New TennisOne DVD – "Underspin Backhand – Weapon"
This new DVD by TennisOne Editor Jim McLennan gives you the keys to developing the most varied weapon in your tennis arsenal--the underspin backhand. DVD also provides in-depth slow-motion analysis, showing you the subtle nuances of preparation, take-back, dropping into the slot, contact, and follow-through. Additionally, there are a number of extremely innovative drills for you to practice so you can easily grasp and internalize everything you've learned. Here's your opportunity to complete your game and incorporate all the variety and finesse of a great underspin backhand.
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Tennis Warehouse – New Products – Holiday Gifts for Him - Babolat Aeropro GT racquet (Rafa's); Head Murray Backpack, Nike Classic Varsity Hoody Sweatshirt; Tifosi sunglasses.
Fed & Rafa: A Season Ending Celebration
The ATP season ending final marked yet another chapter in the continuing rivalry between the games two greatest players/sportsmen/icons (you pick the best term). One plays with unmatched elegance, shots of unimaginable difficulty flow from his racquet. He often finishes matches without the hint of effort much less a sweat soaked shirt. The other plays from the gut, possessing more will power and steely resolve than we have ever seen on the tour.
In fact, and I welcome readers thoughts here: the only other player that comes to my mind as regards “mentally tough” is Jimmy Connors. As an aside, that term was not bandied about in the old days, somehow the mentally tough moniker has arisen within the modern game.
These two first met in 2004, where a fearless teenager upended the newly crowned number 1 player in the world 6-3, 6-3. If tennis is simply about getting just one more ball over the net, then on that day Nadal’s “gifts” easily outdistanced Federer’s extraordinary shot-making, and somehow that contrast in styles has defined their rivalry to this day.
Leading up to this match they had played one another 21 times. 17 of those occasions occurred in finals. Further, one or the other of these giants has captured 21 of the past 23 grand slam finals. Only Del Potro and Djokovic have so far been able to crash their party.
They have played four French open finals, with Rafa thoroughly dominating Roger:
2005 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-3
2006 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6
2007 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4
2008 6-1 6-3 6-0 This is a rare bagel for Fed!
One Australian Open final, where Rafa reduced Roger to tears:
2009 7-5 3-6 7-6 3-6 62
Three Wimbledon finals, Roger winning their first two contests:
2006 6-0 7-6 67 6-3
2007 7-6 4-6 7-6 26 6-2
2008 6-4 6-4 6-7 6-7 9-7 Perhaps the greatest match ever?
2010 ATP Final Challenge
This was their first meeting in the ATP season ending tournament. Federer owned four titles while Nadal was seeking his first.
The court at the London venue was playing “dead," the ball bounced ever so slightly lower, such that Nadal's vicious kicking topspin forehand jumped up to Fed’s one handed backhand less often – but still the amazing sidespin serve to the ad court would remain Nadal’s weapon.
Over the years Fed has squandered scores of break point chances against Nadal, nearly every one in the ad court, and nearly every one initiated with a wide, side-spinning serve pinning Roger well outside the doubles sideline with Nadal eagerly awaiting a conservative reply. As an aside, can you imagine starting a point against Rafa, where you stretch out beyond the sideline with a one-handed backhand while he waits centered long the baseline!
The biggest problem for a server occurs on break point, and in most instances that occurs in the ad court (30-40 or ad out). Further, modern tennis is now dominated by crushing topspin forehands. And at the moment 18 of the top 20 men in the ATP are right-handers. Such that in nearly all matches he plays, Nadal’s wicked sidespin initiates the point out wide to the backhand (doesn’t matter whether it is a one-hander, a two-hander or even a three-hander). Uncle Tony may be a certifiable genius, for Rafa is a right-hander who was switched to the left side as a young boy.
But with all this said, this final was all Federer. In the first set he needed but one break point, won 100% of the points played on his first serve, hit 14 winners to Rafa’s meager 2, and faced no break points on his own serve. And more than just great serving and incredible court coverage, Fed hit many heavy backhand crosscourt winners, including one that punctuated an incredible 22 shot rally at 2-3, as well as the winner that sealed the break of serve with Rafa serving at 3-4.
The final set was again all Roger. Serving much better, hitting 77% of his first serves, he secured the early break, the match hinged on the fifth game. Roger serving at 3-1, points back and forth to deuce as Rafa desperately tried to break back, but in this game Roger delivered four consecutive un returnable sidespin serves out wide in the deuce court, and finished the game with an ace. The rest was a formality – 6-3 3-6 6-1.
