James Crabtree

James A. Crabtree is a freelance writer for various publications both online and in print. He resides in Melbourne Australia and considers himself a tennis obsessive. Follow his sporadic updates on Twitter at @JamesACrabtree or email him at james.a.crabtree@gmail.com.

U.S. Open – Tie-Break City

By James A. Crabtree

With the U.S. Open fast approaching now seems as good a time as any to look back on the greatest tie-breakers ever.

There is no better place to start than with the only slam to play a tie-break in the deciding fifth set. From one angle it’s a shame the Americans get to miss out on a possibly endless epic that might stretch on for days, like the 1080 points John Isner and Nicholas Mahut endured during the 2010 Wimbledon marathon.

On the other angle it’s great to watch a match where you can have match point, then only seconds later be match point down. Exciting, unpredictable and how very New York.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fLkVJSBplE

One such thrilling tiebreaker took place during the 1996 U.S. Open quarter final between Pete Sampras and Alex Corretja. Sampras won the match after firing a second serve ace down match point. He also showed more Hypochondriasis than Andy Murray before, like Murray, playing like an animal when it really mattered. Sampras went on to win the tournament beating Goran Ivanisevic in the semis and Michael Chang in the final.

The 1996 U.S. Open also initially caused controversy for the higher seeding of American players Michael Chang and Andre Agassi above their world ranking. Thomas Muster, Boris Becker and Yevgeny Kafelnikov were seeded below their ranking with Kafelnikov withdrawing himself in protest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gw21Z-37JW0

Arguably the greatest match ever, surely Nadal’s most memorable victory, the 2008 Wimbledon final had a bit of everything. Federer, the defending champion was starting to show signs he was human and Nadal was hungry for a slam that wasn’t played on clay. The longest final in Wimbledon history included a couple of tie-breaks, the second that included match points for Nadal. Incredibly Nadal didn’t capitalise in that set, but did manage to win 9-7 in the nail biting fifth set.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjnvvzmX6MY

Another match Nadal won but came up short in the tie-break is the 2009 Australian Open semi, where he was blasted by a player simply on fire. Fernando Verdasco brought himself to the attention of the world with an attacking game that was all but faultless in a tie-break he won 7-1 to level the match. It was hard to think that Nadal could comeback from this kind of thrashing. What was harder still was the level of play Verdasco had to replicate to beat Nadal in the fifth. Against the odds Nadal was fresh enough to win the final, another five set match, against old foe Roger Federer.

Arguably the other greatest match ever and first major tiebreak to capture the attention of the world was during the 1980 Wimbledon final featuring John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. More was on the line than just victory and defeat; this was baseline versus net, lefty versus right but most clearly fire and ice.

Borg had already squandered two championship points at 5–4 in the fourth.  McEnroe saved five further match points during tiebreaker and won 18–16. Bjorn went on to win the fifth set 8-6 for his fifth and his final Wimbledon crown.

The final match to make the list is a Futures event this past January in Florida. Monaco’s world number 636 Benjamin Balleret beat unranked compatriot Guillaume Couillard 36-34 in the first set of their third round qualifying match. Balleret, a former world number 206, took the second set 6-1 and now holds the record for the longest tie-break in history.

 

 

 

 

Federer Racquet – What A Racquet

by James A. Crabtree

Roger Federer playing in Hamburg

Roger Federer’s switch to a new racquet has made more news stories worldwide than a lunar landing. And so it should. When the world’s most successful assassin changes his most trusted weapon, this is big news.

Federer has made minor adjustments over the years, from the Pro Staff 85 6.0 he used in 2001 to defeat Sampras (the same racquet Sampras used). He then went to the Hyper Pro Staff which looked like a paint job of the previous.

If you painted your old Porsche and told everyone it was a new model would they believe you? Well, lets just assume your friends are gullible. And you would argue it is still a Porsche and should be driven with care. Both the Porsche and the Pro Staff are tough to handle.

By 2003 Federer was using a racquet with a 90 sq. inch frame and winning slams. This was the most dramatic adjustment and to many an observer the racquet has barely changed since. Just subtle paint jobs and a twinge on the marketing with a new name to keep mugs like myself trying to emulate our Swiss hero. The nCode range followed, then the nSix-One Tour 90, K Factor Six One Tour, Six.One Tour BLX and up until Wimbledon 2013 the BLX Pro Staff Six.One.

