“Bring on Wimbledon!” – Rusedski
The grass court season is finally underway. I love this time of year. We finally get to see some attacking tennis, but still not as much as during my era because the courts and balls are a lot slower.
The Queen’s Club Championships started with one of its best fields in the tournaments history with 15 of the top 20 in the world entered. The only big withdrawal was that of Novak Djokovic, sighting a knee problem, but I am sure he will be fine for Wimbledon. Nadal, the six time French open champion, arrived Monday evening after all his sponsor commitments at Disneyland Paris. He is such a professional; he had a 1 hour 45min intense practice session and entered the doubles event as well to get match practice before his first round match in singles on Wednesday.
Just to be at the event after his exertion at the French Open is a credit to Nadal. Federer on the other hand was so shattered he pulled out of the event in Halle to rest before Wimbledon. There needs to be a week off in between the French Open and the grass court season. Common sense needs to prevail one day.
The second seed for the event was Andy Murray who was full of confidence because of his run at the French Open. He played really well this past week and looked like the favorite for the tournament from day one. He was serving well, being more aggressive, and was more consistent with his body language. You can really see the influence of Darren Cahill in all these areas. Even the press are getting a better vibe and energy from Andy. The only two areas I would like to see improve on court are: hitting through the forehand up the line more because at times it is too predictable and crosscourt too often. Also, using the serve out wide on the deuce side more.
Murray got through to the semi-finals where he faced Andy Roddick. Most people thought this was going to be a tough match. I did not, because Roddick was playing unusual tennis hitting a lot of slice backhands and not hitting his two handed backhand on the rise up the line at all. This tactic played straight into Murray’s hands and let him restart the point whenever he was in trouble. In addition, his serve was still not back to its best after being out for a month with shoulder problems. Murray, on the other hand, played like a dream and won 6-3 6-1. The best performance from Murray on grass that I have ever seen.
On the other side of the draw, the story of the week was about another Brit, James Ward, ranked 216 in the world. I have been helping James for the past year and a half with his team. He has the potential to be a top 100 player but it comes down to the mental side of the game and doing it 365 days a year. We stopped just before the French Open because I felt he needed to commit more every day. I told him it comes down to you doing it every day, from diet, fitness, match play, desire, and giving your best on and off court. Nobody else can do it for you, it always comes down to the player. He hired a new fitness trainer who was a professional cage fighter and kept his coach Tomy Peric. Making decisions for yourself helps. He has improved his diet and his attitude since taking responsibility for himself and I hope it continues.
James beat British number 3 Dan Cox in round one, then world number 14 Stanislas Wawrinka, then defending champion Sam Querrey, and in the quarter-finals Adrian Mannarino from France in front of Prime Minister David Cameron. For me, personally, the best match was the quarter-finals against Mannarino because in the past after losing 7 match points in the 2nd set and being down 2 love in the final set, James would have normally folded, but on the day he fought and won 6-4 in the final set. Who would James play in the semi? Either Nadal or Jo-Wilfred Tsonga from France? Nadal was running on fumes but still managed to win the first set, but once Tsonga won the second set, the match was over, Nadal’s tank was empty. Physically he was done. Tsonga went on to win the 3rd 6-1, setting up a semi-final with Ward.
It was the first time in tournament history that two Brits were in the semi-finals. James started nervously and got broken in his first service game and lost the first set 6-3. In the second set James got up an early break, but Tsonga broke back in the all-important 7th game and then the match went to a second set tie breaker. Tsonga went on to win it but Ward had a set point. I hope this experience will help James Ward crack into the top 100 in the world. It is about belief, hard work, giving your best and wanting it more than your opponent every match.
So our final was set Murray v Tsonga. Unfortunately the finals could not be played on Sunday because the day got rained off. Murray beat Tsonga in the finals 3-6 7-6 6-4 and played a great match after being a set down to the on-form Frenchman.
Now going into Wimbledon, Murray will be full of confidence and has a real shot to win. Expect the top 4 players in the semi-finals this year at Wimbledon. Nadal is still my favorite to win, but with Federer playing so well at the French, Djokovic playing nearly unbeatable tennis, and Murray playing his best tennis it will be exciting. Bring on Wimbledon!