figure it all out and not to put so much blame on myself. I always thought “why him? I could have gone, I have seen the world and I made it in tennis.” But I think there is so much more I can offer as a person, and the accident changed my life – how I view things and not to take life for granted.
What is the strongest part of your game? What about the weakest? The strongest parts are my mental edge, quickness and awareness on court returns. I’m not a big guy and if I would say weakness maybe my serve, but I constantly work on it and try to get it as best as I can.
Who is the best player you’ve ever faced? Federer and Nadal. I only played them in doubles but to be on the same court as them…wow what and honour. Who was the best player
Photos by Reg Caldecott
ily play tennis? My second eldest brother Ivan, who passed away, played. My brother Dennis really got me started and is still involved in developing the game. My other brother Steve also played. Who was your first coach? I would say my brother Dennis, but my first serious coach was Russell Seymour, who taught me so much.
a match? Do you have any superstitions? I like to go in my own world a little and focus with music and just really warm up. It all starts when I wake up, I get up early and loosen up my hips before breakfast. It sets the tone of the day and just before the match I really get focused with my music. I love to compete. The only superstitions I have is just to do my regular warm-up and do some shadow swings with my racquets
play say second after 11, and just before the match do my warm-up routine. Win or lose I will try to stretch after and I like to do eye exercises that I work on before I play. Dr. Sherylle Calder got me on a program and I love it. Do you have a girlfriend? How does your tennis affect your relationship? I just got engaged two months ago. “About time,” she said! She has been through so much with
One of the recent books that I really, really enjoyed was Invictus. Do you have a facebook page? Yes. Do you have your own fan site? jeffCoetzee.cjb.net What do you feel during the most important moments of each match? They are all different, but I try to
playing Davis Cup for my country. Making the semi-finals at Aus Open in ‘03, ’08. Also winning my first tournament after my huge accident in ’03, and winning my first tournament after a couple of years of losing in a couple of finals. I was really over the moon. The other moment in ‘08 was beating the Bryan brothers (twice that year), but Monte Carlo was the best because it was on my birthday and I had not beaten them for a while – so a nice
you’ve ever beaten? When I played singles maybe he was not as good, James Blake back in the day. And doubles would be the Bryan brothers, Nestor/Zimonic and Nadal in doubles always a good win. Which is your favourite surface and why? Hard courts. I grew up on it and love it, but it’s not good for the body. I love the grass but the older I get the more I’m enjoying
How many hours do you spend on the court every day? And in the gym? During the off-season, three hours on the court and 90 minutes in the gym. During tournaments one to work on things, one match play and one every day in the gym doing different things, depending on if I have the next day off or not. Could you walk us through a typical day of training for you? In the off-season I wake up and have a good meal of Oats, a Herbalife Protein shake, fruit and yoghurt. I get to courts and warm up, then practice from 9-11, a little break then gym and fitness from 12-1. 30 minutes with Trainer Jaco Burger in Stellenbosch at the University – great facilities there. Then I have lunch and catch up on e-mails on my Blackberry. 3-4 I play tennis and have a massage or ice bath every other day. When I’m on the road and playing, it’s a little different. The same routine waking up, with one hour of tennis in the morning, then gym and another hour of play. I have a massage where I can to keep the body sharp and see the physiotherapist for my hip. What is your least favourite
part of training? Sometimes you are tired and motivation plays a huge part, but I try setting myself small goals during every practice. What is your favourite food? Chicken and pasta, but a nice braai when I’m home will do just fine. Do you like tasting all kinds of different foods when you travel abroad for tennis? Sometimes I like to stick to what I know, but the last couple of years I’ve been trying to taste every country’s food. Each one has its own unique style and I think it is very important to know the culture and the food. What is your favourite movie? I like a lot of movies but love Morgan Freeman because of The Shawshank Redemption and of because of Invictus. Who are your favourite actors/actresses? Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, Al Pacino, Halle Berry, Demi Moore. What was the last electronic gadget you bought? I lost my iPod so I had to buy a new one. Do you have a computer? Yes. When you go on holiday, where is your ideal destination? The Garden Route and Okiep, my home town. I’m never there and it’s always nice to see my mom and the rest of the family and friends I grew up with. When was your last holiday? End of November, 2009 I think. It is time to have one soon. Have you ever thought about what you will do when you stop playing tennis? Yes, lately I have been thinking about it, but for sure I would love to stay in tennis and help out where I can, and give back to the
game I adore so much. I would coach but I have a passion for kids that are underprivileged, and would like to help where I can to give them a better life. What do you think about the state of tennis in South Africa? I think it is the best that it has been for a while, but we have so much work to do. We need clay courts in SA, more leagues tournaments and of cause a big sponsor. I hope one day I can play a part in helping the development of tennis in SA