This is a tough racquet to play with. It may also be the least friendly racquet for your regular club player, as it doesn’t allow for errors. It’s a pure players racquet for Samurai’s who have mastered the craft.

So is it the same old Pro Staff that has been around for Eon’s. Well it is and it isn’t. The racquet has been moulded and adjusted to fit the player, rather than the other way around. Federer has made detailed and minute changes to his racquet and although it may look like the one in the shops it would feel and play totally different. The model, which has the same shape and hard edges would vary in weight, balance, swing weight, composite material, grip and strings whether you chose the version played by Sampras, Edberg, Courier or Federer. Regardless, it can still account for 41 slams.

Irrespective of the intricacies the Pro Staff, a racquet initially designed for Jimmy Connors, is now gone. The replacement looks like the Blade that Monfils has been using, but is now suspected to be a prototype. Whatever racquet it is, the switch has laid to rest the most successful racquet in grand slam men’s tennis history.

Usually when players change racquets it is for money, such as Djokovic to Head or more recently Wawrinka and Tomic to Yonex. When players switch model within the same company more often than not it is a paint job. Federer’s latest racquet is definitely more than just a façade.

Federer lost one surprise match at Wimbledon and it’s not unreasonable to think he has overreacted. He has had a horrid year thus far, with only one tournament win and no victories over a top 10 player. On top of this his confidence has taken a hit. He has dropped in the rankings, and showed inconsistency with his various game plans. Is a new racquet just a desperate shot in the dark to find form, or another experiment that could plummet his woes further?

Is Federer learning from Pete Sampras, who never changed his racquet throughout his career but suggested perhaps he should have. Or is coach Paul Annacone in his ear, having been there at the end of both the careers of Sampras and Henman.

Federer has stated he is happy with the new racquet, and the greater sq. inches it provides should add a little more power and help with the various shanks we have become accustomed to seeing. The new racquet hasn’t yet experienced a loss or been put up against a considerable opponent. His arm may have been tested, but not his ability to deal with the underlying psychological aspects it will undoubtedly present.

Djokovic And Murray – The Wimbledon Battle Royale, Round 4

by James A. Crabtree

Novak Djokovic

Normality has been restored, with the exploits of Janowicz, Darcis, Del Potro, Stakhovsky, Brown, Kubot and Verdasco disappearing into the vault named Wimbledon folklore.

After all the hiccups throughout the draw the number one and two ranked players meet in the final. Wimbledon 2013, like 33 of the last 34 Slams will be won by one of the Big Four.

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, currently the best hard-court players tour, know each other’s games well. Too well, having played18 times, with Djokovic leading 11–7. This tally includes three Grand Slam finals. The 2011 and 2013 Australian Opens, won by Djokovic and the 2012 US Open, won by Murray.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqbbikk13tk

For Murray to win this one he will have to find influence from a multitude of sources. He is coming off a tough fight back victory against Verdasco, and a solid win against Janowicz. There is no reason to believe he has peaked. Also, he has beaten his rival on the big stage but also on the same court, one year ago during the Olympic semi-final. He knows he can’t rely on just rallying out his opponent. He needs surprise attacks, rather than just the passive get backs. Somehow he needs to persuade the Serb to over hit his backhand and question the serve that can get tight under pressure. He needs to keep Novak guessing, find a way into his brain while keeping his own mind unruffled. Conversely, the Serb will be looking to play the very same mind games, and very similar tactics to the Scot.

Wimbledon 2013 will serve to either even the score for Murray or push Djokovic past the tallies of Becker and Edberg with six total slams and onto seven to equal Wilander and McEnroe.

Novak has reached this level by shaking the old label as someone who would quit and crumble. These days he doesn’t merely tolerate tough battles, in truth they galvanize him, not that he has had many this Wimbledon. When he is pushed to the brink he screams, dives, slides, rips and fights to the bitter end better than no man. A tennis machine, possibly inspired by Nikola Tesla, is always dangerous even when he is playing badly; he is always in the game. Novak carries the air of invincibility. He doesn’t miss an easy shot. His serve is rarely broken. He doesn’t make unforced errors. He chases down balls that most players wouldn’t have even attempted. The only real worry is the fact he has only been pushed once all tournament, in that absurdly good semi-final against Del Potro. But is it foolhardy to question someone who has been good?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKbsq26lU7E

If Novak claims his second Wimbledon crown he will further cement his name as a legend, all round good guy, great player on all surfaces and poster boy for the new Serbia. If Murray wins his first Wimbledon crown, and the countries first in seventy-seven years, the Scot will enter the realms if immortality. Murray hysteria will abound. Aside from all his extra million dollar deals will be surely be a Knighthood, statue at the All England Club, a new Column in Trafalgar square opposite Nelson and likely divinization.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tK4HDCIr_E8

5 Thoughts From Wimbledon 2013

by James A. Crabtree

Return of the Serve and Volley?

