Lisa-Marie Burrows

Lisa-Marie Burrows is a qualified LTA Community Tennis Coach from England and a freelance sports journalist. She has travelled across Europe to watch tennis and cover events, including several Masters series tournaments. Lisa-Marie is a member of the International Press Association and a contributing journalist for its online magazine, IMPress. She has contributed articles for various leading websites including World Tennis Magazine, The Tennis Scoop and Olympic Tennis. She also manages her own tennis website and you can read her reports here. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TennisNewsViews.

A wonderful week of shocks, surprises and dreams coming true at the Olympics

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Barely a day has gone by since the doors of SW19 closed and the 2012 Olympic dream for many was over. It was a wonderful week on the grass that brought smiles, laughter, tears, Boris Becker-inspired dives and even a little victory dance that we shall never forget. Here is a look at some of the many surprises, shocks, disappointments and special moments from a very special week in tennis:

A Golden Moment: Andy Murray had walked off Centre Court four weeks earlier in floods of tears, sorrow in his heart and with all of his Grand Slam victory hopes crushed at the hands of Roger Federer, fast-forward four weeks and the results had completely reversed. Andy Murray defeated the 7-time Wimbledon champion in straight sets to win the Olympic gold medal and he looked as though the weight of the world had fallen off his shoulders as he clambered up to his box to celebrate with his team and family – a moment that he, his fans and Great Britain will never forget! As a special tribute to his victory, the Royal Mail have announced that a special first class postage stamp shall be made in honour of his unforgettable achievement at the Games.

A Bitter-Sweet Result: For Roger Federer the only title missing from his illustrious list of achievements is the Olympic gold medal and many had tipped the world No.1 for Olympic success at the tournament in Wimbledon. But alas, it was not meant to be for the Swiss maestro, however, he did not leave empty handed, he walked away with a silver medal and at least now he can say he has won an Olympic medal in the singles event as well as the doubles (he won the gold medal with compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka in Beijing).

Serena Sees Double: There is no doubt in anybody’s mind right now that Serena Williams is once again on top of her game. After being hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening blood clot, she fought against the odds, her body and her critics to claw her way back to the top of her game, in fact all the way to the top of the podium at the Olympics – not once, but twice. Serena enjoyed a phenomenal run through the Olympic tournament to win her first Olympic gold medal and achieve her Career Golden Slam in the singles and then went on to win the gold medal in the doubles with her big sister, Venus. A remarkable achievement for the American. Congratulations Queen Serena!

Disappointment for Djokovic: Novak Djokovic had a dream 2011 and after reaching the top of his game, achieving the world No.1 spot, many expected him to repeat his phenomenal year in 2012. Were they asking too much of Djokovic? Was he asking too much of himself? Who knows? Djokovic has admitted he is feeling tired and at the Olympics he could not find his A-game to win a medal. He won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but could not repeat this success in 2012. Djokovic will look for a good run at the Masters Series events before the US Open starts where he will defend his title.

Shock Losses and Early Exits: There were some shock losses at the Olympics, which raised a few eyebrows early on at the start of the tournament. Tomas Berdych and Agnieszka Radwanska delivered two of the biggest surprises as they were knocked out in the opening round of the tournament. Berdych was a Wimbledon finalist in 2010 and after he lost in the opening round of Wimbledon this year, many expected more from him at the Olympics. Radwanska was a finalist at Wimbledon this year and she was surprisingly ousted in the opening round.

We have not had much chance for tennis withdrawals as thankfully this week the players are back in action at the Masters Series events in Toronto and Montreal, Canada.

Can Kim Clijsters add an Olympic medal to her list of career achievements?

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Kim Clijsters has enjoyed an illustrious career in tennis – dampened by injuries, but nonetheless, she has enjoyed many successes on the court. She is a firm fan favourite, always enthusiastically supported wherever she competes and is popular with her fellow players. Could an Olympic victory tempt her to decide not to halt her career just yet, or could it be the perfect way for the former world No.1 to bow out of competitive tennis for the second time?

Kim Clijsters is a four-time Grand Slam champion, who made her final Wimbledon appearance in July after 14 years of competing as a junior and a senior at the event. This week she is back on the grass courts of the Olympics, representing Belgium and hoping to add an Olympic medal to her list of achievements and victories.
Clijsters admitted earlier this year that she is retiring for the second time due to her age and not for family reasons:

“I have no regrets. I’m too old to play the game that I want to play physically. It’s not for family reasons; it’s down to the physical side. I’ve put my body through enough strain and everything.”

