Looking Back at 2007 — The Men’s Game
by TennisOne | December 31st, 2007
  • 55 Comments


Lessons For Us Too

Part One of this story addressed what happened with the women’s game in 2007 — and what I see is a powerful lesson to be learned by recreational adults, juniors, parents, and coaches.


I’ll take up the same theme with a look at men’s tennis in 2007. For the fourth straight year, Roger Federer is the man. But while it’s hard to say this about someone who just earned three Grand Slam singles titles, I’ll venture he showed a few cracks last year. Besides losing twice each to Rafael Nadal, David Nalbandian and Guillermo Canas, Federer actually looked even worse in losing his second straight French Open final. He was also forced to work his way through some very rough patches in winning both Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

But yes, there’s a lot to be learned from Federer. First, though, a look at the main contenders.

Rafael Nadal had another brilliant but beguiling year. As usual, he threw his heart and soul into winning the French Open. To have won this event all three times he’s played it is remarkable. Not only does Nadal compete ferociously, but he continues to improve, mostly by looking to add more variety and power to his serve and come to net more. It’s unfortunate, though, that after so rigorously testing Federer in their five-set Wimbledon final that Nadal showed signs of fatigue in the balance of 2007. I hope he does a better job pacing and scheduling himself in the years to come.

One of the more interesting tidbits I learned about Novak Djokovic is that he was coached by a woman. Much like Jimmy Connors, who was taught by his mother, Djokovic has an exceptional base, a game initially built more on fundamentals than raw strength. But now, as he seeks to ascend, will he build even bigger weapons? As former pro David Wheaton recently pointed out to me, “To win Grand Slams you don’t want to get caught up in having to always play long matches. I wonder if Djokovic has the skills to really crank up his game.”

On the American front, Andy Roddick and James Blake each must be scratching his head at what happened in 2007. While certainly winning the Davis Cup will be a lifetime highlight for each, throughout much of the year, neither Roddick nor Blake quite lit up the court in the manner we’ve often expected from great Americans.

Roddick suffered a haunting loss to Richard Gasquet in the Wimbledon quaterfinals, losing to a younger man from two sets to love and 4-2. The good news, says Wheaton, is that Roddick has “a short memory. He’s able to rapidly put these losses behind him and keep moving ahead.” The tricky part is that I’m wondering if Roddick has enough skill to make the best possible charge at the top. I also wonder where things are at with Roddick and Jimmy Connors. Davis Cup has meant so much to Roddick — and so little to Connors. Does that kind of difference in attitude towards a major event infest Roddick’s head? Or does he continue to draw on Connors, with Jimbo ostensibly acting as senior advisor and Andy’s brother John handling the day-to-day duties. The good news, though, is that Roddick will take every step possible to ensure success. In a way, he tasted enough money and fame when he reached number one in ’03. Comfortable financially, Roddick will leave nothing on the table.

As for Blake, recently my TennisOne colleague Jim McLennan adroitly pointed out that in a strange way, Blake is a very mentally tough player given the low percentage nature of his game. But unquestionably Blake can captivate. It will be interesting to see if he can generate sustainable consistency throughout 2008.

A number of other explosive players are also vying for more. Firecracking Fernando Gonzalez has the forehand, flashy Richard Gasquet has the backhand, David Nalbandian has just about everything and while it’s hard to be smitten with any single shot Nikolay Davydenko hits, anyone who’s finished in the top five for three consecutive years obviously knows a lot about how to play this game. Ditto for another ascending grinder, David Ferrer, who in 2007 took over the title from Lleyton Hewitt and Michael Chang as the A-1 grubber.

What’s fascinating here is to see that while all of these players are disciples of contemporary baseline tennis, a closer look reveals various nuances in how they hit the ball, how they build points, and which shots they prefer to strike under pressure.

And what of the great Federer? Surely his coronation will continue over the next two years. Hardly anyone doubts he will soon enough break Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles. Imagine how incredible it would be if Federer won his 13th in Australia and could tie Sampras with a win at Roland Garros. I don’t see that happening, but to me, predictions hardly do anything to raise anyone’s consciousness, so, who knows?

What is known, though, was something very interesting from the Sampras-Federer exhibition series. While in no way am I opining that Sampras’ performance on those ultra-fast indoor courts would make him a full-fledged touring pro — and he’d concur — what I found intriguing is that Sampras revealed a blueprint for someone who wishes to beat Federer on any surface other than clay. Sampras’ message was simple: There will be no rallies. You will not jerk me around. Nor will you establish a comfortable tempo.

Coming in on his own serve, attacking Federer’s serve, Sampras showcased one aspect of this game that so many recreational players, juniors, coaches, and parents overlook: The name of the game is forcing the other guy to hit shots he doesn’t want. Federer knew this too as a child. He’s spoken much about how he studied the greats and pondered which shots he’d need to develop so he could beat them.

Of course, in Federer’s rare case, he kept building and building and now pretty much has every shot. But what I hope is that aspiring players are influenced properly by Federer. I was talking with a parent of a junior recently and she said, “But Federer’s so beautiful. How can you even come close to his form?” I countered: That’s not the best lesson you can learn from Federer. It’s not about beauty but about effectiveness, imagination, and guts. Sampras did it when he thought about how he must play to compete effectively versus Federer. Perhaps somewhere on this planet there’s a boy learning how to attack second serves and come to net.

