Do Lead Up Tournaments Matter?

At the end of December, when others are looking forward to a holiday, time off work, spending Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends, tennis players are traveling and competing as per tournament schedule requirements. I observed that the way players finished a season would impact the start of the new season. It almost sets the tone for the next group of tournaments, which was evident last week with Svetlana Kuznetsova, winning the Kremlin Cup at year-end 2015 then having an off season and starting 2016 with a win at the Apia International in Sydney. There is no way you can fault how Kuznetsova and her team have handled the past 3-4 months. Victoria Azarenka and co have also been flawless in terms of their preparation, winning the Brisbane International over very strong competition. Current world no.1 Novak Djokovic has only lost 2 matches in 6 months, which is nothing short of amazing!

It will be all eyes on Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios as they prepare to beat the likes of Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal in just over one week’s time. They are Australia’s best chance at this years major, so I wanted to go a little deeper into the way they have performed in the lead up to the event. Tomic had a nice run in Shanghai in October of 2015, competed in a couple of ATP Tour events thereafter, had an off season and as a lead up to the Australian Open, competed in two ATP Tour 250 events in Brisbane and Sydney. Kyrgios was impressive at Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo in October 2015, competed in a couple ATP Tour events thereafter, spent December competing in the Indian Premier Tennis League and as a lead up to the Australian Open, decided to accept an invitation to compete for Australia in both the Hopman Cup and Kooyong Classic.

Tomic and co seem ‘ranking-focused’ whereas Kyrgios and co are ‘exhibition-focused’. There is no right or wrong way to prepare for a major as it depends on the individual player, but both Tomic and Kyrgios were not able to finish matches in their lead up events, due to illness and injury respectively. That is quite concerning because there was no great deal of stress placed upon them over the past few months in terms of match numbers. The proof is in the pudding and lead up events are a tell tale sign of which players will excel at the majors. It will certainly be one exciting fortnight! 🙂

 

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Just What The Doctor Ordered

Over the past decade the ATP tour has produced one of all-time greatest eras with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. I can’t remember a time where there has been so much dominance on the tour by four players. From 2005 to present the only players to have won a grand slam other than the ‘top four’ mentioned above are, Marat Safin (Australian Open 2005), Juan Martin Del Potro (US Open 2009), Marin Cilic (US Open 2014) and Stan Wawrinka (Australian Open 2014 & French Open 2015). It’s been a tough journey for fellow ATP players during this time, nonetheless it will come to an end at some point.

I am predicting a new breed of grand slam winners over the next five years. They may not be the crowd favourite or a favourite in any respect but, they will be seasoned players with tremendous ball-striking ability. Tennis fans should prepare themselves for the turning of the guard because it is inevitable.

This week at Wimbledon there has been much talk about behaviour, attitude and respect. A place like the AELTC demands a certain ettiquette quite naturally. The top four have been a joy to watch but let’s not forget that they have also had to learn about the rules and processes of the sport and handling media. There is so much more to tennis than meets the eye. Let’s all be patient during this transition period and look forward to the new breed of grand slam champions.

 

Wimbledon

The most prestigous tennis event is about to get underway in London. The Championships, or more commonly known as Wimbledon is the event that every tennis player dreams about. It’s all about the tradition, which is evident the second you approach the All England Tennis & Croquet Club. There is the beautiful rustic gates at entry, scent of the plants, perfectly kept grounds, grass courts, the all-white attire, Henman Hill (or Murray Mound post 2013 after Andy’s victory), Pimms, strawberry’s and cream, the club house and not to mention the chance meeting with royalty. The centre court at Wimbledon has seen some of the most memorable tennis matches in history. I was inspired by the matches played by Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis and Venus Williams and more recently the 2008 men’s final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. That is one of my favourite matches of all time.

I am looking forward to this year’s event as it will surely be another magnificent display of high quality tennis and athleticism.

 

The Club Coach Is Slowly Becoming Obsolete

I began my journey in this sport as a social player and progressed all the way to the professional level. Many people would find it difficult to believe that I didn’t feel qualified to play the role of ‘coach’ for a very long time. Upon request, I would take a look at a friends swing from time to time and give them some pointers, but that was all. It was only after years of playing hundreds of tennis matches in varying conditions, fitness and mental training, dietary planning, research, attending tennis clinics, workshops and working with club coaches, that I began to feel as though I had enough knowledge to begin a coaching career. Even after all that, there is always more to know.

I do find the current trend of former tennis champions beginning to take on the role of coach to current professionals quite interesting. Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario and Martina Navratilova are the latest former champions to jump on the coaching bandwagon, working with Caroline Wozniacki and Aga Radwanska respectively. I wrote an article a few months ago with further details on this current trend, beginning with Andy Murray’s partnership with Ivan Lendl (see: https://alisonshemon.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/andy-murray-slicker-than-your-average-tennis-player/).

In my opinion, the club coach is going to suffer big time. Our game is driven by the actions of the current WTA and ATP players. Almost every coach that is in the players box did not actually ‘develop’ that professional. That is what a club coach does and more. Without the examples of dynamic duo’s such as Uncle Toni and Rafa, Carlos Rodriguez and Justine Henin, Nick Bollettieri and Monica Seles/Mary Pierce/Andre Agassi, Robert Landsdorp and Tracy Austin/Lindsay Davenport, Peter Carter and Roger Federer, the hiring of a club coach at the highest level could soon be a thing of the past.

 

Andy Murray – Slicker Than Your Average Tennis Player

Andy Murray is someone I admire very much. Yes, he may not be overly emotional or expressive on court, but that’s been serving him quite well in his career thus far (31 career titles, including Wimbledon and US Open). Apart from being an amazing tennis player, there is so much more to Andy than just being an exceptional athlete. Below, I have listed some important facts about him that may just inspire you and perhaps tempt you to jump on the Andy Murray bad wagon.