It has been a tough 2012 for the 29-year-old, who missed the French Open due to a hip injury and battled to recover from an abdominal injury in time for Wimbledon, but this week she is proving that she is beginning to find her feet at the All England Lawn Tennis Club and would love to build on her semi-final appearances in 2003 and 2006.
Many would love to see her win an Olympic medal – a fitting way to remember her final year on Tour, to add her to many wonderful achievements during her career – and here are a few of those many moments she will undoubtedly cherish:

Winning her first Grand Slam title in 2005: Kim Clijsters won her first Grand Slam title in 2005 on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows in New York against Mary Pierce. This was the first time she had won a Grand Slam and it was her first appearance in a Grand Slam final since missing out on the trophy in 2004 in Australia. Clijsters had a difficult year in 2004 and was happy to have recovered so well after her operation to remove a cyst from left wrist, which saw her miss Wimbledon and the US Open the previous year.

Back-to-back US Open titles in 2009 and 2010: Clijsters has always felt very comfortable on the hard courts and in New York she found her feet and showed her best tennis during a year which proved to be a sensational comeback season for the Belgian. Clijsters won the US Open in New York in extraordinary fashion – she had only played three previous hard court events before entering the Grand Slam and participated as an unranked wildcard defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the final.

In 2010 Clijsters battled against a left and right foot injury, which forced her to withdraw from Roland Garros, but in August whilst fighting off her injury demons, the former world No.1 lifted the trophy at Flushing Meadows for the third time after defeating Vera Zvonareva in the final.

‘Aussie Kim’ happy to be crowned champion at the Australian Open: Kim Clijsters has always been fondly welcomed at the Australian Open and many of the Aussies accepted her as one of their own after her long relationship with Australian tennis player Lleyton Hewitt. She reached the finals in 2004 but was unable to lift the trophy, but after returning to competitive tennis once again, she finally got the Grand Slam win she so desperately seeked in Melbourne and ‘Aussie Kim’ was happily crowned champion.

After this year when Kim Clijsters eventually retires, it will be a sad day for her supporters, team and fellow players as her kind and sporting nature on and off the court will be missed. Right now though for Kim Clijsters, she will not be thinking about putting down her racquet for the last time, she will be completely focused on picking it up again tomorrow to continue her assault on the Olympics and the impending, final hard court season ahead.

Juan Mónaco achieves a deserved place in the Top 10

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

What qualities does a tennis player need to have to be continuously successful? Talent? Passion? Physicality? Mentality? Perseverance? Endurance? Attributes such as these are all part and parcel of a professional tennis player, but to maintain all of these things week in week out, tournament after tournament, having packed the suitcase in one country only to step on an airplane and open it another country whilst fighting off fatigue is not easy, but it must be done.

Many of the players have these qualities, but not letting any of these attributes waiver when you are tired, disappointed or homesick are one of the toughest challenges week after week, year after year, yet for some players this comes naturally.

Argentina’s Juan Mónaco is a prime example of a player who possesses such qualities and this week he has enjoyed breaking into the Top 10 for the first time in his career after winning his first 500 tournament at the bet-at-home Open – German Tennis Championships in Hamburg. It was not an easy final for the new world No.10 as he had to take on home town favourite Tommy Haas and of course his adoring partisan audience who were hoping that the German would lift the trophy, but it was not to be, as Mónaco won in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.

The 28-year-old Monaco has landed the tenth spot amongst the worlds most elite players – in a generation that comprises arguably some of the greatest players of all time with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the mix. Entering the Top 10 is not an easy feat to achieve in an era so heavily dominated by three top athletes such as those mentioned and he now joins compatriot and former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro who assumes the ninth position in the rankings.

It has not been an easy road to achieve for Mónaco, a six-time title winner, who has compiled an impressive 31-10 match record in 2012. He has put together his most successful season and is enjoying a career best year having won two other tournaments in 2012 at Vina del Mar and in Houston and he was also a finalist in Stuttgart the preceding week to Hamburg, where he lost to Janko Tipsarevic. It is not easy to bounce back from any defeat – particularly in a closely fought match (especially a final with a beautiful Mercedes up for grabs too!), but Mónaco picked up his racquet and got back on with it and refused to let defeat hinder his performance in Hamburg, which has made his title win all the more impressive.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOMyD3FOv1c&feature=related
Juan Mónaco has had a challenging 2012 having come back from a horrific ankle injury, which he sustained on the clay courts of Monte Carlo, leaving many wondering if he would be able to participate in the tournaments during the rest of the season, but participate he did. He surmounted his come back in Rome where he impressively pushed Novak Djokovic, who was No.1 in the world at that time, to three sets and almost had him on the brink of defeat.

