Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Between the Wimbledon and the US Open!

In tennis, there is practically no off season. But there are peaks and then not so happening times. Grand Slams of course are the ones where the greatest drama lies and right now we are somewhat in the middle of two Grand Slams; so one may call it a lull.

Wimbledon 2013 had all the ingredients like upsets, close matches, emotional new champions leading to a perfect recipe for an unpredictable two weeks of play. As Marion Bartoli and Andy Murray lifted the trophy's at the Centre Court and as former champions tumbled on course, a peek of the new world of tennis was there. Going forward, the things only get more interesting.

That is why precisely the 'lull' we talked earlier is not really dull. There is lots that is happening in the world of tennis even in these times, and players are doing their best to get ready for the US Open at the end of August. Let's have a glimpse of the current events.

The run up to the US Open is still nearly two weeks away when two back to back Masters 1000 tournaments are scheduled. Before this, you will seldom find a top four or five player in any of the lesser tournaments. As Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne acknowledges many a times, "Rest is a weapon, don't forget that." So, this is when the best players hone this weapon.

On the contrary this year, the frontrunners of major championships Serena Williams and Roger Federer are out on court, and that too on clay. Roger Federer is making the biggest waves in the off season for several reasons. He is currently World No. 5 and is in the middle of a storm as far his form is concerned; and to top that he is playing with a new racquet. Till now, he had been using a 90" square frame racket when his competitors in Nadal, Djokovic use a 100" sq frame and Murray a 98".

Federer played in Hamburg with a black framed Wilson prototype of 98 inch sq frame which is a huge shift in the racquet size. It's never easy for a tennis player to change his or her stick and even if they do, the shift is very small or gradual like adding weight to the head, changing strings, small upgrade/change in size. Considering this and that Roger Federer is already 32, the change is mammoth. Also, to let go of the wand that has won him 17 GS titles (more than anyone else on ATP) is a great 'let go'.

To add on to the mixed responses he was getting, he lost to Frederick Delbonis (another player ranked outside top 100) in the semis at Hamburg and now almost every nook and cranny of tennis is out with a piece of advice for one of the greatest player tennis has seen. Federer also hasn't committed yet to use this racket at the US Open and he'll make that decision after having some more feel at Gstaad and maybe at even the Masters 1000's.

A bigger racket is supposed to add on more power and pop to his shots while compromising on the precision somewhat. It is also supposed to give him more options to keep the ball in play while returning. One thing that comes out positive is that - Federer is still willing to play till Rio Olympics 2016 (as he said earlier) and his early loss at Wimbledon this year has not vanquished the flame. Rather, he's willing to do whatever it takes (Racquet, Play) to hang around. Right now, the critics and some fans alike are advising him to retire while on top, leaving his legacy intact. Roger Federer so far is defying all, and wants to keep playing for his love for the game, even if he slips in rankings.

Another great champion Serena Williams won the Swedish Open couple of days back to find back the lost confidence after losing to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon. She's good for now and will most likely be the favourite at USO. Serena's favourite bunny to beat, Maria Sharapova is also on the change road alike Federer. Maria though isn't playing due to hamstring but has let go of her former coach (with whom she has been on a good run winning the French last year, going deep in GS and holding rank 2 currently) and hired Jimmy Conners. Yeah, the legendary Jimmy Connors! The one who coached Andy Roddick when he took Federer to five sets in 2009 Wimby Final and looked like winning it all along...till he lost. Connors would hope to do for Maria what Lendl has done for Murray.

And talking of Andy Murray, his roller coaster ride has reached to the top and he's now not only a challenger - he's winning the big ones too. His earlier nemesis' Federer and Nadal are on the low and even Djokovic isn't right at the top. Murray is resting and enjoying his Wimbledon success and will return to play the tune ups for the US Open in the quest for defending his title.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are also on the rest mode for now (actually practising their butt out) to get ready for the US hard court challenge. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic is ready for sharing the nutrition tips in his book called 'Serve to Win' which is a 'nutrition based performance guide'. It'll be launched before the USO. It'll share how changing his diet in late 2010 made him a formidable player from 2011.

Rafa, the biggest loser of Djokovic's new diet is happy fishing, playing poker and playstation in his home town Majorca for now. It'll be interesting to see how Rafa's knees hold up on faster hard courts and how Nole finds the motivation to keep Nadal and Murray away from taking the top spot.

In the current scheme of things, Federer seem to really struggle against the top three guys; Rafa surely against Nole, and Nole against Murray to a great extent. Yet, that concludes nothing. And there is one more guy, who can potentially blast off anybody, and who is more lethal on the fast hard courts and who is also a Grand Slam Champion. Yes, Juan Martin Del Potro! 

Del Potro fell short to Djokovic in the Wimbledon Semi but took enough out of him emotionally and physically to help Murray win easier than expected. Having said that, grass is his worst surface and US Open the most preferred. He's in good form and if he really wants to get back into the mix of top guys and the form of 2009; this probably is the best time and the best surface.

Federer is currently playing in his home town Gstaad and all the other big names return (well practised and rested) in the second week of August for the tune ups. The drama continues....!

No comments:

Post a Comment