In the case of Federer’s game, I’ve always felt that much of his genius is because he wins ugly pretty; that is, he gets opponents off-balance and then strikes. And he does so with technical elegance lacking, say in the case of the man who wrote the book on winning ugly, Brad Gilbert. But face it: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do something like hit two slice backhands and then drive the third. As I urged when waxing on Henin in part one, you don’t need to be a pro to think this way. To quote my other favorite “Emmo,” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is his genius advised to stay at home.”

Joel Drucker is a writer for TennisOne, you can read more from Joel at www.TennisOne.com.


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55 Comments for Looking Back at 2007 — The Men’s Game

penise Says:

drucker is a tool


bean Says:

v. good article.
penise is a penis head.


SG Says:

I don’t think it’s the mere ability to attack 2nd serves and come forward that would make a player successful (…or at least marginally so) against Federer. When Sampras lost to Hewitt in the ’02 Open Final, he was coming in on nothing…bluff shots. His approaches were landing short and middle of the court. He wasn’t mentally there for that match. His nerve looked gone.

You have to be able to keep your nerve while you’re attacking Fed and repeatedly put real court pressure on him. By this I mean, hitting the ball into the corners with pace and backing it up with firm volleys. And you have to keep Fed honest by being capable of bringing heat from the ground so that Fed never gets fully keyed in on what you’re doing. It’s a tall task for sure. And Joel, you’re right about another thing… that strategy would fail against Fed on clay or something pretty slow.


Sher Says:

I don’t want to seem like I’m defending Roger’s loss because I’m totally not, but one thing to keep in mind for fairness’s sake is that he is used to players who play a certain way. Maybe if he often played against players of Sampras’s style he’d be more effective against him.


SG Says:

I think the previous blog takes something away from Sampras. A huge server who could back it up with the weapons Sampras has (let alone the weapons he had 12 or 13 years earlier), isn’t someone you get used to. A guys like this is tough to beat in any circumstances, whether you’re Federer or not. And when Sampras serves at 70% or more, he may still arguably be the best who ever played.

Sampras is a better server and volleyer than Federer. Federer is a greater presence in the back court. Borg didn’t get used to McEnroe. Lendl didn’t get used to Becker. Agassi didn’t really get used to Sampras (even in 01′ & 02′ when Sampras was past his prime and Agassi was in the middle of another resurgence). I suspect that very powerful & accurate all court attackers are not something you just “get used to”.


SG Says:

Sorry, I should have said “when Sampras served (past tense) at 70% more” he may arguably still be the best of all time.

Obviously, the Sampras of today serving at 70% would not be No.1 as he lacks the explosiveness and agility of his younger years.


sensationalsafin Says:

No doubt he’d be more effective. Federer is the type of player who needs some time to get comfortable with a certain player/style and then he starts to dominate (Hewitt, Henman, almost Nalbandian, and perhaps Nadal). The key against Federer is to stay mentally tough. That’s what makes Federer so consistent, he’s mentally tough. Why is he criticized for scraping through all those matches at Wimbledon and the US Open? He hung in there and pulled through. So he had to win ugly, as long as he won.


Von Says:

“He hung in there and pulled through. So he had to win ugly, as long as he won.”

I suppose he read Brad Gilbert’s book (that’s a joke). But, ss, you’re 100 per cent right. One added trait that Federer has, which is lacking in so many, is the fact that he “believes” he can do it. His self-belief gives him the autonomy which propels him to earn the big “W.” As Tug MacGraw of the NY Mets used to say, “Ya Gotta believe.”

Someone else who believes about it’s not the way you won it, the fact is you won. I heard Djokovic say this in an interview, when questioned about his sloppy play and injury time-outs.


Von Says:

The writer stated: “The tricky part is that I’m wondering if Roddick has enough skill to make the best possible charge at the top…”

I believe that Roddick has what it takes to get back in the top 3, it’s a matter of self-belief as I mentioned in my previous post about Federer. How many times have we not seen Roddick come so close, but he lost by a point or two. When he gets to that stage in his game, and from what I have seen, it’s just against Fed, he loses because he begins to doubt himself and he loses the propulsion to get to the end winning.

An athlete does not get to No. 1, win a slam, win Davis Cup, be in the top 10 for 6 years, without talent. He’s got it, it has become displaced, he has to bring it back into focus and make it his focal point.


sensationalsafin Says:

I disagree about Roddick. I think he’s a good player and all, but I believe there are too many players who are more talented than he is. I think on tennis.com I read that Roddick performed consistently throughout the year and yet he’s steadily going down the rankings. It’s not because he’s playing bad it’s because Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer are much better. And this year Murray’s most likely gonna move up. Nalbandian might start playing well. There’s just too much talent.


Von Says:

No, I am in denial. He went down last year, he had to defend Cincy and U.S. Open, he lost in the quarters at Cincy, and the U.S. Open. That’s 1,000 ranking points. He probably would have ended at No. 4, but, but, but. I rest my case!


sensationalsafin Says:

What? What’s your case? I’m confused. I don’t think it’s that bad he lost in the quarters of those 2 tournaments. I mean yeah it sucks he lost points but look at who he lost to, Federer and Djokovic. Like I said, both are more talented. It’s a matter of doing good enough at the little tournaments so that he doesn’t have to worry as much about losing in the quarters instead of a semi or final of a MS or GS.


orsen cart Says:

why so much hype about the federer v sampras exhibition matches? That’s all they were exhibition matches. Federer played in 3rd gear most of the time and as for that third game. haha federer carried sampras.


