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12 Random Insights from This Year’s U.S. Open
Roger Federer Is Not God
|It’s hard to believe he won’t eclipse Sampras’ mark of 14 Slam titles within the next two years.
Certainly he’s remarkable, but to hear Federer deified can inadvertently diminish the extensive amount of work he’s put in to be so great – and also negate the high quality play of all of his rivals. In other words,
Nikolay Davydenko is 99 percent as good as Federer and should be given his due too.
As for Federer, at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, he scraped his way out of each final. In New York he was strongly tested in all of his last five matches.
I’m not saying he’s eroding, just that the next two years winning Slams will not get easier. That said, it’s hard to believe he won’t eclipse Sampras’ mark of 14 Slam titles within the next two years.
Andy Roddick Will Keep Grinding
“I’m not walking off with any questions in my head this time,” Roddick said after his 7-6, 7-6, 6-2 quarterfinal loss to Federer.
I’m not walking with my head down. I played my ass off out there tonight. I played the right way.”
The rub, of course, is that Federer has more tools. But it’s important to note that while Roddick is obviously aware of having won one Grand Slam singles title, what I’ve come to see as a journalist is that players don’t play their careers strictly to fill out anyone’s desired story line. In other words, Roddick’s likely not going to get too bogged down in questioning himself even if it’s clear he’s going to have to work very hard to beat not just Federer, but also the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or even Davydenko and, for that matter, Tommy Haas. All Roddick can do is just keep playing, trying to improve and earn his keep as a pro.
As for his relationship to Connors, though it’s tempting to wonder if Jimbo’s had enough of seeing his boy fail to take too many titles, let’s remember that Connors the player was never one to throw in the towel. Still, as Andre Agassi said, it’s not so easy for a player and coach to get much done when they only spend 15 weeks a year together. I think, though, that Roddick’s still getting much from Connors. But don’t expect to see Connors trekking to one of his most uncomfortable settings, a Davis Cup tie – particularly the one that’s about to be played in Gothenburg, Sweden, site of a rare Connors meltdown at the ’84 Davis Cup final.
He came up short in his year's final but this talented Serb surely have his day.
Novak Djokovic Will Have His Day
Clearly the Cinderella of 2007, but not likely to turn into a pumpkin. The first time I saw Djokovic play he struck me as the most solid-looking ex-Stanford player I’d ever seen. Though he didn't attend that school, his no-nonsense game reminded me of many players I'd seen come out of college tennis -- pruned-down groundstrokes, crisp ballstriking, and sharp movement. Of course Djokovic does all these things with considerably more pace and speed than even the best collegians. Somehow, his lack of flash adds up to a lot of sizzle – and not just because of his entertaining impersonations.
The question now becomes a matter of the Serb rounding out his baseline game by learning how to better transition and play a little less defensively during tight stages of a match. In theory, given Djokovic’s attitude, vision, and desire, that should all happen. Unlike such prior talents as Marat Safin, he appears scarcely-jaded and undistracted by the game’s off-court perks. Next year promises to be a very interesting time for him.
Rafael Nadal Faces A Scheduling Conundrum
It’s so admirable how much the Spaniard throws himself into the first half of the year. But now that he’s no longer a tennis youngster, it’s frustrating to watch Nadal stagger through the latter half of the year. Surely he hoped for more in New York, but his body and tennis betrayed him. But what can Nadal do? He is committed to an exceptionally physical, punishing kind of tennis. It makes him a wonderfully compelling tennis version of a matador. But the toll is a tough one, and I hope, in the years to come, Rafa will find a way to make life easier on himself in the early rounds, or even slightly trim his clay schedule.
James Blake Needs A Cruising Speed
|Blake is like a 747, he flies extremely high but he burns a lot
Several years ago James Blake told me he hoped one day he’d be remembered more for his great wins than great losses. The race continues. Earning his first five-set victory over the diabolical Fabrice Santoro was superb. But how he could lose a fourth set to Tommy Haas 6-0, and then let three match points slip by was yet another sign that while Blake is a very good player, he’s lacking a few of the tools that could make him great.
James can be so engaging, but perhaps that kind of brilliance forces him to burn so much fuel and be unable to find an efficient manner of merely winning rather than electrifying. At times tennis should just be a matter of the ordinary. But then again, Blake has this massive forehand, great wheels and a penchant for great offense. Like Roddick, he’ll soldier on – but sometimes it’s more important to have command of a series of good shots rather than be forced to pull off great shots.
I Don’t Care About American Tennis
Enough with the whining and the wondering. No, I’m not convinced John Isner or Donald Young is the next great thing. But here’s something to consider: Tennis is not the Olympics. This is a global sport, with fans who follow players from all nations. Plenty of Americans loved Borg and now love Nadal.
