How to Slide on Clay
This is the third installment of our three-video series on how to slide on clay. As the world’s leading supplier of clay court surfaces, the question we get asked more than any other, from teaching pros and players alike, is about how to slide on clay. Sliding not only makes you more efficient and more consistent on clay, it makes the game more fun, so we have put together a three-part video series on how to slide on clay. Check out part 3 on our website. We hope you like it and find it instructional. Give us your feedback. Har-Tru – Developing champions around the world.
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Who Will Win the French Open?
By Katrina Adams
Martina Navratilova was accurate when she said “Defense wins tournaments; it doesn’t win Grand Slams.” Carolina Wozniacki, the world No. 1, continues to show she can win all the smaller tournaments, and especially on hard courts. Now in the clay season, she fell short in Stuttgart, and we’ll have to see how she fares in Rome.
Wozniacki is a counterpuncher, and her defensive game is great for the clay. But she still needs a finishing shot to win big matches. She’s not able to pull the trigger like past champions who had bigger weapons. Her serve has definitely improved. She’s gotten somewhat more aggressive with her groundstrokes but not to the point where they’re really penetrating through the court to hurt opponents. The clay is going to slow down her shots. Wozniacki, who is only 20, will win a Grand Slam event, but her first one won’t be Roland Garros. But with the right draw, she can make it to the final.
Click photo: Li Na can be dangerous on any given day on any given surface, but I’m not sure she has the mentality to stay out there and grind it out at Roland Garros.
Li Na, the Australian Open finalist, has beaten the top players, and she can be dangerous on any given day on any given surface. She scored great wins over Wozniacki, Serena, Venus, Clijsters and Sharapova, and she’s probably got some of those great players shaking in their boots when they see her name on their side of the draw or when they have to play her.
Li Na hits the ball flat, but she also has angles which create openings for her down-the-line shots. I’m not sure she has the mentality to stay out there and grind it out at Roland Garros. She’s a great counterpuncher, and she has some huge shots. But her powerful shots can be defused somewhat on clay, and opponents are going to return some of her shots that aren’t returned on hard courts. And it will be interesting to see how she handles that situation mentally. She’s also struggled with leg injuries, so the second question is whether she can grind out matches and stay healthy.
I’m a Francesca Schiavone fan. She has a great personality on the court, and she has tremendous athleticism. But it may be too much to expect Schiavone to even get to the quarterfinals this year because of the pressure on her to defend her title. Last year’s performance in winning her first and only major title at almost 30 years old was superb. She’s shown at the Australian Open this year in pulling out that tough marathon match against Svetlana Kuznetsova that she’s up for the battle physically. But emotionally, the pressure may get to her in Paris. Her slight build and one-handed backhand also force her to work harder to generate power. Last year she took advantage of a favorable draw and ended up playing Sam Stosur, who was also in her first Grand Slam final, as opposed to Serena.
Click photo: Samantha Stosur's powerful kick serve is amazing, it really opens up the court; but it's going to be
a lot tougher for her to repeat her performance of the
last two years.
Samantha Stosur had a remarkable tournament by getting to the French Open finals in 2010 after getting to the semifinals in 2009. Sam believes she can win on that surface, and even more so, in that arena. That confidence really helps. Her powerful kick serve is amazing, and it really opens up the court so she can finish points with her forehand. She has a perfect style of play for the clay. She’s not afraid to come in to net. She’s been playing a few more doubles matches this year, so that should help her finish points a little quicker.
Stosur's backhand service return is not a strength, but on clay it’s not necessarily a weakness because she can get the ball back in play and then set herself up. Sam has had a lot of pressure on her since she reached the final last year, and that pressure will increase at Paris. Unless she faces some first-timers on her side of the draw, it’s going to be a lot tougher for her to repeat her performance of the last two years, but I predict she’ll definitely make the quarters.
I pick Vera Zvonareva to break through this year in Paris and win her first Grand Slam title. In a revealing quote, Vera said she had to be mentally tough to reach the Wimbledon and U.S. finals and rank among the top three, and she pointed out there’s a big difference between being mentally tough and emotional. That’s spot on. She has controlled her emotions and become so much tougher mentally in the last couple years. She’s learned that her outbursts are not going to help her. Reaching the Wimbledon and U.S. finals last year gives her that confidence coming into Paris. She didn’t use to have that winning mentality.
Click photo: Vera Zvonareva is my choice to break through this year. She has controlled her emotions and become so much tougher mentally in the last couple years.
Vera’s done well on the faster surfaces, grass and hard courts, even without having that booming shot. She moves well around the court. The players, themselves, believe this French Open is anyone’s tournament to win, and that attitude goes a long way. Without Serena, who is recovering from a blood clot, and Venus, and with Clijsters, who suffered a severe ankle injury during a fall at a wedding, not in top shape if she plays, I think Vera is looking at this wide-open tournament as one she can lock up as a champion.
