Tenaciously Tennis

What Brad Gilbert Can Do for Nishikori in 2011

Brad Gilbert, the former coach to Andre Agassi, Andy Murray, and Andy Roddick will be Kei Nishikori’s traveling coach for 2011. After some rough results due to an elbow injury, Gilbert’s world-class coaching could be just what Nishikori needs to get his form back.

Currently ranked 98 in the world, Nishikori enjoyed a career-high ranking of 56 in February 2009 before sustaining the injury that has plagued his career since. Nishikori put together some strong wins to get that respectable ranking. He surprised many after qualifying for the Delray Beach tournament as the 244th-ranked player in the world. Then, he Bobby Reynolds and Sam Querrey among others before  beating the top seed James Blake in the finals. The title meant a Japanese man’s first in 16 years. A few months later, he advanced to the fourth-round showing at the US Open in his debut there.

Nishikori has the ability and the drive to take his game to the top. He made it to the third round of this year’s US Open, and it’ll be interesting to see Gilbert’s influence on his game. At just 20, Nishikori still has a long time left on tour. It’ll be important for him to exercise every aspect of his game with Gilbert in case the relationship doesn’t last past the 15 tournaments in 2011.

According to a recent piece, “Nishikori will also continue to travel with his full-time coach, Dante Bottini, but will spend a week at Gilbert’s home in California before heading to the tournament in Chennai, which begins at the start of 2011. Gilbert will not coach him there, but will be with him at the tournament in Adelaide and at the Australian Open.”

Therefore, Gilbert is starting with the biggest events with Nishikori. Should he continue his strong form from the US Open and make a breakthrough at the Australian Open — his best showing is the first round — expect strong showings throughout the year to prove Nishikori’s back.

It’s always a great story when a player comes back from injury, makes big changes, and succeeds. I think Nishikori will embody that feel-good story in the coming months.


Azarenka Stuns Sharapova; Querrey Collects Fourth Title

Victoria Azarenka beat Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-1 to take her first title of the season, and her first since April 2009. This was Azarenka’s third final of the year. Sharapova, on the other hand, was vying for her third title this year.

With piercing shots and a voracious desire to win, Azarenka hit her way to the lopsided conclusion, which saw a great deal of service breaks for both players. In fact, Azarenka converted six of 11 break points, illustrating a strong mental reserve. With injury sidelining her from this sort of play for months, it’s refreshing to see (although maybe not hear) Azarenka back in the big leagues. The win takes her to number 12 in the rankings. For Sharapova, she’s inching back to the top ten as the number 13 player in the world.

Although a rightfully fatigued Azarenka pulled out of the San Diego tournament beginning this week, I see her cracking into the top ten before the US Open begins later this month. Sharapova next plays at the tournament in Cincinnati, another good way to get back to the top tier of the WTA tour.

At the Farmers Classic, Sam Querrey has proven yet again he’s a comeback kid, not a “Debbie Downer.” After losing  a tight first set 5-7, Querrey capitalized on Andy Murray’s defensive play with huge forehands to win the next two sets. Before this match, Querrey had never taken a set off the fourth-ranked two-time major finalist. Querrey won 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

With the win, the American becomes the first player to successfully defend the title since Andre Agassi won it in 2001-2002. According to an Associated Press article, “Querrey became the first player since last year to win two matches from match point down in the same tournament. He saved one match point in the semifinals against Janko Tipsarevic.”

Querrey looks primed to continue this form — the win was his fourth for the year. He’ll be a serious contender at the US Open. As for Murray, he did well to make the final after parting ways with his coach Miles Maclagan.

Cahill to Coach Murray? Maybe, Probably Not

With Andy Murray recently splitting up with full-time coach Miles Maclagan, the British press wants to know just who will take over for their number one player.

According to Cliff Drysdale, during Murray’s match against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez, along with an article for The Guardian and another in The Mail, Darren Cahill might just be the man for the job. During the broadcast, however, Cahill refuted the idea, albeit not very convincingly. He told Drysdale, “It didn’t take very long to bring me up, did it?”

He continued that “it depends what he wants,…if [Murray’s] looking to employ a full-time coach that can’t be me. I’m not in the position to be anybody’s full-time coach with my commitments here at ESPN, and also a consultant at Adidas.” He continued that if he ever went back to being a full-time coach, he probably would’ve stayed to see if Roger Federer wanted him for the job. Cahill worked with Federer over the past couple years.

Despite the Australian seeming to say “no,” The Guardian stated, “The Australian Darren Cahill, who guided Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi, is favoured to take over, but Murray will wait until the US Open finishes in September before deciding. Cahill, who is attached to Murray’s chief sponsor, Adidas, currently works as an analyst for ESPN.”

The Mail writes, “Murray, in co-ordination with his mother Judy, still his most trusted adviser, placed Cahill at the head of his wish-list to coach him when they decided Maclagan’s days were numbered after Wimbledon, as exclusively revealed in The Mail on Sunday four weeks ago. ”

There’s a lot still up in the air. Personally, it’d be good for Murray to have Cahill at his side. With a career-high ranking of 22 in1989, Cahill has the history both on and off the court to do great things for Murray, who has yet to win a Grand Slam title.

Nadal Triumphs Over Berdych in Three Sets

To go along with Serena William’s easy win over Vera Zvonareva, Rafael Nadal defeated Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 to take his second title at the tournament. Although nothing like the 2008 epic — hailed by many as one of the best matches in tennis history — Nadal looked sharp from the beginning.