John Newcombe, Boris Becker, John McEnroe and Todd Woodbridge have been saying it for years. And for the first time in years they were proved correct. Dustin Brown and Sergiy Stakhovsky proved you can play aggressive while rushing kamikaze to the net, and most likely received a thankyou card and box of chocolates from legends turned commentators.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMgXktpnRvY

The 1980’s were back, minus the short shorts and mullets. All that talk about the limited time to rush to the net, players hitting too much spin, the returners being too sharp, was halted. Well, halted for a day. All the guys who produced the massive upsets failed to find the adrenaline rush that caused the upset and thus lost. Where does that leave us? Pretty much back to where we were at present day baseline tennis, but with a more recent memory of the old days and a little proof that it can be effective.

Thank God For The Roof

It used to really suck when it rained, now there is a roof ;) Are you listening Roland Garros?

wimbledon

Keep Off The Grass?

Lets not hope the powers that be get their knickers in a twist and decide that the grass is bad after the carnage of that Wednesday. Okay, so everybody wearing shoes fell over, seven players were lost including seeds Victoria Azarenka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and John Isner. But it was all just a freak occurrence (although most falls were on a similar spot on the baseline and during a similar change in direction) no matter which court right?

But the grass is good, and lets remember the game was born on it and the majority of the slams used to be played on it.

Ol’ Boris summed it up best.

“A short grass court season is definitely part of the problem with the injuries. Grass court tennis is different to other surfaces, it is only two weeks of action after a long clay court season. Players need to give themselves more of chance. The grass is the same, the groundsman is the same.”

Nadal and Federer Finished?

Are the Spaniard and the Swiss finished or is this just one freak tournament where some players we assumed were finished are making comebacks and the old guard just got trounced? As bad as it is for the faithful Federer and Nadal fans it is great for the likes of Verdasco, Youzhny and Kubot to get some time in the sun, well London clouds but you get the picture. It would be hard to imagine that Nadal and Federer will not reach the same heights again. Nadal definitely has developed grass demons or hates being in England paying the extra tax, and Federer seriously has trouble producing the blistering winners he used to be able to conjure from nowhere. The U.S. hard-court season will pose some fascinating questions, especially if Federer is ranked as low as 5.

A-Tomic Tonic

Bernie started the year on a tear, won a tournament and then ran into Federer at the Aussie Open. Since February he hasn’t put together more than two wins in a row and his personal life has been in disarray much in thanks to his father/coach John and all those issues we wont get into. At Wimbledon this year he as won three matches in a row already beating Sam Querrey, James Blake and 9th seeded Richard Gasquet, all whilst father/coach has been banned form attending. So is Tomic playing well for his dad who cannot attend or because his dad cannot attend. Either way the formula is proving a successful tonic and it would be hard to bet against Tomic in his next match against twitter sensation Berdych.

 

Wimbledon Demons, Wizards and An Absurd Amount of Hope

By James A. Crabtree

andy-murray-wimbledon-

As usual this Wimbledon is about the big 4, just not the top 4 seeds.

This is the first Wimbledon since 2008 a slightly altered group make up those positioned for a meeting in the semi-finals. Back then Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were the top seeds and Nikolay Davydenko was the fourth. Andy Murray was way back as the 12th seed, making it to the quarterfinals where he was defeated at the hands of that years champion, Nadal.

This year 5th seed Nadal, on current form, is more than suspected of just reaching the semi. Many believed the legendary Majorcan would be bumped up in the seedings, but to relegate current 4th seed David Ferrer would have been bad form. Incredibly the Majorcan has seemed invincible since returning to action in February and would relish nothing more than lifting the title he last won back in 2010. The question is can Nadal lose this year, on current form? Well, it was the grass that aided the Nadal disappearance act contributed by two surprise losses last year, firstly Kohlschreiber at Halle and Rosol at Wimbledon. It will be interesting to see if it’s demons that remain or a quest for vengeance that prevails. Either way a quarterfinal clash with Federer should be enough incentive to push him through the draw even though a potential fourth round with Stan Wawrinka (or Hewitt for the more romantic) should cause some fireworks.

