by Kevin Craig
Novak Djokovic claimed his sixth Australian Open title and 11th major singles title overall on Sunday night in Melbourne as he defeated Andy Murray in the final, 6-1, 7-5, 7-6. The win evens Djokovic up with Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg at 11 major titles, a number which Djokovic will surely increase by the end of 2016.
The first set started promising for Murray as he had a break point in the opening game of the match on Djokovic’s serve. It was all downhill from there in the first set though, as Djokovic fought for the hold and then quickly raced out to a double break lead at 5-0 in less than 20 minutes. Murray, stunned by what had just happened on the court, started to show signs of life as he was able to get a game on the board and avoid a bagel before making Djokovic stress slightly as he served out the set, having to play a game that lasted 10 points.
Djokovic started off the second set strong again, having a look at four break chances at 1-1. Murray was able to fend those off, but not the break chance Djokovic would see at 3-3, allowing the Serb to take a break lead in the set. Murray refused to go away though, as he quickly earned his first break point since the opening game of the match and took advantage of it to get back on serve. Despite the disappointment of letting the lead slip, Djokovic continued to apply pressure on the Brit’s serve, getting break points at 4-4 and 5-5. Murray was up 40-0 in the 5-5 game, but lost a 37-shot rally to Djokovic, the first of five points that the Serb would go on to win in a row to get the break advantage and a chance to serve for a two sets to love lead. Murray fought in the 12th game to earn a break point and take Djokovic to deuce, but the Serb didn’t let up and was able to successfully take the set.
The match appeared done and dusted early in the third set as Djokovic broke in the opening game and then held at love for a 2-0 lead. Combine that with the fact Djokovic had only ever lost from two sets up once, to Jurgen Melzer at the 2010 French Open, and there was little hope for the No. 2 player in the world. Murray, though, was able to earn break points in back-to-back service games from Djokovic, and was successful in the latter game as he got the third set back on serve. It was straightforward to the tiebreak from there as the returners only got past 15 twice in the last six games of the set. After fighting so hard to get to the tiebreak, it appeared as if Murray had nothing left, falling into a 1-6 hole. Djokovic, on his third championship point, hit an ace down the T that sealed the straight sets victory and his 11th major title.
The disappointing moment for Murray sees him lose to Djokovic in the Australian Open final for the fourth time. Murray, though, does not have to stress about tennis for a couple weeks as he can head back home to his wife and await the birth of their first child.
Djokovic’s success stemmed from his application of pressure on Murray’s second serve and being able to force him into hitting unforced errors. The 35 percent success rate on second serve and 65 unforced errors will create an easy recipe for the No. 1 player in the world to grab the win. Djokovic was able to do so in less than three hours as he was not only able to level Laver’s and Borg’s number of major titles, but also evened himself with Roy Emerson’s six Australian Open titles. Djokovic continues to look unstoppable early in 2016, and the tennis world is left waiting to see who has the ability to beat the best player in the world.
The Ivan Lendl IJTA, one of the world’s premiere tennis academies, has taken up residence in our “Coaches’ Corner” series to dish out instructional tips and on court analyses straight from the Academy’s top coaches and directors.
By David Lewis, Director of Instruction at Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy
The open era of tennis began in 1968 when amateurs were allowed to compete in world-class tournaments with professionals. Until then, amateurs were only allowed to play the Grand Slams.
In the 1970’s, the style of play for most was “serve-and-volley,” using a continental grip for all shots including ground strokes. Tennis was learned on a faster, lower bouncing surface, whether it be a grass or a hard court. The continental grip allowed for plenty of wrist action to control the ball and ability to move toward the net quickly because the ball didn’t bounce high. Some professionals, like Connors and Evert, used the double-handed backhand and hit flat ground strokes.
Surprisingly, wooden racquets were still commonly used, but the small, heavy frame and delicate sweet spot didn’t allow players to hit the ball hard. Metal equipment with lighter frames and bigger heads became more popular.
A player with great agility and speed could chase down most shots from the baseline because the ball didn’t travel as fast. For the same reason, players who came to the net were more difficult to pass. This provided wonderful match ups with tactics becoming crucial. The game required plenty of finesse, craft and athleticism to outmaneuver an opponent.
During this time period, the U.S. dominated the game with players such as Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert. Later in the decade, a player named John McEnroe burst onto the scene.
Bjorn Borg popularized use of the western forehand grip and double-handed backhand, which produced incredible amounts of topspin. He won many Wimbledon and French Open titles and, in the process, became one of the first to modernize the game of tennis. Borg proved he could win on all surfaces with his different style of play.
Conversely, McEnroe used a continental grip, allowing him to take the ball on the rise which had seldom been seen before. An intriguing rivalry was starting to develop between these two stalwarts and helped increase the popularity of the game. By 1980, tennis was reaching a whole new level due to the double-handed backhand, hitting the ball on the rise and modern equipment.
