Posts Tagged ‘Novak Djokovic’

Wimbledon 2012 – The Fab Four

In Sport on June 25, 2012 at 4:37 PM

After the practically biennial disappointment of a 99% perspiration 1% inspiration England knockout-stage exit, at least Wimbledon has swooped in, all regal with its white polo shirts, strawberries and cream, Arabellas and Quentins and Murray-mania, to try and lift the nation’s spirits (and prevent, god forbid, two days without major sports on tv). And with three of world’s greatest players at the top of their game, and a hungry chasing pack not too far behind, this year looks possibly greater than ever. Here’s a look at the major runners and riders in the men’s draw.

Novak Djokovic – 7/4
‘Nole’ has really come to prominence in the past year and half, starting with his amazing 43-match winning streak which began with his native Serbia’s Davis Cup Finals win in December 2010, encompassed his 2011 Australian Open win, and continued right up to Federer’s spectacular semi-final victory over him in that year’s French. A principal difference is the psychological strength he has gained. He was by no means ever a shrinking violet, but had developed a bit of reputation for not quite having the requisite minerals to win that huge break point against the Federers and Nadals of the world, and had been criticised by some for – admittedly probably sensible – decisions to retire in big games with only minor injuries. But since, he has basically become the iron man of tennis, as evidenced particularly in this year’s Australian Open. Just two days after his incredible 5-hour, 5-set Australian Open semi against Murray – in which, according to many (including yours truly), the Scot played the game of his life and still lost – Djokovic beat Nadal in a game in which both were playing superhuman tennis well into the sixth hour of the longest match ever in the Aussie Open (also the longest final in Open-era history). It would be a brave man who bets against him this time.

Rafael Nadal – 2/1
Fresh from clinching his 7th slam on the clay of Roland Garros – an imperious record, at just 26, to match Sampras’ infamous Wimbledon record – Nadal will be looking to avenge damaging defeats to Djokovic in this year’s Aussie Open and last year’s Wimbledon, in what is fast replacing his and Federer’s to become a classic tennis rivalry (and allegedly one with a little edge to it in the dressing room). Due to a combination of a more attacking game and slightly slower Wimbledon grass (some say, on a hot day, there is very little difference in the way Roland Garros and Wimbledon’s surfaces play now), Nadal has well and truly shaken off the tag of ‘just another Spaniard who can’t play on grass’, having won two of the last four Wimbledon titles. Remarkably, given the pounding his body takes due to his ultra-physical game, he still seems in peak condition. So, when coupled with his indomitable mentality, it’s safe to say that, though Djokovic is slight favourite, Rafa won’t go down without a massive fight.

Roger Federer – 7/2
In this humble viewer’s opinion the greatest player to have played the game, Roger Federer will be looking to match Sampras’ record of the most Wimbledon titles (7) this summer. With the out-of-this-world tennis being played by Djokovic and Nadal, the dream is fading a little, having not won a grand slam since 2010’s Australian Open. He is, though, still in good physical shape – his graceful, effortless movement and smooth hitting, in contrast to big-stomping Nadal and stretch-armstrong Djokovic, have evidently not taken a great deal of physical toll. And he is still capable of rolling back the years, as he did in last year’s four-set victory against Djokovic in the French semi final. However, he has lost the aura of invincibility of being able to regularly do this three times in five days. Expect a few of these great performances, perhaps against Almagro (12) and Berdych (6), but a four-set semi-final exit to Djokovic.

Andy Murray 13/2
Andy Murray’s career to date has, unfortunately for fans such as myself, seemed comparable to the travails of a teenage lad gallantly attempting to lose his v-plates. He puts in all the groundwork and does most of the right things to get second and third base much of the time – but, in his quest to go the distance, is hampered a little bit by lack of reserve but mostly by unfortunate circumstance, typically that of slightly more attractive kids with a cooler cars swooping in to steal the prize that seemed rightfully his. (In grand slams in the past one-and-a-half seasons, he has been in one final, four semis and a quarter-final.) To this end, he recruited former world no. 1 Ivan Lendl as his coach just before this year’s Aussie Open, who has worked on making Murray more attacking, ruthless and as superhumanly fit as Djokovic and Nadal. The early signs from performances and the camp are that it is working. He has added to his typical counter-punching game by significantly improving his ability to hit lines and attack the net. And though he has only reached a semi and a quarter this year, he was only prevented from going further in Melbourne by an imperious Djokovic performance and the French never was his best surface, let alone with a (supposed) injury like this year. That said, whenever Murray ups his game, Nadal, Djokovic and, formerly at least, Federer always seem to up their game to even more extraordinary levels. So, alas, it will probably be another debilitating, if tight, defeat to Nadal in the semis.

Joel Durston


The Alternative Wimbledon Round-up

In Sport on July 7, 2011 at 2:24 PM

With Djokovic’s and Kvitova’s somewhat surprising wins, so comes to pass another Wimbledon Championships. As usual, it showcased out-of-this-world tennis and much more: shock upsets, drama, redemption, exciting youngsters, acrobatics, hijacked interviews, tantrums and great sportsmanship. TAY details the good, the bad and the ugly of this year’s tournament…

Men’s champion: Novak Djokovic – A little overlooked by some despite his stellar record this season, Djokovic surprised many to take his first Wimbledon title. The second seed’s ultra-solid game built a great return of serve and dogged defence proved too much for all comers, even Nadal, as he swept to an emotional Wimbledon victory without being taken the distance in the entire tournament.

