Nick Bollettieri: Go for it Sweeting! Give Rafa a scare and the US a welcome lift
Wednesday 22 June 2011
There are times in sport – heck, in life – that you have to go out on a limb because that is where the fruit is. Today is one of those for Ryan Sweeting.
He's a good player and he can get better, too – something us Americans would love to see as, boy, do we need players at the moment. Andy Roddick can't keep doing it on his own.
Sweeting has excellent ground strokes, a good serve and a gritty competitive streak. Actually he's doing a lot better than I expected and is showing signs of maturing too. At 23 he is in the best form of his life – remember, players mature at different paces. Rafael Nadal, his opponent today, is only two years older. This year Sweeting has won his first ATP event, in Houston, finally showing signs of that promise which once made a winner of the US Open junior title.
The boy from Fort Lauderdale – out of the Bahamas mind you – showed his fighting qualities on Monday to set up this meeting, coming from two sets down for the first time in his career to beat the Spaniard Pablo Andujar. But today is another thing all together.
Nadal – what can you say? He doesn't have a weakness. That serve, those booming returns, his aggression, the way he breaks his opponents down – wow! One thing's for certain, you cannot beat him from the baseline. You have to get out on that limb, throw in a second serve first, come in to the net. In a word, gamble. You can be darn good, play your absolute best game ever and it will not be good enough to touch Rafael Nadal.
Mentally there are barriers to be broken down before that door on to Centre Court is even opened. You cannot – no way whatsoever – go out there and say, hey, I'll play my best and see if that's good enough. That's not good enough – if you take that approach you are beaten there and then. You're accepting second best.
In the US we've got the same problem with a lack of players that you guys have here. Will we ever have an age with Sampras, Agassi (who rang me in the middle of Monday night by the way, forgetting I was over here), Chang, Martin and the like all playing near the top of the game at the same time? I don't think so, and that's not just down to a lack of top-class players. It's also due to the global spread of tennis – in those days there were maybe six countries where the sport was big. Now it's truly a world game, so that means more competition.
We have to steer more young athletes to take up tennis. In the States tennis faces so much competition from other sports and my game is one that costs. When you're going up against basketball, football, soccer, it's tough to sell tennis when it can be such an expensive sport, especially when times are hard as they are now.
It would be a big help too if there were some idols around for these guys to look up to. Roddick is still flying the Stars and Stripes but he can't go on for ever, while Mardy Fish is on a high at No 9 at the moment but this is his ninth Wimbledon and he's yet to leave his mark on the grass. If Sweeting could have his day of days this afternoon...
That is one hell of a giant if, but this is the opportunity of his young life. There's no better way to get known than taking on the best player in the world on Centre Court with the world looking on. Go for it my boy. Be a man.
Today's big match: Rafael Nadal v Ryan Sweeting
How they match up
Spanish Nationality US
25 Age 23
Mallorca Residence Florida
Left-handed Plays Right-handed
6ft 1in Height 6ft 5in
1 World ranking 69
46 Career titles 1
$41.8m Career prize-money $0.69m
Winner Wimbledon last year 1R
Won (2) Wimbledon best 3R (2007)
W2 L0 Head-to-head W0 L2
1-100 Odds 49-1
Bollettieri's prediction: Nadal in four if Sweeting plays and plays.
Serena's serve kickstarts her game on emotional return
The champion's up and running
First up, Serena Williams was pretty damn good yesterday – sure there are areas that need looking at (and we'll come to those), but overall given the baggage around this first game she should be happy. Heck, I'd give her a seven or eight out of 10. A huge plus for game one.
It was a tough game, real tough at times. Aravane Rezai deserves credit, she bothered Serena in that second set. But you just can't count her out. I spoke to her afterwards – got a big hug! – and she is well aware of what she needs to do better. I spoke with Richard Williams too and you know what, all he wanted to talk about were the free breakfasts he used to get at my academy!
The best thing about yesterday was Serena's serve. It was beautiful. It surprised me too how good it was for a first game. Everything was working perfectly and that is no mean feat at this stage.
Where she has to step up a little is in her movement and putting the bad balls away. It doesn't matter where your opponent is – make your own mind up where you are going to put it and put it there. Her movement laterally occasionally left her short, but those are small things for someone who didn't even know whether she would be able to play again just a few months ago. Little wonder she was so emotional about the whole performance. The defending champion is up and running.
Federer knows when to hit big – it's another sign of his greatness
What makes Roger Federer is those moments when he needs a big serve – bang, there's a big serve. He was impressive yesterday but there were times when he had to go big against Mikhail Kukushkin and, son of a gun, he did. It's not just about the ability to do that, it's also about the confidence to do it when there is most at stake. It separates the good from the great. Guess what Roger is...
Del Potro means business
Keep an eye on Juan Martin Del Potro – the big Argentine is a big threat. At 6ft 6in he has real physical power and he was bustling yesterday in brushing off Flavio Cipolla in straight sets. He's never been past the second round here but I liked the look of him yesterday, I really did.
Mr B's A-Zee
E It has to be endurance. That's what you need at all the Grand Slams and boy do you need it at Wimbledon. It's two tough, long weeks on the grass and to win it you have to endure.
F Mr F, Roger Federer. Who else? Six Wimbledons, five on the bounce. He is up there with Pete Sampras; simply one of the greats. Roger is so cool and makes it look so effortless. Quite simply, I never get tired of watching this guy serve.
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: On a windy day, do you hit an overhead or swinging volley and why? Send me your answer (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 out a question 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. First into the hat for the grand prize is yesterday's winner, Helen Pitchforth.
Coaching tip of the day
The drop shot is a huge weapon in today's game, and the key to its success is disguise – that's the rule: you must disguise your drop shot. When lining it up use the same swing, body motion until the last moment, then drop the shot.
If anyone is after any tips on how to improve their game then get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pick out the most interesting ones.
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