What could be changed to make tennis in SA bigger and better? I think it helps when you have guys doing really well and wining big tournaments. Davis Cup is doing well and people are interested, and we need Fed Cup to do well and give them chances to develop. I think we in SA should as players and coaches come together and work as a unit. SATA needs to be more involved and use a system where we all work together instead having one where everyone just wants to be better than everyone else. At the end of the day it is about the kids. Way back we had the money and I used to skip school just to watch Wayne Ferreira, Marcus Ondruska and Grant Stafford practicing with Keith Diepraam at Ellis Park. We had a great system with the Super Squads and we need that again
get our top guys working together at the same place, so they can have a base with a coach, trainer, physio etc. We need to work with these guys and get a sponsor, so if we get 6-8 guys and girls in the same pond hopefully 2-3 will make it big in the game, but we have to work together. What do you think of SA’s chances in the Davis Cup this year? We have just beaten Finland. I was not part of it first time in over four years, as I decided not to play, but would love to be part of the team in September and play a World Group playoff. I know we can do it if all of us sacrifice and all the top guys play together and come as a unit. Who is the nicest person on the tennis circuit? There are so many, but Rafa and Federer are very down to earth for all that they have achieved. Are there any players in particular you don’t get along with? No What is your favourite pastime? Watching TV series and movies. I like reading sometimes if it is a good book. Do you have any regrets about tennis or life in general? No regrets. I have had a good, blessed life. When was the last time you cried? Wednesday the fifth of May just before I went to bed. I got some bad news. What do you think your great-
est strength is as a person? And weakness? My greatest strength is that I never give up and I always believe I can achieve anything that I set my mind to. Weakness… maybe I put so many people before myself and sometimes they take it for granted. But I learned the hard way to make Jeff come first.
Have you read Andre Agassi’s autobiography? What do you think about it? Have not, but my fiancé just got it for me so will start soon.
Who is the best – Federer or Sampras? Clijsters or Henin or Serena Williams? Federer and Serena.
How was your 2009? Not good .
Do you have any nicknames? Carmelo. A lot of the older tennis guys when I first got to Davis Cup called me that cause of my colour (laugh out loud!). A lot of my friends call me Jewa. How would you describe, in one word for each one, players like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Henin, Sharapova and Williams sisters? Federer-Class, Nadal-Fighter, Djokovic-Confidence, Henin-Determination, Sharapova-Will and the Williams sisters-Greatness.
What are your tennis goals for 2010? Staying healthy enjoying it more and getting my ranking to where it was.
What string tension do you like to play with? Play with gut in the main 51 poly in x 49. Do you change your string tension when you changes surfaces? How drastically? Yes not too much – looser on the grass and clay What kind of strings do you use? Pacific Gut main poly force 18 in the cross.
What makes you angry during matches? Silly mistakes.
Do you have a favourite internet site? Youtube.
What is your first feeling when you step on the court for a match? Excitement .
Which is your dream about tennis? Living it at the moment. Which city do you most like to visit? New York. Who do you admire most in your life? My mom and Nelson Mandela. When was your first kiss? I was 12 years old!
Q: When did you start playing tennis? Age five. Q: Why did you choose tennis? My parents introduced me to the sport, they both played. My mother played provincially and my father played social tennis. Q: Does anyone else in your family play tennis? Both my parents and sisters. Q: Who was your first coach? My father, Calla Scholtz. Q: When did you realise you wanted to become a professional tennis player? I always loved the game, and
tried to be the best I can be. To play professional has always been a dream and something I’m still working towards. I definitely don’t rate myself as a pro yet. Q: What music do you listen to? Rock, pop, rave, Afrikaans – pretty much anything. Q: What is your routine before a match? Do you have any superstitions? I don’t really have too much of a routine but I always try have a good meal before I play and I never wear a red shirt. Q: What is never missing from your tennis bag? My racquets!
Q: Can you explain a typical day when you’re playing a tournament? I would have a big breakfast, then go to the courts depending on what time I play. I would then go warm up and end off with some stretching. After the match everything changes depending on the result.
Q: Do you have a girlfriend? How does your tennis affect your relationship? Yes, I think the travelling helps because you never really get tired of each other. It also helps me in a way because I don’t want to go out anymore while playing. I can focus more on what I’m set to do. But travelling doesn’t affect my relationship as much as my father
Q: Do you have a facebook page? Yes I do.
Q: Do you ever play video games? What kinds do you like? No, I prefer doing things in reality. Q: Do you like reading? No.
Q: Do you have your own fan site? No. Q: What do you feel during the most important moments of each match?
What grip size do you like? 4 3/8.
Who is the most beautiful tennis player in the world? Ana Ivanovic does it for me.
Which is your favourite tournament? Australian Open and SA Open.
By Federico Coppini
Do you keep a diary? More like a journal. Do you read Tennis World SA? What suggestions do you have? Have read some before and I think you do an awesome job. Maybe get the top coaches and talk about the serve in one issue, forehand in the next etc. so everyone can say something about the stroke. Maybe talk about the mental part of tennis – I think maybe some kids and even coaches will enjoy it. And maybe get some guys on the tour to say something as well.