Federer, after a slow start seems to be finding form ahead of his attempt at an 8th Wimbledon crown. With that sort of record it’s strange to think we are even considering anybody else for the title. That being said his 2013 Wimbledon journey is lined with traps including ‘2012 Nadal tamer Rosol’ and Poland’s Janowicz.

After winning Halle Federer now has 77 titles, tying him for third on the career ATP list with John McEnroe, behind only Ivan Lendl with 94 and Jimmy Connors’s 109. But has Federer found form too late? 2013 has been tough and to date Federer has only beaten one top ten player this year. Federer returns to Wimbledon as champion but strangely having lost the last match he played on Centre Court.

The match Federer lost was the Olympic final against Andy Murray. The great Scot is the first Brit to win a slam in 76 years but to the more picky home fans only a Wimbledon title will suffice. They remember well that Murray was in control in last years Wimbledon final and very close to taking a commanding two set lead. This picky bunch want more than last years gold and fresh strawberries. This picky bunch envision, after 77 years, sipping a celebratory drink greater than Pimms. In truth these particular fans bring not only added pressure but also the strange desperate phenomenon known as hope. An attribute that is enough to will their man through a tough five sets (possibly Robredo or Youzhny) but three big successive victories that could be Tsonga, Federer or Nadal and then Djokovic is a big ask.

2011 champion Novak Djokovic is the number one seed and world number one, but has the unique possibility of flying beneath the radar. Strangely whenever Djokovic is not playing at his 2011 level people tend to doubt him in favour of the others but this is becoming his magic trick. With all the hoopla and stories surrounding the others the superb Serb could sail through the draw until at least a fourth round meeting with old man Tommy Haas then a quarterfinal with Berdych. When it comes to five sets Djokovic’s hunger, resolve and retrieval expertise are unmatched meaning he could be the safest bet for this years title. As long as he doesn’t stay too long in cruise control.

Lleyton Hewitt – working overtime as usual

Lleyton Hewitt

 

by James A. Crabtree

Research has concluded that those who repeatedly work extended hours are more than twice as likely to experience major depression.

And influences such as marital status, socio-demographics, lifestyle, work strain and support at work make little difference.

So spare a thought for Lleyton Hewitt. Whether you love him or loathe him it is impossible to deny the guy gives more than a hard days work and never leaves work early. He is hard school from the old school and someone the new school could learn from. This year alone out of the 19 matches he has played 12 have gone the distance.

Apologies for the following business jargon filled paragraphs that many readers may find enlightening, motivating and team spirited or mind-numbing, long winded and down right boring.

Lleyton owns a can do bizmeth attitude, a holistic, cradle-to-grave approach that he has displayed since the get-go. His mission critical goal of raising back up to the top proves you can have your cake and eat it, given he is nearing his tenure yet still manages to push the boundaries.

Some say he is well beyond his prime but this fearless, spirited, Dad of three will argue otherwise. He continues to challenge and apply himself to every proposal. He is certainly no guy that abuses the ‘sickie’. Lleyton prefers a life where he is at work, playing tennis and playing hard.

Hewitt Pie Chart

Just so you know, the business jargon paragraphs are over and of the 42% who claimed they understood them only 8% actually did. Irrespective, we are back to tennis.

And Lleyton Hewitt is back, thanks to a fine week at Queens Club where he has outlasted Grigor Dimitrov, Sam Querrey and Juan Martin del Potro. At age 32 Lleyton is back and we could well see him around for many more years to come considering the dinosaurs, older than him and still playing, such as Michael Russell, Radek Stepanek, Nikolay Davydenko, Tommy Haas and Michael Llodra.

Don’t, however, shed a tear for the taxing way in which he plays. This is simply the way Lleyton plays, and as far as we can recall has always played.

Lleyton’s family usually come to work with him, watch him work than reap the reward of more than a standard income. The seventeen year veteran and two-time grand slam winner has almost $20 million in prize money, a whole heap in sponsorship deals and a property portfolio to his name. Simply, hard work pays off and people, adversaries and peers are always jealous of those who work hard. He doesn’t have an obvious weapon such as a serve or a devastating forehand. His weapon is grit and resolve.

