Nick Bollettieri: If Soderling goes for the jugular, he will cut down Nadal again
The Wimbledon files
Wednesday 30 June 2010
Robin Soderling is a big, powerful, dangerous Scandinavian beast and he is capable of taking down Rafa Nadal in this afternoon's match of the day. I would not even class that as a shock because Soderling has been so impressive in recent seasons and has also scored some memorable wins against Rafa. The only proviso I put on Soderling's chances is that he has to win quickly – and he's capable of doing that – or else he'll tire quicker and the better stamina of the Spanish world No1 will prevail.
On that basis, I'm going to stick my neck out and say Soderling to win in three sets. But if it goes beyond that, the pendulum swings in Rafa's direction. And there is no way that Rafa is going to win this match in three. If there is a question mark against Soderling it is whether he's recovered from a sapping five-setter against David Ferrer in the scorching heat of Monday. But he should be fine, in which case Rafa better watch out. This Viking can rampage and pillage results with the best of them.
Soderling has a massive serve that he's good at placing. His backhand is excellent. He can volley. And his forehand is just brutal, man, an awesome weapon when on song, and as dangerous as a cannon. In the past, some people questioned Soderling's mental toughness but he has changed. There's a quiet, positive arrogance about him now and that's probably down to some of the great results he has had, including against Nadal.
They've met six times, and while Rafa leads 4-2, Soderling has won two of their three previous meetings. Rafa won the last one – on clay at the French Open, in the final. But Soderling won the two meetings before that, in September in London and the fourth round at Roland Garros last year. This pair's only previous meeting on grass was not a romp for Nadal either: that was in 2007 and Soderling took it to five sets after losing the first two.
We know all about Rafa: his big leftie serve and his good movement and devastating shot-making when he needs it, allied with power, all piled on foundations of baseliner consistency and heavy spin. He said after his last match that he's fit and healthy and we must take him on his word because he's not a moaner and groaner, and tells it like it is.
Can Rafa win? Of course. He can win this and he can go on and win the tournament in what has already been a brilliant year that included another French Open crown after three other titles back-to-back. Rafa can and will win a lot more Slam titles.
But I really do think he is susceptible to being steamrollered if Soderling comes out all guns blazing and at the top of his game.
Today's big match: Robin Soderling v Rafael Nadal
How they match up:
Swedish Nationality Spanish
25 Age 24
Monaco Residence Majorca
2001 Turned pro 2001
Right-handed Plays Left-handed
6ft 4in Height 6ft 1in
No 6 World ranking No 1
5 Career titles 40
$7.1m Career prize money $31.2m
W12 L7 Wimbledon record W26 L4
QF (2010) Wimbledon best Winner (2008)
6-4 Odds 4-7
Head-to-head: Nadal leads 4-2
My prediction: Soderling in three, otherwise Nadal
Coaching report: Tsvetana Pironkova v Venus Williams
Venus Williams' defeat at the hands of Tsvetana Pironkova yesterday ranks right up there with the big shocks at Wimbledon because the Williams sisters love this event and this arena and they're wonderful players on grass.
Pironkova, from Bulgaria, spoke after the match about the number of grass courts in her country – none at all, baby! – so it's not like she has pedigree on the surface. OK, so she'd beaten Venus once before, four years ago in Australia, but this pair could meet 10 times on grass and I wouldn't be surprised if Venus won all 10. That's the size of the shock in my eyes.
How did it happen? Venus made an atypically large number of errors, quite a few of them unforced. As Venus said: "I definitely made too many contributions to her."
But you have to hand huge credit to Pironkova, and her coaching team, their strategy, and the application of the game plan. The single thing that stood out for me were the low chops on the forehand – karate shots, I call them – hit with the racket face open, with little pace. They were low and slow and they helped to kill Venus. Pironkova never let Venus settle, she moved her around, junked her, served down the line. Venus couldn't cope and she fell apart.
Zvonareva did what I said, and look what happened
Vera Zvonareva needs to stay calm to win, and Kim Clijsters needs to avoid playing bang-bang ball against an opponent who excels at it to avoid defeat. That's what I said in yesterday's preview. Vera stayed calm, Clijsters got involved in bang-bang and went down. Zvonareva served well, moved superbly, which was key to her ability to match Clijsters in long rallies, but most importantly kept her head even when things went against her early on.
Serena progress is not assured
Serena Williams took care of business against Na Li yesterday to reach the semis again, although the Chinese girl did herself no favours with her faltering service game from 40-0 up at the end of the first set, to lose that game. But one look at some of the crazy results we've had and Serena needs to stay focused. Don't look ahead. Take it one match at time. Don't start assuming that the title's yours because you're the only Slam winner left. Andre Agassi never looked ahead. In fact he never wanted to know the draw. Truly. We'd just tell him who he was facing the night before and provide a little information. That's the way he liked it.
Complacency is one route to defeat.
If anyone has a tennis question they'd like me to answer, either about my life in in the game, or how to improve your own performance, please email to the address below.
The sender of the week's best question wins a signed T-shirt and baseball cap from my academy. Today's question, from Martin Wilson, is: "Who are your favourite players you've ever worked with?"
Martin, that's like asking a parent to pick their favourite child: impossible to say. It's easier to define a few players who were unique to me in their own ways. Monica Seles was the most disciplined player I've ever taught. Jim Courier was the finest example of a workhorse for his effort every day. My "Holy Cow" award for sheer, natural athletic talent goes to Venus and Serena Williams.
Andre Agassi, who I regard with huge affection and was central to one of the great sporting moments of my life – the 1992 Wimbledon win – gets the "How on earth did he reach that?" award. Max Mirnyi and Tommy Haas, with me since they were young, are like surrogate sons. I've been blessed to work with so many more wonderful and interesting stars from Anna Kournikova to Boris Becker and Maria Sharapova.
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Andy Roddick's defeat on Monday evening to Yen-Hsun Lu was a huge shock because there was nothing in the Taiwanese player's tennis background to suggest it would happen. Andy himself said his returns were "crap" for three sets, and yes, that did for him. But Lu played and stayed great, and then proved hugely entertaining with anecdotes about his late chicken-catching father.
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All you have to do is email to tell me who will win today's big match. I want a specific scoreline, and as a tie-breaker, a one-sentence summary of the manner in which your pick will win. All winners go into a hat, with one overall winner picked from there. Email: email@example.com
Yesterday's winner was Rachel O'Reilly (again).
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