Nick Bollettieri: Roddick needs a flying start to banish memories of Federer
The Wimbledon files
Wednesday 23 June 2010
This is a potential firecracker match-up because it will represent the first real test of Andy Roddick's credentials as a tournament contender against someone who can cause him problems. Llodra is a big, strong guy with a powerful serve, and (like Roddick) has a game that is suited to the grass. He can serve and volley, and he's a leftie – which gives him all the usual advantages, including the slice serve out wide.
Llodra's in good form, having won recently on grass at Eastbourne and reached the quarters at Queen's, beating strong players including Marin Cilic on the way. Llodra has also been working recently with Amélie Mauresmo, a compatriot of the same age who knows what it takes to win the singles in SW19 having lifted the Wimbledon ladies title in 2006.
I find it fascinating, and heartening that Mauresmo is working as a mentor. One could argue that she underachieved in grand slams, and suffered at times with the mental side of the game, but she certainly seems to be helping Llodra now. Roddick's slam record still stands at just one – the US Open in 2003. But there is mitigation: he has played in the age of Federer, losing three Wimbledon finals alone to the GOAT. Andy will need a big serving day, but then I fully expect him to produce one.
The key to the match for me will be how well Roddick returns Llodra's serves. If Roddick can get an early read on it and get into the groove, his progress is going to be smoother – but it won't be easy.
Roddick has improved his backhand, using his left hand more, and he's now able to dip the ball further by playing from above the shoulder. He's in great shape physically; he's happily married and therefore at ease generally, and he seems to be full of confidence.
I know some people might ask whether Roddick has been affected by what happened last year here, when he was defeatedby Federer again despite playing out of his skin. I personally don't think that's an issue at this stage.
It's going to come down to tennis, pure and simple – which means two big servers battling to make sure their biggest weapons are firing. If Roddick copes with Llodra's serve better than vice versa then Roddick will win. Also key will be who converts more break points, and again you'd favour Roddick because he's comfortable on this stage whereas Llodra has never been past the second round here.
I would imagine that Roddick will have the crowd on his side. The Wimbledon fans seem to have soft spot for him and evidently appreciate what he's achieved here.
I think Roddick will win, but it won't be a cakewalk. He'll certainly get tested by the leftie serve. I don't think it'll be straight sets.
Today's big match: Michael Llodra v Andy Roddick
HOW THEY MATCH UP
French ......... Nationality ......... American
30 ......... Age ......... 27
Rueil-Malmaison......... Residence ......... Austin
Left-handed ......... Plays ......... Right-handed
6ft 3in ......... Height ......... 6ft 2in
No 37 ......... World ranking ......... No 7
5 ......... Career titles ......... 29
$5.2m ......... Career prize money ......... $18.4m
W5 L9 ......... Wimbledon record ......... W35 L9
R (Five times) ......... Wimbledon best ......... R-up (Three)
Head-to-head ......... Leads 2-0
4-1 ......... Odds ......... 1-5
Bollettieri's prediction Roddick in four tough sets
Coaching report: Rafael Nadal v Kei Nishikori: Rafa's serve looks in good nick but my man is still one to keep an eye on
Rafael Nadal opened the 'defence' of his 2008 title with a straight-sets win over one of my students, Kei Nishikori, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, but it wasn't the stroll the score suggests. I bumped into Rafa afterwards and congratulated him. His serve especially has improved on its considerable qualities. That biting slow slice to the ad court was a real problem for Kei. Rafa looked fit, mobile and strong, and that all bodes well for a long run.
I then saw Kei and we had a quick chat about what a positive performance he'd given as he returns from his long-term arm injury. There were games where Kei was 40-0 ahead and 15-40 up on Rafa's serve that he subsequently lost, but the point is not to dwell on letting slip those positions but that he was competitive in those games in the first place. He's a young guy and a big star at home and a major hope for Japanese sport. Getting his recovery right is more important than achieving it quickly.
You gotta tell it like you see it
I was sitting on a bench in the sun before play started yesterday and Michelle Larcher de Brito walked past, ahead of her match on Centre Court with Serena Williams. Michelle is still only 17 but has been at my academy for years. "Hey Michelle," I said. She looked at me, a little annoyed. "Two sets?" she said. Whoops, I thought. She'd read my online predictions that had forecast a two-set win for Serena. "Two sets, Nick? Two sets, eh?" I just said to her I had to give an honest view and her only prayer lay with outright attack. I'm not in any way pleased, for my prediction's sake, that it came true. It wasn't about suggesting an easy match, just an acknowledgement that Serena is a great champion, in great shape, and would be a tough opponent for anyone in the world.
Michelle bangs that ball like crazy. She has a strength and force to her game that belies her frame. She's a battler and a fighter and mentally tough. But the lesson here is she lacks variety and needs to realise she must add it to her game. She's a talented girl but in the modern game you need weapons – plural. You gotta tell it like you see it.
Murray in a hurry, home to Surrey, job done
Andy Murray got off to the perfect start with his three-set win over the Czech world No90, Jan Hajek, and it was more impressive, not less, for the quick bounce back from a break down to be 1-3 behind in that first set. Murray put enough on the ball to control it well, and control the match. He looked confident and got the tricky opening match out the way. Psychologically he's made an important step, quickly and efficiently, towards week two.
World cup of tennis
I try to predict soccer matches in South Africa based upon the strengths of the nations in tennis, and by assessing national sporting personalities through the traits of tennis players I've known and worked with. Then, I project my findings onto the soccer and see what happens. And Holy Cow! Yesterday we hit a bull's eye in predicting that France would come a cropper against the hosts. Domenech's troubled side let their petulance get the better of them.
USA v Algeria
This is a mismatch in tennis terms because there's just one Algerian player in the world's top 1,000 (that's Lamine Ouahab at No 160), while even with US tennis not at a peak there are 66 American men inside the top 1,000 and eight inside the top 100, including Andy Roddick at No 7. On that count, the US are going to come out on top today.
Even in soccer terms the US win, with Algeria ranked No 30 in the world against the US's No 14.
What if we take a US soccer player and an Algerian player and imagine who'd win a tennis match? Let's pit Landon Donovan – who I know because he trained at our soccer academy, which was the US base at one time – against Portsmouth's Nadir Belhadj.
I imagine Belhadj having good footwork, and his strength and stature could help him be a power server. But Donovan is a good all-round athlete and a brilliant thinker, so he'd win. USA today? Yes.
Win a week at my academy
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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 score line, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday's winner was: Julie Kurtzman.
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