| Tennis Warehouse – New Products – Quiksilver Men's Apparel, Server Polo, Thrive Crew, League Crew, Relay Longsleeve, Vital Jacket
Who Will Win the French Open?
By Pat Cash
Editor's note: Pat Cash made these predictions before the recent Rome Masters, where Djokovic defeated Nadal 6-4, 6-4 in the final, running his unbeaten streak to 37 consecutive matches.
My pick is Rafael Nadal. More than anything, the center court at Roland Garros – and I was there today talking to some of the players – is just a bouncier court than any other clay court in the world. That center court suits his playing style so much. His tremendous spin and his power constantly push his opponent's back and back, and it’s very hard to stand up against that. The weather can also be a factor.
The harder and faster and more slippery the courts are, the more difficult it is to play Nadal. He just gets you running, and you’re in big trouble. Nadal has an unbelievable record there, winning five of the six times he’s played. The only time he’s lost there was a couple years ago when his knees hurt so badly that he had to skip Wimbledon. But when he’s healthy, he’s almost unbeatable on that center court. He’s also won a record 14 Masters 1000 titles on clay, and his first two clay tournaments this year.
Click photo: Nadal has only lost one match at Roland Garros in his career and is the greatest clay court player since Bjorn Borg roamed this territory a generation ago.
You can’t compare different eras, but Bjorn Borg and Nadal not only have the best career records at the French, but they also have the feeling they are invincible on clay. That’s not just what they think. The other players just don’t think they could have beaten Borg then and Nadal now. In many ways, Borg and Nadal are identical, other than the fact one is left-handed and one is right-handed. They’re the fittest, the fastest, and they hit with the most topspin, and mentally they’re the toughest.
Novak Djokovic is playing great tennis and is unbeaten, 32-0, this year, but he’s 1-9 lifetime against Nadal on clay, the only win coming in the recent Madrid Open final. Novak has clearly improved, as we say in Australia, “the one percenters.” That means he’s improved his court speed one percent, improved his mental toughness one percent, his serve one percent, his volley one percent, his confidence one percent, and other areas one percent. It adds up to 10 percent. And that’s the difference between Novak this year and last year.
One of the most important things for him to overcome was his problems in hot conditions where he had really struggled. He recently learned he’s allergic to gluten. He’s changed his diet and eliminated pasta and bread, and he says he feels better physically than ever. Novak wasn’t tested over five sets in hot conditions during his Australian Open win. So that’s something I will watch closely. But he’s had a fantastic year, and he’s already beaten Rafa three times – at Indian Wells and Miami on hard courts, and at Madrid on clay. I don’t think he’ll beat Rafa in Paris, but he’s the second-best player at the moment, and I expect him to get to the final.
Roger Federer has the ability to beat a lot of players quickly. He’s so fast, and his style is very different from anyone else’s on the circuit. He’s going to be winning a lot of matches until he’s 35, or until his body starts breaking down. At the moment, Federer is still very, very dangerous, especially on faster courts.
Click photo: Novak Djokovic has won 37 consecutive matches and has beaten Federer three times in a row and Nadal four straight times.
But last year the weather was cold, and Federer just couldn’t hit through the ball. Soderling, with his power, could. Federer just couldn’t hurt him, especially on the backhand side which most players are attacking more and more. But if the conditions are warm this year, he’ll be a real tough player to beat. I would expect to see him get at least to the quarterfinal or semifinals. He even has a chance to get to the final, but I don’t think he’ll win it. He’s lost all three matches to Djokovic this year, and he’s definitely the No. 3 player in the world now. However, a player as masterful as he is, has the ability to prove me wrong.
Andy Murray has speed, touch, clever shot selection, defensive skills and consistency, which are all assets on clay. But he’s reached the quarters only once at Roland Garros, in 2009 and won only one clay Masters 1000 title, at Madrid, in 2008. The problem is that Andy becomes too negative at times. On the faster courts, hard courts, he’s able to mix up the pace and push his opponents around. On the clay, he ends up getting pushed around. He wants to rally. But he’s a better player when he’s more aggressive. He’s fit enough, strong enough and smart enough to get into and win long rallies. He’s a very good player on clay and showed that recently in Monte Carlo where he made the semis and lost to Nadal in three sets. But when he gets into these grinding matches with a player like David Ferrer or some of the Spanish guys, he runs out of tactical ideas and patience, and he gets frustrated. I expect to see him compete well into the second week and probably reach the quarterfinals.
Robin Soderling lacks the speed, agility, topspin groundstrokes, defensive ability and shrewd strategy that clay court maestros typically have. Yet he reached the last two French Open finals because he has unbelievable power. He has the second-most powerful groundstrokes of anyone I’ve ever seen. I have to put del Potro No. 1 when he’s in form. Soderling’s serve is huge, and he can hit winners from anywhere. His biggest problem, and he won’t go higher than No. 5 unless he fixes it, is his volleys. Last year in the French final, he had Nadal running all over the place but could never finish the point by coming to net. And when he came to net on that windy day, he just flubbed volleys. His volleying is poor, and until he improves that, he will struggle to win a Grand Slam event. Another problem is that he hits the ball very flat, and when he gets nervous or it gets windy, he doesn’t perform well because there’s little margin for error, and his shots can fly everywhere. I expect him to make the quarterfinals but not do as well as in the past two years.
