Featuring Gold Medalist Rafael Nadal in ProStrokes 2.0
Click here for a sample of Rafael Nadal's backhand in ProStrokes 2.0 Slow-Motion, featured in this week's edition.
2008 US Open: Picking Up the Plot
Click photo: Dinara Safina has played the most consistent tennis of the summer.
Call this the summer of discontent. Or better yet, no content. Well, maybe thatís not entirely fair. But alas, in large part, little has occurred between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to advance any kind of plotline. So many players put so much energy on that grand no-lose perk known as the Olympics (Iím talking only about the tennis portion) that their scheduling choices pretty much gutted the Olympus U.S. Open Series.
Yes, thereís been plenty of fine tennis played this summer, particularly by new world number one Rafael Nadal and Dinara Safina. In many ways, the even-handed nature of hardcourts and the fact that players by now are quite seasoned usually makes for fine tennis.
But just to get an idea of how miserable and unrevealing summer has been, letís take roll call on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Hereís how itís gone for a few notables since Wimbledon:
- Maria Sharapova: match record of 1-1 (withdrew), will miss U.S. Open with injury
- Ana Ivanovic: 1-1, pulled out of Olympics
- Venus Williams: no tour events
- Serena Williams: 2-1, including retirement at Stanford and withdrawal from Carson
Jelena Jankovic: 5-2
Venus and Serena have played little since Wimbledon
There you have it. The yearís three Grand Slam winners have completed two
matches since Wimbledon. Serena, allegedly quite committed this year, has equaled that total. Jankovic, who became number one for a week mostly by dint of her heavy playing schedule, still has yet to reach a Grand Slam final and this year has won but a single tournament.
How can we begin to assess what may happen at the U.S. Open? These top players are all stale as a loaf of week-old white bread. Then again, are they so much better that it will hardly matter? Perhaps not. Ivanovic is still riding the learning curve, seeking to balance the demands of fame and the need to improve her game. I should retire from assessing Venus and Serena given how great and mystifying they are all at once. And Jankovic still strikes me as durable but lacking the desire to win big and, even more so, adding the necessary firepower to her serve.
I may have been a bit premature in writing Elena Dementieva off.
So it looks like whoever wins the U.S. Open this year will either surprise us or back into the title. And the winner could well be one of those sturdy Russians. Safinaís dedication and improvement has been commendable. Just when Iíd thought she was headed towards midnight, Elena Dementieva has played fine tennis, reaching the quarters in Paris, the semis at Wimbledon and, for what itís worth, taking the gold in the Olympics. Ditto for Nadia Petrova, who made it to the quarters at Wimbledon and just prior to the U.S. Open won in Cincinnati.
As for Kuznetsova, she beat Dementieva in the U.S. Open what seems to be four long years ago. She has a great many tools, but too often implodes on big occasions. Thatís not a good sign, as I think the key factor for the women at this yearís U.S. Open will be less a matter of match toughness and more the ability to play clutch tennis at crunch time. In other words, it could be a perfect moment for Venus and Serena to once again go the distance (so much for me retiring from making predictions about those two).
Click photo: Andy Murray showed great form in Cincinnati but went down early in Beijing.
The Men's Game
The men’s game has only been slightly less dysfunctional than the women’s this summer. Again, I point the finger directly at the Olympics. So many players set their sights on Beijing that the summer circuit has been more afterthought than main course. Juan Martin del Potro’s 19-match, four-tournament win streak is impressive, and indeed he could soon enough become a top ten player, but over the course of this streak he only beat two players ranked in the top 20, Richard Gasquet and Andy Roddick.
Speaking of Roddick, I applaud his decision not to play the Olympics. The premise was that he wanted to get in shape for the US Open, and while Roddick played three tournaments during this time, he did not win one of them. He’ll turn 26 on August 30, a long way from the innocent youth who powered his way to the 2003 title. Though there’s no denying Roddick’s work ethic or candor about his shortcomings, it’s uncertain how much more he can extensively upgrade his tools. I certainly hope so, as it’s good to have someone as engaging as Roddick in the competitive mix. Ditto to a lesser extent for James Blake, who notched a breakthrough win over Federer in Beijing but suffered a frustrating loss to Fernando Gonzalez in the semis.
David Nalbandian may be the finest ball-striker of his time never to win a Grand Slam title.
In Beijing Gonzalez showed once again that he is a man who can ride the waves of emotion and play big-time tennis. But it’s uncertain if he can merely play routine, day-in, day-out tennis in New York this year. I’ve no idea what to make of the U.S. Open fortunes of top tenners Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer. These two each reached the semis last year but have hardly made a wave in ’08. Ditto for David Nalbandian, who appears on a course to be one of the finest ball-strikers of his time never to win a Grand Slam title.
Andy Murray could be poised for a U.S. Open breakthrough. He’s shown increased physical prowess all summer, a great addition to his superb court management and multi-faceted game. His early loss at the Olympics is likely a blessing in disguise.
But of course the real competitive dialogue is being conducted by Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic. These three have clearly been the world’s best in 2008. The questions are simple: Is Nadal fresh enough to win seven matches on a grueling hardcourt? Can Federer get more dirt under his nails and begin the quest to regain the crown? Can Djokovic control a bit of the jumpiness that’s affected him at late stages and continue showcasing his brilliant all-court game?
Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic have clearly been the world’s
best in 2008.
As I see it, the right mix of freshness, fitness, scheduling, and moxie is what it takes to win the men’s title this year. No man will arrive in New York with just the right mix of match play and confidence. And at the same time, the nature of best-of-five set matches on a surface that rewards all playing styles can make for rough matches from the get-go. This is where everything from scheduling to weather patterns can make a huge difference – more so in this wacky year than ever.
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The First Step
One of the most common traditions in teaching tennis is the development of the ready position and the split step. Traditionally, teaching professionals address the ready position and split step as a static athletic stance with a hop off both feet and first step in the direction of the ball. Recently many experts suggest challenging alternatives to the traditional split step. Doug Eng looks at the concept of unweighting and conventional thinking of the split step and addresses other parameters that assist better movement.
10 Reasons Why Roger Federer Is No Longer No. 1
“Roger Federer has five to seven years of greatness ahead of him,” predicted former world No. 1 Jim Courier. That bold vote of confidence came after Rafael Nadal dethroned Federer in an epic Wimbledon final to end the sensational Swiss’s record-tying streak of five straight titles. On August 18, Nadal ended another record, Federer’s reign of 237 straight weeks at No. 1. So what happened? Paul Fein offers 10 Reasons Why Roger Federer Is No Longer No. 1
Secrets to Championship Doubles -- Part 1: Tennis Talk
Ken Dehart explains the secrets of championship doubles and it all begins with the talk. What do partners talk about before the match, even before they get to the court? How do they decide upon a game plan? And how do they talk to each other during a match? How do they stay connected and keep each other pumped up when things are not going well? And finally, championship teams analyze thing after a match -- what went well and what didn't, why points were won and lost. So, is this talk important? It is if you want to be a championship team!
ProStrokes 2.0 - Rafael Nadal's Backhand
The Rafael Nadal Juggernaut cruised into the semifinals at the Beijing Olympics with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Jurgen Melzer and on Monday he is set to become the 24th player in ATP history to hold the No. 1 ranking, displacing Roger Federer who, prior to the French Open final, was on track to be the greatest player of all time. So much of this game is about confidence and momentum and about belief. At this point Rafa has all that in spades. Check out his strokes in the all new super slow-mo ProStrokes 2.0. Only on TennisOne. New this issue, Rafa's backhand.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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