As his injury improved, so did his confidence. At Roland Garros he made it through to the fourth round before losing to eventual champion, Rafael Nadal and on the grass courts of Wimbledon Mónaco reached the third round, having never gotten past the first round match before.

Upon reaching the Top 10, nobody can deny that Juan ‘Pico’ Mónaco is one of the hardest working players on Tour, who puts in the hours daily on the tennis court and trains hard off court to achieve the goal of being amongst the elite in the world. Many were delighted to see that he has allocated the position, as he is such a popular competitor with players, media and fans of tennis.

He may have achieved this at 28-years of age, but he is a prime example of it is better late than never. In fact 2012 has been a great year for many of the ‘older’ players on the ATP and WTA Tours and like a fine wine, many have continued to get better with age. Andreas Seppi is also 28-years old and has enjoyed achieving a career high ranking in June of No.24 after an impressive clay court season, particularly in his home country tournament in Rome where he made it to the quarterfinals. His Italian compatriot, Sara Errani, is 25-years old and has won four titles this year and was the surprise runner up at the French Open.

Wimbledon featured two champions who are no strangers to the tournament – Roger Federer and Serena Williams. We all know about their illustrious history and outstanding achievements at SW19 and this year is no exception, as Roger Federer lifted his record breaking 7th Wimbledon trophy and Serena Williams leveled her sister’s record of five victories at the Championships.

As one of the hardest working players around, Pico has never seemed to worry about simply trying to be better than his contemporaries or predecessors, but only to be better than himself and push his own tennis capabilities to the limit.

Will he continue with this fantastic form and win a Masters Series title? A Grand Slam? An Olympic medal? Who knows? But the one thing for sure, is that he will go out there fighting for one and his continued resilience and determination have proven that he has rightfully earned that Top 10 place in the rankings.

Photographs from the Rome Masters 1000 Open

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

After an action-packed week on the red dirt of Rome, the finals Masters 1000 Series tournament before Roland Garros threw up some exciting matches, entertaining press conferences and an opportunity for memorable photographs to be snapped. Here is a collection of some of those events for you to enjoy featuring many of the players from the WTA and ATP Tour.

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Lisa-Marie Burrows covered the Masters 1000 Series at the Mutua Madrid Open last week at the Rome Open.  Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

 

Magical Moments from Madrid: The Photographs

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

After spending a very busy and exciting week in Madrid and Rome, I have compiled a collection of the best photographs of your favourite tennis players from all the events in Madrid – showing happy moments, times of desperation, disappointment and of course photos from some of the explosive press conferences. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did being there to take them!

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Lisa-Marie Burrows covered the Masters 1000 Series at the Mutua Madrid Open last week at the Rome Open.  Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

Rafael Nadal through to his 31st Masters 1000 final at the Rome Open

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – Out on Campo Centrale this afternoon the crowd were treated to a battle between the Spanish No.1 and the Spanish No.2 under the late afternoon sun, which started as an exciting spectacle but unfortunately for David Ferrer was not sustained against Rafael Nadal. The King of Clay has kept his run of straight victories going this week after knocking out his friend and compatriot 7-6 (6), 6-0 during the semi finals.

Surprisingly for the crowd and Rafael Nadal it was David Ferrer who opened up the match on fire and was the dominating aggressor from the onset. Ferrer was seeing the ball early, firing it deep and caused an uncomfortable start for last year’s finalist. His solid first serves were making it difficult for Nadal to participate in any lengthy rallies and with dogged determination he forced Nadal to have to save five break points.

During the fourth game of the set, Ferrer was the first Spaniard to break his opponents serve after applying pressure on Nadal’s second service game with some riveting blows and fantastic retrieval of some seemingly impossible shots. The joy was short-lived for Ferrer as Nadal stepped us his game and became more aggressive on short balls and turned defensive play into offensive, futile shots until he got back the break he so desperately needed. Maybe thoughts were reminiscent in his head of what had happened during the week before in Madrid against another compatriot, Fernando Verdasco which kick started his comeback?

The set remained on par and closely fought with both players having opportunities to surpass the other and the set was there was for the taking. The tiebreak loomed and the two best Spanish players went toe to toe throughout for 14 points with Nadal unleashing his formidable crosscourt forehand armory and after an equally balanced set from both players, Ferrer eventually succumbed to the power of the world No.2 and Nadal edged it out 8-6.

