Nick Bollettieri: Can Serena win the title? Holy cow! Of course... she's Serena
Tuesday 21 June 2011
A question for you guys: what is it about Serena Williams and Wimbledon? It's something I can't explain. No way. Nobody can. It's a mystery why she loves it here so much – I'm not sure even she can explain it. But she sure does. Absolutely. This is her place.
Serena is happy on the grass and that's why for all the tough times she has been through – and boy they have been tough – she is the player that most will fear in the women's draw. But hang on a minute, what we all have do with Serena is wait and see. Can she do it? Hell yeah, of course she can. Holy cow! She's Serena Williams. She is probably the favourite. This is her home from home. Never forget that.
Will she do it? That's where we have to wait and that is why today will be so interesting. Does she have what it takes physically – remember after that terrible operation we're lucky to have her with us – to go two weeks here and still be standing at the end of it? That is the unknown factor.
Watch today and see how she moves against Aravane Rezai. Serena is a big girl and so she needs to move well. When she does, she's the best. No question. She gets to balls that others don't – simple but boy does it count.
When Venus and Serena first started aged five/six, their daddy said to them: "Venus, Serena, listen to daddy – run for every ball. Every ball." "Daddy," they said, "what if it's out?" He looked at them and said: "Run for every ball." That's why they get balls that nobody else gets near. Richard Williams instilled that in them from the start. Their eyes, brain and feet move together, combine together early – when you see a ball and think, 'I can get that,' it's too late. They are already there, or on the way there. They never stop running.
When Serena was at my academy she used to destroy coaches. There she was hammering them. Boy, they used to run when Serena was around. She was like an Eveready battery, on and on and on she went. Jeez, she would come after you.
We used to have three, four, sometimes even five coaches lined up ready to take her on and she'd run them all off their feet. But she has had a long break, and that operation, with only a handful of games down at Eastbourne to warm up. This will be a test even at her tennis home. It's not going to be easy. Watch where she stands. If she stays smack on the baseline she can pick the ball off and control the game. Then her opponent is in trouble. Big trouble.
I was never the Williams coach – they don't do coaches and all those Grand Slams and 80 titles between them say they do a goddamn good job – I was part of their Team. That is what the Williams are; capital T, father, mother, Venus, Serena. And that, my friends, is all important for these two.
When you're involved with a player – as coach or team-member – travelling with them for 37 weeks of the year, having dinner with them, breakfast, doing your laundry together, it helps to like them and, hell, do I like the Williams. We used to play cards, me, Serena, Venus and their mother. Wow, we had some fun. That's the thing with the Williams, they know how to have fun, how to live their lives. There will be a lot of eyes on Serena today. How will she acclimatise? Will she be the same Serena? A lot of questions. It's up to her to say, hey, I'm ready. It will be tough but if anyone can, it's this girl.
Today's big match: Serena Williams v Aravane Rezai
HOW THEY MATCH UP
US Nationality French
29 Age 24
1995 Turned pro 2005
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
5ft 10in Height 5ft 5in
25 World ranking 61
37 Career titles 4
$32.8m Career prize-money $2.6m
W57 L7 Wimbledon record W4 L4
Won (4) Wimbledon best 3R (2007)
W1 L0 Head-to-head W0 L1
1-12 Odds 9-1
Bollettieri's prediction As long as she's healthy, Serena will have no problems
Coaching Report: Muller puts in a big shift, but too easy for Rafa and Venus
Watch out Britain for mighty Muller
Out on court 19 there was a sight to scare you Brits. I went to watch one of my old guys, Tommy Haas, take on the big Luxembourger Gilles Muller and man it was some show of serving. Unfortunately for Tommy, most of it came from Muller.
In four sets, he thundered down 37 aces (Tommy managed a respectable 16 himself). Holy mackerel that is serving, and on a court that was a little on the damp side – that means the bounce in these early days is going to be on the low side – it made it so tough for Tommy to get anything back. In that sort of form and on that surface, Muller would have caused no end of trouble for the guys right at the top of the rankings never mind Tommy, who has had a grim time with injury in recent years.
The worry for you guys is that next month Britain play Luxembourg in the Davis Cup and Muller's their main man. I hear Andy Murray will be there in Glasgow too so that should be okay – especially indoors – but hey, if Muller plays like he did yesterday then he could cause real problems.
Muller has been around the block – he first played Wimbledon back in 2005 – and is only just inside the world top 100. But on his day – and you bet this was his day – he can trouble anybody. That day doesn't come round too often though and he faces the latest big young server on the block in round two, the towering Canuck Milos Raonic who won easily yesterday. Don't hold your breath for rallies in that one.
First-round opponents are just no match for Rafa and Venus
Too easy, just too goddamn easy. I can't say I learnt much from either Rafa Nadal or Venus Williams yesterday. It won't do Nadal any harm having a nice simple game like his one against Mike Russell in three simple sets in less than two hours.
Knowing him, he would have been straight back on the practice courts afterwards. Get in a match frame of mind, win and move on.
Venus? Well, that was no match up against Akgul Amanmuradova. At 6ft 3in, the Uzbekistani may have the physique to match up with Venus but she never stretched her. The good thing for Venus is that it's another match under her belt. She moved well, got a feel for the grass and looked in good shape – good signs but no more than that against such an opponent.
Mr B's Wimbledon A-Zee
C is for conditions. It is only here at Wimbledon that you can get four seasons in one day and as a player you have to be prepared to deal with it. You have to make more adjustments because of the weather; it affects how the ball bounces, how you string the racket, how you play. It's Wimbledon.
D is for Daddy. There is only one Daddy at Wimbledon and that's Richard Williams. He's back this year and so are his girls, which is great. They belong at Wimbledon. And with 17 titles between them, Wimbledon almost belongs to them.
Win a week at my academy
Want a week's tennis holiday at my IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida? Included in the prize is five days' top-class tuition.
The prize can be for an adult wanting to shape up your game, or for a child who wants to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, among other players who went from being kids under my tuition to No 1 in the world. Pretty damn good prize, eh?
What you have to do is answer this question: Would you rather have a great return of serve or an almighty big serve? Send me your answer (guys, keep it to 100 words) to email@example.com and the best one will win a signed hat or T-shirt. I'll be putting a question out every day and all the winners will go into the hat for the Big Prize to be drawn at the end of the fortnight: a week at the IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy.
Coaching tip of the day
On grass the ball tends to bounce lower than on other surfaces so here's the fundamental: get your lower body foundation right. Everything starts from the floor up: quick feet, bend your knees. Hey, that's a start. We're here to help over the next two weeks so send your coaching questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pick the most interesting problems each day to deal with. I reckon it'll improve your game in no time!
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