So as far as working overtime it could be argued that its Lleyton’s opponents are the ones experiencing overtime. As for the Aussie battler, it’s just a normal days slog.

As predictable as a Vin Diesel movie and the Importance of that Gulbis Debate

By James A. Crabtree

 “Modern tennis is sorely lacking in character.”

Snot nosed rich kid Ernest Gulbis raised a debate recently at Roland Garros.

“I respect Roger, Rafa, Novak and Murray, but, for me, all four players are boring. Their interviews are boring. Honestly, they are boring.” Gulbis said after his second round loss to Gael Monfils that Federer was the biggest perpetrator.

“I often go on YouTube to watch interviews. I quickly stopped watching tennis interviews. It’s a joke,” said the Latvian.

“It was Federer who started this trend. He has a superb image as a perfect Swiss gentleman. I repeat that, I respect Federer, but I don’t like the way that young players try to imitate him.”

In truth, Ernie does have a point, but only sort of. This debate has a few underlying factors that need to be addressed.

Now, the question of boring is really only being brought up because the same players are being asked the same questions time and time again. And why, Ernie, are they being asked the same questions? Because Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have been winning all the time! How many differing responses can they come up with from the same journalists asking the same questions at tournament after tournament?

The same four players winning consistently is all becoming as predictable as a Vin Diesel movie, and as we know he has been using the same script on different titles for roughly a decade. Now we can’t fault the stars of the game for their monopoly across different tournaments. Perhaps the bigger crime is that of the underachievers, and that is a huge number of players below the top four.

Over the years we have been waiting on the likes of Ferrer, Berdych, Tsonga, Gasquet, Tipsarevic, Raonic, Isner, Baghdatis, Janowicz and dare I say Gulbis to not only provide us with a surprise win, but a surprise championship. Someone to come in and really stir things up.

Surprisingly the monopoly of the slams is very even across the men and women’s tour. Since 2003 the men can boast ten different slam winners. The women meanwhile can only boast fourteen.

However since 2008 and across twenty-one slams the men can claim only five winners while the women can boast eleven.

If we compare this with the past usually a no name or unlikely could sneak a slam. Gustavo Kuerten won the French in 1997 ranked 66th. Mark Edmondson won the 1976 Australian ranked 212th, Goran Ivanišević won the 1999 Wimbledon title ranked 125th. Richard Krajicek sneaked a Wimbledon win between the Sampras dominance as the 17th seed. Thomas Johansson managed to take the 2002 Australian title as the 16th seed. These days a shock grand slam triumph would be Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 U.S. Open seeded sixth.

Gulbis may claim that the game lacks characters. What he has failed to notice is that the games most prominent representatives happen to come off as gentleman, whether they sincerely are or not. Not many sports can claim that. In truth when we think of the most major sports a plethora of reprobates line the tabloid pages for all the wrongs reasons.

Something, for now, tennis gladly doesn’t have.

 

Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.

Ernest Hemingway

 

 