Von Says:

“.. and yet he’s steadily going down the rankings.”

My case — He did have a solid year, and had it not been for the losses in Cincy and the US Open, he would not have dropped to No. 6.

I agree that he should play in the smaller tournaments to keep his points, but it seems that he prefers the money/more points tournaments. Perhaps he’ll realize that his preference is not the right choice. That is why Davydenko stays around between 3/4 in the rankings because he plays a lot of the smaller tournaments. Djokovic played in a lot of the smaller tournaments last year which put him in the No.3 slot. However, he was burnt out at the end of the year. I think that it will not be easy for Novak to defend all of those points this year.


d Says:

Another thing to remember about Roddick’s No 6 place is that he could have ended at 5 if he hadn’t foregone most of the indoor season to concentrate on the Davis Cup final.

I also agree that he could get his ranking up a little by playing more tournaments and having finally won the Davis Cup maybe he’ll start to concentrate on himself more. Playing against Spain with the hamstring injury was probably not a sensible move – Houston being the one clay court tournament he’s consistently picked up points at he then had to withdraw from.


sensationalsafin Says:

I’m not gonna criticize Roddick for concentrating on Davis Cup so much. I think it’s a great thing. I’m not saying he needs to play more little tournaments, I’m saying he needs to win more. In 2005 he was criticized for having only 5 titles that were all atleast Tier II. I defended him that year because 5 titles is still a good result. Last year he had I think only 2 titles which is not good. And he should stop withdrawing from every other MS. It’s getting ridiculous because he could pick up plenty of points there. I have faith in Djokovic. I believe he’s a lot wiser now and knows what he has to do to maintain his condition and rank. I think we should worry about Nadal. I don’t doubt he will have another great year but who knows which part of his body will fail at the end. So far he’s got knee and foot problems, what’s next? His right wrist? Safin had so many issues with his left wrist and look at what’s happened to him. Nadal’s gotta be careful.


SG Says:

Roddick’s game is limited. I think that this one fact more than anything has slowed his results. He doesn’t bring 10 things to the table that you have to contend with. He hits a really big (but somewhat predicatable)serve. His forehand has a little too much topspin on it which causes his ball to land a little too short and kick up. And if you stretch him out on the backhand, he’s almost defenceless. These things have been there for pretty much his entire career. The other guys know what to do against him. And you don’t have to play him 20 times to figure something out. And if you’re a guy with legitimate top 5 credentials and talent, you’re probably going to beat Roddick more than you lose. I think this explains his drop in wins. He’s jsut to predictable and you what you’re going to get when get on the court with him. With a guy like Fed for example, you have no idea what he’s going to do from one shot to the next let alone from one match to the next.


Von Says:

ss: A few weeks ago I mentioned that Nadal is probably burnt out and does not have much longevity left in the game and you said he had about 2 more good years. I see that we have agreed on something. I feel sorry for the kid I think he was pushed too much by his uncle and now we have a problematic player riddled with injuries. Too much to fast.

Djokovic hasz the same problem. I hope his coach is wiser and becomes smarter about his lengthy 5 setters and fewer tournaments. However, this year is going to be tough for him, he has a lot of points to defend.

I agree that Roddick could do better in the MS tournaments. He has consistently over the last 3 yhears missed too many of the MS. He does not like clay but he could try to be more acception about the clay MS tournaments. Even if he makes it through 3 rounds that’s better than nothing. He has to have a more open mind.

About his game, he needs to make some drastic changes and be more dedicated. Presently, he does not bring too much to the court, I agree with SG. I think what has happened to him was bad coaching. He came up at the time when a big serve was dominant and everything hinged on his serve and all of the other parts of the court was neglected. He was very successful for a two-year period. If you notice, at that time, all he did was serve, win cheap points, and stay at the back of the court, never venturing forward. Now that the game has evolved to an all-court game he has so many holes that needs plugging up with good shots. Jimmy Connors was supposed to help with that, however, that relationship, even though no one is saying, seems to have ended. In a way, it is good for Roddick, if it ends. I noticed that whenever Jimmy was around at a tournament, Roddick would become very tight. And, this is pure conjecture on my part, I feel that Roddick wanted to make a good impression on Jimmy but it made him nervous and tight. If you notice that whenever he plays Federer he becomes tight, he doesnot serve many aces and he becomes frustrated.

I would like to see him get a full-time coach/teacher who would help him concentrate on his shortcomings and be more dedicated.

I have heard some people say Federer is a natural. I don’t agree. I have listened to Federer in some interviews, and he stated that the years he was not successful was due to a differnt type of game. What he did, (and I credit him for being smart at such a young age) was to study the successful champions, Sampras, Becker and Laver, select their good shots, practised them, built on them, and began to slowly incorporate them into his game, until they became second nature. (He even said his girlfriend gets angry with him playing back old tapes and spends too many hours watching tennis.)He now has a full arsenal of shots that he can revert to when he runs into trouble. And, that is what gives him the confidence = wins. He put in a lot of mental energy which has translated to a great champion. I think Drucker touched on some of this in his article.

When Sampras played Federer, he said that he was able to figure out Fed and he knew how he would play him to beat him. Those exho matches will add more to Federer’s game. Sampras’ motto was always keep the points short. Agassi liked long rallies, but Samp;ras knew how to take that away from him. Now, if Roddick or some of the other players want to beat Federer they should watch Pete in the final exho and study some of Pete’s matches and incorporate his shots into their games.