The second set did not open up as planned for Ferrer, as he lost his momentum and his intensity began to diminish, whilst for Nadal, it was business as usual and with an array of well-angled shots and great depth on the ball during the rallies Ferrer could do nothing but look in awe as the shots sailed past him.
Ferrer looked continually despondent and like a hunter seeks its prey, Nadal continued to hunt for the ball and keep his prey cornered. Before David Ferrer knew what was happening, the hardworking determined Spaniard was 0-5 down and staring at a possible bagel in the second set – and that is precisely what happened.

David Ferrer could not find the solution to beating Rafael Nadal on the dirt of Rome and lost his third match against his compatriot at this tournament:

“The first set it was close and then when I lost the first game and my serve it was more difficult to do wins and he played better.”

A semi final is a good result for Ferrer after an impressive clay court season and as always the world No.5 tried to fight and play his game of tennis when he was allowed.

David Ferrer is always a delightful person to interview despite his palpable disappointment and he is never rude or impolite to the media and tries his best to answer (and understand!) questions in his broken English. It is a shame for the talented Spanish No.2 that he is playing in an era of some of the greatest players of all time with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer often the people culpable for his exits and losses in finals. In any other generation, he may have won a Slam as his shot making is incredible, his athleticism is astounding and he possesses the imperative ability to turn from a defensive to offensive position in a matter of minutes. Nadal may be the most discussed and successful player in Spain, but credit should be offered to David Ferrer just as frequently because as a sportsman and representative of tennis, his presence and contribution is just as valuable. He is a real credit to the sport.

Nadal also reflected on the quality of Ferrer’s game, particularly at the start of the match:

“The first set was unbelievable how David set the match with amazing rhythm and aggressive and long. His movements were unbelievably good and so I did the possible best…”

Rafael Nadal has now set up a mouthwatering encounter against world No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic and no doubt the Spaniard will be keen to secure another win against the Serbian before Roland Garros commences:

“The important thing for me is to win the title and not against Djokovic or Roger, for me the important thing is to win Rome and I say that from my heart.”

Rafael Nadal Fast Facts:
• Rafael Nadal is one of three players to rank at No.1 in the history of the ATP World Tour Rankings who have all reached the semi finals in Rome.
• He along with Federer, Ferrer and Djokovic have won 11 titles between them so far this year.
• Nadal has won this tournament in 5 out of 7 appearances in Rome.
• His four straight set wins this week have improved his lifetime record here to 35-2.
• After his win today, he has now recorded a 15-4 head to head record against David Ferrer and beaten him 12 times in a row on clay – 10 out of 12 wins in straight sets.
• Nadal is 3-0 against Ferrer in Rome.
• Nadal is through to his 70th career ATP World Tour level final and his 31st ATP World Tour Masters final.

Lisa-Marie Burrows covered the Mutua Madrid Open last week and is currently in Rome covering the all of the action from the Masters. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

Serena Williams rises to the semis and Venus Williams falls at the hands of Sharapova

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – It was a mixed day of results for the Williams sisters in Rome. Serena Williams needed to play only four games before her opponent and home crowd favourite, Flavia Pennetta retired to due a right wrist injury and Venus Williams’ magnificent run came to an end today againstMaria Sharapova in straight sets 4-6, 3-6.

Serena Williams was on court barely more than half an hour today on Campo Centrale in front of an excited, largely Italian crowd when their excitement was silenced due to the injury of home country favourite Flavia Pennetta.

World No.21 Pennetta experienced difficulties from the start of the match and was broken immediately by the power ball game of Serena Williams and that there was little she could do about it. Pennetta requested assistance from the trainer and received medical time out to receive treatment to her wrist which was strapped up for support. The Italian star tried to soldier on so as not to disappoint the crowd, but unfortunately after suffering another break of serve, Pennetta was forced to retire. It was sad for the crowd, disappointing for Williams to win in this manner, but even more concerning for Flavia Pennetta who will be hoping for a quick recovery before Roland Garros commences.

Next up for Serena Williams, she will face No.8 seed Li Na after she defeated14th seed Cibulkova in her quarter finals match.

“Li Na is the defending French Open champion and she is a really good test to play against because she is such a good all-around player. She is just so fit.”