Roland Garros Week 1 Done! Random Thoughts…

By James A. Crabtree

  1. Question- Can Serena Williams lose on current form?
    Answer- No
  2. What do Jiri Novak, Christophe Van Garesse, Thomas Enqvist, Tommy Haas, David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Andy Murray all have in common?
    They have beaten Federer in 5 set matches since his career began. Gilles Simon cannot be added to this list after losing his second five set match to Mr Federer in the fourth round at this years Roland Garros.
    In other Fed news he appears to have bulked up or perhaps has a Batman costume beneath his shirt? And his shoes with that white bit at the back don’t look unlike old man slippers.
  3. John Isner needs to learn how to break serve, not just hold serve.
  4. A tennis purgatory exists for tour players who seem lost, unable to find their former glory. No player wants to end up here but those who find residence here are not losing drastically but are in an awful limbo land. They are not winning the tough matches that they once would; they are not improving and are far from retiring. Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Stosur and Anna Ivanovic have continued their limbo form in Paris and have exited Roland Garros before Monday of the second week.
  5. Bethanie Mattek-Sands has already equaled her best slam performance, a fourth round at Wimbledon in 2008. Can she go one further?
  6. Question? Can Rafael Nadal lose at this years French Open?
    Answer? Yes, but would you bet against him. Even when he is not up to his best his opponent seemingly crumbles
  7. Ryan Harrison needs a big win over a big player as much as I need to clear my overdraft.
  8. Former world number one and 2008 U.S. Open finalist Jelena Jankovic is seeking to leave the purgatory group and seems to be finding old form after bating Stosur. She next faces Jaime Hampton who ‘Is For Real’. She has been steadily improving; she is fun to watch and embodies a certain toughness that is endearing.
  9. Australian Open has a roof, is building another court with a roof and has lights. Wimbledon built a roof. U.S. Open has lights and plays until late. Roland Garros needs a roof. Roland Garros needs lights. Surely the people who live near Roland Garros can put up with this for two weeks a year?
  10. Nadal can get upset. Blame the rain and the lack of a roof Rafa, not the schedule.
  11. Bernard Tomic didn’t do anything to make us forget the daddy issue
  12. If everything goes to form and Victoria Azarenka meets Maria Sharapova in the semi, hope that Azarenka wins. Sharapova has not beaten Serena Williams since 2004 and has lost the last twelve matches to her.
  13. Gael Monfils could’a and should’a won against Tommy Robredo. Instead Robredo has won three straight 2 set down 5 set matches! What the! Incredibly Tommy is the first to do that since five-time champion Henri Cochet, one of the four muskateers. Of interest Cochet, a spruce little Frenchman won in Paris five times. He also beat ‘Big Bill’ Tilden in a 1927 Wimbledon semifinal after being down two sets and 1-5 before winning 2-6 4-6 7-5 6-4 6-3.
  14. Nicholas Almagro is making a name for himself as a choker against fellow Spaniards as he was 2 sets up and 4-1 against Robredo. Back in January   Almagro was 2 sets up against David Ferrer then fell apart after having match points
  15. Ernets Gulbis comes from a wealthy family and is a bad tempered racquet thrower. He suffered a big defeat then went on to talk bad about the four best players in the game. Is Ernie a whiner, an heir to the throne or just Joffrey Baratheon?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjA4vDBdpcs

Nadal, and mistakes from his past?

By James A. Crabtree

Is Rafa not learning from his mistakes?

Yes, he has been absurdly good since his return. Nobody prophesised such a success return, and in a word his reappearance been made us wonder if he made a secret deal with the tennis Gods.

But has it all been too much and too soon? Has he pushed his body too far, too quickly? Let’s face it, the amount of trophies he has been chomping down on he could have metal poisoning;)

Think back to the months following Wimbledon 2012, when we knew about the knee issue but we were certain it was a mental problem. Rewind back to January when everybody was asking every other Spaniard when Rafa was going to return. Think back to how we thought the King of Clay was all but done.

Then he announced a return to a little 250 clay tournament after pulling out of the Australian Open. And when he did return we didn’t think he would be the same player. Sceptics thought he would need to change his tactics, finish rallies quicker to rest his knee. Naysayers believed he needed to play closer to the baseline to minimise court coverage. Doubters whispered he wouldn’t have the willpower to overcome adversaries when going the distance and he had hit his expiry date.

Recall his first tournament, Vina del Mar, Chile; and that three set final loss to Horacio Zeballos. The Doubters, Sceptics and Naysayers aligned with their arms folded and smug grins across their chubby red faces. Nadal had lost, not to Djokovic or Murray or even Federer. He had lost to a mere mortal. He was indeed finished.

What followed next was not only contrary to the belief of the Doubters, Sceptics and Naysayers but also contrary to rational thought. He won a tournament. True, there were bumps along the way, it was just another 250 event in Sao Paulo, and he was pushed to three sets by non-household names Carlos Berlocq and Martin Alund. Nadal followed with another tournament win, this time Acapulco which included convincing wins against Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer.

The Pessimists were still not convinced, “He can still play on clay, but the hard court is a different animal.”

What better way to silence the critics than with a win? Nadal did, this time on the hard courts of Indian Wells. The journey included a tough three sets with Ernests Gulbis and a reunion with Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro. This win was subsequently a reminder to all that Nadal can still beat anyone.

Nadal lost his next tournament in Monte Carlo, in the final to Djokovic, a place we all but thought he was forbidden to lose. Being a clay court tournament all the typical questions about injury, attitude and aptitude were again asked. By now Nadal had most certainly won a lot, but he had also played a lot.

