Nick Bolletieri's Wimbledon 2013 Files: Laura Robson must produce magic out of left field against Maria Kirilenko
The British number one plays on Court One today
Tuesday 25 June 2013
Across the net from you is a top 10 player, a player who has been here before, played the Slams, got to the business end of the big tournaments. So what? Get out there this afternoon, Laura Robson, and just play your game.
That's what I would say if I was her coach, simple and straight: get on the grass and play your own goddam game, don't bother who is across the net. Hit your big serves, sling those big forehands, play to win.
People can get too tied down by the numbers. OK, Maria Kirilenko is 10 in the world and having a good season – the quarters at Roland Garros, fourth round in Australia and a few semi-finals such as in Indian Wells – but for Laura Robson it is about what Laura Robson is going to do.
Last year her ranking was in three figures, now she is not far off a Slam seeding, but those are numbers that don't matter right now either. If your record shows that you are beginning to make steam then make more steam.
She has some good weapons but the main one is something she has been blessed with. She is a leftie. For me – and, hey, in this case I really don't care what others say – a gifted leftie has it over a gifted rightie. They think differently, their hands are like magicians and they create shots that are far different. Look at some of the shots a guy like Marcello Rios used to come up with.
But with that comes a big must. When you are a leftie you must win your serve to the advantage side. Even if the opponent knows the wide slice is going there, who cares, because it takes them way off the court and then you have the whole court to hit into. When Robson steps to the baseline to serve she has to know that her opponent is worried about what is coming her way – knows that this is a serve that is going to cause her problems.
Overall, I like the way Robson plays and there is nothing obvious that needs to change but the most important element for her is mobility. In tennis, in track, basketball, soccer – these fast sports – footwork, mobility, recovery are the key areas. Robson is tall and with a structure like that you have to work more. When you have a big forehand – and boy she can slap that forehand – you have to be able to get to those return defensive shots when the ball is sitting up above your waist. I believe that recovery running east and west is a big thing for her.
If I was in her team I would be taking a close look at what Novak Djokovic did. For me, she has to follow in the footsteps of Djokovic and take in the nutritional changes he brought into his preparation.
If she can get those off-court preparations right and take advantage of being a leftie then we are not talking about getting a ranking in the twenties, we are talking a possible top 10. Get it all right and, down the line, she could be a contender.
But as for today, serve and move, serve and move. That is the key on grass and that is the key for Robson against Kirilenko. The Russian is a big hitter and having a good season, but look at where she has done well – Indian Wells, Australia, Paris – it's where the ball bounces higher. It will keep lower on grass and that will help Robson. Just so long as she serves and moves, serves and moves. Always moving, man, always moving.
Match of the day
Today's big game Robson v Kirilenko
L Robson M Kirilenko
British Nationality Russian
19 Age 26
London Residence Moscow
Left-handed Plays Right-handed
5ft 11in Height 5ft 9in
38 World ranking 10
0 Career titles 6
$304,748 Prize money $6.37m
1-4 Wimbledon record (W-L)10-9
R2 Wimbledon best QF (2011)(2012)
0 Head-to-head 0
Nick's prediction: Kirilenko in three
Coaching report: How I helped talented Puig make Puerto Rico proud
I have to tell you about a chat I was having with my good friend John Lloyd. He said that the top guys have two or three easy matches to warm them into the championships. "That's absurd," I said. I reckon the Slams have never been more difficult from start to finish and look what happened yesterday. So long Rafa. Point made, John my friend.
And that is why Andy Murray will be pleased with his start. This was a good test for him against Benjamin Becker. The German is a decent player and he can stretch most guys. I was impressed with a couple of things about Murray: the way he dealt with Becker's kicking serve and how he forced Becker to make mistakes. Murray's relentless returning, turning what seem like defensive shots into offensive ones, caused Becker to get frustrated and he started over-hitting. Job done Andy, and job well done.
My Wimbledon 2013 began with a real boost. I wondered over to Court 18 to have a look at Monica Puig, a 19-year-old from Puerto Rico who I've been helping. I'm not interested in full-on coaching any more but I like to get involved on the fringes – working on players' minds.
Her coach Alain de Vos asked me to pitch in and I had a couple of sessions with Monica this year over at the academy trying to make her believe, and that's what she did yesterday. She played damn well to knock out Sara Errani in straight sets. It was not as straightforward as the score suggests. She had six match points and after letting five slip it showed good mental strength for a girl playing in her first Slam match to keep her nerve and finish the job.
She is a talent, has a very good serve and plays powerful ground strokes. She needs to add variation to her game but that can come. And she comes from a great country – I spent 17 winters managing a hotel in Puerto Rico a lifetime ago so I know what I'm talking about!
My Week at Wimbledon: If only that Federer had a proper backhand...
On the way in yesterday morning I bumped into Roger Federer and Paul Annacone, his coach. Now Paul was once one of my pupils out at the academy in Florida. He's become a good coach and him and Roger are a pretty damn special pairing – that record speaks loud and clear for itself.
Federer was talking about one-handed backhands – boy oh boy, that is one of my favourite subjects and it got me thinking. If I could have one tennis dream it would be to have had Roger to coach when he was a youngster. Okay, okay who wouldn't have wanted that, with that movement and that range of skills but I tell you I would have changed that backhand.
That is the one thing I would have done differently. It's all about two hands, man, two hands. You have to make the change when a player is young. Once a guy gets into his 20s and off on the tour it is all about tweaking – the building blocks are put in place in the teens and that is when I wish I'd had Roger.
Sure, he isn't going to have any complaints when he retires about what he has achieved. He is one of the greats but I tell you one thing – if he had a two-handed backhand then, hell, there would be no doubt whatsoever over who was going to win this tournament, and probably any one he entered.
That would have been the dream – and you can't deny a guy his dreams – but these days I prefer coaching kids. That's what suits me, installing the basics and a passion for the game in the youngsters. I have been helping set up a kids tennis school in Prague and it got me thinking about the guy who helped get me into coaching.
It was Vince Lombardi, the most respected coach US sport has seen, who told me one day many years ago in Wisconsin that I should help coach kids. He told me to get involved and you gotta do what Vince says.
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