Billie Jean King’s Eye Coach – A Journey to a World Without Head Shifting…

Connected Clubs

Photo courtesy of connectedclubs.com

The team at Billie Jean King’s Eye Coach are on a global mission to spread point of contact training and as a result grow Tennis.

Those in the industry know only too well that participation in Tennis is falling and many clubs are struggling. This is true worldwide except perhaps for Eastern Europe and some parts of Africa. Many meetings, seminars and conferences have focused on why the sport is losing players and what can be done to address the problem.

Part of the decline, at least, is due to the success of competing sports which can be done alone such as cycling, swimming or going to the gym, but this is far from the whole story.

Some point to competition on people’s time such as work pressures, school commitments and the internet – I mean Tennis vs cat memes there’s no contest, right?!

Seriously though, a traditional game of Tennis takes a long time, especially if every game goes to deuce, but that is nothing compared to how long it takes to learn to play Tennis. Sure, most people can get the ball over the net from the service line and have something of a rally quickly, but acquiring all the skills to actually play a match takes months.

The simple fact is it is hard to be good at Tennis and, however good the pro is, many students get frustrated before they have had a chance to fall in love with our beautiful game.

What then is the answer?

Should we write Tennis off as something our parents’ generation did and a complete waste of time only to be resurrected on a games console?

Surely, we can invent a robot to play for us while we chat with friends and look on?

Hold on a minute – we must be able to find better ways of teaching and speed up learning. That makes sense, but we already have the best coaching techniques in the world and still it is too hard.

OK let’s step back – what are we asking a student standing on the base line waiting for a fed ball to do? First, after the coach feeds, they must track the ball over the net to where it bounces. At the same time, they are starting to take their racket back and adjusting their feet to get in the right position to hit. As the ball bounces they start to focus on the ball and where it will contact their strings. Then, they must hit it (bend knees, swing low to high, finish on the other side of the body), and, finally, they instinctively start to watch the ball going towards (or in!) the net.

Do you need a lie down? I do! The fact is, when you are learning to do something, it is natural to think a lot about the action, however, if your thinking is cluttered, it stops your natural instincts from taking over.

Far better to say to a beginner –

get ready to go, move to your position, visualize your target, just hit it!”

These commands tap in to our natural instincts and unleash a power not possessed at a conscious level.

The difficulty with Tennis is that there are two targets and the eye naturally goes to the second target (where you want the ball to go) too early and this creates a head shift.

In other words, while the player is still hitting the ball, their head is moving. This breaks the kinetic chain meaning they hit off balance, and puts the shot at risk of a miss-hit and, therefore, potentially, an error.

With a ball that flies away there is no way to correct this, but now, with Billie Jean King’s Eye Coach, we can dramatically increase the rate of learning by at least 40%, leading to fewer errors and less frustration. We do this by eliminating the fly away ball, but keeping the rhythm of match play on the machine.

Many 1000s of players and coaches have now experienced the difference of a fast, fun and feeling way to learn Tennis and we would love you to be the next to experience it! This year we were delighted to be a finalist in the TIA Innovation Challenge for the best product to help grow tennis and we hope you will join our mission.

For more information please visit: www.theeyecoach.com (US orders) or www.connectedclubs.co.uk/eyecoach (International Orders) Learn Tennis Faster, Play Better Tennis and Love Tennis More! Hugo Allen (June 2017) International Director – Billie Jean King’s Eye Coach Managing Director – Connected Clubs

Eye coach

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Wimbledon 2017 Preview The Favorites Murray Djokovic Nadal Cilic Raonic

Wimbledon 2017

Photo courtesy of Vestionline.com

Roger Federer is the stand out contender at this year’s Wimbledon championships, but a few players in the background will be ready to get on their feet and take the trophy should the Swiss fall down.

Andy Murray, Champion 2013, 2016

The top seed and defending champion enters Wimbledon as the joint favorite alongside Roger Federer despite being upset by lucky loser Jordan Thompson in his AEGON championships opener, pulling out of his Hurlingham exhibition on June 27th with a sore hip, looking out of sorts in his Wimbledon practice sessions, and reaching just one tournament semi-final since winning Dubai in early March.

That favored status comes partly because of where Murray reached that semi-final- Roland Garros. Murray may have gone 5-4 in the clay season, but he won five best of five setters in Paris, beating players of the quality of Martin Klizan, Juan Martin del Potro, Karen Khachanov and Kei Nishikori, despite not playing his best, particularly in the early stages of matches.

That ability to win when having a bad day, to find his form when it matters, is why Murray is No.1 and why he has made 21 semi-finals of 45 slams played and, on a surface like grass, on which few players have the vital variety, touch and movement woven so seemlessly into their tennis DNA, and Murray is one of the most blessed of those few, Murray will be favored to fight his way to the business end of the event and take what ever opportunities, be it a worn down, resigned opponent (Novak Djokovic) or a first time slam finalist whose big weapon his own strength is perfectly designed to negate (Milos Raonic), land in his hard-fought-for way.

The big question is, with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal playing so well right now, if Murray can play better than another opponent playing great tennis late in a Grand Slam, something the defending champion managed to do at stages of his 2012 final versus Roger Federer, and which he did in the final stages of his 2012 US Open final versus Novak Djokovic. The world No.1 does not look healthy enough to do so, but if Federer and Nadal are upset, he may not need to answer that question, not needing to be at 100% full health to defend his title in a sport where success is not so much about being the best but, as Murray knows only too well, more about being ‘just’ better than the rest.

Murray’s draw: Murray will want to avoid a slow start if he meets Dustin Brown in the second round. The German’s big serve and first strike tennis is dangerous in the first week on Grass, as Rafa Nadal can tell you from his 2015 upset at Brown’s hands, and if Murray is playing passive tennis, the Scot may get much longer to prepare for the US Open than anyone anticipated.

Nick Kyrgios will be another grass court test in the round of 16. Murray leads Kyrgios 5-0, but he did lose to him in the Hopman Cup on fast hard courts and Kyrgios, like Brown, has the game to upset a struggling top seed.

Rafa Nadal, Champion 2008, 2010

Nadal, ranked second in the world and the race to London leader, is seeded fourth, his ’15 last sixteen and ’16 second round losses haunting him when the seeds were calculated.

Not that Nadal will be hiding under the court covers trying to escape the ghosts of his recent early upsets once this Wimbledon starts. Instead, the Spaniard should be full of confidence and ready to banish those defeats to the distant past where they belong, having already shown to great effect on his run to this season’s Australian Open final that he can earn plenty of short points on his serve and flatten out his forehand on fast surfaces.

