During the recent ATP world tour semifinal, I listened with interest to the radio commentary between Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

Andy Murray came out of the blocks all guns blazing playing aggressively and going after Federer, taking an early break and controlling the match. Federer sounded a bit rattled, not too dissimilar to the start of the Wimbledon final in July. The commentators then got into an interesting discussion where they claimed that Murray was targeting the Federer backhand and Murray thought he could get to it and be almost “dismissive” of it. Federer’s one hander somehow wouldn’t cut it at the very top level they mused.

Roger Federer

My ears pricked up instantly for two reasons, the first was I thought the commentators were taking liberties; and the second was that I have heard it all before. There is no doubt the two hander has major advantages in the modern game, and has done since the 1970s when Jimmy Connnors, Bjorn Borg and Chris Evert changed the game with that stroke. However, the way Federer turned the match around confirmed to me what I thought from the moment the discussion was made by the commentators.

For sure, the pundits will look to Federer’s forehand as to why he came out on top in that particular encounter. After all, the Federer forehand is deadly especially when his feet are moving well. However, what changed the match was Federer’s versatility, and his one hander was a big part of that. Federer changed the tempo of the rallies often, using the one hander when stretched to slice the ball and float it, allowing him to get back into position.
Federer also chipped the backhand return on Murray’s 2nd serve, and on breakpoint in the 1st set, used the old chip and charge tactic to great effect, breaking Murray’s serve in the process. Federer also used the backhand down the line whenever possible to stretch Murray.

These were exactly the same tactics Federer used to turn around the Wimbledon final, on that occasion Federer also drove the backhand return often and took to the net more than he usually does. When those tactics work, the forehand is the icing on the cake. The fact that Murray thought he could win the match by attacking the backhand was a mistake, a mistake many players have made over the last five or six years. Nadal’s lefty topspin has always been a big problem but other opponents hit flatter and into his hitting zone.

Roger Federer
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After a week filled with polemics and surprising upsets, Djokovic, Nadal and co are happy to leave Madrid’s blue clay for the red clay of the Foro Italico in Rome.

Check out some pics and video of the draw ceremony which took place at one of Rome’s most popular tourist sites, the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna). Attending the ceremony: former Italian players Nicola Pietrangeli, Lea Pericoli, but also Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Ana Ivanovic, Andy Murray and Fabio Fognini.

Nicola Pietrangeli:

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Nicola Pietrangeli

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Nicola Pietrangeli

Francesca Schiavone:

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Francesca Schiavone

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Francesca Schiavone

Flavia Pennetta:

Rome Masters draw ceremony: Flavia Pennetta

Thanks a lot to Mauro, webmaster of STE Fans, dedicated to the one and only Stefan Edberg.

Video by Emmanuel Pampuri

Lotto take it back to their foundation year of 1973 with this heritage treated Leggenda collection, featuring the Corrado tennis shoe and the Dino hi-top. Constructed from premium nappa leather and suede, this scuffy set salutes Lotto’s authentic sports heritage with a Sharpie-style ‘1973’ scrawled on the tongue.

Some pics of the Corrado model:

Lotto Leggenda collection

Lotto Leggenda collection

Lotto Leggenda collection

Lotto was established in 1973 by the Caberlotto family (who were the properties of the football team Treviso) in Montebelluna, northern Italy. In June 1973, Lotto made its debut as a sports footwear manufacturer. Tennis shoes signaled the beginning of production, followed by models for basketball, volleyball, athletics and football.
Over the years, Lotto sponsored top players like Martina Navratilova, Boris Becker and Thomas Muster.
Current players endorsing Lotto include Francesca Schiavone, David Ferrer, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi.

More details on the Lotto Leggenda website.

2011 French Open recap

I spent a few days here and there at Roland Garros this year, and I am always surprised of how journalists (especially French journalists) present the all thing and I sometimes wonder if I live on a different planet or in a parallel universe.

For French journalists it was fantastic two weeks of tennis, for me as a spectator it was another boring French Open.

Roland Garros

PS: I’m the one taking the photo, not the one sleeping ;o)

Everything was summed up in the mens trophy ceremony speeches: thanks to the sponsors, to the family, Roger is the best, Rafa played fantastic. Nothing new under the sun, things heard hundred times.
Conventional, boring, no emotion. From my point of view, the only 3 bright moments of the tournament: the semi Djokovic vs Federer, the Schiavone and Li runs to the final, and the Carte Blanche to Bob Sinclar for the Kids Day.

Here are a few personal thoughts about this Roland Garros tournament.

– Empty seats:

Court Philippe Chatrier

Tickets for main courts like Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen are really expensive and really difficult to get. So when I finally get a ticket (about 70 euros) and I see all those empty seats, I’m really upset.

Here’s a suggestion by tennis journalist Jon Wertheim:

How’s this for a bit of cultural exchange? The French help with some junior development. We help them with fan behavior. There were matches held on Philippe Chartrier for which the stands looked to be about 10 percent of capacity. We’re talking rows and rows of empty sears. Surely there is a way to let the patricians in the sponsor tents know how unseemly it is to have these choice tickets and then not use them. We eagerly look forward to the upgrades to the venue. But it’s all for rien if the stands are empty. Just disgraceful.

Nadal: he didn’t play well during the tournament, but at the end he won for the sixth time, equaling Borg. He also remains at number one for a few more weeks, but Djokovic will probably become the 25th ATP number one after Wimbledon.
What does it change for Rafa? Nothing. He already has won everything – career Grand Slam, Davis Cup, Olympic Gold – and he has nothing to prove. He will have less pressure, he won’t be the one supposed to win everything, but Djokovic will. Nadal will be even more dangerous.

Rafael Nadal

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