Berdych — who took out the reigning champion Roger Federer and number three seed Novak Djokovic — lagged behind Nadal. He failed to convert his break point chances. Nadal’s superb shot making threw off the big-hitting Czech from playing his aggressive game. Nadal looked completely in control of the match all the way until his last forehand passing shot hit its mark.

Along with solidifying his number one world ranking, Nadal’s win also means he’s repeated the difficult feat of winning the French Open and Wimbledon titles back-to-back. The impressive list includes such champions in the Open Era as Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, and Federer. The later won both titles last year when Nadal struggled with injury and his parents’ divorce.

After a tough couple rounds in the beginning against Robin Haase and Philipp Petzschner — who won the men’s doubles title with Jurgen Melzer — Nadal rolled through the rest of the rounds. He dispatched Robin Soderling in a rematch of the French Open final and Andy Murray in three.

With this added confidence and his eighth major title overall, Nadal now holds the same number as tennis legends Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, and Jimmy Connors. With this performance, there’s no reason why he can’t push through to his first final at the US Open.

Berdych played admirably, proving he’s a real threat to win a big title in the coming years. For making it through to the finals, Berdych will enjoy cracking through to the top ten. If his US Open series plays out well — which I am confident it will — his momentum will carry over to the final Slam of the year, the US open.

Well, that concludes Wimbledon 2010. I’ll go over the tournament in more detail in the coming days.

The Rivalry Resumes: Nadal Fends Off Federer in Madrid Rematch

Posted in Andre Agassi,Rafael Nadal,Roger Federer by Ben on May 17, 2010

Almost exactly a year after their last match, the Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer rivalry resumed at the Madrid Masters tournament. This time, however, the score was much different and in Nadal’s favor. In a 6-4, 7-6 (5) shut-out, the Spaniard continued his roll on clay with 15 consecutive wins and regained the number two position.

According to an article, “Nadal also won titles in Monte Carlo and Rome to become the first player to win all three titles in the same season. He has lost only two sets during that run and is 14-7 all-time against Federer, including 10-2 on clay.” Therefore, his win is even more impressive and also marks his 18th masters title, which surpasses Andre Agassi’s record.

With the French Open just around the corner, Nadal’s form proves to be at its best. Should he play like this on the red clay of Roland Garros, there won’t be a player that can halt his reign on clay from resuming once again.

Nadal’s Needed Win Finally Found at Masters Event

Posted in Andre Agassi,Fernando Verdasco,Rafael Nadal,Roger Federer by Ben on April 18, 2010

Spain’s Rafael Nadal finally took home a title after months without a win. With his defeat of Fernando Verdasco, 6-0, 6-1 at the Monte Carlo Masters event final, the Spaniard takes home his sixth straight title at the tournament. According to the ESPN article, “Nadal Wins 6th Straight Monte Carlo Masters Title,” “The second-seeded Nadal overpowered Verdasco with a stunning display of attacking clay-court tennis to earn his sixth straight victory at Monte Carlo, but his first title since the Rome Masters in May 2009.”

Therefore, the win, his first in just under a year, ends the drought and elusiveness that Nadal has grown accustomed to, especially with the injuries plaguing his play. Further enhancing the importance of Nadal’s win, the article continues that he”is the only player to win six consecutive titles at the same tournament since tennis turned professional in 1968, and the 23-year-old has tied top-ranked Roger Federer with 16 Masters titles, one behind Andre Agassi’s record.”

With history already made and even more to come, hopefully Nadal can continue his sensational tennis and take home more titles. He deserves it.

Book Recommendation: A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher

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Hello all!

So, I’ve reading a lot lately since being on break from college, and I must say that I realized something this past decade in tennis: there have been numerous high quality tennis biographies, memoirs, non-fictions published. Titles that come to mind instantly include:
* Open by Andre Agassi
* On the Line by Serena Williams
* A Champion’s Mind by Pete Sampras
* Break Point by Vince Spadea
* A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher

As I continue this blog, I will share my recommendations. Feel free to add your two cents!

A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher is the latest tennis-related book I could get my hands on, and I must say it was an excellent read.

The book title states, “Three Extraordinary Men, A World Poised For War, And The Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played,” and although that last phrase may be up for debate (think Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final), I wholeheartedly agree with the other statements.

Fisher does well in capturing the personalities of American tennis great, Don Budge, the German star athlete, Baron Gottfried von Cramm, and the man that was considered one of the first champions of the sport, “Big” Bill Tilden. An excerpt from the novel’s jacket reads, “This deciding 1937 Davis Cup match, played on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, was a battle of titans: the world’s number one tennis player against the number two; America against Germany; democracy against fascism. For five superhuman sets, the duo’s brilliant shotmaking kept the Centre Court crowd – and the world – spellbound.”

I must say, it did particularly well in keeping my interest piqued as well. Through a riveting account of the match itself, with each set marked as a separate section quite creatively, Fisher brings to life the aforementioned individuals that greatly altered tennis for years to come. By reading A Terrible Splendor, I fond myself immersed in the compelling history of the time, the personalities of the players, and the enormity of such an epic match.

My opinion: This is certainly a must-read for sports historians, and tennis fans alike.

A Terrible Splendor’s Official Website

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