Nick Bollettieri: Murray must stay on the ball mentally as the pressure builds
The Wimbledon Files
Monday 27 June 2011
These two have an interesting history. Two meetings in the Grand Slams, two times Richard Gasquet gets two sets ahead and two times it's Andy Murray who goes through. That has to say something about the make-up of these two guys.
It was in last year's French Open and Wimbledon in 2008 that those matches happened, but there is another factor that adds to the mix since that last amazing match-up on the grass here. The expectation on Murray now is greater coming into this year's event than ever and now we are into the second week – with three rounds safely negotiated – that pressure is only going to ratchet up some.
On paper, Murray is a better player than Gasquet, although the French guy's no slouch. Murray has the game, sure, but it is how he will handle the pressure that will determine what happens to him for the rest of this week.
Holy cow, it's going to be some watch, some week – all these great players involved and some big talents too. I will also be keeping a close eye on Court 18 today where Bernard Tomic, a young guy who could become a star, is taking on Xavier Malisse, an old pro playing the best tennis of his career.
And you know why Malisse is playing so well? He told me that, for the first time in ages, he is absolutely switched on and settled upstairs – and that, I'm telling you guys, is what Murray will have to be too if we are going to still be talking about him come the end of the week. This will be a good test today on Centre. Gasquet has been smooth so far; three matches, no sets dropped. Murray has dropped a set in two of his three rounds. Gasquet has seen off Santiago Giraldo, then Igor Kunitsyn and on Friday he cruised past Simone Bolelli, the Italian wild card, and looked pretty damn good as he did.
He has the weapons. A big first serve – at times it's got more firepower than Murray's – and he's been making his mark with it in his matches so far. His first serve percentage has been pretty impressive: 68 per cent, 62 and 71 in his three matches. Murray's has not been so consistent: 70, 54 and 61 against Ivan Ljubicic under the roof on Friday (incidentally I think the roof being shut suits Murray – but no chance today with this forecast and being first on) and those figures need to climb the deeper we get into the tournament.
Gasquet has a one-handed backhand with an extreme semi-western grip, and that is a sight you rarely see these days. Roger Federer is the modern master of the one-handed backhand, but Gasquet is no slouch, that's for sure, and I like seeing a player deliver this shot well. But there are areas where Murray has the advantage. Gasquet moves well on the whole but he can be a little stiff.
As we come into the second week the balls will begin to bounce higher as the courts flatten out a little, especially with all this hot weather that's forecast, and that helps Murray for this match-up. The longer rallies go on, the better for Murray as he has the better legs. His second serve is also more dangerous and he returns as well as, if not better than, Gasquet.
As I said, on paper Murray is the winner. But he has to withstand that pressure. Let him blow his top if he wants – I don't mind that in a player as long as he maintains that mental discipline that at times slips. Having watched him closely last week, I am much more confident that he can control his emotions and vary his game enough. He certainly has enough to win today.
Today's big match: Andy Murray v Richard Gasquet
British Nationality French
24 Age 25
London Residence Neuchâtel
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
6ft 3in Height 6ft 1in
4 World ranking 13
17 Career titles 6
$16m Career prize-money $5.5m
W26 L5 Wimbledon record W14 L5
Semi-final (2) Wimbledon best Semi-final
W2 L2 Head-to-head W2 L2
1-4 Odds 11-4
Bollettieri's prediction: Murray in four sets
Girls grunt, guys grunt. So why all the hot air about it?
I just don't goddam believe it. It's 2011, isn't it? And I'm still being asked about grunting in the women's game. Let me be blunt, because this is an issue I am sick and tired of: cut the crap and just play the game.
Women grunt when they hit the ball in tennis, men grunt when they hit the ball – hell, Andy Murray does, sometimes – soccer players do it, they do it in baseball, they do it in plenty of sports. It happens but nobody's breaking the sound barrier or going atomic. Let them get out there and play.
I've coached, or helped out, a lot of these guys who people accuse of grunting – like it's some sort of crime – and we've never coached them to grunt. It's just something they do naturally.
Tennis has dealt with this issue. There's two players out there and an umpire. If there's a problem they can deal with it. An umpire can sort it. A player can complain if they don't like the noise coming from the other side of the net. And if those guys can't settle it between themselves then there's the tournament referee.
There are different reasons why players grunt. Monica Seles grunted from the start – when she was at my IMG academy she always grunted, it was just how she hit the ball. She was 11 or 12 when she arrived in Florida and there she was, grunting.
That's generally what it's all about, when you hit the ball you let the air out – you exhale, and for some players that comes out as a noise as they unload all that effort into the shot. Bang – oooff.
Do players use it to try and put off their opponents? Not that I know of. There are plenty of areas that can be used to get under your opponent's skin – look what Marco Baghdatis did against Novak Djokovic on Saturday. Boy, that was a good game to watch. Baghdatis did as I predicted in this column on Saturday morning by playing to the crowd and Djokovic got rattled. His reaction did surprise me, especially given how cool he has been over the past couple of years.
It was fun to watch, though, and that's what watching tennis is supposed to be about, having fun. And talking about tennis, forget the grunting, watch the game. So here's the message to all you fans and writers about tennis out there who are on about grunting – let it be, guys.
Mr B's A-Zee
M is for mind. You got to think to win. All of the ability in the world counts for nothing if you don't have it up top. Think about it – you have to be able to look ahead in a rally and dictate how it develops. And you have to be tough up top for when the going gets hard.
N is for Nadal. Oh boy, what a player. He has the lot on any surface – the serve, the return, you name it – as two Wimbledon titles, one Australian, one US and six French titles by the tender age of 25 amply demonstrate.
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 his or her 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.
What you have to do is answer this question: Study the order of play and tell me who will be today's first winner, men or women. Send me your answer (and predict the time they will progress, in case we need a tie-break) to: firstname.lastname@example.org and the correct one will win a signed hat or T-shirt.
I'll be putting a different question every day and all the winners will go into the hat for the big prize, to be drawn at the end of the Wimbledon fortnight: a week at the IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy.
Coaching Tip of the Day
The second serve is so important – not least because it means you can gamble more on your first serve. There are four areas to work on, and you should practise each one in turn, concentrating just on that skill before you try and draw it all together. The four areas to improve are: consistency, accuracy, pace and spin.
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