Those recent memories and ones of successful Championships past should give Nadal plenty of hope of capturing a second slam this season. After all, when Nadal does survive the first week, when the courts are  faster before the grass is worn down, then the two time champion (’08, ’10) and three time runner-up (’06, ’07, ’11) thrives, the Spaniard always, bar 2014 when Nick Kyrgios beat him, contending for the trophy.

Nadal’s draw: John Millman, ranked 137 and who has played three Grass lead in events, in round one and potentially Denis Istomin in the second round, the Uzbeki player’s unorthodox game doing for Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, could be tricky obstacles for Nadal to clear in the first week.

Milos Raonic, runner-up 2016

Raonic’s appearance in last season’s Wimbledon final was another false start in a stop and start career. The sixth seed seemed to have his big breakthrough, coming from two sets to one down and winning a fourth set tiebreaker versus Federer in the last four, and putting in a respectable appearance in the final for a first timer, only to once again fall through the cracks that beset so many of today’s young players, this one the crack of bones and joints, Raonic’s wrist, knee, and hamstring all bothering him in the last year, the Canadian dropping from a career high of No.3, earned at the WTF finals where the Raonic engine got going again, reaching the semis and challenging Murray in one of the matches of the season, only to splutter and fall to his current ranking of seven.

So what will it be, stop or start, this Wimbledon for Raonic who lost his AEGON championships opener to Thanasi Kokkinakis, a player who had won one match in an ATP main draw in 22 months?

Raonic’s draw:  Raonic is going to have to start  particularly well if he is going to equal or better his 2016 performance.  The Canadian faces Jan-Lennard Struff, ranked 50, in round one, the German a tough competitor who is 1-2 on Grass this season, and lost both matches to Lucas Pouille in three sets. If Raonic gets through his opener, then a  potential draw awaits with Nicholas Mahut in round two, Sascha Zverev in the last sixteen, Roger Federer in the last eight. Novak Djokovic in the semis, and Murray in the final.

Novak Djokovic, Champion 2011, 2014, 2015

Djokovic stayed away from the ATP 500 events in Halle and Queens, opting instead to take a wild card into the ATP 250 Eastbourne tournament as the top seed (second seed is wild card Gael Monfils), a smart move on his part, allowing him to get valuable match practice versus good grass court players such as Vasek Pospisil who he beat in his opener, the talented Danii Medvedev in the last four, and Gael Monfils in the final.

Djokovic needs all the practice he can get, and any confidence he can gain, from his title win at Eastbourne after his last eight Roland Garros loss to Dominic Thiem in which the defending champion relinquished the last of his slam titles, losing the third set by a bagel, seemingly giving up the ghost and appearing alarmingly ghoulish at the same time, a phantom of the player who just a year before had so spiritedly won the only slam to elude him.

A year on from the collapse that has seen him drop to fourth in the rankings, though his 2015 win sees him seeded second, Djokovic only has third round points to defend, which seems an easy task on paper, but could be, if the memory of that Thiem Roland Garros loss, and all the other tough defeats he has suffered since losing to Sam Querrey as the top seed in last year’s third round, come back to haunt him.

Djokovic’s draw: Djokovic is lucky he got so much match practice in Eastbourne because he will have to be ready from the first ball versus the dangerous Martin Klizan in the first round, who even if he cannot get the upset, is going to give the three time champ something of a fright.

A possible match versus del Potro in the last 32 will be one of the first week highlights for sure, the two usually producing a competitive match, one of the most famous of those played in the 2013 Wimbledon semis.

Marin Cilic, Quarter-finalist 2014, 2015, 2016

You never know what you are going to get with Marin Cilic at a slam. The Croat, the 2014 US Open champ, can be upset in the first round, go deep into the second week, or even, as he did in New York, a rare event in today’s game for players other than the Big Four and Stan Wawrinka, win the whole thing.

Cilic, for what it’s worth, comes into Wimbledon in encouraging form, a Roland Garros quarter-finalist, a run which means he has reached the last eight at every slam, and the AEGON championships runner-up, just losing to Feliciano Lopez in a third set tiebreaker.

Such losses by the smallest of margins are typical of Cilic whose game itself is typically either on or off and can switch from one to the other from one point to the next.

That erratic nature might go a little way to explaining why Cilic is a different beast in best of five setters than he is in best of three. His best of three record over the ATP 1000 events is 84-77 (78 events played) and his best of five sets at slams is 84-35 (36 events played). With more time to recover from his lapses and to tune into and prolong his purple patches, slams are where Cilic is making his legacy, and the seventh seed has been to three Wimbledon quarter-finals in a row now (21-9).

Last year, Cilic led Roger Federer by two sets to love and had match point before losing the contest. Losing after leading and seemingly being in control is as much a feature of Cilic’s career as world beating exhibition like performances, and such extremes are what make Cilic who he is, for better or for worse, and what make him so dangerous.

If Cilic does get a strong enough grip on his game in SW19, and keeps hold of it, it would not be too much of a surprise to see him holding the trophy- the 28 year old is one of only seven slam champs on the tour, and he is the youngest of them all, which, in a game in which the slam champs keep slam-winning, suggests there is likely be more slam silverware to come for this member of that very exclusive club.

Cilic’s draw: Cilic got a tough first week draw with Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round, Florian Mayer, potentially, in round two, and Steve Johnson in round three, but if Cilic can carry his form into SW19, he is a better Grass court player than all of them and should make it through to round four where he is drawn to face Kei Nishikori and then the last eight where he is scheduled to meet Rafa Nadal.

Nick Kyrgios, Quarter-finalist 2014, Last sixteen 2015, 2016

Nick Kyrgios had to pull out of the AEGON champs with a hip injury, another physical setback for the 20th seed who has also suffered knee and shoulder injuries, but he will play Wimbledon whether or not he has fully recovered, the tournament the scene of some of his greatest wins, and biggest controversies, and the one he is expected one day to lift the trophy at.

Kyrgios’ draw: A potential third rounder with Lucas Pouille should be very entertaining, the winner going on to test a seemingly, at this point anyway, vulnerable Murray in the last sixteen.

Alexander Zverev, Last 32 2016

Sascha Zverev stepped it up this clay season, taking the Rome trophy, but he took quite a fall in his very next tournament when the dangerous Fernando Verdasco upset him in the Roland Garros first round.

That fall did not keep Zverev on his knees for long, though. This Grass season, Zverev made another run to the Halle final, only stopped by an on song Federer, and after what befell him in Paris, Zverev will be better mentally prepared to handle a letdown at Wimbledon and fight back if one of his opponents, like Verdasco did, is able to exploit one of his weaknesses- his height and his play around the net.