Photo by Reg Caldecott
you’ve ever faced? When I was 17 I played in the final of the China Open against an Asian boy named Di Woo, at the time he was really good and I think I won 10 points during the whole match. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.
Photos by Reg Caldecott
Q: Who was the best player you’ve ever beaten? In the Soweto challenger I beat the eighth seed Igor Sjusling 6-3 6-2. I played the match of my life. He is currently ranked 98 in the world. Q: Which is your favourite surface and why? Hard. It suits my game and I grew up playing on it like the Europeans grow up on clay.
Pressure, and how to handle the moment. Every point in tennis has a different mindset. You think differently when 40-0 up compared to break point down. Q: How do you feel after losing important matches and how do you cope with that feeling? It’s never nice to lose a battle, but you always learn a few lessons after a loss, especially a close
Q: What has been your most memorable tennis moment? Playing the four Grand Slams, main draw as a junior.
Q: What is the strongest part of your game? What about the weakest? My serve is the strongest and my mobility is my weakness. But I’m working on it. I think it is important to work on your strengths as much as you do on your weaknesses, because your strengths help win you matches.
Q: When was the worst patch of your tennis career? At the age of 18. I grew a lot and was never able to play injuryfree.
Q: How many hours do you spend on the court every day? And in the gym? I spend about 5-6 hours training a day. On and off-court.
Q: Who is the best player
Q: Could you walk us through a typical day of training for you? I would start at 8:30 with fitness to 10:00, then tennis from 10:00 to 12:00, then I’ll have a quick lunch and then back to gym from 1:00 to 2:30. Then back to gym from 5:30 to 6:30.
one. And nothing makes me want to work harder than a loss.
Q: What is your least favourite part of training? Fitness. Q: What is your favourite 74
food? Meat, meat, meat and meat (especially braaivleis and biltong). Q: Do you like tasting all kinds of different foods when you travel abroad for tennis? Not really, I prefer the food I’m used to. Q: What is your favourite movie? American Pie. Q: Who are your favourite actors/actresses? Angelina Jolie. Q: What was the last electronic gadget you bought? Chicken defeatherer (removes chicken feathers). Q: Do you have a computer? Yes, an Apple Mac. Q: When you go on holiday, where is your ideal destination? In January to Buffalo Bay. Q: When was your last holiday? January for 7 days. Q: Have you ever thought about what you will do when you stop playing tennis? I would study and return to my beloved farm “Kleine Eike.” Q: What do you think about the state of tennis in South Africa? I think it’s on the right track. We have lots of tournaments back in the country and you can see how it is helping our players. Q: What could be changed to make tennis in SA bigger and better? I think it’s getting bigger and better each day. There was a time when there was not much going on. But that is all changing now that we have the SA Open back and a Challenger as well as couple of Futures. The only thing that was lacking was funding.
Q: What do you think of SA’s chances in the Davis Cup this year? So far the team has been doing really well and I wish JL and the boys best of luck for the year. Q: Who is the nicest person on the tennis circuit? I really can’t tell who the nicest is, but I have met lots of great people through tennis.
Q: Who is the best – Federer or Sampras? Clijsters or Henin or Serena Williams? Federer and Williams, in my opinion. Q: Do you have any nicknames? Nik.
Q: Are there any players in particular you don’t get along with? I think each player has his rivals that he doesn’t get along with. Q: Do you have any regrets about tennis or life in general? Well tennis certainly limited my social life through school but I think it’s all starting to pay off.
Q: How would you describe, in one word for each one, players like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Henin, Sharapova and the Williams sisters? Federer: freak, Nadal: machine, Djokovic: joker, Sharapova: hmm, hot!, William sisters: power. Q: Who is the most beautiful tennis player in the world? Elize (a girl that played the futures last year in SA).
Q: When was the last time you cried? Hmmmm, no comment! Q: What do you think your greatest strength is as a person? And weakness?
think I am a trustworthy and loyal person. But I can get very impatient sometimes.
Q: Do you have a favourite internet site? Gumtree and Youtube. I
Q: Which is your favourite tournament? Wimbledon. Q: What is your biggest tennis dream? Playing
on the Tour as a professional in the Top 10. And to win a Slam. Q: Which city do you most like to visit? Don’t really have one, Q: Who do you admire most in your life? God. Q: When was your first kiss? Seven…hahaha. I think it was around 13, can’t remember. Q: Have you read Andre Agassi’s autobiography? What do you think about it? Haven’t read it yet but I am planning to. Q: What are your tennis goals for 2010? Try get in the top 500. Q: How was your 2009? Very good, was my final junior year and I played all the big tournaments.
Q: What string tension do you like to play with? 57. Q: Do you change your string tension when you changes surfaces? How drastically? Yes I do change it depending on the surface and the conditions. I drop it about two pounds when the conditions are heavy and the courts are slow. Q: What kind of strings do you use? Luxilon. Q: What grip size do you like? 4 ½. Q: What makes you angry during matches? Not consolidating on break points. Q: What is your first feeling when you step on the court for a match? Nerves.
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