All of the above takes a lot of work. Now that the Davis cup is over, I agree with d, he can concentrate on his game more. If he doesn’t, he’ll fade out more into obscurity. I hate to see this happen,he has great untapped potential, but the ball is in his court. C’est la vie!


SG Says:

I’d say that any guy who wins a major and is in the final of several others has definite potential. The thing is, Federer was looking at Laver and Sampras before his successful years. He had time to model his game. It’s going to be tough for Roddick to change his game in the middle of his career. I can’t really think of any great pro who radically changed their strokes and game. It would take several years for Roddick to make the necessary changes at which point he might be too old for them to be useful. At this point, if I were Andy, I’d try to revamp the backhand in some way and leave the rest alone. It’s too late to make wholesale changes. The other thing I’d do is get supremely fit. Set the goal of being the fittest guy on tour. Turn his matches with Fed and other top 10ers into wars of attrition (…kind of like what Nadal does). It worked for Agassi, maybe it can work for him. Hiring Andre as his coach might be an idea.


Von Says:

He can’t change his strategy at this point but he needs someone to help him hone the skills he has presently and make them more of a threat. His serve is good. Pity, Federer could read it so well, or else Roddick would have won a lot more tournaments. e.g., he is 15-1 against Fed, that’s 15 tournaments Fed knocked him out of, that probably would have been at least 8 titles. I would like to see Andy hook up with Darren Cahill. I think their personalities would be a good fit. Darren Cahill helped Agassi change his game. Connors is not the coach for him. He needs a coach to be close by. With Connors it’s a long distance thing. That’s not going to work for someone who wants to change their game or get better. He can do it, it’s just finding the right coach and working more on the backhand, net and volleys.

I saw for the fourth time the 2002 Aussie Open between Fed and Safin. I really like Marat, and I sincerely feel that if Marat had stayed healthy for the past 3 years, Fed would not have won so many slams, also, Roddick would have done better too because his game is a problem for Marat. He has a decent record aganst Marat.

Oh, if only wishes were horses then beggars would ride!


sensationalsafin Says:

I really don’t get how Roddick troubles Safin, I’m not gonna lie. Roddick’s pure crap compared to Safin, in every aspect. But yeah, if only Safin, if only.


Von Says:

Roddick, Andy 4-3 Safin, Marat

ATP, Davis Cup and Grand Slam Main Draw Results

2007 Australian Open
Australia Hard R32 Roddick 7-6(2) 2-6 6-4 7-6(2)
Stats
2006 RUS vs. USA WG SF
Russia Clay RR Safin 6-4 6-3 7-6(5)
2004 Tennis Masters Cup
Houston, TX, USA Hard RR Roddick 7-6(7) 7-6(4)
Stats
2004 Bangkok
Thailand Hard S Roddick 7-6(1) 6-7(0) 7-6(2)
Stats
2004 Indian Wells AMS
California, USA Hard R32 Roddick 7-6(6) 6-2
Stats
2004 Australian Open
Australia Hard Q Safin 2-6 6-3 7-5 6-7(0) 6-4
Stats
2001 Los Angeles
CA, U.S.A. Hard R32 Safin 6-3 6-4
Stats


ロゴ Says:

Please god, let Safin have a 2008 ,2007 was so dissapointing.

p.s. and Nalbandian.


sensationalsafin Says:

I think we all know their H2H, I’m just saying I don’t understand why it’s like that.


Von Says:

I think it’s more a matter of who holds on to their serve. Roddick is very comfortable playing Safin — with them it’s more of a serving duel. Technicality is not a big factor. Also, Marat cannot run as he used to, however, Roddick is not such a good mover either. So it all comes down to who can hold serve.


Von Says:

I don’t know how many of you watched the Hopman Cup, but, Djokovic did his usual.. He had a time-out just after Mardy Fish won the second set in a tiebreak. It was his shoulder this time. In the first round, he played some other country, can’t remember, and had a timeout for his back. I don’t understand why this guy is allowed so many timeouts. Fish’s momentum was broken after the second set and ended up losing the third set in a tiebreak. Also, Djok looked like he was going to fall apart. He was visibly fatigued. What’s he going to do at the AO with that blistering heat? This guy is unreal. He had about 6 weeks off and has already taken 2 injury timeouts, how is he going to cope the rest of the year, assuming his injuries were genuine.His injury timeout always happens when he is battling to stay in the match. Needless to say, his serve got a lot better and he was smoking.


sensationalsafin Says:

And I thought Nadal got his ass beat by Nalbandian! Damn Youzhny, couldn’t you have given him an extra game or 2? Can’t say I blame Nadal or anything, 4 hours the day before could not have been easy to recover from.


joanne Says:

Roddick does not move fast enough;he needs training in fast footwork if he is to improve.He needs to work on his backhand and his strategy.He gets far too emotional,understandably,poor guy.
Djokovic will not be taken seriously by other players until he can get through matches without injury time-outs and whining.How can these young guys expect to beat Roger when they are not fit.I’d love to see someone imitate Djokovic;ball bouncing,preening,time-outs,whining,bottle throwing(actually I wouldnt,its too embarrasing).What a baby.