Zverev has plenty of ammunition to fight with- a big serve, smart point construction and biting backhand- and if he can keep his cool, stay on his game and make them play his way, his rivals might never get the chance to unravel him.

Zverev’s draw: Zverev has drawn one of only two players to defeat Roger Federer all season, 96th ranked Evgeny Donskoy in his openerRobin Haase or Frances Tiafoe in round two, Jack Sock in round three, and Roger Federer in round four.

The Tennis Review

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Roger Federer Will the Swiss Win Wimbledon 2017?

Federer Wimbledon

Photo courtesy of TinTheThao.com.vn

Roger Federer’s 2017 revival has been a big hit on the tennis scene, but the most popular record could still be to come- The Tennis Review looks at why the Swiss is the stand out contender to win an eighth Wimbledon trophy in a few Sundays time.  

History

Federer’s seven Wimbledon titles (2003, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’09, ’12) is a joint record he holds with Pete Sampras. Federer has the record for most finals with 10 (2003, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’12, ’14, ’15).

The Swiss came out at the event in 2001 as a future Great beating Pete Sampras in the last sixteen in five sets and won his first of seven titles in SW19 two years later.

Federer’s revamping of his game in 2014 saw him pretty much unbeatable on the surface in ’14 and ’15 except for when he came up against the brutal relentless consistency of Novak Djokovic.

In 2016, Federer, despite injury issues, made it to the semis and led Milos Raonic two sets to one before succumbing to the Canadian in a painful defeat.

Game style

Roger Federer’s hard to read, diverse, lethal serve, his all time great forehand, his use of slice to open up the court and throw his rivals off their rhythm, his one handed backhand which tears through the court, his sublime volleying skills, his attacking mindset and his flair and talent for the game are tailor made for Grass, a timeless game he has made his own in the last few years of his career as he did in the early ones.

Form 

Federer skipped the clay court season to focus on his Wimbledon preparations, a gamble which, after an upsetting start, paid off in the form of a confidence boosting trophy.

Federer played two tournaments going into Wimbledon, losing in his Stuttgart opener to Tommy Haas after holding match point, but shook off the rust a week later winning a ninth Halle title, beating Yuichi Sugita, Mischa Zverev, Karen Khachanov, and Sascha Zverev without dropping a set.

In the Halle final, Federer gave his best performance of the week, winning 6-1, 6-3 in 52 minutes.

Confidence

Federer could not, aged 35, go into Wimbledon with much more confidence than he has right now.

In 2017, Federer is the Australian Open champion, has won two ATP 1000 titles, (Miami, Indian Wells), is ranked No.2 in the Singles race to London despite missing the clay court season, and just won a ninth Halle trophy.

Missing the clay court stretch of the season actually helps Federer’s confidence in one crucial aspect of his game and career, his rivalry with Rafa Nadal. The Swiss has a 3-0 head to head lead over the Spaniard in 2017 (Federer now trails 14-23), a lead which may have been cut or even equaled had the Swiss faced the resurgent Spaniard during his dominant run to the Roland Garros title.

Federer may have to face Nadal late in the second week of Wimbledon, if the Race to London leader can negotiate the tricky first week conditions in SW19, and the Swiss, who lost that epic final to the world No.2 nine years ago now, will feel much more confident having only faced Nadal on hard courts this year, and beaten him each time, two of them convincingly, an invaluable feeling when facing one of the mentally toughest players in the game, and one who leads you 9-3 at slams.

Mental Toughness

Federer bounced back from a rusty start to his grass court season to take the Halle title, but the brevity of the Grass Court Season means we have not seen Federer pushed late in a Grass court tournament or come up against one of his great rivals such as Nadal, Djokovic or Murray.

Halle will have set Federer up nicely, though, for when those meetings do occur, and from what we saw of Federer in his Australian Open run, in 2017, the Swiss can, if healthy and confident, not only hang tough when it really matters, but swing freely under the greatest pressure from his greatest rivals and lift Slam trophies.

Competition

This Grass court season, Federer is looking by far and away the better of the Big Four, a quartet who have won the last 14 Wimbledon titles between them (Federer 7, Djokovic 3, Nadal, Murray, 2).

Andy Murray lost in his AEGON championships opener to lucky loser Jordan Thompson in straights, but the Scot did show at Roland Garros, where he lost in the semis in five sets to Stan Wawrinka, that he still has the game and fitness to do well at slams and is, considering his defending champion and top seed status, in some eyes the favorite for the title.

Rafa Nadal, meanwhile, has not played any Grass court warm ups and has been vulnerable in the early rounds of Wimbledon in the past few years so it would be no surprise if he exited SW19 early, but no eyebrows would rise either should the two time champion, playing better than he has for a few seasons, go deep in the second week.

Novak Djokovic is an unknown quantity, too after suffering one of his worst ever losses at a slam, to Dominic Thiem, at the French Open a month ago, and the way he gave up in the third set does not bode well for him should he meet an in form Federer at the business end of the event, but the three time Wimbledon champion could gain some confidence from a good Eastbourne showing this week, will have relatively little pressure in SW19 after dropping to fourth in the rankings in less than seven months, and has something to prove after relinquishing all his slam trophies in the past year, and in less than, at times, fighting fashion.

Federer’s most in-form rivals on Grass right now are Marin Cilic, Sascha Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov and Feliciano Lopez. Cilic, who lost a third set tiebreak AEGON championships final to Lopez, could be one of the Swiss’ most dangerous opponents- the three time Wimbledon quarter-finalist has great grass court skills and plenty of potential when it comes to Wimbledon title chances, is one of the few active slam champions on the tour, beat the Swiss when he was world No.2, Federer then challenging for the No.1 ranking, in the US Open ’14 semis, and led Federer two sets to love and held match points in last year’s Wimbledon last eight. Cilic has the big serve and ground-strokes to make any match all about him, much the same way as Federer’s attacking game does, and it is that kind of opponent, with no one currently playing the aggressive consistent baseline tennis needed to negate Federer’s attack on Grass, who will probably be the most likely to put an end to Federer’s Wimbledon dreams.

Federer will need to look out for Wimbledon 2014 semi-finalist Dimitrov, too. The Bulgarian had a great start to the season, has the flair and shot-making skills to do well on Grass, and seems to be re-finding his form after a run to the AEGON championships semis. Dimitrov pushed Rafa Nadal all the way in their Australian Open semi-final, showing he had the nerve for the big occasion, and if he makes it deep at Wimbledon and comes up against Federer, that could be a match for all seasons.

