See Dave Smith's "Cartwheeling Power" video from Serve Tune-Up DVD
Click here to see free training video or to order January Customer Rewards DVD.
A Fresh Start Down Under?
While the tennis season is in many ways a marathon, it nonetheless starts with a sprint. Every January, after a short recovery and a brief warm-up, the starting gun fires and the race begins again, as the world’s best go down under to compete in the first of the four major tournaments of the year, the Australian Open.
Click photo: Djokovic had an amazing year in 2011 and he is extremely confident, but whether he will be able to
repeat that extraordinary level of successes remains to be seen.
What makes the youngest of the slams so unique is not its surface or its history — important though they are — but its position at the very beginning of the year. There is no momentum there. No player enters with more than a handful of matches to their name and everyone faces the same challenges. They have to find their form quickly, and they have to conquer the heat. As a result, there is something of a Monday morning feeling to this event, and, as we all know, some people are better at Monday mornings than others…
Some players need time and match play before they are able to get into their stride; for others, the new season means a fresh start. Physically, they feel both rested and in top shape; psychologically, they are able to put the last year behind them and come into the Australian Open believing it is theirs to win.
In the men’s draw, few predict the trophy to go to one outside of the big four, who dominated at the majors so thoroughly in 2011. Within these, the obvious favorite is Djokovic. Those who think his decisive victories last year were somehow a fluke seem to forget how close the Serb had been to Federer and Nadal for the preceding four years, dominating the rest of the tour at the majors. Last year, his confidence soared and he was able to elevate his game, and there is no good reason to think that this will change any time soon. Whether he will be able to repeat the extraordinary level of his 2011 successes remains to be seen, but by defending the Australian Open Djokovic would be making an emphatic statement that he is here to stay at the very pinnacle of the game.
Federer had a great run at the end of 2011 but he is thirty years old nd Rafa has to figure out a way to reverse the six straight losses to Djokovic while nursing a
Whether Rafael Nadal will be able to find a way to beat Djokovic again after six straight final losses will be one of the big questions of this year, but it is unlikely the Spaniard will achieve it in Australia. His shoulder issues have already led him to declare that he will take February off in order to recover in time for March, which hardly sounds like the statement of a man hoping to win a title in January, especially if that will require beating the world number one.
Roger Federer, on the other hand, is, in theory, in form, being unbeaten in his last 20 matches played last year. He also has had minor injury problems (back), but seems to believe it should be better in time for the Australian Open. Should that indeed be the case, then the four-time winner is sure to be a very strong challenger for the title. He alone had a grand slam victory against Djokovic last year, and his two defeats to him at that level were close affairs (particularly their dramatic US Open semi-final). The thirty-year old Swiss has been playing near to his best in the last few months and, rather ominously for his rivals, appears to have something prove. It wouldn’t surprise many if he succeeded.
In the face of all this competition, world number four Andy Murray will be seeking to reach his third consecutive final down under, and then to take it one step further. But is there any good reason to expect him to do so? Murray has caused something of a buzz in the last weeks by hiring none other than Ivan Lendl as his new, full time coach. It is the Czech champion’s first return to the tour since his retirement in 1994, and how he will fare as a coach has yet to be seen. Considering Murray’s victory at Brisbane last week, the omens appear to be good.
Andy Murray, with yet another new coach, this time the legendary Ivan Lendl, is seeking to reach his third consecutive final down under, however, he has yet to break through at any slam.
Lendl will undoubtedly bring insight and perspective, as a man who not only won major finals and semi-finals, but who also won them after first having previously lost them. Perhaps his appointment might give Murray a new reason to believe that this could be his year. He has the game to contend with the best at this level. All that is required to have a chance is to bring it at the right time, in the big matches. That is exactly what Federer, Nadal and Djokovic do, and it is exactly what Lendl did in his day. If he hopes to emulate them in this ferociously competitive era, Murray must start doing the same.
In the women’s game, it certainly appears that it could be anyone’s trophy. Last year, there was a different winner at each of the four majors. The sixteen semi-final spots went to no fewer than thirteen players (by comparison, on the men’s side, they went to six). Despite this openness at the top of the game, and given defending champion Kim Clijsters’ injuries last year and again last week in Brisbane, there are still two players standing out as favorites: Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams.
Serena Williams has been the best player in the world for the last ten years, but injuries, age and motivation may be a factor. Petra Kvitova was 2012's player of the year but she is sometimes plagued by inconsistency.
Serena Williams has been the best player in the world for the last ten years. Injuries and –some argue –questionable motivation have led her reign to be less absolute than that of Court in the 60s, Evert and Navratilova in the 70s and 80s or Graf in the 90s, but nonetheless she rightly deserves to be considered the queen of tennis, just as those awesome champions were before her.
It is true that there have been challenges to her reign in this time, most notably from older sister Venus, whose threat came mainly in the early part of the decade and later only on grass, and from Justine Henin. In my opinion, theirs was one of the truly great rivalries that never was. Though they played 14 times (Williams won 8), the two rarely brought their best tennis in the same years, on the same surface. Henin rose to dominance from 2003 to 2007, as Serena faded; by the time Serena began her return to the very top at the end of that year, Henin had already retired, and her subsequent comeback in 2010 was short-lived. The fact is that for the last four years, despite her long injury-related absences, despite losing some big matches, and despite the challenge of a resurgent Clijsters, Serena Williams has once again been the one to beat at the majors.