Unfortunately for Serena’s big sister, Venus Williams there was no such luck as she was ousted in the quarter finals against her rival Maria Sharapova. Both players had met on six previous occasions and their head to head was tied at 3-3 until today.

It was always going to be a stern test for Venus Williams in her 7th quarter final appearance in Rome during eight visits and a good challenge of her form at present against the world No.2 Maria Sharapova.

Williams was the eldest lady left in the draw today and she certainly was not moving around the court as such! Wearing a new outfit today compared to early in the week, Williams tried her best to keep up with the power, pace and retrieval skills of Maria Sharapova, but it was to no avail, the current world No.63 could not sustain momentum for long enough and despite putting up a good fight, she was knocked out of the tournament in two straight sets.

On the bright side for the wildcard Venus Williams, she will now jump up the rankings to a projected No.52 after her run into the quarter finals in Rome.

Lisa-Marie Burrows covered the Mutua Madrid Open last week and is currently in Rome covering the all of the action from the Masters. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

David Ferrer through to the semi finals of the Rome Open.

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – World No.6 David Ferrer progressed through to the semi finals after his third straight sets win this week against Andy Murray’s conqueror, Richard Gasquet 7-6 (4), 6-3.

David Ferrer was runner up here against compatriot Rafael Nadal in 2010 and has been extremely successful with his run on clay this season, so it was no doubt that the resilient Spaniard had the goods to pull out a straight sets win today against a tricky opponent who was into his second quarter final in as many weeks.

Ferrer had the first edge at the start of the match as he broke the 16th seed’s service in the fifth game only to be broken back shortly after. Richard Gasquet always proves to be a tricky customer and caused Andy Murray several problems yesterday and it looked like he was wiling to serve up a bit of the same today.

The first set was taken to a tiebreak and saw David Ferrer regain his composure and retrieve seemingly impossible balls, particularly from his backhand to seal the all-important first set 7-4.

The second set saw the steely Spaniard tighten up his game and expose the weaker movement of Gasquet in comparison to yesterday; as he barely lost any points on his own serve. The sole break towards the end of the match was sufficient for Ferrer as he recorded his fourth straight sets win in a row against Gasquet to progress to the semi finals for another all-Spanish mouthwatering encounter after his second round defeat over Fernando Verdasco, but this time he will square off against Spanish No.1 Rafael Nadal.

David Ferrer acknowledged in his press conference that it was a difficult match against Richard Gasquet and was pleased to progress through to the semi finals of the tournament once again:

“It was a tough match and I am happy getting into the semi finals. It is a Masters 1000 match and it was close and good – it was consistent all the time and the difference was only in some points. When I won the first set it was easier and I saw he was more tired than me.”

Against Rafael Nadal tomorrow Ferrer has described the semi final encounter as ‘tough’ and he knows that he is going to have to play his ‘best game.’

“In Barcelona [against Nadal] I played good but every match is different and I will have to play similar to get a good result. Tomorrow in any case is different.”

Will Ferrer be the second Spaniard in as many weeks to pull off a shock win against Nadal on his beloved clay? We can’t wait to watch!

Lisa-Marie Burrows covered the Mutua Madrid Open last week and is currently in Rome covering the all of the action from the Masters. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

Andy Murray vows to train hard in preparation for Roland Garros

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – A withdrawn looking Andy Murray attended a press conference yesterday after his 7-6 (1), 3-6, 2-6 defeat at the hands of Richard Gasquet. His eyes were downcast, shoulders slouched and head lowered as he mumbled into the microphone. In front of us was a man who was clearly lacking in confidence, bewildered with the outcome of the game and uncomfortable as he twitched awkwardly in his chair whilst occasionally flexing his back, but how much did it hamper his performance?

“It was a long match and I had a sore back towards the end, but I was expecting that coming to the tournament and I didn’t take a break but training and playing a lot – the muscles are more tired and fatigued.

Andy Murray did not want to go into detail as to where and how he sustained the injury or how severely it impedes his matches, but he has experienced the injury since December and with the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open coming up, the Scot has little time to recover and treat the niggling he is inflicted with.

Ultimately this may have knocked his confidence before the start of the second Grand Slam of the year at Roland Garros as his preparation has not gone to plan as per previous years. He withdrew from Madrid last week and did not play on the infamous blue clay and this week has participated in only two matches against Nalbandian and Gasquet:

“To be honest when you lose matches your confidence drops and when you win your confidence grows and that is the possibility…”

Right now, Andy Murray is considering flying to Paris immediately to get some extra practice on the clay courts and train hard (back allowing) for the next nine days. He hopes to work hard at the gym, get into shape and adapt to the conditions of the courts with his coach Ivan Lendl who will be with him for 5 or 6 days in preparation.