Draw

The draw will be done on Friday June 30th and Federer, who could be seeded in the top four, higher than his world ranking of five, is likely going to have to come up against at least two of his bigger rivals on the surface such as Andy Murray, who should be seeded 1st, Marin Cilic, likely to be seeded 6th, and Milos Raonic, likely to be seeded 7th, all of whom should, due to their Grass court pedigree, all make the later stages of the event, with Federer perhaps, depending how the draw unfolds, needing even, as he would have done last year if he had won the title, to beat all of them to win the 2017 trophy.

Federer, however, will, most likely, not be too interested in the draw, taking one match at a time instead, and focusing on his game rather than his opponent’s, a timeless game the Swiss can trust, one which has and can take him through any draw to the title.

Conclusion

Right now, considering Federer’s history at Wimbledon, his form earlier this season, his run to the Halle title, the rest he has had skipping the clay season, and the confidence his stellar play the past six months must have given him, there really is no one betterer than Federer to win the Wimbledon 2017 trophy.

 

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Halle 2017 Final Preview Roger Federer Vs Sascha Zverev

Zverev defeats Federer

Photo courtesy of www.kridangan.com

Roger Federer will contest the 2017 Halle final, his eleventh in all, versus Alexander Zverev who will be competing in his second. The Tennis Review previews a match which promises to give both players and their fans plenty to think about going into Wimbledon.

Since winning the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami, Federer’s 2017 has been all about the Grass season, the Swiss skipping Clay, and after an upset loss to Tommy Haas in Stuttgart, that grass court focused schedule is looking back on track for the Swiss who defeated Karen Khachanov to reach his 11th Halle final.

While Federer’s 2017 has been about reasserting himself at the top of the game, Sascha Zverev’ 2017 has been about breaking through in the game’s elite, a feat he achieved impressively winning the Rome title and reaching the top ten, but a shock Roland Garros opening round loss, where he was fancied to challenge Andy Murray in the last eight, derailed him and so a semi-final three set win over Richard Gasquet, a player blessed with grass court skills aplenty, to earn his second appearance in the Halle final should be just the result to put that loss behind him and give him the confidence he needs going into Wimbledon.

Halle is the final warm up for both Federer and Zverev in the oh-too-short grass lead-in to SW19 and neither could have asked for more of a challenge than to face each other in this event, and fans could not have asked for a better final contest, either. Win or lose, both men will go into Wimbledon as match fit as it gets for the favorites going into SW19, having contested a final and all the pressure that comes with that, and having played one of the favorites in the Wimbledon draw, one they will likely need to beat to win the trophy. Fans win either way, too, with the Halle crowd guaranteed Federer or a German as champion and neutrals served up a classic veteran versus Next Gen final between arguably the Greatest Vet and Next Genner playing right now.

The history between the two players suggests there is plenty of scope for a dramatic championship match. So far, on the ATP tour, the head to head is level at 1-1, with Zverev winning their last match, in the Halle ’16 semis in three sets. Zverev, though, unofficially leads the head to head 2-1 after beating Federer in the Hopman Cup earlier this season in three tiebreakers in arguably one of the matches of the ITF season.

Zverevs wins may have come against a struggling or rusty Federer, but the Swiss has, like all former No.1s and slam champs, won plenty of matches when sub-par. Federer has not come up against many young players with the potential of Zverev, however, The 20 year old is just the kind of player to give Federer fits- he has a big enough serve to hold his own versus the Swiss and he also has the baseline game, particularly on the double handed backhand side, to keep Federer at the back of the court and stop him executing his attacking game, embroiling him in baseline rallies and armed with the quality of shot to outplay him in enough of those to matter, most importantly of all, on the big points.

Those Zverev strengths make the fourth seed as good a final opponent as the low on match play top seed could have asked for. While the eight time Halle champion has beaten good opposition to reach his eleventh final in Yuichi Sugita, Mischa Zverev, Florian Mayer and Karen Khachanov, his game matches up well to all of them, but Zverev’s consistent baseline aggression, just the kind of game to undo Federer on any surface in recent years, will ask the right questions- can Federer’s second serve hold up to the pressure if the match gets tight? Is his attacking game sharp enough to blunt Zverev’s depth of shot? and does the top seed have the confidence to go for his shots on second serve returns, and the feel for the ball to hit winners when he does so,  and get this match won in a clinical straight setter, the kind he has delivered on grass for a decade and a half now, and which he will need to do if he is going to win seven best of fives in a row at Wimbledon?

Federer was broken twice by Khachanov and will want to put together a better first serve percentage than 66 (won 71%) if he wants to avoid a tiring tussle on the Halle grass especially against Zverev who is grooved for the fight after going three sets versus Roberto Bautista Agut and Richard Gasquet, coming from a set down in each match. That kind of fight, though, could be just the kind of match Federer needs going into Wimbledon. Federer could do with having his mental toughness tested more than anything else and a tricky, young, hungry, and confident opponent like Zverev playing before a home crowd and with the added motivation of making up for his loss in the previous year’s final is just the right opponent to give him that test.

 

 

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Roger Federer Who Can Make Life Hell for the Top Seed in Halle?

Federer

Photo courtesy of toptwitter.com

A ninth Halle title seems to be on Roger Federer’s racket this week, but the world No.5 will have to see off some of the best grass courters out there if he is going to win only his second tournament played since his win in Miami. The Tennis Review looks at Federer’s projected and possible opponents and the chances of them upsetting the top seed at one of his very best events.

Round 1 Yen-Hsun Lu

Lu, ranked 73, looks a good draw for Federer on paper but the Taiwanese veteran has some strong previous form on grass, winning the Aegon Surbiton 2016 Trophy and reaching the 2010 Wimbledon quarter-finals.

Federer leads Lu 3-0 (excluding a walkover in the 2014 Halle last eight).

Upset Factor: A Lu win over Federer would end up being one of the more notable upsets of 2017.

Federer may have been rusty in Stuttgart, but Haas, a former world no.2 who beat Federer in the 2012 Halle final, was no ordinary opening round opponent, despite his ranking of 302, but was instead a 39 year old with the kind of top level experience to make rankings and head to heads meaningless and make the match about what happens on the day.

Lu, on the other hand, may be a 33 year old veteran but in his 16  year pro career, he has a career high ranking of 33, and in his 14 events this season (7 ATP, 2 slams, 5 Challengers) has beaten just two top 100 players (Radu Albot, 97, Chennai; Karen Khachanov, 51, Auckland) and Federer, however rusty the Swiss might be, is still going to be a level above the competition the Taiwanese has faced this year (Lu has only faced seven top 100 players in 2017).

