Extract from Andy Murray: Tennis Ace by John Murray

The early January tournaments were warm-ups for the main event of the month, which was the first Grand Slam of the year – the Australian Open. With a ranking well inside the top 100, Andy was guaranteed entry into all the Grand Slams and didn’t have to worry about qualifying any more. But his debut appearance in Melbourne was short lived, ending in a first-round defeat to Juan Ignacio Chela. With that, his Australian adventure was over until the following year.

His next tournament took him all the way back to Europe – nearly 10,000 miles away – to Zagreb, Croatia. The draw wasn’t kind to him: he was up against wold No. 5 and local favorite Ivan Ljubicic, and lost in three sets.

It had been a long way to go for another first-round defeat, but that was part and parcel of being a professional tennis player. Sometimes things don’t go your way, sometimes they do – as Andy was to find out in his next event. After he had travelled another 6,000 miles to get there, of course!

Andy had a new travel companion for his trip to the SAP Open in San Jose, California. Normally he went to tournaments with his coach at the time, Mark Petchey, or his mum, Judy, and sometimes both. Neither had made the journey across the Atlantic this time; instead he was accompanied by his girlfriend, Kim Sears.
Kim, also 18, had first met Andy at the previous year’s US Open. A student at the University of Sussex, she had an artistic side, having studied drama, music and art for her A-levels at school. Yet while Kim might not have been a fellow tennis pofessional, she certainly had the sport in her blood. Her father Nigel was a top British tennis coach (in 2011 he became the coach of former world number one Ana Ivanovic).

This was the first time Kim had travelled with Andy to a tournament. Could she be a good-luck charm as he tried to win his fist ATP title? It cerrtainly appeared that way in the early rounds as her boyfriend beat Mardy Fish for the loss of only four games and was no less dominant against Jimmy Wang, conceding six games. Robin Soderling won the first set of their quarter-final clash, but Andy bounced back to book a spot in the last four.
He would need more than just good fortune to advance to the final, however, as he was up against a formidable foe in Andy Roddick – the player with probably the most lethal serve in the world. The top-seed was the highest-ranked opponent he had faced since Federer, but that didn’t bother Andy. he refused to wilt under pressure and won 7-5 7-5. It was the highest-profile victory of his career so far.

Admittedly, not many of Australia’s Grand Slam titles had come in the past 20 years, but one player who had taken home a couple was facing Andy on the other side of the net. In 2001, the year he had won the US Open, Hewitt had become the youngest ever world No.1, aged 21.
The Australian, who was now ranked 11, had not won a tournament since 2003. He began the final with the drive of someone who wanted to change that – fast. Hewitt took the first set 6-2. Murray then gave him some of his own medicine, winning the second set 6-1 to level the match.
The third was much closer. Hewitt showed incredible resolve at 4-5 and 5-6 to hold off two championship points, both times finding a thunderous serve when he needed it most. That took the match to a tie-break, where it was third time lucky for Andy: he grasped the opportunity on his third match point and became the youngest ever Brit to win an ATP Tour title.

After shaking hands with his opponent and the umpire, it was time to thank his biggest supporter all week. He went and gave Kim a kiss.

Mardy Fish and Rafael Nadal

Enjoy a few pictures of Rafael Nadal praticing with Mardy Fish, who is playing the last tournament of his career.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

Read More

This is a guest post by Ruari Grant. This post was also published on the AndBeThere blog. You can connect to us via:

Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Our Website | Flickr | Via Email

I would like to thank Tennis-Buzz for this opportunity.

Well the first Masters 1000 event of the 2013 season is now well and truly underway, with all the seeds having completed their first matches. All 32 seeds receive a bye in the first round, so here I plan to give you a succinct run-down of round 2.

