Having won the Olympic gold medal and the US Open the previous year, I expected to go into Wimbledon with a bit more confidence, but the feelings of nervousness and stress were still the same. Maybe after the US Open, I felt that playing a Slam wouldn’t be the same arduous challenge anymore because I had won one, but for 99 per cent of the British population Wimbledon is the only one that really counts for the British players. I couldn’t change that. I felt that pressure.
Getting the first in under the belt can be the trickiest at Wimbledon. I am always nervous before the opening match because the court plays differently for a couple of days; it is extremely green and tricky underfoot. So I was really pleased to put in a decent first-round performance against Benjamin Becker.
Elsewhere, Rafael Nadal went out in the first round to Steve Darcis of Belgium and Roger Federer was beaten in the second round by Sergiy Stakhovsky from Ukraine (the guy I had beaten in the US Open junior final in 2004). Both Rafa and Roger were in my half of the draw and as soon as they were out, all the media talk about how tough it was going to be for me suddenly turned. ‘This is Andy’s Wimbledon to win.’ ‘If he doesn’t get to the final it will be a catastrophe.’ That’s why I never get obsessed with draws. But it is hard to block out that sort of talk and avoid complacency.
The fact that a lot of players were slipping and sliding on the courts in difficult conditions was also a concern. Against Lu Yen-hsun in the second round, I didn’t feel comfortable at all. My movement was stiff and tentative. I was also playing on No.1 Court which plays a little differently to Centre Court so I wasn’t settled. I felt anxious throughout, but managed to get through in straight sets.
The win set up a third round meeting with Tommy Robredo of Spain, the number 32 seed and a very fine player. We played under the roof on Centre Court which changes the conditions somewhat. It gives the court slightly different characteristics, which was something I needed to use to my advantage. I think I did a good job; it was my best match of the tournament.
Saturday afternoon brought some light relief as I got the opportunity to meet again some of my fellow Team GB Olympians, who had been invited into the Royal Box for the day. It was great to see some familiar faces, all decked out in the box, so after a quick switch of clothes from my practice gear into a suit and tie, I walked out to an ovation that was one of the most profound of my life. These are not the kind of occasions I particularly relish – I don’t know quite what to do or say, but everyone wanted to shake hands, have their pictures taken, say a few encouraging words. That was special for me. My spirits were rising all the time.
On Monday, I felt really good in defeating the Russian Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets. My quarter-final opponent would be Fernando Verdasco of Spain, a left-hander, the first time I had played one since Feliciano Lopez in the third round of the 2012 US Open.
It might not be easy for the layman ot understand why, but playing lefties is very different because of their variety of spins and angles. And when Verdasco is having a good serving day – as he was this time – he is a daunting challenge.[…]
Even though it was a five-setter, there was not too much running involved – only three kilometres over three-and-a-half hours. Many of the points were quick ones. After the match, I was more mentally than physically tired. The whole affair was really draining and emotional. Often guys come back from two sets to love down and end up losing that fifth set because it is hard to keep that concentration and not have a dip for a few games. Luckily I didn’t do that in the fifth and it was great to know I could come back to win without playing my best tennis.
In the semi-finals, I was drawn to play Jerzy Janowicz of Poland. He had been one of the stories at the end of 2012, racing through the field at the Paris Masters indoor event to reach the final and his ranking shot up as a consequence. He beat me in that tournament – I had match point, but didn’t follow through with a shot when I had a chance.
No one could predict how Janowicz would feel playing in his first Grand Slam semi-final. I know from experience that you feel so close to a final, but it also seems a huge distance away. […]
My opponent hit a 139-mph ace in his first service game, a statement of intent. Against someone like Janowicz it is important to let them know you mean business, that whatever they do, you are right in there with them, not prepared to give an inch.
I lost the first set on a tie-break. It was clumsy on my part but it was only one set. I broke his first service game in the second set. It was past eight o’clock and I could sense he was getting agitated by the gradually worsening light. It was perfectly playable but he kept on chuntering to the umpire about it. When I won the third set from 4-1 down, which he wasn’t happy about (neither was I that I let him have such a lead), he was going at the umpire again. I didn’t see Andrew Jarrett, the referee, walking on to the court, but I suddenly sensed his presence.
‘We’re going to close the roof,’ he told me.
I just thought he had to be kidding. Just because Janowicz is moaning about the light, we close the roof? Why? I wanted him to explain the rule to me but, as far as I recall, all he said was,
‘It’s the fairest thing to do… I’ve decided to close it.’
Back in the locker room, Janowicz was soon on his mobile phone, which was pretty hilarious when I come to think about it. It wasn’t a quiet conversation either, he was pretty agitated. I just sat down with my team, had a shower, and got ready to come back out to play. Anyone would be a little angry at the circumstances. I had the momentum and the light was good enough to play. It was 8.40pm, hardly night-time at that time of the year. There was at least half an hour of playable light left.
But I knew I had to put that grievance behind me. I had a job to finish. I wanted to win the match and win it now. And I was pleased with how quickly I settled down when we went back on court. I played a really good fourth set.
And so I was into the Wimbledon final again, against Novak. it was a match-up I was beginning to relish.
While Tsonga and Melzer were playing on Court Central in front of 10,000 people, Tommy Robredo and Kei Nishikori were battling on Court 1 in front of about 300 people.
Court 1 is terrible, the ceiling is low, it is really noisy and looks like a warehouse or a bunker. The only good thing is that spectators are close to the players.
I arrive just in time to see the Spaniard take the first set 7-6.
Playing more aggressively, the recent US Open finalist won the next two sets, defeating Robredo 6-7 6-2 6-3. The season is now over for Robredo, but Nishikori remains on course for the London ATP finals.
1989 French Open champion Michael Chang watching the match with his wife and daughter:
Game, set, match Nishikori:
Follow our Bercy 2014 coverage on Tennis Buzz.
Thanks to Peg, who covered the Cincinnati Masters for Tennis Buzz, a few pictures of players practicing:
Photo credit: Davinia
With her 6-3 6-3 win over Daniela Hantuchova, Serena Williams set up an an all-time Australian Open record with her 61st singles victory at Melbourne Park. She’ll play Ana Ivanovic who defeated Sam Stosur 6-7 6-4 6-2.
Li Na saved one match point to defeat Lucie Safarova 1-6 7-6 6-3. She’ll face Elena Makarova in the next round. Other players qualified: Angelique Kerber, Flavia Pennetta, Casey Dellacqua and Eugenie Bouchard.
Florian Mayer def Jerzy Janowicz (20), Tommy Robredo (17) def Richard Gasquet (9)
Quote of the day: Casey Dellacqua
With her win over Jie Zheng, Aussie Casey Dellacqua qualified for the fourth round for the second time of her career, having also reached the fourth round in 2008. And she sure enjoyed the heat:
But, yeah, the heat was great. I love it. It makes my body feel good, too, the heat, the warm. Yeah, I really enjoyed it out there. Yeah, it would be nice if it would be a bit hotter for the next week. I’m sure everyone else will be over it.
Pic of the day: Daniela Hantuchova
Video of the day: Australian Open Heat
Matches to follow on Day 6:
Agnieszka Radwanska (5) – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (29)
Rafael Nadal (1) – Gael Monfils (25)
Andy Murray (4) – Feliciano Lopez (26)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10) – Gilles Simon (18)
Milos Raonic (11) – Grigor Dimitrov (22)
Pics and videos of Tommy Robredo‘s practice session before his sensationnal win over Gael Monfils last Friday: he came back from 2 sets down, saved four match points to qualify for the fourth round.