Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon 2014 Files: Radek Stepanek is in good form – he beat Andy Murray at Queen's – and will not lose his nerve but there's simply no way past Novak Djokovic
He is not a guy to lose his nerve, no matter who is on the other side of the net
Tuesday 24 June 2014
Over the course of my career, and oh baby have I been around the block a few times, there have been very few players I cannot look at and pick out a fault of some sort. Look at this guy, he won't get off the baseline; look at this one with his popgun second serve; and here's another who can't volley. But this afternoon one of the faultless ones will be on your screens. Take a good look at Novak Djokovic because you will be watching one of the most complete players in the history of tennis.
I cannot see a weakness in his game. He has got it all, every shot is tucked in his shiny locker, every goddam one of them. Man, he is good, and good to watch. He plays tennis as it is supposed to be played.
So Nick, you say, what's the point of Radek Stepanek turning up? Well, you know what you have got to do – and my man Radek will know this – you have to make a winning hand no matter what cards you have been dealt. Yes Djokovic is the favourite and a big favourite, but Stepanek can cause him some trouble.
I know both of these players very well and have an enormous amount of time for both. Good guys. Stepanek has lived on and off by the IMG Academy out in Florida for years and years. He is a good pro, knows his game and knows how to use it. His style of play is that he stands very close to the baseline, hits the ball early and flat, has a two-handed backhand, a good serve and an excellent volley – that comes from his doubles, where he is an adept performer.
He will not stay back and duke it out. Look for him to take chances, to come in and try to make Djokovic pass him. At 35 he is not a young guy any more but I tell you what, he is and always will be one hell of a fierce competitor, no matter how many years he notches up on that racket.
The big Czech also has balls of steel. He is not a guy to lose his nerve, no matter who is on the other side of the net and no matter that he has only beaten Djokovic once and that was way back in 2006 (it's eight straight wins for Novak over Radek, including here at Wimbledon two years back). Stepanek has twice won the deciding match in the Davis Cup final, in 2012 and 2013, and no one else has done that in history. That takes guts. Period.
So the heart is beating as fierce as ever and he has arrived here with a little bit of form too. He saw off Mikhail Youzhny to reach the third round at the French Open. He knocked out Andy Murray at Queen's, and played well against your boy. He went out in the semis but is hitting the ball well and had no trouble in seeing off Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas in the first round here on Monday. His serve was working well, 72 per cent first serve, and holy cow will it need to be up at those numbers minimum if he is to trouble the great man.
How do you trouble the Serb? I think you have gotta go out and pull some rabbits out of the hat. Surprise him – you have to throw out the surprises against Novak. Mix it up, hurl some curve balls. You cannot have just one pattern of play when you come up against Djokovic.
I can't see Stepanek winning – hey, that's no surprise – but it will not be the one-sided shoot-out as in Djokovic's first game on Monday – bang, bang and Andrey Golubev is dead. Stepanek can test him. There will be no messing around, it will be straight down to business because Stepanek feels this is a great opportunity. He is full of confidence and this will be an excellent match for the fans.
Big game: Djokovic v Stepanek
Novak Djokovic/Radek Stepanek
Serbia Nationality Czech
27 Age 35
Monte Carlo Residence Monte Carlo
6ft 2in Height 6ft 1in
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
No 2 World ranking No 38
44 Career titles 5
$62.2m Prize-money $10m
38-8 Wimbledon record 18-11
Winner (2011) Wimbledon best Quarter-final (2006)
Won 9 Lost 1 Head-to-head Won 1 Lost 9
Bolly's prediction Djokovic in four
Coaching report: Federer is responding to Edberg's expert advice
Job done, Roger, easy as you like. There was no stopping Federer and you wouldn't have expected it against a guy who has never won a Grand Slam match. Still, that was textbook tennis and a pleasure to watch whether you're a tennis nut or a Wimbledon occasional.
It's interesting to watch Federer since he turned to Stefan Edberg as his coach – what can a new coach do for a guy who is 32 going on 33 and has won everything there is to win and gone back and done it all again?
There is one small but obvious change to Federer's game and it's a sure sign of having Edberg up in your box. He is coming in more and that is something he has got to do here if he has to go deep into the second week. If Federer hangs back he might find it's a struggle, but it is about balance and he has to find that pivot between staying back in his comfort zone and coming forward and making a match-winning difference.
Kei Nishikori said he did not enjoy his win over Kenny de Schepper and I'm not surprised. This was a tough game, with Nishikori facing a barrage from the 6ft 8in Frenchman, but he came through it. That's the thing against a big server – hang in there for the tiebreaker and anything can happen. Kei hung in there.
Over on Centre Court it was same old, same old from Sabine Lisicki. It was not a great match against Julia Glushko and it was easy for Sabine but she will need to do plenty more and plenty better to get into the second week again. She has her weapons and when she's on song she gives her opponent such little time to respond to her booming attack but she must find more than one way to play.
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