Men's champion - Novak Djokovic

Men's champion - Novak Djokovic

Women’s champion: Petra Kvitova – 21-year-old Kvitova firmly cemented her place as the rising star of women’s tennis with her victory at Wimbledon, in the process, becoming the first female leftie to do so since her idol and compatriot Martina Navratilova in 1990. With a great all-round game, notably a huge serve and forehand, she swept away Sharapova in straight sets in the final and won many admirers.

The Goran Ivanisevic good bloke award Pt1. – Fan’s favourite: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman’s big game and big heart won over nearly all neutrals this year. He has a real ‘go big or go home’ style, with humungous, high-risk groundstrokes, the cliché of ‘good touch for a big man’ and spectacular diving acrobatics. What endeared this Muhammad Ali lookalike just as much though was his winning smile, exuberant celebrations and sense of sportsmanship (more later). So much so that for once the crowd were probably against the great Federer during Tsonga’s remarkable Quarter Final comeback against him (more later too).

The comeback of the century award: Though Kvitova won the hearts of many, semi-finalist Lisicki perhaps won more for her incredible story. She had shown her promise as a 19-year-old by getting to the Wimbledon quarters two years previously, but in between had been plagued by a recurring ankle injury to the point of having to learn to walk again. Allied with a big game and some unerring drop shots, this year she reached the semi-finals in a nice moment of circularity, her cheerful and emotional return from injury making it all the more sweet. Indeed, such is her upbeat nature, she even often smiles after losing a point. When asked about this, Becker said that he couldn’t do that and simultaneously be a champion. Whether Lisicki can is a question for years to come…

Fan's favourite, Lisicki

Fan's favourite, Lisicki

Best match (men’s): Though there was some great tennis on display in the semis and the final, I doubt posterity will have it that any of them go down in Wimbledon folklore as a classic. A match that might though is Tsonga’s amazing, quarter final comeback from 2 sets down against Federer, especially if it goes on to mark the swansong (‘swanTsong’?) of Federer’s glittering career. Tsonga became the first player in 179 attempts to beat Federer from 2 down with a breathtaking array of tennis in going for the lines and diving round the court as if it was a bouncy castle.

Best match (women’s): As with the men’s games, many of the ‘best’ women’s game came in the earlier rounds. My picks of the bunch would be either Bartoli’s Fourth Round victory over Serena Williams or her loss to Lisicki in the quarter finals. For all of the exhilarating tennis in the former, my pick would probably have to be the latter, in which Lisicki won 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1. The match had a strange atmosphere as it was played on centre court which sounded eerily quiet aside for the seemingly apocalyptic rain blocked out by the roof. Bartoli also proves an odd, yet intriguing spectacle on court, with all her bouncing around and mimicking of shots; Andrew Castle even felt it necessary to assure viewers that she is in fact “perfectly well adjusted”! Nothing odd about the tennis though, as Lisicki’s power-game and Bartoli’s plucky double-handed shots provided a thrilling contrast of styles.

Men’s dark Horse: Qualifier Bernard Tomic leapt onto the men’s tennis scene with a hugely impressive tournament that saw him reach the quarters. On his way, he dispatched Andreev in five and Davydenko, Soderling and Malisse in straight sets. Most impressive was his third round victory over 5th seed Soderling. Admittedly, Soderling was feeling the effects of earlier Diarrhoea, but Tomic’s big, flat forehand and tireless running would have tested Soderling or any of the top 10 at their best. As indeed Tomic did against Djokovic, before eventually succumbing to the Serbian’s iron-will in the 3rd and 4th sets.Certainly one to watch…

Female dark horse: Could easily be Kvitova or Lisicki for reasons already discussed, but honourable mention needs to go to the Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm who, at the grand old age of 40 and three quarters, was by some distance the oldest player in the women’s draw. Her presence at Wimbledon is even more remarkable when it’s considered that she retired at a relatively youthful 26, only unexpectedly returning to professional tennis twelve years later in April 2008. After beating ‘our own’ Katie O’Brien in straight sets in the first round, she fought gallantly against the power of Venus Williams, eventually losing 8-6 in the third, but winning many fans in the process.

The Goran Ivanisevic good bloke award Pt2. – Sportsmanship: Tsonga’s tight four-set second round victory over Bulgarian youngster Grigor Dimitrov ended with the Bulgarian youngster flat out on the floor in exhaustion and despair after a very Tsonga-esque diving volley. In a show of sportsmanship reminiscent of Freddie Flintoff’s to Brett Lee, Tsonga hurdled the net to help pick Dimitrov up literally and metaphorically, with encouraging words and a warm embrace. So quintessentially ‘tennis’ that it could warm even the coldest heart.

The John McEnroe rage award (Men’s): Following a long, typically slip-sliding rally which ended with a slightly over-hit backhand slice from Djokovic, the Serbian proceeded to give his racket three almighty smacks against the ground. Needless to say, the racket broke and he is in line for a fine, but it shouldn’t cause too much of a dent (ahem) in his tournament winnings of £1,100,000.

The John McEnroe rage award (Women’s): Always known for not being everyone’s cup of tea, Serena Williams was in the papers again for her off-court thoughts this year. First, she bemoaned not being put on centre or no. 1 court and on her fourth-round exit to Bartoli, displaying very British sarcasm, she gave a very curt answer to an interviewer who had the temerity to ask if it was good thing for the women’s game that she lost given her lengthy absence: “Yeh, I’m super happy that I lost..go tennis *rolls her eyes*”.

Joel Durston