Even though Victoria Azarenka played great to win Miami where she beat Clijsters, Zvonareva and Sharapova, she won’t win her first major in Paris. She’s been up and down with some injuries, so we haven’t been able to see her play consistently through a full year. Emotionally, she gets so tight or nervous on the court that a lot of her injuries are caused by that internal tension. The tournaments she’s been winning, like Miami twice, are all on hard courts because she has big groundies and takes the ball on the rise, and she swings from the heels. She needs a lot more variety and a lot more spin to win three or four three-set matches on clay, and I don’t think she has the strength mentally for that many matches, if it comes down to that.
Jelena Jankovic is fighting with herself emotionally on the court. To fight some of the nerves, she may appear uninterested, as Martina Navratilova commented during Jelena’s loss to Peng Shuai at the Australian Open, as a strategy to take some of the pressure off. That nonchalance and the smiles are not signs of a lack of enthusiasm, especially in the majors. As great as she is as a player, like Wozniacki, she lacks that big weapon. So she doesn’t get any easy points, although her backhand is her strength and can put her on the offensive. A couple years ago she had the confidence when she reached No. 1, but she hasn’t been able to put it together since then.
Andrea Petkovic is my dark horse pick. For her, it’s a matter of staying in the moment and really focusing on her game. She has talent. She has a good serve, and she moves around the court well. She has weapons and she’s playing with confidence. She used smart strategy, mixing up her shots, to upset Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in the Sony Ericsson Open fourth round and then fought off match points to upset Jankovic. But she lost early in Stuttgart where she couldn’t handle the pressure of playing at home. If everything falls right, Petkovic could be a surprise finalist.
Julia Goerges has improved tremendously. She hits a heavy ball, but has enough spin to give her a good margin for error. When she upset Wozniacki 7-6, 6-3 in the Stuttgart final, she was on. She had everything going for her at home, having played in that arena for two weeks in a row, including Fed Cup. It will be interesting to see how she handles the pressure because she entered that tournament not as the German favored to do best; that was Petkovic. Now Goerges is in the spotlight, and there are expectations on her, unlike in Stuttgart. Two weeks later she upset Wozniacki again in Madrid, which is continuing evidence of her progress.
Ana Ivanovic has been through a lot in the last three years since she won the French Open and became No. 1. She was one of those players who wasn’t able to handle the spotlight and the pressure. Her world turned around completely with her success there, and then she got the yips [nerves]. She went through a few coaches and a few trainers. It looks like Ivanovic is back on track somewhat, but there is that chance of her breaking down mentally in the critical moments. So I don’t see her winning the French Open this year.
Click photo: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the only teenager in the top 25, has been getting fitter and fitter every year.
The Dark Horses
My dark horses, besides Petkovic, include Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kuzy has been playing pretty spotty tennis, but she could sneak through because she’s been a champion before here and she knows what it takes. She’s still one of the best ball strikers and athletes. It depends on which Kuzy shows up. We have not seen the best of her in the last couple years since she won Roland Garros. It depends on how committed to the game she is and how much she wants it.
Yanina Wickmayer is very athletic and moves extremely well. She has a big game. She was a hot, up-and-comer two years ago when she made the U.S. Open semis. She had a short suspension because she wasn’t available for a doping test. But she’s shown she can come back from adversity and fight hard and still succeed. Wickmayer can take out a top player and absolutely is a potential semifinalist.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the only teenager in the top 25, has been getting fitter and fitter every year. When she first came on tour, she had some baby fat. She’s playing well, she moves well, and she hits a big ball. But she still doesn’t have the stamina to win the French Open. If she wins a major, this would be the one, but I just don’t think she’s ready. Petra Kvitova, the 2010 Wimbledon semifinalist, is a great talent and an up-and-coming star, as she showed recently when she beat Zvonareva, Li and Azarenka, all in straight sets, to win the Madrid title. I’m not sure if she has what it takes to win Roland Garros this year, but I don’t put it out of her reach.
Katrina Adams played for 12 years on the WTA Tour, where she ranked as high as No. 67 in singles and No. 8 in doubles. She won 20 WTA doubles titles. Adams has worked as a television analyst for Tennis Channel since 2003. She has served on the Board of Directors of the United States Tennis Association since 2005, and began serving a two-year term as Vice President in January 2011. Adams is also Executive Director of the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program in New York City.
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What can a garbage bag filled with a few tennis balls and a ten year-old girl teach you about serving? The answer is a lot. With the ten year-old as his model, David Brouwer uses these simple props to construct a reliable serve from the ground up. It's all about service progressions, building from the simplest to the more complex in a systematic, controlled approach.
Tennis and the Figure 8, part 2
In part two of his lesson on the figure 8 and its role in constructing a better, more fluid tennis stroke, Doug King looks at some of the more subtle aspects involved in creating this motion. Doug shows you how to time the movements of the body with the hands, two things that are not inherently complimentary, and how to apply force properly and with much less effort.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Daniela Hantuchova's Forehand
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.
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