Von Says:

I was not at all surprised about Youzhny beating Nadal. Considering the 4 hours Nadal fought with Moya, and I still can’t believe it, 4 hours on a 3 setter, with a 31 year-old athlete,come on, and then turn around in less than 24 hours to play his nemesis, Youzhny, it’s really a no brainer. As I mentioned in a previous post I do not see Nadal going up, probably down, and 2008 will be worse than 2007. He needs to give his injuries time to heal. It would have been better if he had skipped Chennai. But, what do I know, I am just a couch potato watching Tennis. His coach knows what’s best. I can see Federer savouring his 2008 win at Roland Garros unless someone else beats him, but I can’t see Nadal winning RG this year.

In view of what has happened in Chennai, I can’t see Rafa doing well in the AO either. This youngman catapulted to the top purely on a game built on physicality, too much too soon. It’s very hard to play his game and retain longevity. His way down the ladder will be a difficult realization to accept. What a pity.

I am not a player and even I can’t take djokovic seriously. I would not bet on him delivering a 2008 to defend his 2007 points. I don’t trust him. He is fraught with guile. What I saw last week, I’ll be surprised if he goes far at the AO. If he does, it will be by at least 8 injury timeouts, 2 per match. I can’t bring myself to believe his injury time-outs. Roddick made fun of him at the TMC conference. Roddick told Djok that he could make 8 phone calls and order a pizza, (or was it vice versa, it’s not 100% verbatim)in the time that Djok bounces his balls. He has cut down a little, but it becomes bad when he is in a tight match. If anyone could do an imitation of Djok bouncing his balls, it would be Roddick. He is good at impersonations.

Our Andy needs to chill. He is far too hyper. He does not get as angry with the calls as he used to because of Hawkeye. I think Lars Graf is thankful for Hawkeye. He’s a big guy so movement is a problem. But he does try. I can say this for him he is a fighter. Oh, but I do love him so. Whayt with his wit,his charisma,his turkey temper, et al. I cry with him and I laugh with him. He’s the face of America and the best we’ve got.


jane Says:

Von,

Regarding your earlier comment about Roddick: “Connors was supposed to help with that, however, that relationship, even though no one is saying, seems to have ended.”

At the Kooyong 2008 website, Connors (along with Andy’s brother) is still listed as Andy’s coach, so it looks like the relationship has not ended. Or if it has, it’s still under wraps.

I am not sure that I agree with you that Andy gets tight whenever Jimmy is around; that may be the case sometimes, but at other times, I’ve found that Andy actually does better when Jimmy shows up, as he likes and respects Jimmy so much and wants to do well when he’s around. When Connors showed up for Andy’s match against Safin at the AO last year, he played awesome, and then again against Ancic.

I think the hype after Roddick hooked up with Connors and began to do well is what actually hurt him. Again, look at the hype around Andy leading into last year’s AO – people were expreting him to win it because he did well at the 2006 USO, had match point on Roger at the TMC, and the won Kooyong. Indeed, more specifically, the hype leading up to all of his matches with Roger is problematic, for his fans and for Andy. It would be better if Andy viewed them as another day at the office rather than a match against the bane of his existence.

Maybe it’s better that Andy will slip into the AO a little more under the radar this year.

What I am surprised about, in terms of coaching, is that Connors hasn’t done more to help Andy with his return game, given that Connors was known for that skill. IMO, above all else, that’s what Andy should work on. If he could get more play on his opposition’s service games, he’d do consistently better. That he’s managed to stay in the top ten with a pretty weak return game is something, but he needs to round out his game if he wants to stay there this year and in the future – there are a lot of all-round players on the rise.

But I agree that Andy needs to chill; he’s hyper and sometimes this hurts his focus on the court. When he was younger, this hyper-activity almost worked to his advantage as he played more instinctually and chased more down. Now he has to try to play smarter. He’s a great player and person in many ways; I’d like to see him – and Safin and Nalbandian – have a good 2008 season.


Von Says:

Jane:

I agree with you that Andy did play better at the USO ’06 and the AO ’07, with Connors being present; the relationship was still new, but after that it seems that he reverted back to some of his bad habits. At most of the other tournaments, it seems that he wanted to please Jimmy so much, that he got tight. I really do think that something is not right with the relationship because Jimmy did not show up at the ’07 TMC, and Andy did not mention anything about speaking to him on the phone. Also, John McEnroe, who is not a great fan of Andy’s, stated at the USO ’07 that he had spoken to Jimmy about Roddick and Connors in gist told him that he was very frustrated with Andy, my antenna went up after I heard this.

I would think that Andy would do better with a coach who is more available, not a long distance one, and someone who would talk with him about strategy before playing a match. Gilbert used to do that with him, but Jimmy not being around, that’s not a possibility. Andy, because he is so hyper, needs someone to remind him before his game about his play. He said last hear that Jimmy told him to keep the ball in play. I noticed that he did make an effort to do this, and it was visible at the Davis Cup win. He has been working on his backhand, volleys, and return game, to some extent. He needs to do it on a permanent basis. He should keep a little robot that would remind him throughout his game to keep the ball in play,…”return, return, keep the ball in play, return,return”…. and return above the net not in the net, …return, return…”. I am just being facetious.

Darren Cahill once said that when he started coaching Agassi they would talk for hours about each game.

This year should be different for Andy because all of the expectations seemed to have waned, so he should not feel the pressure to win. If Andy does well, he would go up in his rankings. He does not have too many points to defend. He has a lot of pressure, he’s the face of America and you know how those reporters could eat you alive.

I am looking forward to a good or partly decent year for him and Safin. Nalbandian, has problems with focus, but it’s good to see him doing better. I hope it continues.