The questions were however shrugged off quickly thanks to more critic silencing displays in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome where Nadal had been pushed in some instances but for the most been brutal. Once again the big names were no obstacle and again included wins over David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer plus Stanislas Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, Nicolas Almagro and the troublesome Gulbis.

With all these conquests is there any reason to suspect that Nadal will not win his eighth Roland Garros title. Is it rude to even think otherwise? Or should he have taken it a little easier on himself. Should he have included more rest among his preparation? Or is Rafa basking in the tonic of his own victories yet to come? His season so far ‘has been dream,’ time will only tell if it will become ‘more than dream’.

The 3 worrying little details….

1. This season Nadal’s Fibonacci sequence is…

Runner up, Winner, Winner, Winner, Runner up, Winner, Winner, Winner…

2. Rafa has lost to Djokovic on clay this year.

3. Is Rafa’s 2013 French Open draw too easy?

 

ATomic Dilemma

by James A. Crabtree

Arguably the most hated Australian tennis player since a young Lleyton Hewitt, life isn’t easy for Bernard Tomic.

In fact Bernie has almost gone in search of bad press. There was the turning down of Lleyton Hewitt as a practice partner. The allegations he was going to quit Australia at his father’s behest and play for Croatia. In the 2012 Miami Masters he asked the chair umpire to remove his own father. During last years US Open John McEnroe accused Tomic of tanking a loss to Andy Roddick. Following all that he angered the old guard of Australian tennis with apparent refusal to play Davis Cup. And then we have the numerous driving issues, too numerous to mention.

Nevertheless Tomic is also the man with the best chance of restoring Australian tennis fortunes.

It must be tough for him. Most people find young men in their late teens and early twenties irritating to the say the least. Unless you are a fifteen year old girl chances are you also find Justin Bieber and One Direction intolerable.

Another difficulty for Tomic is the daddy dilemma as Bernard is not the person with the biggest ego among his entourage.

What on earth is young Bernie supposed to you?

The youngest Wimbledon quarterfinalist since Boris Becker in 1985 Tomic started 2013 well. He won all three of his singles Hopman Cup matches against none other than Tommy Haas, Novak Djokovic and Andreas Seppi. He then went onto win Sydney. There he beat Marinko Matosevic, Florian Mayer, Jarkko Nieminen, Andreas Seppi (again), and Kevin Anderson for his tenth win in a row and his first career singles title.

Quickly Tomic went from being loathed to loved.

The following week at the Australian Open, Leonardo Mayer and Daniel Brands fell victim. By this time the whole of Australia was in a flutter and Tomic was not only invincible, but was displaying the sort of ego not seen since Clubber Lang.

Then there was the rumoured incident before the big Australian Open 3rd round match. On the practice court where John Tomic is notoriously hot headed Bernie sat after practice, his dad stood behind and berated him incessantly for ten minutes. Eventually Bernie walked off shaking his head. Not the best possible way to get a sense of Zen before a match?

Bernie went on to lose the match, and hasn’t won more than two matches in a row since. Of course his drop in form went unnoticed until dad John reportedly beat up Bernie’s hitting partner Thomas Drouet. Complications have heightened further since Drouet has come forward with other incidences.

What is Bernie supposed to do?

Judy Murray once commented that talent got her son, Andy Murray, within the top 100, but it was hard work and determination that propelled him to the heights he now knows. Compare the 2013 Andy Murray with the 2005 version of himself and we could be looking at a different athlete.

It is obvious that Bernard could administer similar changes.

This poses the question, who would be the perfect person to guide arguably the most naturally talented youngster on tour? Tennis Australia are already trying to help solve the crisis, and undoubtedly all the familiar names will arise such as Tony Roche, Pat Rafter and Scott Draper. Again akin to the LTA Brad Gilbert hiring for Andy Murray perhaps the best coach for the player is not one made by a committee. And besides, Bernie has had more than his fair share of runs with a number of high profile Australian coaches during Davis Cup play already. Perhaps he needs someone with an old school work hard mentality similar to Ivan Lendl or someone who can understand the games intricate details such as Andy Roddick’s old coach Larry Stefanki.

Sacking the only coach you have ever known would be difficult enough, now imagine starting that ordeal with the word ‘Dad’. Bernard obviously needs a new coach, but probably deep down worries about what his father will do without him.