Grand Slam

Page 1 of 1512345...8910...Last »

Lleyton Hewitt – working overtime as usual

Lleyton Hewitt

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.

Nadal, and mistakes from his past?

Nadal winning

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?

 

The ATP Quarterly Review

Rafael Nadal

By James A. Crabtree

 

So it’s April and that means two things. The first quarter of the year is over and the European clay court season is about to begin.

So what have we learned?

Well, rather a lot.

December 2012

The beginning of the tennis year started in December 2012. With this the whole of Australia became hysterical after Bernard Tomic went nuts at the Hopman Cup and beat both Tommy Haas and Novak Djokovic. After that young Bernie continued the streak and won his first title in Sydney prompting some to feel, including probably Bernie himself, that the second coming of Rod Laver was upon us. He did of course become unstuck at The Australian Open, after much hoopla, in a one sided loss to a certain Mr Federer. Bernie hasn’t done much since and it’s doubtful the European clay will help his cause.

During the same period Janko Tipsarevic quietly won in Chennai, Gasquet in Doha and Andy Murray in Brisbane. More fuss was made of the emergence of Baby Fed Grigor Dimitrov who made the Brisbane final, and the fact Tomas Berdych lost in the quarters and was wearing unbranded clothing – the poor darling. He has since signed with Swedish fashion brand H&M.

January 2013

A week later and David Ferrer was up to his usual tricks – cleaning up at ATP 250 events, this time in Auckland. As a matter of fact Ferrer should be banned from 250 events or at least given some sort of handicap like favoured racehorses. He has won 20 career tournaments 12 of which have been ATP 250 events. Not bad for a labourer from Spain.

Two weeks into 2013 and it was already the Australian Open, which went very boringly to Novak’s script. Highlights included Federer in pink shoes and Stan Wawrinka’s battle where he managed to scare Novak in his silver shoes, in the fourth round.

Davis Cup followed the first slam of the year with the surprise elimination of understrength Spain at the hands of Canada and a certain Mr Milos Raonic.

February 2013

By February Frenchman Richard Gasquet was proving he is still a force, beating the rising Benoit Paire who has severe difficulty against his countrymen.

Down in Zagreb Marin Cilic won his first tournament since Umag in July last year. We bet he wishes the entire tour was played in Croatia as he would surely be the world’s number one player, having won 5 of his 9 tournaments on home soil.

The week, however, belonged to Rafael Nadal who made his comeback to the tour in Chile after what felt like a ten year absence. Nadal lost to Argentinian Horacio Zeballos in the final who was on fire for the week, prompting many to say that Nadal was indeed finished and would never return to his best.

Over in Rotterdam Juan Martin del Potro beat Julian Benneteau, who had taken care of childhood rival Roger Federer earlier in the tournament. Sadly for Benneteau he lost his eighth successive ATP final, a streak he would surely like to break.

In Brazil Rafael Nadal seemed unfazed by his previous loss and romped to victory over taking out the ever moody David Nalbandian in the final. Nadal as usual bit the trophy he won and expressed how the win was dreamlike.

San Jose played out at the same time and for the last time with Milos taking out old and temperamental Renaissance man Tommy Haas, who may have found the secret of eternal youth.

Memphis indoors provided for Kei Nishikori his third title and hopefully some suede shoes. The Japanese star didn’t drop a set.

‘Allez’ in Marseille for Jo-Wilfred Tsonga where he ousted Tomas Berdych winning his tenth career title and fifth on home soil. Interestingly a player of Berdych’s stature has a pretty mediocre collection of titles with only eight since 2004.

In Buenos Aires David Ferrer picked up his second title of the year and probably breathed a sigh of relief that a certain Mr Nadal didn’t make the trip. A dream for him no doubt.

A week later and Berdych, after beating Federer in the semi’s, lost in another final this time in Dubai. This title went to Novak Djokovic, who was playing his first tournament since winning in Australia. Two out of two for the super Serb.

At Delray Beach the enigmatic Latvian Ernie Gulbis showed another glimpse of talent downing Edouard Roger-Vasselan in the final to win his second title there.