Skorocel Says:

Interesting discussion about Andy – Von and jane! In my opinion, it’s a bit of a mystery why Roddick hasn’t achieved more in his career… Sure, his game can be described as “one-dimensional” (i.e. relying mostly on his booming serve), but it wasn’t entirely like that 4-5 years ago… I still remember that SW19 final in 2004 – he went after Fed like a pitbull, playing attacking, aggressive tennis from the very first point! I’m a big Fed fan, but I have to say that Fed was lucky with that rain break – for sure! But as the years went on, Andy’s groundstrokes (especially his forehand, which used to be a very ferocious one!) somehow weakened. I just don’t understand why, but for some unknown reason, he started playing those “moonballs”, and his court movement deteriorated a lot! Everytime when I see him playing these days, he seems rather slow, awkward to me… This wasn’t the case 4-5 years ago. Back then, he would simply maul his opponents – not only with his serve, but also with his FH (whereas today he has virtually only the serve)… I still remember that match vs Hewitt at the French (I think it was in 2001 or 2002) – the guy was so intensive, crying, full of energy! Now it is only a shell of his former self… I was very surprised when he parted ways with Gilbert, since in my opinion he’d not only be a perfect person for Andy to go with, but also because he used to work with that guy named Gil Reyes, who would surely demand a lot more of Andy than his current physical coaches… Really, though I’m not a fan of Andy at all, I still can’t understand this change…


Von Says:

Skorcel: I agree with you all the way. I can’t say I don’t understand it, because I do. In the past we saw a different Andy, full of fire, zeal and determination. He lost that. I think in part,after he lost to Federer a few times, he just got turned off. I think he draws Federer like a magnet. He always seems to be in Federer’s half of the draw. Why is that? Only the powers to be can understand that one. I’ll say this much, if Andy had stayed agressive as he was in ’03 and ’04, Federer would not have done so well. Federer recognizes that Roddick is a force to be reckoned with, that is why he always brings out his best when they play. There’s no question that Andy can beat Federer, but at this point, Andy does not believe he can.

Gilbert was the best coach for him gamewise, but, their personalities clashed. A fine coach and an excellent player. What went wrong? It was just the same way with Agassi and Murray. When Graf married Agassi, I read an article which stated that she emphatically told Andre that she wanted Gilbert out, and out he went. Gilbert is a good coach, but he has a nasty tongue and both Andys, well you know their personalities, and Agassi too,are not amiable characters to work with, so they locked horns.

But getting back to you on Roddick, from what I read, and I do read a lot, my summation is that Andy has gotten too involved with a great social life. As he climbed up the rankings and was in the social who’s who class, he neglected his game and hence, we now have a good player who let the better years go by. His wakeup call came in 2006 when he lost in the third round of Wimbledon to Andy Murray, that’s when Connors came on board. He got sparked up for a few months and then fizzled out. If he wants to be a real force to be reckoned with, he’s going to have to acquire a new mindset, and that is: Tennis first, and the social life, whenever.(It’s like when you are in college, you hang up the parties and put your head in the books for 4-6 years.) Or else, he’ll be crying all the way to the bank. There won’t be anymore fat checques.

Skorcel: you told me to give my opinion on the statement by Federer, I’ll do it, but I hope you are going to dodge the bullets for me. You’ll see it in the other post.

Please note: This is just my humble opinion.


jane Says:

Von,

Yeah, you’re right that Gilbert was a more present, and thus perhaps helpful, coach for Andy (I’m talking Roddick not Murray) but also that they clashed personality wise. Connors and him, however, get along great. But perhaps you’re right that Andy needs someone who will be there for him on a regular basis – NOT his brother. When Connors first got on board, he certainly cleared up Andy’s disillusionment, or whatever is was, after losing to Federer so many times. Right away, Andy played well against Roger at the USO 06 and should’ve had him at the ’06 TMC. That says something about the importance of both good coaching and good self-belief. Andy needs both right now and in the future.

Reporters can be an issue, for sure. But not usually for Andy; one of the things I love about the guy is the way he handles the reporters with wit and fire and irony. And with a blase attitude, too, when it’s appropriate.

Skorocel,

You’re definitely right that Andy doesn’t generally move as well as he did in the past; however, he can and occasionally even does. For instance, he moved tremendously well when he played against Gasquet in last year’s Wimbledon quarter final (I know, I know – he blew his lead when Gasquet started to hit form and all that – but still). Even Johnny Mac was stunned at the balls Andy was retrieving and getting down for. So this suggests to me that Andy could have that movement on a regular basis if he wanted it. Sometimes he seems a little to passive to me; he needs to dig deeper, to show he really wants it. Maybe that’s why Connors is frustrated with Andy at times, because Connors was such a fighter right until he retired. Andy “goes away” too easily on occasion, putting up the “I surrender” flag.

He needs to figure out a way to break his opponents so he’s not always stuck in tiebreak situations. Against Roger, he needs to change his serve, mix it up more. And as Von says, “return…return…and return some more”.


jane Says:

Andy’s forehands were pretty darn strong when he played Roger in the USO quarters, and even when he played Johannson. So he doesn’t always hit the moonballs. Johnny Mac said then that Andy should be able to win another major based on his serve and forehand alone, so he still considers the FH a weapon. Maybe it’s just not as consistent?

That match against Roger was a case in point about returning though- if Andy had been able to break Federer only ONCE in those first two sets, and then continue to hold, then what? He could have been up two sets. The likelihood of Andy holding his serve is, of course, pretty high. It’s the return game he needs.


jane Says:

I know, could have, would have, should have… alas.