If Lu defeats Federer, he would, however be the first player in 2017 ranked in the top 100 to do so, and would jump onto the exalted level of Evgeny Donskoy as being one of the few players, alongside Haas, to beat Federer this season despite the odds being against them, the then ranked 116 Donskoy coming back from match points down in the last 16 of Dubai this year, (Haas also had to save match points) to earn a Federer win, and a Lu upset would likely also be in the same roller-coaster vein as both Federer losses this year.

Round 2 Mischa Zverev

Zverev is one of the tour’s rare serve and volleyers and just reached the semis of Stuttgart.

Federer leads the head to head 3-0 including a 6-0, 6-0 win at Halle ’13.

Upset Factor: Big, at the time, but one of those upsets that would make sense in hindsight.

Zverev has improved a lot over the past year, this week reaching a career high ranking of 29, and is not afraid of the big players, defeating Andy Murray at this season’s Australian Open. The German will also have the home crowd support so if he can get what could be a still rusty Federer to tiebreaks, where the top seed can be as vulnerable in early rounds as he is strong in later ones, and hold his nerve, the crowd might just help Zverev over the line.

Quarter-final  Florian Mayer

Mayer is the defending champion and a 2004 and 2012 Wimbledon quarter-finalist.

Federer leads 7-0 including 4-0 on grass and 3-0 at Halle.

Upset Factor: If Federer makes it to the last eight, he tends to go a stage further in Halle, the last time he lost at that stage being 2001 (to Pat Rafter). Still, if anyone is going to do inflict a last eight defeat on Federer in Halle, it may as well be the defending champion and one of the more accomplished Grass court players on the tour.

Lucas Pouille

Pouille is seeded 6th and was a 2016 Wimbledon quarter-finalist. The Frenchman also just won the Stuttgart title beating Feliciano Lopez in three sets.

Federer leads the head to head 1-0, a 6-4, 6-4 win at Paris-Bercy ’14.

Upset Factor: Pouille has the grass court skills to challenge anyone on grass, and he would need those skills to be at their very best to get a win versus Federer in the Halle quarters.

The Frenchman has won some big matches, such as his US Open ’16 last sixteen match versus Nadal, and he is in great form, so Federer will have to be sharp if he is to get past him and into a 13th Halle semi-final.

Semi-final Kei Nishikori 

Seeded third, Nishikori has a 6-3 record at Halle and is a two time semi-finalist (’14, ’15).

Federer leads Nishikori 5-2, 1-0 on Grass, beating the world No.9 at Halle ’14.

Upset Factor: Nishikori’s recent Roland Garros last eight finish was a much needed boost to his injury hit season, and that should boost his confidence, but not enough to give him the amount of confidence needed to defeat Federer in the Halle semis on the Japanese’s weakest surface.

The two have had some close matches though and while Federer is far superior on grass, Nishikori is certainly capable of beating him by a small margin should Federer be struggling with form, and with both men having had, by their standards at this point of the season, relatively little match play, this one could be very much up in the air if Nishikori can stay with the Swiss and then pull away should the chance arise.

Ivo Karlovic

One of the tour’s fastest serves and a Stuttgart finalist last weekend.

Federer leads 13-1, 3-0 on Grass including a 7-6, 7-6 win at 2015 Halle.

Upset Factor: Federer typically handles the game’s biggest servers well, as the head to head between these two testifies, the Swiss’ own serve more than good enough to hold his own to tiebreaks where his greater all court abilities make the difference so a Karlovic upset would be a worrying one going into Wimbledon.

Final- Dominic Thiem

Thiem Federer

Photo courtesy of http://us.24h.com.vn

Thiem beat Federer last year in Stuttgart and leads 2-1, his other win coming at Rome ’16.

Upset Factor:  Thiem’s smart and at times big serving coupled with his aggressive baseline game set him up well on grass, and with the Austrian is having the best season of his career, a Thiem best of three sets win over a Federer who has recently had three months out the game would not be such a big surprise, but would be, instead, another step in the right direction for the youngest member of the top ten.

Sascha Zverev

Zverev is the defending finalist at Halle, beating Federer on his way to the championship match last season, and is tied at 1-1 in ATP matches with the Swiss.

Upset Factor: Zverev showed last year at Halle and at the Hopman Cup this season that he can take down an out of sorts Federer and so if the Swiss is not back to his early 2017 standards, there will be no surprise should Zverev repeat his last season last four victory.

If Federer is playing well, then a Zverev win would be a surprise as Federer in full flight in Halle, which he would likely be if in the final, is pretty much unbeatable, and a win for the 20 year old would mean he would have had to be serving brilliantly and keeping Federer back at the baseline, doing damage with his formidable backhand, and playing the better tennis on the big points, meaning Zverev would have to give one of his career best performances, and leave Federer going into Wimbledon with plenty to think about.

Tommy Haas

Haas has some strong pedigree on grass, winning the 2009 Halle title, beating Federer in the Halle 2012 final, and reaching the 2009 Wimbledon semis..

Federer leads 13-4, 5-2 on Grass, but the German won their last encounter on the Stuttgart grass last week.

Upset Factor: If Haas is in the final, and after what happened in Stuttgart, the upset would only be a paper one.

Emotions wise, few would be upset by a Haas win, especially with this being Haas’ last season on tour, the crowd winning either way, and both Federer and Haas getting plenty of match practice in the final lead-in to Wimbledon, and Federer unlikely to be too hurt losing to his old friend with a few levels still to shift into for the big one in SW19.

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Australian L’Alpina Serves Up Retro and Urban Tennis Style This Grass Court Season

Australian L'Alpina

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

That most stylish of tennis seasons, the Grass court one, is upon us and for tennis fans inspired by the lawn tennis panache of Federer, Dimitrov, and Murray, Australian L’Alpina UK’s heritage and lifestyle collection is serving up the chance to add even more style to your on-court and off-court tennis life. The Tennis Review gives you the lowdown on a pioneer of tennis fashion, in the year of tennis comebacks, making one of their own in a fittingly retro-modern way.

Enjoy wearing a polo shirt both on and off the court? Australian L’Alpina is the style pioneer to thank.

Australian L'Alpina

Photo courtesy of Australian L’Alpina

A well-fitted polo shirt paired with a pair of shorts is one of the sport lover’s signature styles, and if this is how you dress on or off the tennis court, Australian L’Alpina is the style pioneer behind your look.