Meanwhile in Acapulco Nadal was playing havoc with Ferrer’s schedule and duly destroyed his fellow countryman in the final 6-0 6-2. Ouch.

March 2013

The onset of March brought two big tournaments and the end of the big hard court tournaments until after Wimbledon.

First was Indian Wells where Nadal was back to dreaming. Here he made it official he was back and could beat anyone after adding to Federer’s horrible 2013 with a quarterfinal win. He then outlasted Del Potro in the final. More than dream dream.

Over in Miami Andy Murray won his second tournament of the year and seemed more genuinely pleased than when he won the U.S. Open (insert Sean Connery accent – “where’s my watch”). Although it was a great win, the field was depleted with injuries and no-shows. One notable was Tommy Haas making his first 1000 event semi final since 1952 or something. The tournament should also be remembered for the first round squabble between Llodra and Paire that makes “Days of our Lives” look harmonious. And no, they won’t be on each other’s Christmas card list.

The Sum Up

The first three months has seen the emergence of new talent in Tomic, Dimitrov and Paire, and the revival of old in Haas and Gasquet. Most notably for the first time since 2004 Federer and Nadal are both ranked outside the top 3.

Only time will tell what the next quarter will bring.

Federer v Nadal – An Old Rivalry

Rafael Nadal

By James A. Crabtree

Before, it was Laver and Rosewall, McEnroe and Borg, Agassi and Sampras.

For the past year it’s been more about Djokovic and Murray.

One hundred years from now the beginning of this millennium will be remembered for clashes shared by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The biggest headline in tennis once again took centre stage at Indian Wells in the men’s quarterfinal.

Federer will undoubtedly be remembered as the greatest player of all time. What will perhaps be forgotten is that Federer has been consistently owned by the man who chased him in the rankings for so long, Rafael Nadal. Nadal leads the Federer/Nadal conflicts with 19 wins to 10, and significantly by 8 wins to 2 in grand slams.

The most recent encounter between these two at Indian Wells had the build-up.

Federer has not won a title since August last year and in many ways is playing a match in a more timid style than that of which we are accustomed to seeing.

Nadal, as we all know, is back after a very lengthy absence and has a point to prove on hard courts and in a tournament in which he lost to Federer last year.

When Federer beat Nadal in the Indian Wells 2012 semi-final it was his first victory against the Spaniard on an outside hard court since Miami in 2005. The 2013 display went back to the script of old whilst Federer and his army of fans searched for answers with no more imaginative excuses than his age and injury.

Nadal’s display of aggression after a lengthy layoff from injury was significant although Federer’s lack of hostility on court, faltering serve and inconsistency was disheartening. Federer’s main hard court weapons, the flatter forehand and faster serve have all but eluded him so far this year.

These players know each other’s games inside and out and new strategy is almost impossible. Like a childhood sibling fight all tactics have been used before, only a heightened level of spite could prove a difference.

A spite that was missing for Federer resulting in the 28th encounter being an epic anticlimax.

Nadal’s biography ‘RAFA’ is as much about Federer as it is about Nadal, with detailed schemes of how the Spaniard would overcome the Swiss inundating the text. More than simply a great matchup Nadal treats the issue with obsession, a mountain he must climb. In contrast for Federer to play Nadal seems like an exhausting chore and whether he admits it or not, one he would rather avoid.

Indeed, in their most recent battle, Federer seemed more fatigued by an opponent that has always troubled him. For some reason Nadal always thinks of himself as the underdog. And these may have been the prevailing issues rather than any of the subplots leading up. Federer struggles against Nadal, always has, and perhaps, always will.

This rivalry has been going on a long bloody time, nine years to be exact. They have met 29 times, have played seven exhibitions of which Nadal has won five, will meet a few more times before they retire and then will undoubtedly play each other a further absurd amount of times more on the Champions tour.

If the current game plan remains the same, it would be hard to imagine a reversal of fortune for the greatest player of all time.

Rafael Nadal in your Pocket!

17918

This week, 11-time Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, may be making his debut of the new season at Viña del Mar in Chile, but he has also made his debut in the world of mobile technology.
Nadal has launched his new application, which can be downloaded on the iTunes App Store. The new Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy App is for all recreational players, which helps you to learn directly from the Spanish champion himself.