Von Says:

Jane:

Alas, he needs that robot. He needs someone in his ear all of the time. He is easily distracted. He does give quickly. When he is losing he rushes to get off the court. That’s when he needs to dig deeper. The question that Andy needs to ask of himself is “how much do I want it.” Only he can give the answer.

I think his brother is only a figurehead coach. He gives him moral support, and he has a shoulder to cry on. I would also like to see him get rid of Doug Spreen. He needs a real workhorse to get him moving.

Skorcel, you’re so right on that one.


jane Says:

Andy won convincingly against Ljubicic at Kooyong today: 6-3, 6-0. Their matches can be tight since Ljubicic also has such a big serve. I would’ve thought it’d be closer, so it’s nice to see Andy cruise through. Maybe Ljub’s serve was off, or maybe, just maybe, Andy’s return game was on?

Anyhow, I think he plays Baggy (who defeated Davydenko) next, but I am not sure.


Von Says:

Jane: Thanks for the info. I am delighted for Andy. I was a bit concerned about him playing Ljubicic, but he has a good record against Ivan. If you have been following Ivan’s game,’07 was a bad year for him. He was around 4 or 5 in the ranking of ’06. In ’07, he had an extremely bad year.

Baggy, is very unpredictable. At times he seems out to lunch. I don’t think Davydenko will do well at the AO, he has that problem with his arm which makes it difficult for him to serve.

Well, thanks again, keep reporting all the news flashes.

The Tennis Channel is broadcasting some of the women’s Medibank matches. I wish they would show the men’s game instead.


Von Says:

Jane: A footnote to my previous comment. I think Andy is listening to the robot –return, return, over the net not in it, return, return.


jane Says:

Von,

Let’s hope so; I’d sure like to see Andy have a good year, better than last year. As you say, he doesn’t have a lot to defend, so an even minor improvement could move him up in the rankings.

Baggy is unpredictable; Andy played well against him in Montreal. Those couple of plays by Andy at the net were fantastic of course. But Baggy, when he’s focused and fit, is a threat to anyone. Guess we’ll just have to see who shows up!


Von Says:

Jane: Thanks. Well, Jimmy is still around.


SG Says:

I don’t think Andy is committed in the way he needs to be. And Andy is a fun guy to watch both from a tennis stand point and how he deals with the media. If the guy were a really complete player, he’d be getting McEnroe (…or Connors) type hype. But, results drive your fame in sport (…unless you’re Ana Kournikova). Tiger Woods’ rep is built on winning (…which he does very frequently). And he wins with nerves of steel.

Andy just doesn’t have that rep of finding a way to win the close ones. His game needs work. I actually think that if he could strengthen his backhand and become stronger and fitter, he may feel more mentally freed up to hit bigger forehands. I think that Andy has some confidence issues that he needs to address. Maybe a sports psychologist could help. One things for sure. He has the physical potential to play a big game.


SG Says:

Andy, however, is not a great athelete like Federer or Sampras. He is a tennis player and that’s about it.


Von Says:

I don’t think you can put Sampras in the same class as Federer. Sampras is w—a—y better than Federer. As one commentator said that they way Sampras played, he made it look easy and never received the credit due him.

Federer is in the class of Barynishnikov in Swan Lake, a jaguar striding, and Tiny Tim, picking his way through the tulips, et al., and if you believe all of the foregoing, then, I am Methuselah’s Aunt, and pigs also fly.

I agree Roddick is not one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but we now have the 8th wonder of the world, the incomparable genius in the form of Federer.

Truthfully, when I want to see tennis, I want to see, Roddick, Safin, Rafa, Nalbandian, Gasquet, Johansson, Murray, Connors, and a few others whose names do not come to mind, but,it surely is not Federer. These people have personality and some of them pizzaz.

If you want to know whether Andy can win the close ones, read Skorcel’s comment. Andy’s spirit is broken, from too many bad, sucky, draws. Why does he nearly always land in Federer’s half of the draw. It seems to me that there’s a special request for him. Federer, when asked by a reporter on beating Andy the way he does, he said because he knocked him out of the No.1 spot in ’03. Federer said this the last U.S. Open when he beat Roddick in the Quarters. How sick to make such a statement to reporters when millions of people are watching. Does, it make Andy look bad, No. Who looks like a bitter jerk? He needs someone to teach him some PR strategy.

Federer digs deep to play Andy to make him look bad. He knows Roddick is the face of America in Tennis, so he is going to humilate him, with Tiger Woods sitting in his box. However, he is never going to grace any American magazine cover. Maybe, when pigs do fly.

As one poster stated that Roddick is crap. I did not comment. But in my opinion, Roddick does have some problems, no one is perfect, and every athlete has his own style of playing. But, for sure, he is NOT CRAP. Maybe, I like crap, but the crap makes me laugh, along with many others.


Andy, however, is not a great athelete like Federer or Sampras. He is a tennis player and that’s about it.” What are you saying? Is it not a fact that a Professional Tennis player is an athlete? Well, I think all of those guys who play tennis has just gotten a wakeup call.

Look, SG, I don’t want to be nasty to you, but I am angry. I should not be. I should understand that had it not been for the game of tennis, I would be writing these comments, and, I am also thrown together with people of different backgrounds, and that is why there is such a difference of opinions. This article is certainly receiving its full quota of hits.


jane Says:

SG,

“Andy just doesn’t have that rep of finding a way to win the close ones.”