Australian L’Alpina modernized tennis clothing back in the 1950 when the Kangaroo emblem took tennis fashion out of a world of gentlemanly cardigans and trousers and into a new sphere of well-fitted polo shirts and short shorts, clothes which served up a sexier on court style, but also a practical one, too, the outfits the perfect match for a more physically demanding game, one growing more and more professional and looking to attract the modern sport’s fan watching tennis court-side, in the club house or on the sofa in front of the television.

Those Kangaroos can be seen even today hopping across tennis courts across the globe.

2017’s tennis fans have access to tennis being played all over the world at the touch of their fingertips on TV or online on their lap tops and mobiles, and eagle-eyed tennis fans keenly watching Rafa Nadal romp through the recent clay court season on any device might have recognized the kangaroo emblem hopping around the Internationale BNL d’Italia on the outfits of line umpires, ball boys and volunteers at one of the world’s most stylish tennis locations, Rome, Italy, the country were Australian L’Alpina is made and styled.

Australian L'Alpina

Photo courtesy of Australian L’Alpina

Australian L’Alpina has helped plenty of great tennis champions to victory.

Ivan Lendl, who reached world No.1 and won eight grand slams and was one of the pioneers of the modern baseline game, wore Australian L’Alpina, and the kit could not have been worn by a more hard working or professional player than the current coach of Andy Murray.

Australian L'Alpina

Photo courtesy of Australian L’Alpina

Goran Ivanisevic, 2001 Wimbledon champion, and one of the Open era’s most famous players, courtesy of one of the greatest serves in the game and one of its most charmingly wild on-court and off-court personas, brought even more color to the courts dressed in his Australian L’Alpina gear.

Australian L'Alpina

Photo courtesy of Australian L’Alpina

Australian L’Alpina is also worn by some of today’s professional tennis players.

Paolo Lorenzi, world No.36 (June 15th 2017), is, like his sponsors, from Italy, and the 35 year old veteran clay courter, enjoying his best tennis days in his 30s like so many players nowadays, enjoyed a stint as the No.1 ranked Italian last August.

Australian L'Alpina

Photo courtesy of Australian L’Alpina

James Ward will be working hard this grass court season to get back to his best ranking of 89 (July 13th 2015) and the popular British tennis player, who helped Great Britain to Davis Cup victory with his thrilling five set win over John Isner in the 2015 competition’s first round, will hopefully be feeling, after time off the tour with a knee injury, as good as he looks in Australian L’Alpina.

Australian L'Alpina

Photo courtesy of Australian L’Alpina

Australian L’Alpina’s sporting line’s blend of old and new styles and its modern technologies mean the clothes look great on and feel great, too.

The polo shirt featured below has a classic and cutting edge look with its retro style and urban twist and its striking colors, and is also made with lightweight material, making it perfect for looking stylish hitting sliced backhands and drop volleys as well as sitting court-side taking in a first class Grass court tennis match.

 

Australian L'Alpina

Photo courtesy of Australian L’Alpina

Australian L'Alpina

Photo courtesy of Australian L’Alpina

Looking to look good this Summer? Check out Australian L’Alpina here.

Follow Australian L’Alpina on twitter.

Follow Australian L’Alpina  on Instagram.

 

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Roland Garros 2017 Rafa Nadal Achieves La Decima in Suitably Dominant Style

La Decima Nadal

Photo courtesy of twitter.com

Rafa Nadal achieved the greatest ever feat in men’s tennis Grand Slam history when he won his tenth title at Roland Garros and the champion marked that milestone in fitting style with one of the most dominant runs to the trophy ever made at the tournament.

La Decima at a slam looked like it might never happen when a shadowy Rafa Nadal was beaten by Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros 2015 quarters and it looked even less likely to happen when the game’s best ever clay courter withdrew before his 2016 third round match with a wrist injury. Aged 30 and suffering yet another injury, the common consensus was that Nadal’s at times grinding game had cut his life at the top short, even in this day and age of 30 being the new 20, and that the sport would have to make do with Nine as the record number of men’s singles titles won at a slam, a record already held by Nadal at Roland Garros.

This season, however, La Decima became a realistic prospect once more when Nadal finished runner-up at the Australian Open final, his first slam final since Roland Garros ’14,  and his first time past the quarters of a slam since that event. With new coach Carlos Moya court-side and  armed with hard court and energy friendly flatter shots, Nadal was healthy, wealthy in confidence, and wise, a wisdom he showed after losing the Miami final to Roger Federer when, with La Decima questions coming at him with the ferocity of Federer net attacks, Nadal would not be drawn into discussing his La Decima chances, saying he would take his clay season step by step, knowing only too well, after his run to the Monte Carlo and Barcelona titles a year before seemed to suggest La Decima might be on the cards only for injury to force him to out of the French Open third round, just how temporary the form of a professional tennis player really is.

Nadal’s form stepped confidently into this clay court season as did the career slammer’s class, one of the game’s most permanent and legendary. Few clay court specialists have managed to adapt their games to other surfaces quite the way Nadal has, the Spaniard winning the Channel double in both 2008 and 2010,  and he demonstrated his diversity this European Clay court season once again by hitting topspin heavy, deep strokes, displaying the depth which marks his best form, and which, added to his highly effective, high percentage serving, earned him a few easy points here and there and helped out his 30 year old body, enabling him to put together a 17 match winning streak, taking the titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, and reaching the quarters of Rome, and then cruising to the Roland Garros final without dropping a set.

Back into the slam final closest to his heart, Nadal played as ruthless a match as he ever has, his clay court game in the eyes of some experts as good as it has ever been, a performance becoming of a man on his way to becoming the first player in tennis, male of female, to win ten singles trophies at a Major.

In his 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 victory, won in 125 minutes, Nadal marked a record reflecting his dominance at Roland Garros with a performance becoming such a champion. The Spaniard hit 27 winners to 12 errors, won 83% on his first serve, 65 on his second, and won 18/20 points at the net. The Spaniard’s controlled aggression, tailor made for clay courts, was patient, consistent and relentless, and his defense asked Wawrinka, who had won, with his own explosive brand of aggression,  all three of his previous slam finals, too many awkward questions, forcing either errors or sending the Swiss on the defense, Nadal ever-ready to turn the tables, his aggression ready to be unleashed whenever Wawrinka fell on his backfeet and his shots fell short, the Spaniard overwhelming the man to beat at slams the last few years to win the Roland Garros title for the first time in three years and achieve La Decima.