Several full-time tennis academies in the United States opened in the 1970’s. Harry Hopman, a famous Australian Davis Cup coach, operated a facility in Florida where many top professionals and juniors trained for the international circuit. He was renowned for getting players into peak shape. During the same period, another coach named Nick Bollettieri started working with top juniors, developing them into some of the best professionals of the 1980’s.
Next month, we’ll continue with the evolution of tennis in the 1980s.
About David Lewis
David Lewis, a native of Auckland, New Zealand, is the Director of Instruction at Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island, S.C., a full-time tennis program for grades 5-12. For the past 20 years, he has coached top juniors and professionals around the world including Marina Erakovic, ranked as high as No.49 on the WTA world rankings.
Ivan Lendl IJTA exemplifies Ivan Lendl and Lewis’ desire to give back to tennis and develop future champions through a new-era curriculum and holistic training approach. The Academy focuses on classic fundamentals, leading-edge biomechanics, strength training / fitness and mental preparation. The staff subscribes to a hands-on approach with students instilling dedication, focus, hard work, motivation and overall preparation.
For more information: www.LendlTennis.com/info, 888.936.5327.
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Andy Murray is still one of the main topics of discussion on TV and in the newspapers (particularly the British ones!) after his epic battle against defending US Open champion, Novak Djokovic on Monday night, after a grueling five set match that lasted almost 5 hours that boasted exquisite rallies in each of the 5 sets played.
Ivan Lendl, the coach of Murray since January 2012, has admitted that Andy Murray and his ‘Slamless’ situation very much remind him of himself when he was younger and competing on Tour, but the comparisons do not end only there…
Andy Murray has become more known for his tough mentality as he has for his great physicality. Yes, there have been moments on the tennis court where he has admitted that his mind let him down (e.g. most famously during the Wimbledon final this year against Roger Federer where he could have been up 2 sets to 0) but as his tennis has developed, so has his mental toughness and ability to win attitude.
This is also comparable to the attitude displayed on court by Ivan Lendl. He too played in an era alongside tennis greats such as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg and experienced some crushing defeats at the hands of them, but just as Murray has done, he never gave up and always believed that he could win. Like Lendl, Andy Murray has learnt from his painful losses.
Pressure in their prime
Throughout his career, the Olympic champion has frequently single-handedly shouldered the weight and expectation from the British public to do well, win tournaments, knock out the top 3 three players in the world and win a Grand Slam. Not much to ask of a young player in their early twenties? Now at 25-years-old, Murray seems to be able to deal with that pressure and has finally answered the call and hopes of many after his victory at the US Open.
Ivan Lendl as a coach and player has been a good influence on Murray as he can relate to the pressure and strain which Andy Murray has been under. He too had experienced it at a very young age and having lost to Connors, Borg and Wilander, he admitted that he did not know how to play against the big players in his prime and it was something that he learnt to do.
Fitness vs fatigue
Andy Murray did not have an easy start early on his career, having been criticized heavily for his personality, his mentality, for having a low first serve percentage, he was also targeted about his fitness. He experienced cramping during long matches in his early twenties and he knew that in order to compete at the top level, against the top players of the world, he had to become physically stronger as well as mentally stronger and this was also the case for Ivan Lendl. Like his coach had to when he was younger, Murray has spent hours at the gym and during training he has become increasingly stronger and has trained hard to keep his endurance levels up to sustain his energy levels during long matches – which have paid off extremely in recent years. Murray continues with his same demanding regime on the practice courts and in the gym today.
Fifth time lucky
Ivan Lendl could relate to Andy Murray and his sorrow after yet another Grand Slam final defeat at the hands of Roger Federer at Wimbledon this year, as he too experienced crushing losses and lost four Grand Slam finals before winning in his fifth appearance, à la Andy Murray. After his quartet of heartbreaking defeats, Lendl went on to win another eight Grand Slams and if history really does repeat itself, who knows if and when Andy Murray will lift another major title – or eight?
It took 5 sets for Ivan Lendl to win his first Grand Slam in Roland Garros against John McEnroe and he rallied back from a two set deficit to secure his victory, whereas for Andy Murray at the US Open, he also needed 5 sets to lift his first major but he needed to rally back after losing the third and fourth sets before sealing the championship title in the penultimate set.
The strangest thing of it all is that during their encounter, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic equalized the record for the longest final of all time played at the US Open after their 4-hour and 54 minute battle and they equaled the record of – yes you guessed it – Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander in 1988 which saw Lendl win after 4-hours and 54 minutes too.