My revolutionary idea that will never happen: Eliminate national tennis associations and create a worldwide tennis environment. Young Californians can get shipped to Spain for claycourt training. Spaniards can come west. And so on. Just leave the flag-waving out of it (and start my FBI file).
Betting Probe Will Invariably Prove Inconclusive
How to determine? How to stop? Impossible.
Justine Henin Begs Further Analysis
The game alone is testimony to the dangers of institutionalized coaching systems. Had she not been able to be the big fish in a little pond, young Justine might have been micro-managed right out of building her own playing style. Can others play like her? It’s not easy, but the point is that a player should be encouraged to build his or her own game rather than be sledge-hammered into a coach’s vision of how to hit the ball. Far too many coaches and instructors engage in data transfer rather than truly grasping a player’s desires or skills.
Of course there’s also a remarkable back story to Henin’s recent success. Her year began with a divorce, continued with a familial reconciliation and all along she has this remarkable connection to her coach, Carlos Rodriguez. You won’t see her posing for fashion layouts or pursuing an acting career, but if this woman isn’t an example of tennis’ penchant for powerful personalities, then abandon hope.
The Williams Sisters Are Champions, But Lack Class
The Williams sisters are great champions but gracious
They’ve won, they might win more in the future, they can compete wonderfully – but Serena and Venus could stand to learn a lot more about how to be gracious losers. Serena’s comment that Henin hit “lucky shots” was utterly tasteless, the lowlight of a perfunctory press conference.
As anticipated, Venus was kinder, but rather than indulge in one answer after another about her dizziness, she could have merely said that she lost and that she vowed to win the next match.
Added admonition goes to mother Oracene for talking about taking Venus to the Mayo Clinic. Australian Roy Emerson put it best: If you’re hurt, don’t play. And if you play, you’re not hurt. End of story.
The Russians Are Going, The Russians Are Going
From Svetlana Kuznetsova to Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova to Marat Safin and yes, my man, Davydenko, these are all a batch of powerful, hardworking, driven athletes – driven, that is, to escape from poor-to-working class lifestyles. Fair enough, but now that they’re all millionaires, the wear and tear of such narrow playing styles and metronomic ball-striking is starting to show. Too much force, not enough play. Too much composition, not enough literature.
Russians will continue to emerge, but it’s uncertain how much impact they’ll have at the highest levels. And though Maria Sharapova is technically a Russian and hindered by some of these same technical and tactical issues, the fact she’s not an American is more of an expedient technicality than a reality.
Hawk-Eye Works, But Stop the Illegal Coaching
The parents and coaches who advise whether a player should challenge or not are cheating. If tennis’ powers-that-be can create a workable replay challenge system, they should also determine a way to eliminate illegal coaching.
Andre Agassi Has A Future in TV
|What a treat to hear Andre Agassi discuss the fine points of the game at this
Having been lucky enough to talk about the nuts and bolts of the game with Agassi on several occasions, I’ve always appreciated his keen tennis mind. America got to hear it extensively during the Roddick-Federer quarterfinal.
He likely won’t ever need or care for the week to week grind of regular TV work, but my, what a treat to hear him discuss the fine points of the court, the racquet, stroke production and strategy. I’ll take this any day over the gushings of a Streisand about tennis’ “Zen Master.”
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The Backhand Overhead
At the club level, the backhand overhead is one of the hardest shots in tennis, yet the pros execute this stroke flawlessly and with great precision. Here, ATP and WTA coach, Heath Waters, takes you step-by-step through the proper procedure for hitting this overhead, touching all the important reference points along the way. Follow Heath's direction and,, with a little practice, you can turn this difficult shot into a one of your strengths.
Progressive Tennis: “The Right Stuff”
The Progressive Tennis system of scale appropriate development was introduced as a package that promotes competitive play for younger players and speeds development. Progressive Tennis allows greater numbers of younger players to experience tennis successfully and quickly. It takes less time to to take more players to higher skill levels, than with regulation equipment and it is the norm in solid tennis countries like France, and Belgium. Wayne Elderton
T1 Super Slow-Mo™ Video - Anna Chakvetadze
Anna continued her strong run this summer capturing the WTA tournament in Stanford over Sania Mirza, and making the semifinals of the US Open and now is at a career high 6th in the world. Anna turned pro in 2003, but this has found her stride and is poised to move yet higher. She reached the quarterfinals of both the Australian and French Open this year, and has notched wins over Sharapova, Mauresmo, Petrova, and Henin. Pretty good work for a 20 year old. Check out Anna's strokes in T1 Super Slow-Mo™ Video, only here on TennisOne.
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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