Nick Bollettieri: Wimbledon Dossier

Skipping can help Pierce to make ripping start
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Williams found her comfort zone early and control of first set was decisive as French hope took too long to open fire

Williams found her comfort zone early and control of first set was decisive as French hope took too long to open fire

Mary Pierce's match against Venus Williams yesterday came alive as a contest only in the second set, and that's why Venus won. The first set was handed to her far too easily. It gave her a margin of comfort. So even when Mary got into her stride - for which she deserves credit, as it turned into an entertaining battle - it was always going to be an uphill task.

The reason for the slow start is something that we, Mary's whole team, need to address. In the French Open final, she just wasn't there at the start and before she realised, Justine Henin had the match sewn up. After the first set yesterday, I feared we might have a repeat. So what might cause it?

Complacency? Absolutely not against Venus. I had my pre-match chat with Mary on Monday night. She was up for this match. We didn't need to talk strategy. It was just a case of: "Go for it. And attack Venus's second serve at every chance."

Nerves? Perhaps, a little, though Venus played well out there. The story of that first set was Venus playing well, and Mary making too many errors.

So what else might it be? I believe that Mary needs some adjustments to her physical routine in the minutes just before she comes out to play. Perhaps a different warm-up. Perhaps we'll get her to do a bit of work with the skipping rope, so that she comes out on to the court sweating, not fresh.

For some players, that bit of physical exertion before they play allows them to go out there already warm, loosened up, ready. You don't then waste a set getting into that condition.

I know that Venus and Serena used to follow that routine, skipping to a sweat just before going out. It could be something we will look at with Mary. We need to do something for these later stages of Grand Slams. Because Mary wants to keep heading up and we want to help her get there.

The second set gave us some tremendous entertainment. There was a call that Mary thought should have gone her way but those things even out.

If you want to point to a couple of things before the tie-break, at five games each, with Venus serving, Mary missed the chance of a passing shot when Venus came in to the net, which might have earned her a break of serve. And Mary could have hit a few more balls down the centre, and moved Venus around a little more.

In the tie-break, Mary didn't convert any of five set points. I think her best chance was when leading 6-4 and serving, but she hit a forehand in the net. Later she could have gone 7-6 ahead but she hit a wild shot over the baseline.

You don't know what's in a player's head at any moment. Mary gets a little excited at times. That's just how it is. The main reason Mary lost the match was that first set.

Returns the key for Federer win

Fernando Gonzalez will prove an interesting test for Roger Federer because of three factors: his serve, his forehand and a marked improvement in his mentality. For too long he was known for the amount of unforced errors in his game, but he's toughened up and it shows. If he's on his game today, he can really test Federer, but still I believe Federer's returns are so good that he'll cope with Gonzalez's booming groundstrokes and edge it in four. Feliciano Lopez, like Gonzalez, is another guy who you wouldn't necessarily have expected to thrive on grass but meets Lleyton Hewitt for a place in the semis. It's not an easy match to predict. Like the Federer match, the Hewitt match could swing on the quality of the returns. I take that to give Hewitt the edge, in four or five sets. David Nalbandian showed endurance and experience to defeat Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet. With the teenagers gone, he's now up against an old-timer, Thomas Johannson, who's solid and likes the surface. I take Nalbandian's greater all-round strengths to see him through.

Today's Big Match: Sébastien Grosjean v Andy Roddick

These guys are pretty close friends. They often practise together in Boca Raton. But they know how to put that aside for a tennis match and I expect full-blooded commitment from both sides for the duration today. Grosjean moves extremely well, he's got an all-court game, and we know he loves the grass, with an excellent Wimbledon record. He's also a fighter, as he showed in five sets in the fourth round. But today I believe he'll need to get ahead early and stay there to stand a chance. Roddick has a huge weapon in his serve, but he's also moving well, volleying well and making fewer unforced errors. Even his backhand, which opponents have often relied on to provide them with points, has improved, and people know they're not getting much change from trying to pressure that. I can also see a greater resilience in a calmer Roddick, the kind of resilience where if he gets into situations like 40-15 down on his own serve, or advantage down, he's compose d enough and confident enough in his serve to dig himself out. That calm is significant, as is his one massive weapon versus Grosjean's lack of a single devastating weapon.

You ask the questions

Q What is the best tennis match you've ever seen? And what non-tennis sporting event, if any, would have dragged you away from that match?

P McAleenan, Hackney

A For obvious, personal reasons, the single best match in my mind is Andre Agassi beating Goran Ivanisevic for the 1992 Wimbledon title. Other contenders, for their drama and excellence as all-time, five-set classics, would be Borg and McEnroe in 1980, and then Jimmy Connors against Aaron Krickstein in the US Open in 1991, when Connors, on his 39th birthday, came from 5-2 down in the fifth to win on a tie-break. My favourite non-tennis sporting event is the Super Bowl, and it's hard for anything, tennis included, to keep me away from that. If I had to choose between watching the Super Bowl or one of those matches, it wouldn't be an easy pick. I'd go to one and take a TV with me to watch the other one as well.

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