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.
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.
Enjoy this 4-part Rolex documentary retracing Wimbledon’s history from Suzanne Lenglen to Rod Laver to Roger Federer. A must-see for every tennis fan.
Part 1 (1877-1939): the foundations of Wimbledon
Part 2 (1945-1977): a brand new era
Virginia Wade, Jack Kramer, Maureen Connolly, Althea Gibson, Ann Jones, Louise Brough, Harry Hopman, Ken McGregor, Rod Laver, Frank Sedgman, Cliff Drysdale, WCT, Handsome Eight, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Billie Jean King
Part 3 (1978-1999): the Golden Era
Part 4 (2000-2011): Sampras, Federer, Venus and Serena
Hanging out in Russia with an old friend:):)
Video and text by Mauro:
Some highlights and funny moments at the 2012 Champions Trophy in Halle, a mixed doubles exhibition among tennis legends introducing the Gerry Weber Open. Stefan Edberg and Anastasia Myskina met Michael Stich and Martina Navratilova in a show match played at the best of three sets with a Champions’ tie-break in the final set.
I was able to film some of the best moments of the day from the stands: the presentation of the players, some rallies and the on court interview to Stefan Edberg. At a moment in the clip, a little band appears on the stands of the Gerry Weber Stadion and starts playing the Italian pop song “Quando, quando, quando” during play, causing ilarity from the crowd and the players. Stich and Navratilova eventually won the match 5-7, 6-2, 10-8.
More info on STE…fans.
Do you really care about the match, after all? Well, it was really a show much more than a match, often players laughed and joked, even during rallies. You can’t expect much more from a doubles senior exhibition, when even singles matches between former champions are played with smiles on their lips. There was even a moment when music was played during the match and the players found themselves dancing at the rhythm of the Italian pop song “Quando, quando, quando”. And the 10 thousand people crowd appreciated the atmosphere of relaxation… (By the way, it was amazing to see how many people chose to renounce to watch the French Open mens’ final on tv to attend an exhibition among legends. There’s a growing demand for Champions tennis, mostly by fans who are no longer satisfied with what tennis has become today, an aspect that can’t be ignored by tournament organizers).
Myskina and Edberg started the match behind, suffering an early break, but then recovered and won the set 7-5, with a littile bit of quarrel on the set point, when the play was stopped for a presumed double bounce on a pick up from Martina. No story in the second set, when Stich and Navratilova went immediately up a break and closed 6-2.
In my opinion, the match was decided in the Champions’ tie-break, on the score of 8-7 for the German/American team, by an amazing shot from Navratilova, a wonderful forehand lifted lob that overcame Stefan Edberg on the net and died just a few centimeters away from the bottom line, getting Edberg’s applause and an ovation by all the crowd. That shot alone was worth the ticket price… that, in the end, I could even have not paid, since I received a free ticket in a shop in the centre of Halle and also one from my friend Doris, another fan of the page and our translator from German. I watched the match next to her, sitting in a much better place than the one I had booked on the website of the Gerry Weber Open.
I can’t thank her enough for giving me the chance of watching Stefan Edberg’s dancing on grass just a few meters away from the court, a show that would have even captured the eye of an alien who doesn’t know what the word “tennis” means. I was also impressed by the sliced backhand vs sliced backhand by Stich and Edberg, but, unfortunately, most of the times the German shifted to Myskina “cutting” the ball, the rally ended… The Russian showed why she was the only player on court who had never won a Slam on grass and her lack of specialization on that surface was even more evident, because compared to the smooth movements and shots by three masters of what lawn tennis used to be. At the same time, it was nice to see Martina Navratilova in such a brilliant physical shape. Her stretch on the net and her touch are just a miracle, a joy to watch for a tennis fan of any age.
Read part 1 of Mauro’s report here.
Where to start from? When you have the chance to meet your childhood idol, suddenly every word becomes foreseen. So I would like to begin from the kindness of the staff at the press office of the Gerry Weber Open. It was only thanks to them that, without any media credential, I managed to access the press conference of the Champions Trophy and, believe it or not, without really knowing how, I found myself sitting in the first row, watching the winners of 70 Grand Slam tournaments combined speak, two meters away from the man I had always only watched on tv and who was the owner of my feelings back in my teenage days.
I was there, waiting to come in at a sign of the tournament communication director after all the players had ended speaking. He, indeed, introduced me to Stefan who saw me and smiled at me, when he recognized the outfit I was wearing: «Ah… and he has a nice Adidas jacket!», he said, maybe going back with his memory to 25 years ago, when he lifted his second Australian Open trophy with that on.
I was not shaking as I thought I would be, it was such an informal situation, after all, and, no need to say, Stefan is surely not the guy who makes you feel uncomfortable or out of place. I had the chance of shaking his hand and came in with very straight words:
«Hello, Stefan, nice to meet you. My name is Mauro and I’m from Italy. I’m the admin of STE…fans, the international fan community dedicated to you. I want to give you this special screenshot of the home page of my site in memory of this day, that, for me, ranks at the very top of the best moments that I had in my life».
Stefan didn’t know of the site (secretly I hoped he would…), but nevertheless he said: «Thanks very much, I appreciate it!». Then, he came down to the space before the seats in the media room and kindly accepted to take pictures of the moment. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to exchange more words with him. But, just the meeting itself was an extraordinary opportunity that I received from the tournament staff only thanks to the quality of my work and, maybe, to the human interest of the story of a fan who had flown to Westphalia from Italy just to hand his hero a little gift.