The application offers exclusive, in-depth tennis tutorials of Rafa’s strokes and has easy-to-use video coaching tools so players can capture their strokes, analyse their games and compare their technique side-by-side with Rafa.

With this application, it is like having a bit of Rafael Nadal in your pocket, learning his secrets on his powerful serve, brutal forehand and ripping backhand.

The Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy App comprises of nine tutorials featuring his serve and returns with a host of future tutorials of all Rafa’s strokes, along with exclusive insights from Rafa himself on what makes him one of the world’s best tennis players.

For those who download the application can also upload their own videos as well as their own Vstrated coaching sessions to the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy on Vstrator.com.

It seems to me that for any budding future tennis star, this is the easiest (and most likely cheapest!) way of having Nadal as your own personal tennis coach!

http://youtu.be/mp5ufVDSz-0

Roger Federer Will Continue to Make History

Roger Federer is excited about the rest of the season.  (Photo credit: Ben Solomon)

Roger Federer: 17-time Grand Slam champion, 6-time Year-End Championships winner, 21-time ATP Masters 1000 champion (he holds the record amount of titles alongside Spaniard, Rafael Nadal), Olympic silver medalist and Olympic gold medalist in the doubles with compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka. Overall, he has won 76 career singles titles in total, but why am I collating a list of his outstanding career achievements? Well, it is because Roger Federer made it to the semifinals of a Grand Slam and for many tennis players that would be a dream come true, for Federer’s critics, it’s simply not good enough.

World No.2, Roger Federer, was bundled out of the semifinals of the Australian Open by eventual finalist Andy Murray after 5 gruelling sets against the world No.3, not too dissimilar to his Australian Open achievements last year.

At the start of 2012 after Federer lost to Rafael Nadal in four sets during the semifinals of the first Grand Slam of the year, some began to question his future in tennis and if it would be the beginning of his career decline due to his age, after starting a family and having other players emerging and dominating in the major tournaments.

Last year in Rotterdam during the press conferences I heard the former world No.1 being questioned about his career and possible retirement (he went on to win the title in Rotterdam), whether he would ever win another Slam again (Wimbledon 2012 anybody?) and if he believed he would regain his place at the top of the rankings again (on July 16th 2012 he tied Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at No.1 after taking back the top spot once more). Prior to these achievements, Roger Federer had been written off in the minds of some people, but in 2013, write him off at your own peril.

After his 2012 semifinal Australian Open defeat, Federer went on to win consecutive titles in Rotterdam (where he defeated Del Potro), Dubai (where he beat Murray) and Indian Wells (once again beating the then-ranked No. 9 Del Potro, No. 2 Nadal and No. 11 Isner, all in straight sets).

His success continued back in Europe where he was successful in the final against Tomas Berdych on the controversial blue clay in Madrid and won a record 5th Cincinnati title against world No.1 Novak Djokovic. His victories continued on his beloved grass courts of Wimbledon where he was crowned champion for the seventh time against Andy Murray and two weeks later he was avenged by the Brit in the final of the Olympics where he was awarded the Olympic silver medal.

His 2012 season did not end too badly either with back-to-back final appearances in hometown Basel and at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the 02 Arena in London.

There is no doubt that current world No.1 Novak Djokovic and world No.3 Andy Murray are a formidable force on the tennis court and the ‘Novandy’ battles could serve up a rivalry lasting several more years, but whilst Roger Federer is around, he still has the ability to beat the top players – after all he is still one of them. If Federer remains healthy, he may go on to win another major, let’s remember what he achieved last year. Could 2013 be a bit of history repeating? For many Federer fans, they are hoping so and they never give up on their hero.

Ahead of the Australian Open, Federer had not played a tournament going into the first Grand Slam of the year and by his own admission, he was pleased to reach the semis with very little match practice prior to the tournament:

“So I go from here with a good feeling for the year. I didn’t play a tournament leading in, so now obviously I know where my level is at.”