More specifically, Andy doesn’t usually do as well when he’s behind; if he has a lead, he can usually so well. But when someone else, namely, his opponent, begins a charge, Andy freezes or becomes passive. That could, as you say, be related to confidence. I agree that a sports psychologist might help, but I am not sure if that’s Andy’s cup of tea, or Jimmy’s.

In any case, as I posted on the other thread, Andy beat Marat easily, 6-3, 6-3, so he must be doing something well.

Von,

Another interesting tidbit speaking of Andy’s coaches: I read somewhere that Jimmy is there with Andy now, at Kooyong, but that he’s leaving this Sunday night, before the Open begins. How weird!? Prior engagement perhaps? Maybe he and Roddick have agreed it’s better when he’s not around? Who knows, but it’s definitely a bit weird, IF it’s true. We can’t believe everything we read, naturally.


Von Says:

Jane: A-w-rr-i-g-h-t!

Thanks for the news bulletin. I did not want for them to play each other.But, at an exho, it is inevitable. Please keep the news bulletins coming.

Did you find out about the Tennis Channel? They’ll have coverage 24 hours daily.

I feel like a gossip column. From what Jimmy said last year at Wimbledon, and this is via one of the commentators, Patrick McEnroe, apprarently, Jimmy’s wife is not in favor of him being in the suspense scenario with Roddick and the matches. I can’t say it verbatim, but she said she had gone through enough tension with him when he was competing and she is not going to do so again with him via Roddick. I suppose to please both of them he is doing it this way, and he gets a free trip to Australia via Hawaii. Roddick spent some time this week in Hawaii. He could have taken me along. I know enough to coach him. All I have to do is crank up the robot. Working, working, –return, return.


Von Says:

SG: FYI: Although Ljubicic is on his downward slide, but Roddick winning in straight sets, with a bagel, has got to get his camp excited. Not to mention what’s happening to all the other top ten jokers.

Can he pull it off at the AO? His ‘A’ game and the high is on right now, can only take him so far, in the current landscape. He needs divine intervention from many quarters: draw, new surface, Federer, Djokovic and Murray.

Roddick has reached the AO semis three times, losing to Federer, Hewitt and Schuettler. He may not be the front runner, but he is not too far behind. If there is any time to do it, it’s now and here. Many events are churning to his advantage. All he has to do is execute his part flawlessly.


jane Says:

Von,

In Canada we have coverage of all MS and GS tournaments on TSN, a subsidiary of ESPN. The finals of slams are covered on CBS of course. The coverage is not bad; we get a lot of the early rounds live. Later stuff is often “pre-recorded” though, which I hate.

I don’t have Tennis Channel; I think I’d have to subscribe to it, but I am not sure if I should. I’m already a little too obsessed!


SG Says:

Actually, as a fellow Canadian, I can say that while we do get MS coverage, it can be at some pretty odd hours. Specifically, TSN is more interested in hyping up the Maple Leafs who haven’t won a cup in 40 years and as well as showing poker in prime time. And since when is poker a sport anyway?

That being said, we get our share of tennis coverage. And there is YouTube if you don’t mind the eye strain. I think as Canadaians, we see enough tennis to figure out who’s hot and who’s not.


SG Says:

Von said,

“I don’t think you can put Sampras in the same class as Federer. Sampras is w—a—y better than Federer. As one commentator said that they way Sampras played, he made it look easy and never received the credit due him.”

I don’t think I was specific enough in my statement. I meant to say that Sampras and Federer are multi-disciplinary athletes. Fed is a superb soccer player as well as tennis player. And Sampras could probably have been a very good b-ball player if he wanted to be. These guys are more than just great tennis players. They are all around great athletes. I don’t see Roddick in this way. He seems like he’s a tennis player. A guy who can hit a tennis ball very well. But, I don’t see him as having more than that.

And Von, I do agree with you when you say Sampras was a better athlete than Fed is. Much better? I don’t now about that. Fed is pretty smooth out there and he anticipates the next shot as well as anyone ever has. Sampras was a magnificent mover and leaper. Sampras’s movement was always very underappreciated. He could flat-out fly around a court in his younger years.


Von Says:

SG: I still say Sampras, all the way. Whose game did Fed use as his learning tool. Sampras. As Agassi used to say when asked any question on the game. He would answer: “Sampras, Sampras, Sampras.” I rest my case.

Andy playesd other sports as a youngman. Both of his brothers were athletes. John, was Tennis and the other one a swimmwer? I think. I believe you are basing your arguments on that “accidnetal tennnis athlete” article, but Andy’s not an accidental tennis athlete.


Von Says:

SG: Please excuse the typos. Sorry.


Maja Says:

Quote Von:

“I’ll be surprised if he goes far at the AO. If he does, it will be by at least 8 injury timeouts, 2 per match. I can’t bring myself to believe his injury time-outs. Roddick made fun of him at the TMC conference. Roddick told Djok that he could make 8 phone calls and order a pizza, (or was it vice versa, it’s not 100% verbatim)in the time that Djok bounces his balls. He has cut down a little, but it becomes bad when he is in a tight match. If anyone could do an imitation of Djok bouncing his balls, it would be Roddick. He is good at impersonations.”

Well well – this comment is just a proof that you rarely tell something right – Djokovic is now AO champion…he didn’t used a lot of injury time-outs… and about Djokovic’s ball bouncing – he imitated himself and make fun of himself about that – which makes him very intelligent, charming and modest guy.

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