La Decima takes Nadal to 15 slams, second of all time, moving ahead of Pete Sampras (14), and standing at three behind Roger Federer, and while the greats can decline at the unfortunate twist of a wrist or a sudden letdown from the dizzy heights of slam wins and No.1 rankings, if Nadal can stay healthy and continue to make the brave decisions he has regarding his team and his game, his slam tally could keep growing and in a year’s time La Decima, now considered as the greatest, in the eyes of some, achievement in the history of sport, might be surpassable, #LaOnzieme the game’s next big feat, Nadal, the Clay Court Great even greater, and it is awe-inspiring for his fans, and terrifying for his rivals, to imagine in what fashion he might mark that number.

Posted in Clay Court Season 2017, French Open, Rafael Nadal, Review, Roland Garros 2017 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roland Garros Final Preview Rafa Nadal Versus Stan Wawrinka

Roland Garros 2017 Final

Photo courtesy of sportsdivasinc.com

The 2017 Roland Garros final features Rafa Nadal seeking a historic La Decima and Stan Wawrinka aiming to make it four for four in Grand Slam finals. The Tennis Review looks ahead to the best possible final the French Open could have asked for.

Facing a favorite in the final of a grand slam has never fazed Stan Wawrinka, but he has never quite had to come up against as heavy a favorite as Rafa Nadal going into the 2017 Roland Garros final.

Nadal was, in fact, the Swiss’ first ever grand slam final vanquished opponent, the Swiss executing his slam winning explosive aggression versus the Spaniard in the 2014 Australian Open final, a match Nadal went into as the top seed and favorite, but found himself undone by both the Swiss’ improved mental strength and strategic powers and his own ailing body.

At Roland Garros ’15, the Swiss defeated the heavily fancied Novak Djokovic in one of the all time great slam final performances to take his second slam title.

Even in the US Open ’16 final, the first slam final Wawrinka was arguably the favorite to win, Djokovic, the top seed and better fast hard court player, played well enough to win the first set. But an underwhelming injury-hit Djokovic run, helped along by withdrawals and favorable match ups, came to a brutal halt as Wawrinka took the match in four sets, and won his third slam trophy.

In this Roland Garros final, Wawrinka is as far away from being favorite as he is ever likely to be in a slam final. The Swiss is 3-15 versus the Spaniard in their career head to head, 1-4 on clay, and so the match up is already in Nadal’s favor. While head to heads can be turned on their heads in slam finals, as Wawrinka did himself in the 2014 Australian Open final versus Nadal, one thing which is not likely to change much, for someone leading the ATP race to London like Nadal is, barring injury, is form, and  Nadal has looked unstoppable in his six matches coming in to the final, much as he has the entire clay season, dropping no more than four games a set, putting in one ten out of ten performance, one after another, on his way to La Decima, culminating in the semi-final versus Dominic Thiem in which the fourth seed dropped just seven games, winning the final set to love, putting together first and second serve winning percentages of 71 and 76, hitting 23 winners to 22 errors, and forcing the second best clay courter of 2017 into error after error, the pressure unraveling the Austrian in the most ruthless fashion.

Stan Wawrinka has looked unbeatable at times, too, most notably from late in the fourth set to winning match point in his semi-final versus top seeded Andy Murray. While the Swiss had his very beatable moments, too, in that match, Murray testing his patience and resolve to the max, the 2015 champion came through that test, and that will help him in the final where he will really find out what ‘to the max’ means, the test he will receive by Nadal on a whole new level of rigorousness than the four hour and 34 minute one he faced versus the Scot.

Against Wawrinka, Nadal will also be examined for the first time this French Open with the scrutiny one would expect a champion to undergo at the highest level of the sport. Wawrinka brings his very best to slam finals, and while it may take him a set or two to find it, he always delivers his all-out aggressive game in slam championship matches, the kind of game necessary to keep Nadal at bay.

The Swiss will not want to take too long to find that game this Roland Garros final, and he will have to deliver serve at a much higher percentage than he did versus Murray in the first set (53), getting it into the mid 70s. If he does that, he can take Nadal to tiebreakers in which the Swiss’ risky shot-making could pay off. It’s a big could, though. Nadal’s defense on clay is the best in the game, and Wawrinka will have to control his aggression and wait for his moment or his risky shots could backfire.

Nadal’s aggression is also the best in the clay court business. While it may not hit the peaks Wawrinka’s does, it is far more consistent and controlled than Wawrinka’s, and while Wawrinka’s defense is good, it will not be able to withstand the assault of Nadal’s heavy spin on his one handed backhand. Wawrinka may be better at handling that spin than other one handed backhanders out there, but there is only so much any one, single or double handed, can take on that side, or any side, in Nadal’s backyard, as the victims in his 78 wins at Roland Garros since 2005 can testify.

Only two men have survived Nadal at Roland Garros, Robin Soderling and Djokovic (2009 and 2015) and both men were helped along by injury and a lack of confidence, two factors which will not come into play in this year’s final. If Wawrinka is going to inflict only Nadal’s third loss at Roland Garros and win a fourth slam, he is going to have to do it the  Soderling way, one more suited to his strengths, blowing him off the court, and if he does manage to produce his unbeatable best and do so, it will raise a healthy and confident Nadal’s game, too, producing the best possible scenario for the final, short of an inspiring upset by the Swiss, of Nadal winning the La Decima, the height of historical tennis achievements, at the height of his clay court capabilities

The Tennis Review

Posted in Clay Court Season 2017, Preview, Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2017, Stan Wawrinka | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roland Garros Semi Final Preview Rafa Nadal Versus Dominic Thiem

Roland Garros Thiem Nadal

Photo courtesy of timgate.it

Rafa Nadal (4) versus Dominic Thiem (6) in the Roland Garros semis might be a little too early in the 2017 Roland Garros tale for some, but the stage might just be the right one to deliver the match clay court tennis fans deserve.

Tennis fans do not always get what they deserve at the business end of slams- they follow the long clay lead in, for example, week in week out, only for their favorites to have peaked too soon and exit in the first round, failing to meet their seed in the draw and depriving us of top draw matches- but at this year’s Roland Garros tennis fans will get what is coming to them in the semi-finals when Rafa Nadal, the Monte Carlo, Madrid and Barcelona champion meets Dominic Thiem, the Barcelona and Madrid finalist, and the only player to beat Nadal in the European clay court swing.

For some, the Nadal-Thiem Roland Garros semi-final will be a match too soon, the main narrative of the 2017 clay court season story wrapped up too early, the final act, the championship match reduced to a denouement. For others, though, the semi final might be the perfect place to wrap up the Nadal-Thiem story this clay season, the final perhaps too nervy an occasion for Thiem, who is yet to explore that stage of his potential, leaving the semi-final, where the sixth seed, the 2016 semi-finalist, is more comfortable, a setting more likely, perhaps, to do their 2017 clay court rivalry justice.