Murray may have knocked Federer out of the semifinals, but has that knocked his confidence or willingness to improve? Of course not…

“I have even more time to work on my game, work on my fitness this year. It’s something I’m excited about.”

With Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray frequently taking centre stage in Grand Slam finals and with the imminent return of Rafael Nadal after his lengthy injury battle with his knee, domination is something which Roger Federer will have to fight for, but he is a sportsman and losing is a learning experience that teaches you to work harder.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion is often referred to as arguably one of the greatest of all time (GOAT) players and as long as the Swiss maestro has the desire to continue playing, he will endure fighting amongst the greatest for more Grand Slam glory and to continue making history. For this reason I would not write him off for future success, after all, he is Roger Federer.

Tsonga and an opportunity lost

Federer v Tsonga

James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.

By James Crabtree

MELBOURNE –

As tough as Federer’s draw has been on paper this was his first real test.

Jo- WilfredTsonga is a big, fast and intimidating player who knows what it feels like to beat his rival in five sets.

Add to that Tsonga’s assorted collection of thunderous ground shots, booming serves, tantalizing volleys and a crowd he keeps enchanted, Federer had a problem.

Most people attending, aside from those who had national pride or an unhealthy devotion at stake, were happy to see either man win.

The first four sets were shared evenly and at that point both players deserved to win. Consistency, fitness and strategy were comparable, although Tsonga’s style was generally more flamboyant. By this point people watching were thinking up elaborate excuses why they wouldn’t be into work tomorrow morning, in anticipation of a Wawrinka Djokovic battle royale.

“Jo was really pressing forward today, playing aggressive, pushing me to come up with the plays and get one more extra ball back.  I think I did well.  I’ve been moving well all week, or the last couple weeks.  You know, I guess also not having played any tournaments leading in, today was tricky because I haven’t been in a match like this for some time, and I’m happy I came through.” said a relieved and happy Federer who added to his own history books with his 10th straight Australian Open semi-final.

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga went toe to toe with Federer but failed to deliver when it really mattered most, losing 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-3. Tsonga was bidding to deny Federer any more statistical achievements and his 10th consecutive Australian Open semi-final.

The Frenchman had taken the fourth set brilliantly seizing the opportunities when they presented themselves. Sadly he started the fifth without the desperation needed to outlast the most successful player of all time. Something was missing and with it Federer’s confidence multiplied.

But luck was on Federer’s side during this kind spirited affair. Even whilst a break up  he was the fortunate recipient of a net cord that dribbled over the net, with Tsonga fruitlessly running all the way past the net and into Federer’s court to which Tsonga, with a wry smile, could only mock hit a ball at the Swiss master.

Tsonga’s downcast expression following his defeat was more striking than the words he used afterwards when speaking to the press.

“You know, I’m a bit in the bad mood because I lost it. But, you know, in other way I played a good match.  I was solid.  I was there every time.  I keep my level of concentration, you know, really high all times. You know, I just gave my best today, so I’m proud of that. But, you know, I’m not happy to lose, and I already look forward for the next tournament, the next Grand Slam, to try another time.”

Everybody is so quick to comment on Federer’s age, almost without realisation how old everybody else is getting. Tsonga and Berdych are both 27, David Ferrer is 30. Their athletic biological clock is ticking by too and all three need to renounce their membership from the illustrious ‘nearly men’ group.

A subdued Tsonga reflected afterwards of the Federer he lost to today but beaten at Wimbledon two years ago. “In 2011 I think it was not a really good year for him, and I’m sure he’s more in a good shape. He was in a good shape last year and he’s in a good shape at the beginning of this year, so I think it’s a different player.”

A different player Andy Murray, Federer’s next opponent, should be wary of.

2013 Australian Open and The Usual Suspects?

Novak Djokovic

by James A. Crabtree

With the Australian open only a jiffy away now seems the opportune moment to make some foolhardy predictions as to who shall claim the spoils first in 2013.

At a glance it doesn’t look like a new grand slam champion will emerge just yet.

With the big 4 being cut down to the big 3 for a second straight major with a certain Spaniard sick one would assume that a new contender could join the party dominated for so long by the remaining Scot, Serb and Swiss.

