Nick Bollettieri: Murray can show us he's a true Braveheart
Today's big match: Andy Murray vs Robert Kendrick
Tuesday 23 June 2009
Let's deal with Kendrick first, and fairly swiftly, as I anticipate Andy Murray will today. He's got a big serve, and excellent groundstrokes for a big buy. And he has a bit of Wimbledon form from 2006 that says he can be a danger on his day. Against Rafael Nadal that year, he won the first two sets before going down in five to the Spanish beefcake. His one big weapon is his serve. But in every other important department, Murray outclasses him.
Andy's serve is good too, and getting better. He also moves better than Kendrick, he's more versatile, he reads the court so well, sniffing out chances with the instincts of a champion. Murray is mentally tough, and creative too. In short, the Scot is my kind of player.
He's a bit off the wall, in a good way. He's an individual who knows his own mind and acts on it. He has a goal in his professional life and he's going to achieve it his way. Perhaps the biggest single illustration of that so far was when he parted terms with Brad Gilbert, a world-renowned, top-class coach.
Andy made that decision and it's worked out for him. I know Brad well. I've met Andy a few times when he's come to use the facilities at my academy for warm-weather training. Great guy. But I've never been party to any private details of how their split came about, nor would I expect to be. My educated guess would be that Andy wanted his own team around him, not a coach part-selected and funded by someone else, however generously, as the LTA helped fund Brad. Andy wanted to do his own thing, in his own way, and he wanted his team around him 365 days a year, which is not something that suited Brad in any case.
Back to today's action: will it kick-start a fortnight that ends with Murray as Wimbledon champion? I think it'll be tough, not least while Federer is around, but then Andy has said as much himself. I do believe, though, that he has a gritty hard-nosed edge to him that equips him to go further than Tim Henman ever did.
I was a huge Henman fan and still am. The guy oozes class, on and off the court. But whereas Tim was more of a "West Pointer" or naval cadet, Andy Murray is a paratrooper. Regular readers will know I have a "foxhole test" to judge the guts of players, guys who I would want in my foxhole in a war. Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi. Fighters. Men of bottle and graft and heart. Men like Murray.
Tale of the tape
Andy Murray vs Robert Kendrick
British Nationality American
22 Age 29
Dunblane Place of birth California
Dunblane Residence Orlando
2005 Turned pro 2000
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
6ft 3in Height 6ft 3in
84kg Weight 86kg
No3 World ranking No76
No3 Wimbledon seeding Unseeded
12 Career titles 0
£3.6m Career prize money £500,000
W9 L3 Wimbledon record W1 L3
QF (2008) Wimbledon best 2R (2006)
1-40 Odds 20-1
Head-to-head: Murray leads 3-0
Bollettieri's prediction: Murray in three sets, four maximum.
The A to Z of Bollettieri: Snapshots from 53 years as a top tennis coach
*C is for Control of all behaviour that impacts on a player's physical condition: training, sleep, diet. But you need to know when to cut special individuals some slack. I fondly recall Andre Agassi at one French Open. Our hotel was the luxury George V. Yet every night Andre stayed up watching horror films and then sent me out for $200 of McDonalds for the whole entourage! We'd eat in the freezing cold because Andre insisted on having the air con on its lowest setting. A champion's lifestyle, eh? Something worked.
D is for Defence Aggression, or the manner in which a player reacts to a defensive shot by an opponent. Do they play it back routinely, preferring to wait for errors by the opponent? Or do they rip it up? Watching any new player, I'll look for indicators that tell me things about them, like how they hold themselves on court, which can reveal bits of personality. I want players who want to tear the other guy apart. Faced with a tentative serve, Andre never failed to pounce on the ball and wallop hell out of it.
Win a week in Florida at my tennis academy
*Want a week's tennis holiday at my academy in Florida? Included in the prize is five days' top-class tuition, accommodation in our poolside clubhouse, and all meals. The winner arranges the travel. All you have to do is email to tell me who will win today's big match. I want a specific score line, and as a tie-breaker, a one-sentence summary of the manner in which your pick will win. At the end of the tournament, all the daily winners will go into a hat, and one overall winner will be chosen. Yesterday's winner was Kris Adewoye, who is the first person into the hat. Email me at email@example.com
I look forward to meeting the winner.
Improve your game: Down the line winners
*For all of you players out there, I invite you to email me your tennis questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me your problems, and I'll try to help out. I had an email from Chris Brown, Richmond, wanting to know how to stop hitting so many wayward shots when switching direction from a series of crosscourt balls to an attempted winner down the line instead. In short, hit with conviction; hesitancy hurts. And play round the ball – don't open the racket face.
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