Is that about to change? Women’s tennis is overdue a new, great champion, after all. Could Wimbledon winner Kvitova be the one to take Serena’s mantle? It would obviously be extremely premature to say that she is, but the Czech has already demonstrated the potential to be the next big thing. It is not only her hugely powerful game, but equally her ability to deploy it in the biggest matches in the biggest tournaments that has so impressed. It is always notable to win a grand slam final on the first attempt, but to win against the odds and a former champion (Sharapova) is remarkable. That she backed it up by taking another prestigious event, the WTA Tour Championships in Istanbul, only confirms that Kvitova is now a real contender for Serena’s crown. To put it in perspective, the last three players on either side to achieve the same in their breakout year were Novak Djokovic (2008), Maria Sharapova (2004) and Roger Federer (2003).
Click photo: 2011 champion, Kim Clijsters, missed most of the year with injuries, however, if she can stay healthy, she is a threat.
Of course, there have been other players –not least Sharapova–who were the subjects of the same kind of excited speculation upon their emergence but who failed subsequently to achieve supremacy. Kvitova has proved herself a very erratic player, sometimes demolishing strong opposition with ease, other times crashing out in a flurry of errors. To take that step towards greatness, Kvitova will need to become far more consistent, to play many tournaments each year the way she played at Wimbledon last year. What is more, she may well have to learn to defeat Serena Williams herself, something she is yet to do (0-2 lifetime).
With the thirty-year old Serena having suffered an injury to her ankle in Brisbane, Kvitova is currently considered the favorite for Melbourne, but it’s perfectly possible that Williams will recover quickly and have another year like 2009 or 2010, which raises the prospect of some titanic clashes between the two players this year and beyond. Williams and Kvitova could well fight the real battle for the title of the world’s best player this year, and Australia would be a great setting for their first melee.
On both the men’s and the women’s sides, there is much to play for in this, the 100th edition of the Australian Open. Aside from the Norman Brookes Challenge and Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cups, players like Williams, Kvitova, Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal and the rest have the chance to stake their claim for 2012, to send out a message that this will be their year. Confidence could be fostered or shattered. Winning streaks or losing runs could be snapped. New champions could assert themselves or old ones reassert. Whoever triumphs, one thing remains certain –it won’t have been easy.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
What Makes Roger Federer's Serve Great?
Seven centuries after legendary Swiss patriot William Tell, an expert marksman with the crossbow, redeemed his life by shooting an apple off the head of his son in a single attempt, Roger Federer repeated the feat with a tennis ball. We know The Amazing Fed has every shot in the book and then some, but uncanny accuracy is just one of the strengths of his superb serve. Pat Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion and authoritative BBC commentator, analyzes in depth and detail the serve of this modern-day Swiss legend. Paul Fein
Injury Prevention and Power Optimization
Mark Gellard went to a USTA tennis performance conference which focused on injury prevention and maximizing potential and featured some of the top speakers in their fields. Mark came away with three important things that can help you with your tennis game; the push up method on the serve, proper foot alignment and its effect on the kinetic chain, and how fatigue can effect your game and knowing when it's time to take a break from tennis.
ProStrokes 2.0 — Petra Kvitova, Backhand
2011 was a breakout year for Petra Kvitova, she reached a career high of #2 in the world, chalking up wins at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships as well as the 2011 WTA Tour Championships and was named player of the year on the WTA tour. Kvitova is best known for her powerful left-handed serve. While not considered one of the quickest players, Kvitova crowds the baseline, ala Monica Seles, and hits with considerable pace and spin with her big forehand and two-handed backhand. Barring injuries, she should remain a force on the women's tour and she has enough game to challenge for the number one spot in 2012.
TennisOne Writers Store
One of your many new benefits as a TennisOne membership is your ability to purchase selected instructional DVDs at 20% off ($7.50 off each) in our new TennisOne Writers Store (login in first to access members links):
- "Building Your Serve from the Ground Up," Jim McLennan Members Public
- "Building Your Ground Game," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Building a Kick Serve," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Underspin Backhand - Weapon," Jim McLennan Members Public
- "Achieving Peak Performance the Wholistic Way: The Mental Game," Happy Bhalla Members – Public
- "Building a World Class Serve," Phil Dent Members – Public
- "Building a World-class Volley," Dave Smith Members – Public
- "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: One-Handed Topspin," Doug King Members Public
- "Best of Ken DeHart," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Corrective Techniques & Myths," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Defeating the Monsters in Your Mind," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Skills, Drills, and Games for Beginning Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- "Drills for Intermediate Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Drills for Advanced Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- Click here to see all the benefits of a TennisOne Membership.
- Click here to sign up for a risk-free, TennisOne 30 day free trial membership.
Copyright Notice: The contents of the TennisONE web site and contents forwarded to you by TennisONE are intended for your personal, noncommercial use. Republishing of TennisONE content in any way, including framing or posting of these materials on other Web sites, is strictly prohibited. See our full copyright statement
If you wish to be removed from our newsletter list, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and leave the subject line blank. A confirmation email will be sent to you, and you will be removed from our newsletter list once you reply to that confirmation. If trouble unsubscribing, simply email us with a request to unsubscribe at: email@example.com