Top Half

Novak Djokovic had a bit of a lapse of concentration in his 6-0 5-7 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini. Having taken the opener without any resistance whatsoever, one bad game from the number one seed, and some great slow-court tennis from the Italian saw it go to a decider. However Djokovic said that he never really felt in trouble, given the great run of form he’s currently on and the confidence that goes with it. Next up for him is Dimitrov, a straight sets winner, who could provide quite a spectacle, though he’s unlikely to pose any real threat.

In a few days’ time the winner of that one will face the victor of the Querrey-Matesevic clash. Matesevic is a name to watch out for this season, and he upset 14th seed Monaco 7-5 6-0 in R2. This could be fairly close, though I’d expect the more experienced and big serving American to come through for a presumed rematch of his win over Djokovic in Paris last Autumn.

Further down, Cilic came through in two against Ramos, and he will play Raonic who was granted a walkover by Llodra. This could be interesting. Cilic is the more experienced, though Raonic is the more upcoming player at the moment. Though they’re both big servers, I think the slower courts will favour Cilic, as he probably has a slightly more solid defensive game than the all-offensive Canadian.

Mardy Fish continued his comeback to the tour with  6-3 3-6 6-4 win over countryman Bobby Reynolds. This tournament has been a happy hunting ground for him in the past, so he will be hoping for a couple more wins. Trying to prevent that will be Tsonga – a 7-6 6-4 winner over James Blake. A very tight affair where the American held 3 set points in the opener, Tsonga did well to grit out the win, and that should give him confidence going forward. He shouldn’t struggle too much with Fish on current form.

Andy Murray overcame a rocky start, eventually rallying to beat Donskoy 5-7 6-2 6-2. It was the Scot’s first match since the Aussie Open so he was bound to be a bit rusty. He’s said that he’s expecting peak fitness over the next couple of weeks given the training time he’s recently put in in Miami. So after a couple of matches to ease himself into the tournament he should be quite a force. The slow surface should also suit him. Next up is Yen-Hsun Lu.

Carlos Berlocq caused an upset, overcoming the 22nd seed Dolgopolov 6-3 6-7 6-3. A great win for the Argentine, it’s just another appalling loss for the talented Ukrainian. He really needs to look at where his game is at and start considering where he wants to take it – the regularity of his bad performances represent the only consistency in his game. Berlocq will next have his work cut out against Nishikori, one of the brightest young hopes on the tour at the moment.

One of the best prospects for the next round is the Almagro-Haas matchup. Both came through in two sets against unseeded opponents, and both have been playing at a high level of late. I’m picking a slight upset here, with Haas to come through – he really is having a late-career resurgence!

At the bottom of the top half, Del Potro was very impressive against a dangerman in Davydenko. The Russian had beaten him comfortably in the championship match at the World Tour Finals a couple of years back so the Argentine was aware of the possible risk. But Davydenko was never given a look in. Next up is Bjorn Phau – for me the fastest man in tennis. He plays great exhibition stuff, though won’t have the necessary firepower to hurt the seventh seed.

Juan Martin Del Potro

Bottom Half

At the very bottom of the draw, the number 2 seed (he could lose his number 2 ranking if he fails to defend his Indian Wells crown this week) is Federer. He came through very comfortably 6-2 6-3 against a dangerous opponent in Istomin. After two poor losses in recent weeks, he’s in need of confidence boosting wins like this ahead of a possible quarter-final showdown with Nadal. In R2 he faces Dodig; an opponent you wouldn’t expect to cause too much trouble. 

My pick of Saturday’s matches was Lleyton Hewitt‘s gritty comeback, beating last year’s finalist John Isner 6-7 6-3 6-4. The veteran Aussie has slipped in the rankings, so big wins like this are more important than ever to him, as he looks to extend his injury plagued career as long as he can. He faces Wawrinka in a potentially intriguing clash in the next round.