In truth none look like they are either knocking on the door or even hold an invite to the elusive ‘S club 4’. Berdych and Tsonga have proved they can take down a big gun, but have never followed it up in the following round. This leaves only Del Porto who has at least proved he can hold his nerve in 5 set thrillers. The big Argie’s draw isn’t easy with a possible matchup against Granollers in round three, the inform un-seeded Dennis Istomin by round four and Andy Murray in the quarters. Tsonga’s draw is better with the only major problem being countrymen Gasquet in the fourth round.

With Nadal away so often Federer shall play, as with his Roland Garros victory in 2009 and Wimbledon 2009 and 2012. This time more question marks surround Federer’s destiny.  The seeding format in Australia is an upside down 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 rather than 1v 3 and 2 v 4. This means 2nd seed Federer is slated to meet 3rd seed Murray, a player he would have otherwise avoided, in the semi-finals. That is supposing he makes it. Problems persist for ol’ Roger well before then with possible opponents including Davydenko, an inform Tomic, a dangerous Raonic and a nemesis of sorts with Tsonga in the quarters. The all-time leading grand slam champion has big questions regarding form having not played a competitive match since the ATP Tour Finals in early November 2012.

And what of Murray?  Many tennis enthusiasts have predicted he could go on a tear having got the U.S. crown and shown impressive performances in Australia the past three years, with two finals appearances and one semi-final. His performance in Australia thus far has been the most notable of the big 3, inclusive of reclaiming his second straight Brisbane title. His first round matchup is against Robin Haase, a fellow curly haired baseliner and someone he has split their last two meetings with, although they have not played each other since 2011. Other hurdles for him include Dolgopolov or Simon in the fourth round then an intimidating Del Potro in the quarters.

As well as Murray has performed Djokovic has performed better as he looks for a hat trick in Melbourne and his fourth title in six years. A second round struggle could be with Ryan Harrison who looks to be itching for a big name scalp. This might not happen this year but Harrison can be dangerous and did take a set off Murray in Australia in 2012. The ‘other Swiss’ Wawrinka is expected in the fourth round then possibly an out of sorts Tomas Berdych in the quarters although his name could be replaced by new kid on the block David Goffin.

And what of the semi-finals?

It’s time to go out a limb and say Jo-Wilfred Tsonga will beat Roger Federer and make his first semi-final since 2010, but ultimately lose to Andy Murray who will continue to play for sick friend Ross Hutchins.

On the other side of the draw expect Mr Consistent David Ferrer to meet up with Novak for a repeat of their 2012 quarterfinal match with a similar score line and result.

That leaves Novak Djokovic to do battle again with Andy Murray in their second straight grand slam final with Novak gaining revenge on the Scot.

Eugenie Bouchard eager for her next tennis transition

Eugenie Bouchard is ready for her first full year on the pro circuit.

By Melissa Boyd

Dec. 3, 2012 — Eugenie Bouchard has been on the Canadian tennis radar for almost as long as she has been swinging a racquet. Labeled early on as the potential ‘next one’ to follow in the footsteps of Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi, and Aleksandra Wozniak, Bouchard has begun carving her own path to greatness thanks to a breakout season in 2012.

The 18-year-old native of Montreal made history in July when she was crowned girls’ singles and doubles champion at Wimbledon, becoming the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Slam singles title. Bouchard actually won 19 consecutive matches this summer with her Wimbledon triumph sandwiched between titles at the ITF junior event in Roehampton and the $25,000 pro Challenger in Granby.

“Winning Wimbledon was a really tough tourney. It was a junior (event). I had the pressure all week. People expected me to win because I was playing women younger than me. So it was a big mental test and I was really proud that I was able to come through,” said Bouchard in an interview last week with a select group of reporters.

Many in attendance on Court 1 at SW19 were impressed with Bouchard’s poise and maturity in posting a convincing win over Elina Svitolina in the Wimbledon girls’ singles final on one of the biggest stages in tennis. She put her mental toughness on display at the Rogers Cup in Montreal when she out-toughed Shahar Peer, one of the best competitors in the women’s game, to earn her first Top 50 victory.