Juan Martin del Potro showed he can be a force on clay when he extended Federer to 6-4 in the fifth set in the French semis two years ago. But he missed almost all of last year because of a wrist injury, and I don’t think he’s ready quite yet to be a contender. My rule of thumb is when someone is off the circuit with an injury, they take about the same amount of time they were sidelined to regain 100 percent of the form they had before. He’s been out for almost a year, so I expect him to be back in top form by the U.S. Open. But, if he regains his form and he’s fit, I think he can be the No. 1 player in the world.
David Ferrer is a bulldog of a competitor, but I just don’t think he has enough firepower to beat the top guys over five sets. He gets stuck in long, grinding matches on clay. He’s a great runner, but I doubt he can blow these guys away round after round. He’s reached the French quarterfinals only twice in eight years, and actually the hard courts give him a bit more offense, and that’s why he’s done pretty well on hard courts. But he’s a very tough player to beat.
Click photo: David Ferrer is a ferocious competitor but may not have enough firepower to beat the top guys over five sets.
The Dark Horses
The dark horses have to start with 20-year-old Grigor Dimitrov. I’m looking to see him break through this year. He has a very good all-round game strangely close to the style of Federer, and he has a potentially better serve than Roger. But I don’t see the rest of his game as good as Federer’s. He has been touted as a potential top 10, and perhaps Roland Garros will be his breakthrough tournament. He’s certainly a dark horse to watch.
I like Jurgen Melzer because he’s a complete player, and I’m glad to see him do well and climb up to No. 8. His mental attitude has improved in leaps and bounds, and that makes him a threat to the top bunch on any surface, as he showed when he beat Federer 6-4, 6-4 at Monte Carlo. Nicolas Almagro has shot up to No. 10, but he’s a bit one-dimensional, he hits all out. But he’ll give players, like Murray, a lot of trouble, so Almagro will do pretty well. Fernando Verdasco prefers the hard courts as he lost a bit of sting in his game on clay, but he’s a class player. Kei Nishikori has a lot of potential. He’s a very good all-around player. He’s very talented, there’s not a shot he can’t do. He has very fast racket-head speed. He’s an improving player, and he has Brad Gilbert in his corner, but he may not be ready to go far at Roland Garros this year.
Milos Raonic has had excellent results this year on hard courts, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be good on clay. He’s probably inexperienced on clay. But he’s one heck of a player. He’s big and agile and has an unbelievable serve. I wouldn’t expect too much from him at this French Open, but he’s definitely going to be a top 10 player.
The top two and extremely talented Frenchmen, Gael Monfils, a semifinalist in 2008, and Richard Gasquet also can’t be written off. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them reach the quarterfinals or even the semifinals if they improve their overall concentration and shot selection on big points. With the boisterous French crowd behind them, they could cause a few upsets.
Pat Cash captured the 1987 Wimbledon title and reached the Australian Open final in 1987 and 1988. In 1986, he helped Australia regain the Davis Cup with a 3–2 victory over Sweden. Cash hosts CNN’s tennis-focused magazine show Open Court, and works as a TV color commentator for the BBC and Sky in the UK and Fox Sports in Australia. He has coached top players, including Greg Rusedski and Mark Philippoussis. Cash opened a tennis academy on the Gold Coast of Australia and has coached numerous top-ranked Australian juniors. He continues to be a draw card on both the ATP and Champions Cup legends tours.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
Stroke Speed: Playing within your Technique
Everyone wants to emulate their favorite pro and hit the ball harder. So, stroke speed is a topic that is as important to the club player as it is the pros they see on TV. But, as David Smith points out, only players who have developed certain aspects of skill relative to technique will find they can indeed increase stroke speed successfully and, at the same time gain control over time as their swing speed increases.
The Tennis Court as Your Gym
We've all been there – big match, the team is depending on you, but in the blink of an eye you find yourself down four games to love. So what happened? Well, perhaps you weren't ready to play. Here, Ken DeHart lays out some simple warm-up exercises you can do in about 15 minutes that will get you ready from the opening serve. All these exercises are done on the court, so there are no excuses even for those who hate going into the gym.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Daniela Hantuchova's backhand
Known to many as much for her off-court fashion and modeling as for her on-court prowess, Daniela Hantuchova, has always been a player who can be a threat from most any place on the court and against most any opponent. Daniela possess a very fluid game; her long legs move her around the court with almost a graceful coverage that could be compared to those of players a generation ago when the game was indeed played with less animalistic grunts and outright muscle. Her strokes are pure and conventional as they fit the “modern”game and she has a serve that approaches some of the fastest on tour. New this issue, Daniela Hantuchova's backhand.
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):
- "All-Court Game and the Volley: Keys to Modern Tennis Technique," by Doug King Public – Members
- "TennisOne's Stroke Secrets: Keys to Better Groundstrokes," Public; Members
- "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
- "Underspin Backhand - Weapon," 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.
- Click here to see all the benefits of a TennisOne Membership.
- Click here to sign up for a risk-free, TennisOne 30 day free trial membership.
Copyright Notice: The contents of the TennisONE web site and contents forwarded to you by TennisONE are intended for your personal, noncommercial use. Republishing of TennisONE content in any way, including framing or posting of these materials on other Web sites, is strictly prohibited. See our full copyright statement
If you wish to be removed from our newsletter list, please click "reply" to the newsletter email, and for the subject line, write "unsubscribe." Or you can email us directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org