Nick Bollettieri: Nadal knows he was well beaten, but I still think he has the edge
The Wimbledon Files
Monday 04 July 2011
That shocked me. It is no surprise that Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon – this guy is in the form of his life – but what was a huge surprise was the manner in which the big Serb did it. Wow! To go out there against Rafael Nadal, the great Nadal, who had won his last 20 games on this grass, and take on the champion like that – to go two sets up after little more than an hour, that was phenomenal tennis.
Djokovic strode out on to Centre Court with so much confidence. This year has shown him he can beat Nadal and he drew on that yesterday. That gave him a push before the match had even begun – and, from what Nadal said afterwards, that record, with Djokovic winning four out of their five final meetings, was there in the back of the man from Majorca's mind, too.
This year Djokovic has improved his serve and his forehand is better. But where he won it yesterday – in those two sets that came so close to shattering Nadal – was in his willingness to get forward. His volleying was fantastic and I tell you that it is not easy to go out there and volley against Nadal. You have to be one hell of a player to do it.
The Spaniard gets so much spin on his groundstrokes – it's heavy spin and he takes it low so the ball is below the net. It takes a magician to volley well in those circumstances, and how fitting was it that Djokovic set up match point with a serve and volley? Man, that certainly rolled the clock back. Djokovic went into the net 26 times over the four sets and came out on top in 19 of them. Djokovic played well in all aspects of his game but the other area that really impressed me yesterday was his serving, and his second serve in particular.
He averaged 93mph for that second serve, quicker than Nadal, and he won 54 per cent of points that went to his second serve – this time 10 per cent better than Nadal.
But if we are talking numbers, the one that really stands out is 74 – the number of minutes it took for Rafa to find himself two sets down. Rafa Nadal losing a set in the final of Wimbledon 6-1 – now that is unreal.
When he in turn won the third 6-1 many would have seen that as a definite change of direction in the contest. It certainly scared the hell out of Djokovic. You could see him beginning to look up at his box, he was clearly getting worried. But he showed his mental strength in holding his game together.
There were a couple of issues with Nadal's game yesterday. His slices did not work as well as they usually do – I think, if anything, they worked against him at key moments. Nadal has what I call his cowboy forehand, the one with the extravagant follow through, and I thought that suited Djokovic as it bounced shoulder high and did not have its usual zip. Djokovic's forehand was the more penetrative.
So, as world No 1, the Australian Open champion and Wimbledon champion, does this mean Novak's now the main man in the men's game? No, sir, it does not and I am sure if you asked Djokovic he would say the same. I see these two guys as being just about equal now, although at his absolute best I can still see an edge in Nadal's favour; but whoever you side with it makes for goddamn interesting times in men's tennis.
The guy who should be worried by all this is Roger Federer. The US Open is now a huge event for Roger. He's gone six Slams without winning. Holy cow does he need to get back into the picture. Losing here, from two sets up, and given his 178 and 0 record, that has had an impact. I am sure of that. He has now got these two younger guys getting clear of him: can he play catch up?
It's going to be worth watching. See you in New York.
Kvitova can dominate the women's game for years
Boy, oh boy, Maria Sharapova got whacked on Saturday. I have never, ever seen that before and this is a girl I have been watching since she was nine years old. Petra Kvitova sent a signal to the world via Centre Court – she is going to be a huge hitter in the women's game for many years to come. Man, she is only 21, playing in her first Grand Slam final and she went out there and did that. Wow!
Kvitova knocks the crap out of the ball and when it comes together she is some force. And here's the added thing: a win like this will only encourage her to hit it even harder, and with the confidence that comes from winning, more of those big shots will go in and so she becomes even harder to beat. You follow me?
I said in my preview to this game that where Kvitova hits it nobody knows and Sharapova certainly didn't know on Centre Court on Saturday. Kvitova knocked the stuffing out of the ball and it forced Sharapova to go deeper and deeper.
By the end of the match she was five to eight feet behind the baseline and if you have been a regular reader of this column then you will know that is no place to be if you want to be winning Grand Slams.
Sharapova knew it too but there was just nothing she could do about it. And another first for me – holy mackerel, I have not seen Sharapova pushed back like that before, I can tell you. It is usually Sharapova who controls matches but not on Saturday, no way.
It was simple but so effective from Kvitova. She moved Sharapova all over the court, but always backwards. That just doesn't happen to Maria. We have seen a new power – and power's the perfect word – emerge in the women's game.
Kvitova has the advantage of being a left-hander as well. That helps with the angle of her serve in particular and she used it to perfection during Saturday's final. I said beforehand that if she was to have any chance of winning, she had to go for it – and get it. She did that and then some. She is a huge hitter and at six foot has the physique to make sure the ball stays hit.
Remember Kvitova's age – Sharapova is three years older – and her relative lack of experience at this level. This is a player who is still in the early stages of her career and, given what we saw out there on Saturday afternoon, she is only going to get better and better.
Wow, she can be a formidable player. When she whacks it, it stays whacked and there are not going to be many in the game who will relish taking her on now.
Mr B's A-Zee
Y is for you. I'm talking you guys here, the people who watch and read about tennis. The British tennis fans are so different to the crowds back home. Watch the US Open and listen to the noise that goes on throughout the matches – you guys are so polite. I love that. See you next year...
Z is for zzz. After two intense weeks of non-stop tennis it's time to catch up on some rest. I'm sorry it's all over though – from day one until yesterday's men's final it's been one hell of a tournament.
Win a week at my academy
The winners of Friday and Saturday's daily questions were Julian Ashworth and Rachel O'Reilly respectively. They get a signed hat or T-shirt and they are also the last two into the hat for the grand prize, a week's tennis holiday at my IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida. Included in the prize is five days' top-class tuition and accommodation, but travel is not provided. We will let you know the winner later in the week and my guys will be in touch. Hopefully, I'll be seeing one of you at the IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy some time soon.
Coaching tip of the day
As this is the last day, here's some mental advice rather than something about your game. It is so, so tough to make it to the top and one of the things I always say you have to do to get there is visualise it. Prepare well, train the way you fight and fight the way you train – and picture yourself succeeding. Imagine what it would be like – play it out in your mind.
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