A Few Thoughts 2011
Click photo: At twenty-nine, Federer is still making adjustments to his game. At the year-end championships, against Rafa, his improved backhand was lethal.
Federer seems to be benefiting from Paul Annacone's coaching. Jimmy Arias mentioned that rather than chip and charge like many net rushers have done before, Roger actually rips and charges, and in many instances he approached with heavy drives and blanketed the net with finishing volleys (yes there were a few errors there but not many). Further, I believe we will see more serve and volley in the coming year from Roger, much as he did in his first and only match against Sampras in the 4th round of the 2001 Wimbledon. Roger prevailed 7-5 in the fifth, but took the net primarily because if he stayed back Pete would have had many more chances to get in himself.
Nadal positions very deep when returning serve and was particularly vulnerable to the wide deuce court serve. Further, if this form were to hold, Roger will be serving and volleying to the deuce court should they play on the grass at Wimbledon.
But, and this is an important caveat, Nadal is nothing if not a learner (meaning he is a change artist) and I would be certain he will make significant changes to his receiving position, as needed.
Some thought Nadal was tired in the final and not moving up to his normal standards, and there was one telling moment where he did not chase a Federer drop shot. Unheard of. In post match comments, Nadal said, “Everybody saw the match of yesterday, so everybody’s free to think his own opinion. I’m not going to say I lost the match because I was tired. What I’m going to say and what I feel is that I lost the match because I played against a very good Roger Federer in one of his favorite surfaces. And when he’s playing like this, it’s very difficult to stop him, no?”
That said, I am not entirely sure that were this a three of five set match, Nadal would have been able to dig deep and deeper yet to produce yet another epic turnaround. He has done it before, and we can expect he will do it yet again.
Jim McLennan's DVDs are in the TennisOne Writer’s Store:
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The Ways of the Feet
Tennis is a game of constant movement and anyone who watched the recent year-end championship match between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had to be amazed at the way these two incredible athletes covered the court. Here, Jim McLennan reflects on the ways of the feet – Not so much about court coverage but about how to use the feet when hitting the ball and all the nuances therein.
Roller Coaster Improvement and Playing Cycle
No matter what level player you are, every one of us has experienced the thrill of playing tennis above our normal level and the frustration of playing incomprehensibly bad tennis soon after – perhaps the very next match! Unfortunately, for most people, the days of playing poorly often outnumber the days of playing exceptionally well. Dave Smith refers to this experience as the Roller Coaster Improvement and Playing Cycle and he offers some ways to get off the ride.
Practice or Match Play
Jorge Capestany and Luke Jensen discuss the phenomena where players find that they have several shots in their arsenal they can use in a practice setting, but they are not able to use them in a match setting. While this is frustrating for players, it is also a typical and common progression for many shots we learn. Coaches must teach players about this reality or the player may develop a mind-set that they are "losers" and can never come through when it counts. It is helpful to look at each shot as it progresses through 3 distinct stages of mastery.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Andy Roddick's Serve
Andy Roddick has been the top american player since the glory days of Sampras and Agassi. In his “Hall of Fame” career (for certainly he will be inducted one day) he has held the Number 1 ranking and has led the American Davis Cup to victory in 2008. Andy won the US Open in 2003 and came within inches and truly one swing of a 2009 Wimbledon title. It seems, however, there will always be this but to his name – could he have done more with his game were he to have become more fluent in the moving forward skill set? We may never know – but you can be sure he will give each and every match his all. After All, Andy is a gamer with a fighter's heart. New this issue, Andy Roddick's Serve.
TennisOne Writers Store
One of your many new benefits as a TennisOne membership is your ability to purchase selected instructional DVDs at 20% off ($7.50 off each) in our new TennisOne Writers Store (login in first to access members links):
- "Building Your Serve from the Ground Up," Jim McLennan Members Public
- "Building Your Ground Game," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Building a Kick Serve," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Achieving Peak Performance the Wholistic Way: The Mental Game," Happy Bhalla Members – Public
- "Building a World Class Serve," Phil Dent Members – Public
- "Building a World-class Volley," Dave Smith Members – Public
- "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: One-Handed Topspin," Doug King Members Public
- "Best of Ken DeHart," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Corrective Techniques & Myths," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Defeating the Monsters in Your Mind," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Skills, Drills, and Games for Beginning Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- "Drills for Intermediate Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Drills for Advanced Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
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