  • A talented soccer player, offered a place with Rangers Football Club at the age of 15.
  • His mother is the Federation Cup Captain for England, and has played a major part in Andy Murray’s career in terms of his coaching and training decisions.
  • Andy has a brother, Jamie who is also a professional tennis player.
  • In February 2013, Murray purchased Cromlix House, near Kinbuck, Perthsire which served as a hotel for many decades. The hotel was closed in 2011 due to financial difficulties, however Murray helped finance its re-opening as a luxury 5 star hotel. The hotel served as the location for his brother Jamie’s wedding.
  • In 2011, Murray hired Ivan Lendl as his coach and mentor in the hopes that he would guide him to grand slam success. That certainly was the case and a new trend had emerged where former grand slam champions began to work with the top players. Thereafter, Stefan Edberg was hired by Roger Federer and Boris Becker was hired by Novak Djokovic. More recently, Michael Chang has come on board team Kei Nishikori.
  • In 2014, Murray hired coach Amelie Mauresmo, former grand slam champion on the WTA tour. Since then, we have seen another female coach in Gala Leon Garcia, hired as the new Spanish Davis Cup captain.
  • Murray is managed by Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment and more recently signed a contract with Globosport, run by Indian tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi. Murray was an early supporter of the new ‘Indian Premier Tennis League’, a major project of Bhupathi’s. The IPTL is designed for tour professionals both past and present to compete in exhibition style matches towards the end of the season in India. Murray felt that there was potential in promoting tennis in the Asian market and he capitalised on the opportunity. The event had its maiden year in 2014 and was a great success.
  • Has signed multi-million dollar endorsement deals with Fred Perry, Adidas and currently wearing Under Armour apparel.

I always believe that you truly know someone’s character based on the decisions they make in their life and whether or not they have foresight. Andy Murray is a quiet achiever and is certainly slicker than your average tennis player.

 

Bright, Vibrant and Fun Outfits at The Aussie Open 2015

I believe that what you wear is a form of expression. It can tell you a lot about someone’s personality. For example, if they aren’t afraid to wear colour, it shows that this person is fun, confident, daring and not afraid to stand out.

The Australian Open dress code allows for anything deemed as ‘acceptable tennis attire’. The major sports brands relish at the thought of having full creative control over their designs and it’s always exciting for the players to see what the designers come up with at the start of the season. A special mention has to go to Nike for their use of neon colours this year (particularly pink and yellow) which is a common trend amongst their line. I absolutely love it!

Take a look at the photo gallery below of this years fashion on the court at the Australian Open.

Fashion On The Court Gallery

Serena Williams
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Thanasi Kokkinakis
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Rafael Nadal
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Andy Murray
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Roger Federer
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Bernard Tomic
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Petra Kvitova
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Milos Raonic
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Nick Kyrgios
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Caroline Wozniacki
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Victoria Azarenka
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Sara Errani
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Eugenie Bouchard
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Ajla Tomljanovic
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Aussie Open 2015

It is that time of year again where the first major of the season gets underway today at Melbourne Park. The upcoming fortnight will showcase the best of the best in Tennis so stay tuned and enjoy!

http://www.ausopen.com/index.html

My bet on who will take out the Australian Open titles this year are Petra Kvitova and Roger Federer.

 

Tennis Players and Global Fashion Brands

Tennis players are global sport brand ambassadors. Nike and Adidas have long been the two sports brands which are synonymous with tennis. Nike is well known for attracting the best of the best, such as Roger Federer, Tiger Woods or Arsenal FC. Adidas is no different, however it draws more attention as a brand due to their innovative designs, particularly with their Originals clothing line.

It’s wonderful to see champions like Serena Williams and Tomas Berdych as global ambassadors for fashion brands. I thought it was great to see another side of Serena Williams in the latest Australian TV ad for Berlei as well as Tomas Berdych lending his time for H&M in Melbourne by making an in-store appearance. Tennis players are now venturing into new territory, attracting a wider audience off court and that can only be a good thing for their own brand and the game of tennis.

Tomas Berdych for H&M

Serena Williams for Berlei

 

FAST4 Tennis Format – A Hit or Miss?

To the average person, a change to the format of a tennis match may not seem like anything special. The game itself doesn’t change, but there are consequences nonetheless.

In recent times, there was push from all levels of the sport to shorten the match length in the doubles games. This was due to the decline in participation, where singles players were opting to compete in the singles events, as it was becoming too physically demanding to compete in both events. So, the rules were changed and a shorter format was introduced. They were successful in their quest, however in my opinion the integrity of the doubles game has been compromised.

Tennis is a game of 2’s, where you must ‘win by 2’ whether it is in a game, set or tie-break. That is the beauty of the game, where you must be able to win with a clear margin and not one lucky break.

Overnight, a new tennis format was launched in Sydney. Our very own Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer were the feature players in this exhibition match. I feel as though this format is a great concept for young players and senior players, as there is much less strain on the body. The ‘play let’ rule is entertaining to watch and can improve your reaction skills as well. It is a terrific format for social tennis and I see it being popular at the club level. However, I don’t see this format beneficial to a competitive tennis player, because they will have to learn to compete using the ‘official rules’ of the game. I am not a big fan of the ‘no ad’ scoring system because the continuity of the ‘win by 2’ philosophy in tennis is being compromised.

Tennis is a sport that continues to evolve over time, and as long as you build a good foundation to your game, you will have no trouble adapting to such rule changes. For more information on the rules of the FAST4 format, click on the link here:

Fast 4

 

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