Murray was philosophical about his injury and tried to find the positive side to the treatment he will need to undertake, believing that sometimes pains and injuries can get better when a player plays with them and his 2 hours and 40-minute match was certainly a good test for him.

For Andy Murray, no Cup Final visits for him this weekend as he will be in Paris recuperating and training – a positive decision in preparation for the French Open. Hopefully he will feel better soon!

Lisa-Marie Burrows covered the Mutua Madrid Open last week and is currently in Rome covering the all of the action from the Masters. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.

Djokovic survives Mónaco scare at the Rome Open.

By Lisa-Marie Burrows

Internazionali BNL D’Italia, Rome – World No.1 Novak Djokovic found himself embroiled in another battle on a packed Campo Centrale today against tricky Argentine Juan Mónaco and had to fight back from a set and a break down to close out the match and progress to the quarter finals with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

It was a gladiatorial effort from Novak Djokovic on court today as he was thoroughly challenged from the onset by Mónaco. It was the recovering Argentine who dealt the first blow and broke the slow-starting Serbian’s service game. The top seed made more unforced errors than usual and Mónaco was often causing him to make more errors as he pulled him from each side of the court and kept him on the stretch.

Juan Mónaco, fondly known as Pico, was forced to hold his nerve and serve out the first set. His service game was aggressive, forceful and he mixed up the rallies well, including a brave, deadly drop shot, which worked beautifully, but could have gone disastrously wrong before securing the first set 6-4.

Mónaco opened up the second set just as strong and was painting the lines beautifully with every shot and kept the world No.1 on the move and on his back foot. The usually flexible Djokovic was stretched too far and could do nothing more than watch as the Argentine turned from defensive to offensive during the rallies and led by a set and 2-1 in the second.

As both players sat contemplating the events of what had happened during the change of ends, Mónaco’s feet were pumping furiously with momentum whilst Djokovic sat still and staring into space, gathering his thoughts and reflecting on what had happened. He knew he had to pull something special out of the bag and maybe thoughts of his defeat at the hands of compatriot Janko Tipsarevic began to ring through his head? Who knows, but whatever it was, it worked.

The world No.15 stepped back out onto the red dirt to consolidate his break and failed to do so convincingly. Mónaco struck a few unforced errors and could do nothing other than shout ‘Ay, ay, ay!” as his backhand sailed into the net.

Within minutes, it was evident that the tables had turned and suddenly the more arduous rallies swung in favour of the Serb and he broke on two more occasions to take the second set 6-2.

The third set displayed more laborious rallies which were grueling on the body and demanding of the mind, but both players held their nerve and their competitive play reached its pinnacle. Djokovic’s level continued to rise and Mónaco could do little to put a dent in his armory towards the end and with an “Ay, buena!” at the thunderous forehand unleashed during the 7th game, the world No.1 got the break he was so desperate to seek before closing it out 6-3.

For Juan Mónaco it will be a difficult loss after being a set and a break up, but no doubt he will be pleased with his performance after he came back from a serious ankle injury which he sustained during the Monte Carlo Masters a month ago. He has won two clay court titles this year and there were doubts as to whether he would return from injury the same way after his great form before the injury, but he stepped out onto the courts this week believing he can win and should be filled with confidence about his performance before Roland Garros.

During the press conference with Novak Djokovic I asked him how concerned he felt when he was a set and break down and how he maintained his winning mentality. He told me:

“Mentality is what is needed and especially when you are playing against a player who prefers this surface and has already won two tournaments on clay this year and he plays with confidence so when I stepped onto the court today he took his chances and then I got into the rhythm and started to play better than in the beginning of the match.”

For Djokovic, the world No.1 believes that staying positive despite the results or problems you face is the key to winning any matches:

“If you think positive then you will have a positive outcome and I have enough experience to know what to do and I used it today.”

Djokovic admitted how he respects his tennis ‘rivals’ Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for their result and good work they have done for tennis:

“First of all I respect them as tennis rivals and good examples of champions and they have done a lot for many generations . I am not thinking about popularity, I am here to enjoy what I do and win as many matches as I can and if I can be an example to kids and up and coming talent, especially with my Foundation to let kids realize their dreams…”

Lisa-Marie Burrows covered the Mutua Madrid Open last week and is currently in Rome covering the all of the action from the Masters. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.