Ernests Gulbis continued his fine run of form, backing up last week’s win in Delray Beach, with a devastating 6-2 6-0 win over the struggling Serb Janko Tipsaravic. Though still in the top 10, he has had a distinctly average year since the Aussie Open, and is sure to see that ranking slip if he doesn’t change things soon. Gulbis on the other hand looks as if he may finally be putting a leash on that massive game; with a bit of reigning in, he should shoot up the rankings. His next opponent Seppi, will look to make very few errors – that type of opponent is a real test for the Latvian. 

One of the most noteworthy matches was Nadal‘s 7-6 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison. Though the American went up a break in the first, the Spaniard wasn’t about to let up, and powered through, recording his first win on hard courts in 12 months. He said that his movement still needs some attention, though he feels good and is happy to be at the tournament – potentially an ominous sign for his next round opponent, Leonardo Mayer!

The biggest upset thus far came in Kevin Anderson‘s 3-6 6-4 6-3 win over fourth seed Ferrer. The South-African seemed to have too much power for Ferrer, hitting winners-galore. The Spaniard doesn’t seem to have quite recovered fromt the routing Nadal gave him a week ago in the final of Acapulco. Anderson next faces Jarko Nieminen, who conceded just one game against fellow lefty Fernando Verdasco. A great win for the aging Fin, though Verdasco seriously needs to sit down and look at the direction his career is taking as a player with his innate ability shouldn’t be suffering these losses.

Kevin Anderson

The rest of the seeds in this half all came through fairly comfortably with the exception of Kohlschreiber who bowed out to Benoit Paire 6-4 6-2. The young flashy Frenchman will look to put on another show in the next round against countryman Simon; I reckon his metronomic style might just infuriate the youngster.

Gasquet was a straight sets winner over a potential hurdle in Bernard Tomic, and sets himself an interesting first time clash with Jerzy Janowicz. I pick Gasquet to come through, though it could be far from simple. Similarly, Berdych wasn’t troubled in his opener against Zverev, and goes on to probably beat Florian Mayer in round 3. I’m really hoping for a Berdych-Gasquet R4. If Gasquet comes to the party there could be some phenomenal shotmaking!

That’s pretty much the gist of the first few days’ action. Lots more promises to be coming our way though, so check back soon for more roundups, and special features on certain players!

Photos by Tennis Buzz (Del Potro, Roland Garros 2012 – Anderson, Bercy 2012)

Risk tennis a lost art form

Earlier this year I wrote an article about the pace of indoor surfaces and the demise of indoor carpet on the ATP and WTA tours. (see article here) Quick indoor carpet has been completely phased out in favour of medium paced indoor hardcourts based on the plexicushion surface. The slowing down in surfaces has led to a convergence in style of play and allowed defensive minded players to get to the very top of the game and stay there.

Recently Roger Federer called for surfaces to speeded up once again “It’s an easy fix. Just make quicker courts, then it’s hard to defend,” Federer said. “Attacking style is more important. It’s only on this type of slow courts that you can defend the way we are all doing right now.”

Roger Federer

When I spoke to the ATP spokesman back in February, he clearly gave the view the surfaces were slowed down and carpet phased out because there were too many complaints that the big serve was dominating tennis. That is a pity because my article clearly dispelled the myth that faster surfaces were only dominated by big servers, I pointed out that many baseliners loved the quicker surfaces.

Players like Ivan Lendl won over 30 tournaments on indoor carpet, much more tournaments on one surface than most players win in an entire career. Lendl won 5 year end Masters titles (ATP World Tour) and played in 8 straight finals between 1982 and 1989. Also Lendl won these titles against the likes of John McEnroe, Boris Becker, and Stefan Edberg.

Monica Seles was another player who excelled on indoor carpet, and yet both she and Lendl won multiple titles at the French Open, the slowest surface on tour. Martina Hingis also excelled on indoor carpet. In the mens game, Andre Agassi, Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt and Alex Corretja won the year end championships indoors whilst Jim Courier played in finals in 1991 and 1992 and Michael Chang in 1995.
Read More

Bernard Tomic:

Ernests Gulbis:

Roger Federer:

Read More