Andy Murray has now laid his demons to rest, as his coach had after finally winning that elusive Grand Slam that he was so desperately chasing and yearning for. I just hope that now the talented Scot has got time to enjoy this momentous occasion he relishes it immensely before another dreaded question starts to beckon…. ‘Andy, do you think you can win more majors?’
John McEnroe edged Bjorn Borg, 5-4, but the visiting Philadelphia Freedoms rallied past the New York Sportimes, 21-19, in World TeamTennis action on Thursday night at Sportime on Randall’s Island.
Trailing, 17-16, Philadelphia sent Beatrice Capra up against Martina Hingis in the women’s singles competition, which Capra claimed, 5-2, to give the Freedoms the win.
Philadelphia’s mixed doubles tandem of Lisa Raymond and Nathan Healey opened the match with a 5-4 win over Katie O’Brien and Travis Parrott. O’Brien and Hingis teamed to win women’s doubles, 5-2 over Raymond and Capra. Healey and Brendan Evans evened the match with a 5-3 men’s doubles victory over McEnroe and Parrott, before McEnroe’s win over Borg gave the Sportimes a slim edge entering the final event.
New York (6-3) hosts Springfield on Friday, while Philadelphia (1-8) returns home to face Boston.
Proceeds from the match benefited the John McEnroe Tennis Project.
World TeamTennis at New York
Philadelphia Freedoms 21, New York Sportimes 19
Mixed Doubles – Lisa Raymond/Nathan Healey (Phil.) d. Katie O’Brien /Travis Parrott, 5-4
Women’s Doubles – Martina Hingis/Katie O’Brien (N.Y.) d. Beatrice Capra/Lisa Raymond, 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Brendan Evans/Nathan Healey d. John McEnroe/Travis Parrott, 5-3
Men’s Singles – John McEnroe (N.Y.) d. Bjorn Borg, 5-4
Women’s Singles – Beatrice Capra (Phil.) d. Martina Hingis, 5-2
Martina Hingis and Jesse Witten won singles events, both by 5-0 counts, and Hingis won a super-tiebreak over Liezel Huber, 7-6, as the New York SPORTIMES rallied for a 16-15 World TeamTennis victory over the St. Louis Aces at SPORTIME on Randall’s Island Monday night.
The SPORTIMES (5-1) trailed the entire match, finally earning a tie on Hingis’s 5-0 victory in the fifth event, women’s singles. By WTT rules, Hingis’ win over Maria Sanchez (with Huber replacing her for the final game) evened the match at 15, extending the match to a super tiebreak. With the super-tiebreak tied at 6-6, Hingis won the deciding point, coming to the net after a 12-ball rally and stroking the winner.
The Sportimes next home match will be Thursday, July 14 against Philadephia when John McEnroe of the Sportimes will face his legendary rival Bjorn Borg.
Jean-Julien Rojer and Roman Borvanov’s opening event men’s doubles win, Huber and Sanchez topped the SPORTIMES’ duo of Hingis and Katie O’Brien, 5-1, to give the Aces (4-2) a commanding 10-3 match lead. Witten swept a 5-0 third event over Borvanov to pull the hosts to within 10-8. Huber and Rojer’s 5-2 win extended the Aces’ margin to 15-10 before Hingis’s heroics gave the SPORTIMES their fifth straight win.
New York visits first-place Washington in a battle of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, while Western Conference-leading St. Louis continues its eastern swing against winless Philadelphia.
World TeamTennis at New York
N.Y. Sportimes 16, St. Louis Aces 15
Men’s Doubles – Roman Borvanov/Jean-Julien Rojer (St. L.) def. Travis Parrott/Jesse Witten, 5-2
Women’s Doubles – Liezel Huber/Maria Sanchez (St. L.) def. Martina Hingis/Katie O’Brien, 5-1
Men’s Singles – Jesse Witten (N.Y.) def. Roman Borvanov, 5-0
Mixed Doubles – Liezel Huber/Jean-Julien Rojer (St. L.) def. Martina Hingis/Travis Parrott, 5-2
Women’s Singles – Martina Hingis def. Maria Sanchez (Liezel Huber replaced Sanchez in Game 5), 5-0
Super Tiebreak – Martina Hingis def. Liezel Huber, 16-15.
Tennis Hall of Famer Bjorn Borg will step in to replace fellow tennis legend Jimmy Connors to face long-time rival John McEnroe in a World TeamTennis match on July 14 at Sportime Randall’s Island. Borg and McEnroe will compete against each other that night when the defending Eastern Conference Champion New York Sportimes face the Philadelphia Freedoms. Connors is not be able to participate due to a knee injury.
The evening will be a special benefit for The Johnny Mac Tennis Project, with tickets sold by the Project to raise funds to provide scholarships, coaching, transportation and other financial assistance to qualified young tennis players in the greater New York area. Recipients will attend the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, which is completing its first year at Sportime Randall’s Island. Ticket prices for the match will be $250, $150 and $60; special VIP tickets are also available; please consult your tax advisor concerning the tax deductibility of ticket purchases. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 1-888-988-6921 or visit www.nysportimes.com.
