Nick Bollettieri: 'I've had an absolute ball here. Hell I even wore a tie'
Monday 10 July 2006
I spoke to Brad Gilbert yesterday, minutes after the Swiss Sorcerer had carved himself another notch in tennis history. "Hey, buddy, what did you make of that?" I asked. "Big Onions," said Brad. To translate that into Italian for you, Big Balls.
I agree. That was what Roger Federer showed out there on Centre Court, because, believe me, Rafael Nadal is one hell of a player. He, too, has the potential to be a great, and never has there been as much pressure on Roger to step up to the plate and remind his Spanish opponent what entry to the pantheon is all about.
We know he has it all, but in this match I thought that Roger's slice was key in a first set where Nadal took time to get going. Chop, chop. One set up. Now come back at me. Nadal did, but Federer moved up the gears, winning the second set on the breaker.
Federer's serve was so important. It is possibly one of the most underrated tools in world tennis - and that's even when we rate it sky-high. It was immense yesterday. Power. Placement. Variety. Consistency. At its best at the biggest moments.
Still Nadal hung on, winning the third-set breaker. Holy Mackerel. Here we go. Nadal's battling spirit is incredible. But Federer stepped up again, while remaining oh so composed the entire time.
The rivalry is well and truly on. I can't wait for the US Open now, for Federer to attempt to move to nine Grand Slam titles, while Nadal tries to stop him. We could be in for some spectacles between these two in the years to come. And if the end of yesterday's match was any indication - class and humility from Federer in victory, and a smile and graciousness from Nadal in defeat - we have much to savour.
Two things stood out for me in Amélie Mauresmo's championship-winning performance on Saturday, and neither of them had anything to do with nerves. (It seems she really has that cracked).
The first notable thing was her serve-volley strategy, which is rare to the point of hardly existing, even on grass. That she made a conscious decision to continue this against Justine Henin-Hardenne - who can mix up her game, and is the best volleyer in the world - was encouraging for all purists.
Mauresmo then showed the courage of her conviction: after losing the opening set, she had faith in her game plan. Amélie's win is good for the women's game. It means that the big hitters - the sheer power players like Maria Sharapova - have been thrown a challenge. Either they introduce new elements into their own game to, or they have to find some new level of ballistics - actual missiles maybe?! - to prevail through power alone.
Thank you to everyone who emailed to apply for a one-month scholarship at my academy. We were inundated with your stories, and I have personally read every one. The winner is Christopher Elliott, a 15-year-old from Caterham in Surrey, and I look forward to seeing him in Florida later this year. But I was so impressed by all your passion for tennis, and by the calibre of your applications. I wrote last week that I would not be able to respond personally to every email, but I will try my very best over the coming weeks to do just that. It might take some time!
Back to the scholarship, I could easily have drawn up a shortlist of 20 great kids, and I struggled to cut that again to eight (in what I thought of as "the quarters") and eventually to one.
But in recognition of those who made it to "the quarters", I'll be sending each of the following a signed runners-up prize. They are: Harriette Withers, Matt Pilling, Alan Midwinter, David McKenzie-James, Amy Ryan, Megan Williams and Zach Davis.
Class is permanent
Among all the questions about Venus Williams' early exit as the defending singles champion, it's important to highlight that she stayed around, and competitively so, to play in the mixed doubles along with Bob Bryan. Venus showed her respect to the Club and the Championships. And she showed, most importantly, she still respects the game and is hungry to play. The Williams story is not over yet...
A Wimbledon ball
I've had an absolute ball at the All England Club, from a chilly first morning to the scorchers we had off and on the court from there on in. I was delighted to meet Roger Draper and hope I can help the Lawn Tennis Association.
I was humbled to be invited to lunch with the LTA president, Stuart Smith, and to be introduced to the All England Club dignitaries. Hell, I even wore a tie that day! And I was delighted to receive all your emails and letters, and to meet so many of you in London. It was a special tournament. Here's to next year.
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