“I won the Australian Open to launch my 1997 campaign, a pleasant surprise given the way I felt about the tournament. I took extra pride in the win for a couple of reasons.
In the round of 16, I played Dominik Hrbaty in a five-set war that I eventually won 6-4. The on-court temperature during that match hit 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, with the extreme heat policy in effect, they would have stopped the match, or closed the roof on Rod Laver Arena. Given what had happened at the US Open just months earlier in my match with Alex Corretja, I was glad to survive that test of stamina in the infernal Aussie heat.
It was also encouraging for me that while the Australian major is a hard-court tournament, in 97, it was dominated by slow-court players. After Hrbaty, I beat, in order, Al Costa, Thomas Muster, and Carlos Moya, to take the title. Each of those guys had won – or would win – Roland Garros. That gave me hope – maybe my fate at Roland Garros, the one slam that continued to elude me, wasn’t sealed quite yet.”
“I entered that event after having had less than a month of “off season” following the Grand Slam Cup (I pulled out of that with an ankle injury), and there was no way I was ready, much less eager to play.
I made the trip, though, and I played and ended up losing in the third round to an Aussie, Mark Philippoussis. The conditions were perfect for an upset: Mark had an adoring home crowd behind him and it was a night match, with some eighteen thousands fans jammed into the Rod Laver Arena, hungry for an upset. Mark just overpowered me – he was in the mythic zone, and when that happens to a player who has as big and versatile a game as Philippoussis, you’re in trouble.
Down deep, I didn’t feel too badly about the loss. I’d done my best. It might have been different if I’d been able to have six or eight weeks off to recharge my batteries and prepare for the new year. It also might have been different if it were any other major but the Australian. I never really liked playing in Melbourne, and my results over the years reflected it (I won just two titles there). This surprised many people, because on the surface the Australian Open might have looked like the perfect Grand Slam for me.
The Aussies have a great tennis tradition, yet even their icons tended to be regular, plainspoken, understated guys, somewhat like me. That was an immediate affinity I felt with Australia. The Australians also are a friendly, easygoing people, and the atmosphere at their major is laid-back; that also suited me. You could get gut-shot in the street there and if you crawled up to a guy for help he’d probably say, “No worries, mate!” and then do all he could to help.
The facilities at Melbourne Park, including Rod Laver Arena, are modern and first-class. You don’t have that feeling of chaos and crowding that characterizes the other majors; even the media presence is considerably smaller. So you have a little less of that intensity and crazy pressure.
In Melbourne you could always count on a few days when the temperature pushes the 100 degree mark, and even though it isn’t very humid, the heat can be draining. It was a special problem for me, because I secretly suffered from thalassemia, a mild disease common to men of Mediterranean descent. It’s basically a blood-iron deficiency that causes anemia, and those who have it are prone to wilting in intense heat.
Another unpredictable thing about the courts at Melbourne Park was the Rebound Ace surface (which was replaced by Plexicushion for 2008). Rebound Ace was a rubber compound that they painted over the typical hard-court base of asphalt. The surface provided a little cushioning and slowed the bounce, but it did strange things in the heat. It was so hot in Melbourne one year that a TV crew cracked an egg on court and, using time-lapse photography, recorded it frying. The heat made the Rebound Ace very sticky.
Yet the conditions in Oz can change in the blink of an eye. The difference between playing day and night matches there is huge (the Australian and US opens are the only two majors that have night tennis, and the retractable roof over the Laver Arena means you can have night indoor tennis). The surface reacted easily to ambient changes of any kind; it was simply a different court when the temperature was a comfortable 75 or 80 degrees – which was often the case during the night matches that followed scorching afternoons. To me, the Australian major was a crapshoot in the areas where I most preferred consistency – the surface, the balls, and the ambient conditions.”
“Down in Australia for the start of 1994, I played my first two matches and then came up against a newcomer from Russia, Yevgeny Kafelnikov. People had warned me about this tall, rangy kid with straw-blond hair, a jack-o’-lantern grin, and a high-quality two-handed backhand. His forehand was one of te all-time ugly shots in tennis; he hit it with a bent arm and it looked really ungainly, especially in comparison to his smooth, sweet backhand.
But that forehand was a better shot that it looked, and the guy had plenty of talent – enough to push me, hard. What’s worse, I never really did well with guys I hadn’t played before. What advantage I had in terms of my reputation was offset by the fact that it usually took me a match or two to figure a guy out, and get into a comfort zone against his unique game.
But I survived Kafelnikov, then beat Ivan Lendl and got my old friends Jim Courier and Todd Martin, back to back, in the semis and finals. I rolled through Todd in straight sets to win my third major in a row. I was on fire. Next I won the two big US winter had-court events, Indian Wells and Key Biscayne. I began to sense that people were a little in awe of me, a little fearful, and I liked that feeling.”
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club:
Wimbledon guided tour – part 1
Wimbledon guided tour – part 2
Wimbledon Centre Court roof
Court 3 : a new Show Court at Wimbledon
Waiting in the Queue to Wimbledon
Wimbledon Museum: The Queue exhibition
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum: Player Memorabilia
Fashion and gear:
Rafael Nadal Nike outfit
Roger Federer Nike outfit
Maria Sharapova Nike dress
Serena Williams Nike dress
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga adidas outfit
Andy Murray adidas outfit
Ana Ivanovic adidas dress
Novak Djokovic Uniqlo outfit
A trip down memory lane:
Wimbledon past champions: stats and records
Wimbledon ‘s biggest upsets
Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard
Wimbledon memories: Charlotte Cooper Sterry
Wimbledon memories: Dora Boothby
Wimbledon 1969: Laver’s getting beat by an Indian
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969
Bjorn Borg – Ilie Nastase Wimbledon 1976
Virginia Wade, Britain’s last Wimbledon champion
1981: First Wimbledon title for McEnroe
1982: Jimmy Connors defeats John McEnroe
1984: John McEnroe defeats Jimmy Connors
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1992: first Grand Slam for Andre Agassi
1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal defeats Tomas Berdych
The Spirit of Wimbledon: a 4-part documentary by Rolex retracing Wimbledon history
Recap and analysis:
Wimbledon 2013 champion?
- Rafael Nadal (31%, 48 Votes)
- Roger Federer (29%, 45 Votes)
- Novak Djokovic (18%, 28 Votes)
- Andy Murray (18%, 28 Votes)
- Juan Martin Del Potro (1%, 2 Votes)
- David Ferrer (1%, 1 Votes)
- Tomas Berdych (1%, 1 Votes)
- Other (1%, 1 Votes)
- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 154
Wimbledon 2013 champion?
- Serena Williams (56%, 78 Votes)
- Maria Sharapova (19%, 26 Votes)
- Victoria Azarenka (16%, 23 Votes)
- Other (5%, 7 Votes)
- Agnieszka Radwanska (1%, 2 Votes)
- Petra Kvitova (1%, 2 Votes)
- Li Na (1%, 1 Votes)
- Angelique Kerber (1%, 1 Votes)
- Sara Errani (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 140
If it’s supposed to be funny it’s not, must be the worst Nike commercial ever.
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.