In their six career meetings so far, Nadal and Thiem have only ever met on clay, (Nadal leads 4-2). Before their match in Barcelona this year, Nadal led the head to head 2-1, winning at Roland Garros ’14 and Monte Carlo ’16 and losing at Buenos Aires ’16. This season, Nadal pulled ahead in the head to head, winning the Barcelona final 6-4, 6-1, and the Madrid final 7-6 (8), 6-4, a far more closely contested affair, Thiem learning from the Barcelona loss and exploiting the faster conditions, but in Rome, Thiem cut the head to head deficit, everything coming together for the youngest member of the top ten, the Austrian defeating Nadal 6-4, 6-3 in a two hour contest.

Their upcoming Roland Garros will see an even further improved Thiem, the sixth seed reaching the last eight without dropping a set and scoring his first win over Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, in the quarter-finals, and not just any old win, but one with a  7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-0 scoreline, the Austrian breaking down Novak’s game and his spirit in about as calm, brutally effective and clinical a style as it gets in pro tennis, showcasing a killer instinct becoming of a highly touted future Roland Garros champion.

Nadal knows a thing or two about the killer instinct. The nine time champion, aiming for a historic La Decima, has cruised through the draw, one of his most dominant ever processions, dropping just 16 games in the first four rounds, and getting into the semis courtesy of his opponent Pablo Carreno-Busta retiring trailing 2-6, 0-2.

Thiem goes into the semis on the top of his game, on the back of a career best win, while Nadal may find his rhythm a little off due to how his quarter-final panned out, and Thiem, who will need every advantage he can get, will have to exploit that, starting where he left off, and not allowing Nadal to break away, the Spaniard proving to be a formidable front runner this event, and Thiem in danger of being swept away, the pressure overwhelming him, not just forcing him into error, but setting off the unforced errors that can plague the Austrian when he is feeling tight.

Thiem can at least, if that happens, take refuge in the five set format, and the motivation to do better in his second slam final than he did in his first in which he just won seven games. Thiem, one of the best students there is in the pro game, is sure to improve on that showing, his powerful serve and strokes of a class high enough to earn him a set, if not two.

To win the match might be out of Thiem’s reach, the task of playing his best tennis for three sets versus one of the greatest clay courters in some of his best ever clay form a tough ask for someone who has never delivered a similar performance in similar circumstances, but Thiem should not be underestimated due to his inexperience, the sixth seed proving he deserves his role as one of the central characters in the 2017 clay court tale, and if anyone is going to bring about a thrilling twist a chapter too early at Roland Garros, Thiem is as good as, if not better than, anyone to execute.

The Tennis Review

Posted in Clay Court Season 2017, Dominic Thiem, French Open, Preview, Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2017 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roland Garros Quarter Final Preview Novak Djokovic Vs Dominic Thiem

Roland Garros

Photo courtesy of hln.be

Roland Garros’ defending champion Novak Djokovic (2) takes on the fancied future champ Dominic Thiem (6) in the quarter-finals- who will win the sixth installment of what has been, so far, a Serbian dominated rivalry?

Every time Dominic Thiem has made a significant step in his career – reaching his first slam semi (Roland Garros ’16), qualifying for his first ATP world tour finals (WTF ’16), or beating Rafa Nadal in a clay ATP 1000 tournament (Rome ’17) – Novak Djokovic has been waiting in the next round to remind Thiem just how much he has to learn.

At this season’s French Open, Thiem’s career milestone is meeting his highest ever seeded position in a slam draw. The sixth seed could have been forgiven for not reaching the quarter-finals, after a career best run of results (Barcelona final, Madrid final, Rome semis) for having a letdown and suffering an upset at the hands of Simone Bolelli, Steve Johnson or Horacio Zeballos, but he has lived up to expectations, exceeded them, even, by reaching the last eight without dropping a set.

Progress has not been as serene for defending champ Djokovic who dropped two sets to Diego Schwartzman in the third round and struggled in the first set of his fourth round match versus Albert Ramos-Vinolas, but Djokovic has tended to struggle early on in slams and the second seed is looking as good as he has at a slam since he last won one 12 months ago in Paris, and as good as he has since winning Doha at the start of this season.

A couple of weeks ago, against Thiem in Rome, Djokovic finally looked like he might be finally hitting the form fitting of a world No.2, beating the Austrian 6-1, 6-0 in a performance in which he executed the consistently high quality blend of offense and defense which made him the player to beat from Wimbledon ’14 to Roland Garros ’16, the game which has the answer to everything and asks his opponent one too many uncomfortable questions, questions which did not just make Thiem feel awkward, but humbled him, reminded him he may be competing in ATP 1000 finals and beating clay court greats but he still had plenty to work on when it came to his tennis.

A tired and emotionally spent Thiem played into Djokovic’s hands in Rome that day, giving the Serbian a much welcomed mix of rhythm and errors, but the sixth seed will have the energy he needs in the Roland Garros quarters to execute the controlled aggression necessary to defeat a Djokovic who, while not at the heights he was when they met in Paris a year back, is, if his first four matches are anything to go by, at his best in best of five at slams, a format which gives him time to find his game and unravel his rival’s, rivals who may have it in them to take a set or two but who find the effort to achieve that feat leaves them spent at the business end of a five setter, in the fourth and fifth sets, the time when Djokovic taps into the deeper reservoirs of his tank and finds he still has plenty running, more than enough to run his rival over.

Thiem is strong enough to stay on his feet, however, if the match goes deep, and if he can stay with Djokovic and hit through him, show he has learned his lessons from their Miami ’16 fourth round encounter (Thiem, reaching back to back last 16s in ATP 1000s for the first time, failed to convert 14 of 15 break points) and take his chances, the sixth seed may be able to tap into Djokovic’s greater fragility over the last 12 months, the inconsistency which has seen him go from big wins to even bigger losses in the space of a round, get the second seed wondering just how much he wants to be out there fighting a five setter versus someone of the power and clay court skill of Thiem, and make Djokovic no longer the stumbling block tripped on after clearing one of his milestones, but instead, for the first time in six meetings, one of the steps he dashes across on his way to another class in what is becoming a very impressive learning curve, a potential last four match with Rafa Nadal.

The Tennis Review

Posted in Clay Court Season 2017, Dominic Thiem, French Open, Novak Djokovic, Preview, Roland Garros 2017 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment