From 25 years of the Tennis Europe Junior Tour:

You play now with a lot of people you first faced in those days. What do you remember of your current rivals from back then? Famously, you and Djokovic were born in the same week…

Yeah, Novak and I first played at Tarbes and I won 6-0 6-1, so unfortunately times have changed a little since then! We would have been 11 years old, and I can clearly remember the court that we played on and everything. It’s strange because I don’t really remember any of the other matches I played that week, apart from the final, where I remember losing to Alex Krasnoroutskiy of Russia. He’s still around, he’s working now with Svetlana Kuznetsova. But yeah, the match with Djokovic sticks out quite a lot and it’s strange because at the time, when he was eleven years old, he wasn’t yet that good. Once he got to 13, 14 he became really really good.

Milos Raonic, Australian Open 2016

Lucas Pouille’s coach Emmanuel Planque talks about the Canadian’s improved game.

Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz

“Apart from Djoko, I don’t see anyone who can beat him here.” I told you that just after the match against Lucas (Pouille). I was a bit stunned after the match. I re-watched the match several times and the impression remained. OK, I wasn’t excited by the way Lucas started each set… but Milos gave us nothing. That guy doesn’t even give you the time of day. Right now, I find him fit. We’ve been talking about him as a future Grand Slam winner for two years now. Like Dimitrov? Yes and no. I’m sure Dimitrov will come back. But he’s less impressive and not prepared as well as Raonic. He has less weapons.

He’s really confident with his serve. In Brisbane and Melbourne, he was hitting second serves at 220, 224 and even 226 km/h. At some point you don’t know how to return them: if you step back, he hits a kick serve that bounces really high; if you move forward to cut the trajectory, he hits a 220km/h bullet. The average first serve speed is often mentioned as a way to judge a server, but don’t forget the second serve. He put power in it but it doesn’t mean that many more double faults. That’s tied to his current confidence and the fact that he hasn’t played the top two best returners yet, Murray and Djoko, who can bother him. The idea is to make him run so he’ll serve between 160 and 180 km/h. Because if he serves at 130, he’ll be more accurate, more coordinated, more relaxed. But it’s hard to make him run much when he’ll try and shorten the point quickly.

He has improved his game considerably. Mainly because he doesn’t have any physical problems. Last year, he had to undergo surgery to repair pinched nerve in his foot. Good health means more intensity at practice. You can tell he has worked on his returns. He’s much more consistent. Before he could miss a few second serve returns in a row. Today, he puts you continuously under pressure without taking any risks. He returns hard in the middle, that allows him to take a lot of second shots with his forehand. And then it’s difficult to escape. Facing him, you get tense and you lose 10 to 15 km/h on your serve. I think Milos has assimilated the fact that the best players in the world aren’t the best servers. His goal is to get a ratio of quality of serve/quality of return that is much better than the others’.

He’s part of a very strong project. To me, he’s not a Canadian at all. He’s a Yugo (born in Podgorica, Raonic lived in Montenegro until he was eight). He reminds me of Djoko with his ambition and application. Raonic is straightforward, intelligent, a worker. The guy could easily have been an engineer. Now he’s a tennis player, that’s his job. He’s not emotional, he’s rational. He works on his mechanics. Ljubicic (now Federer’s coach) helped with his serve and second shot. Ljubicic leaves and Raonic takes Moya, who’ll help him with his returns and bring him the deep parts of the game. And above all he has Piatti (former coach of Ljubicic and Gasquet) who is a great coach and who is doing a hell of a job with him.

Would it hurt tennis if Raonic became number one? I don’t agree with that kind of pessimism. I hear some people say Raonic is bland, isn’t sexy, he’s boring … No! Sure, tennis of tomorrow will be guys 1.95m tall moving like guys 1.75 tall and who can return too. Can these critics affect Raonic? I feel he’s there to win. The rest …

Nick Kyrgios, Australian Open 2016

Lots of people watching defending champion Novak Djokovic at practice:

Novak Djokovic

 

Novak Djokovic

 
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Lleyton Hewitt and David Ferrer, Australian Open 2016

“I came out, I gave everything I had like always. I left nothing in the locker room and that’s something I can always be proud of.”

“I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had such a great career and that I had the opportunity to go out on my terms. A lot of great sporting athletes don’t have that opportunity.”


Lleyton Hewitt played his final singles match on Thursday, a straight sets loss to David Ferrer. The youngest ever world number one, the Australian won 2 Grand Slam titles (US Open 2001 and Wimbledon 2002), 2 ATP Tour Finals (2001 and 2002) and 2 Davis Cup (1999 and 2003). A skilled volleyer, he also captured the 2000 US Open doubles title with Max Mirnyi.
He inspired loads of today’ players (Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer among others), and his never-die-attitude and counterpuncher skills changed tennis forever.

David Ferrer had some really nice words for him during the on-court ceremony:

“He’s one of the best players in history and I have to tell you that … I don’t have idols, but Lleyton is my idol, I have a shirt signed by him seven years ago … it’s the only t-shirt of a tennis player I have. He’s an amazing player. He deserves everything. Tonight is the day for him, not for me.”

Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic joined the tribute with video messages broadcast during the ceremony:

After the match, past and present champions took on Twitter and Instagram to pay tribute to the legend.

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Novak Djokovic Australian Open 2016 day 1

Novak Djokovic starts his title’s defence with a routine 6-3 6-2 6-4 win over Hyeon Chung.
The young Korean, 2015 ATP most improved player, is part of a group of rising stars including Alex Zverev, Kyle Edmund, Borna Coric and Thanasi Kokkinakis but he is lesser known as he plays mainly on the Challenger circuit.

Djokovic will next face young Frenchman Quentin Halys. Check out my pics of Halys at the Open du Nord last year.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic
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