This will be first WTT match in 17 years for Borg, who will be joining the Philadelphia Freedoms roster for the evening. Borg last played WTT for the Atlanta Thunder in 1994. Borg also played for the Cleveland Nets in 1977 and the Los Angeles Strings in 1993.
The storied rivalry between Borg and McEnroe was recently the subject of a documentary which also highlighted the legends’ contrasting personalities. The centerpiece of the brief but enthralling rivalry between McEnroe and Borg was the epic 1980 Wimbledon final, which included an 18-16 tiebreaker in the fourth set. McEnroe won the tiebreaker but it was Borg who captured the fifth set and his fifth straight Wimbledon.
Borg won 63 singles titles, including 11 Grand Slam Championships, and also added four pro career doubles titles. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
“We are elated that Bjorn answered John’s call to step in for Jimmy on what will be a fun and important night for tennis in New York,” said Claude Okin, Sportimes CEO. “The relationship that Bjorn and John haves very special. Theirs is truly one of the great rivalries in sports history, and seeing them both on court, in New York, next week will be a great treat for everyone there. And the funds we raise that night will be critical in helping us to assist talented young people in learning the great game of tennis in New York City.”
The July 14 WTT matchup will feature Borg and McEnroe competing against each other in men’s singles in the five set WTT coed team format. Former World No. 1 Martina Hingis will also play for the New York Sportimes that evening as McEnroe’s fellow team member.
In other 2011 WTT matches, the Sportimes will host the Boston Lobsters on July 6 with Martina Hingis leading the Sportimes squad; the Sportimes will take on the St. Louis Aces on July 11; the Springfield Lasers come to NYC on July 15, with John McEnroe and Martina Hingis playing for New York; Serena Williams of the Washington Kastles will battle Martina Hingis when the Sportimes host their Eastern Conference rivals on July 20. In addition to the home matches at the state-of-the art, 2,000 seat facility at SPORTIME Randall’s Island, the Sportimes will play two home matches in Albany, N.Y., at the SEFCU Arena: July 18 versus Kansas City starring the World No. 1 Bryan Brothers, and July 19 when the Sportimes take on the Washington Kastles featuring Serena Williams.
It is one of the strongest starts in the history of tennis and Novak Djokovic is doing it! He has won 29 matches in a row and 31 if you include his Davis Cup winnings in November, 2010. It equals the best start in men’s tennis in 25 years. Back then it was Ivan Lendl who managed to do it. Only John McEnroe who won 42 straight matches in a row in 1984 and Bjorn Borg with 33 matches in a row in 1980 are ahead of him.
We will have to see how far Novak Djokovic can go but I don’t see the end of this winning streak coming yet. But the best of it all is that Novak Djokovic is modest about his succes.
“I know I’m playing great now but there is always something you can improve on—you can never be perfect,” the Serbian player said. “I’m winning service games comfortably. That’s something I’m happy about today and an encouraging fact for upcoming matches, especially on clay.”
If Djokovic wins versus David Ferrer on Friday then he will have surpassed Ivan Lendl’s record. But until then enjoy the photos of Novak Djokovic by Ralf Reinecke.
Rockstar John Mayer hit the tennis courts in Sydney, Australia this week, sporting some great Nike duds! His shorts are bit high – harkening back to the days of Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. Mayer actually went to the same high school – Fairfield High School in Connecticut – as U.S. Davis Cup star James Blake and is friends with the standout American.
Bjorn Borg played his first match in the United States in 10 years Thursday night at the $150,000 Staples Champions Cup, part of the global Champions Series tennis circuit. He beat fellow Swede Mikael Pernfors 6-2, 2-6, 10-8 (Champions Tie-breaker).
It is interesting to see Bjorn playing tennis with a Dunlop tennis racquet – as opposed to the old Donnay racquets from all of those matches all of us remember so well (or have seen on YouTube if you are of a younger generation). You can’t help but notice the huge “B” on Bjorn’s shirt that he played in on Thursday. Does it stand for “Boston?” Since as a Swede, he grew up playing hockey and patterned his two-handed backhand after a slap shot, perhaps the B stands for “Bruins” as in the Boston Bruins, the NHL squad from Boston? Well, “B” stands for Bjorn or Borg and it is part of his Bjorn Borg line of clothing that is immensely popular in Europe. The Bjorn Borg line of underwear is available in the United States and is tremendously comfortable if you haven’t worn them.
Let’s hope John McEnroe can beat Mats Wilander Friday night so Borg and McEnroe can duke it out in the semifinals of the Boston event – for old times sake.