Perhaps the most impressive stretch of Bouchard’s year came during the Fall indoor season when she put her aggressive style of play on full display, reaching the final at the Saguneay Challenger and the following week winning her first $50,000 Challenger in Toronto. Bouchard suffocated her opponents with her offense-first mentality, losing just a handful of games en route to the title in Toronto and dominating Melanie Oudin in the Saguenay semifinals. The run secured her place in the Australian Open qualifying draw which will be her first Grand Slam as a pro.

“I had great coaches when I was young and they taught me to take the ball on the rise. I think that’s it really important in the women’s game,” said Bouchard. “Of course you want to hit fast, but you want to hit it early as well … Hitting it fast takes time away from your opponent.”

With 2012 now in her rear view mirror and the tennis world at her fingertips, Bouchard is ready to make the transition to becoming a full-time WTA pro in 2013. She is fully aware of the challenges awaiting her if she wants to prove that her 2012 campaign was no fluke.

“The top players in the world have a little something extra,” said Bouchard. “They don’t make mistakes and they don’t give you any free points, you have to earn them.”

Even though her career is just getting started, Bouchard is already turning heads off the court as much as she is impressing on it. Their obvious physical likeness and similar game styles have people drawing comparisons between the Canadian and her idol Maria Sharapova. Not to mention that Bouchard was recently chosen by Sharapova to wear her line of Nike tennis clothing. She is the whole package and her bubbly personality is a hit with fans. Even though it’s early, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the excitement surrounding Bouchard and she knows that the onus is now on her to deliver on those expectations and send a message that the future is now.

“There is pressure from everyone around me, but I already put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Bouchard. “It’s nice to know that people think I am going to be good because that’s what I believe too, but I have to focus on what I have to do to become that player.”

The Necker Island Cup

Necker Island

by James A. Crabtree

The definitive tennis getaway would be somewhere in the Caribbean, secluded on a beautiful island with perfect weather, gorgeous beaches and crystal blue water. You would want the prefect mixture of tennis, relaxation, spiritual growth and entertainment.

So where exactly do you go?

Paradise, or more accurately Necker Island for Richard Branson’s inaugural Necker Island Cup.

Aside from kite boarding the Virgin boss lists tennis as a very important pastime. This is why the finest professional-amateur tournament in the world has been constructed. Yes you heard that correctly (repeat aloud), professional-amateur tournament meaning amateur players will be partnering a tennis professional! For a fee of course, but what more could one ask for? Many attend professional tennis events and enjoy the thrill of admiring the greats from afar, but the Necker Island Cup certainly makes dreams come true being able to literally serve it up with the world’s tennis best.

According to Trevor Short of premiertennistravel.com, Branson is also a player to be reckoned with and advises that he is a wily competitor with a sliding serve. Only time will tell how five time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic, the headline attendee at the event, handles the serve. But what is for sure is the world’s number one tennis player handles his off season in style. He will no doubt benefit from the leadership retreat and enjoy the chance to speak with environmentalists Alice Sylvia Earle and Jose Maria Figueres about global issues such as climate change and sustainable development.

Djokovic isn’t the only big name to be making the most from the offseason.  Bob and Mike Bryan will be partnering an amateur and will surely suffice as a viable doubles partner if their own volleys aren’t up to scratch. How about some veteran guile? John McEnroe or Tommy Haas anybody? Yes please. Or a big server who looks like he enjoys a good party? Well, that could only be Mark Philippoussis. Sign me up.

The parties have been taken care of with the “End of the World” awards dinner that includes a charity auction. And for those who don’t fancy roughing it up with the professionals on the court then there is also the Rosewood Little Dix Bay Legends Tennis Camp on the nearby Virgin Gorda Island led by Luke and Murphy Jensen.

With tennis the main focus of this remote, paradise island in early December it is certainly not understated in style with luxurious Balinese retreats on offer that provide more than the restful nights sleep; accommodation only seen to be believed (http://www.neckercup.com). Enough said this tournament set in paradise certainly offers more than its fair share of niceties.

Page 1 of 1512345...8910...Last »