Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Dossier: Believe, attack and think on your feet: how you beat Rafael Nadal
One of the world's greatest tennis coaches, Nick has guided many players to the top including Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova
Wednesday 02 July 2008
Andy Murray (GB) v Rafael Nadal (Sp), Centre Court
Andy Murray, today is all about you, boy. I don't just mean in the sense that the whole of Britain will be watching the biggest match of your life. I mean it needs to be all about you in your own head. About what you can do. About your strengths. Not about the other guy. We don't need to dwell on him just yet, and if I were your coach we wouldn't dwell on him at all. In my final pre-match pep talk I would not even mention his name.
He is getting enough of the hoodoo on players without anyone reminding you. Before they face him they arrive on court with a head full of poop and a one-set mental deficit at least. But he's just another opponent. Forget for a moment that you know anything about him at all. He is not of interest to us at this time. From Portugal isn't he? Small, blond right-hander?
I'm not you're coach, of course, although I have met you a few times. You have used the facilities at my academy on occasion and trained there. You've had assistance from top-level physical conditioners in our gym, also known as the International Performance Institute, where some of the biggest stars of the NFL and NBA come to get in shape.
I liked what I saw of your personality back then, and increasingly like what I see of your play, also how you are developing – and your game with it. When your mind is totally focused, that is. When you are not letting any crap bother you. When you are fully fit. And I think you're fine in all those departments right now.
Not being your coach, I can advise you to speak to your team, let them each tell you what they think about today. Absorb it – and then make up your own mind about how to play Rafael Nadal. You're the captain, you're in charge. I'm guessing that you're not into conventional game-plans because you're not a conventional young man. I support that, and I'll explain why.
In yesterday's paper, after you had beaten Richard Gasquet on Monday night, I wrote that your stated belief that you could beat Nadal – crucially different from being merely hopeful – was an attitude I liked. You think you're a winner, kid. So most important of all is to say, that's right. You can win this. See how easy it is to start believing when you're told. Most importantly, you've told yourself.
How do you win? You move as well as anyone on the Tour these days, when you're in the zone. Your serve is getting better – and needs to be better than against Gasquet. You've got great hands, believe in them.
You return serve superbly. One of Nadal's inherent left-handed advantages is the slice serve that curves low out wide. But we know that your gangling limbs can reach balls in Row A these days.
You need to be offensive. You need to attack from the start. Go in there pumped up and tap into that crowd support. They like Nadal for sure. But he's not theirs and you are, and since that tie-break on Monday you have them behind you, not on your back. Use them. Channel their energy. That could even start to get inside the Spaniard's head at some point, as surely as it got to Gasquet.
Start fast and hard and sure. Try to catch Nadal cold. Pressure his backhand side with deep forehands and then, if you can upset his rhythm just a little bit, that would be the right time to try one of your fancy drop-shot gems. Just do not expect them to work all the time against such a ferocious competitor. And if they don't, then mix it up and try to stamp your authority in a different way.
I'm not your coach so I'm saying this more for the benefit of The Independent's readers. If I was your coach, I would actually avoid any specific game-plan at all. Why? Because, boy, you're an instinctive player and instinct players fly by the seat of their pants. You do your thing.
We don't need to complicate it with instructions. Andre Agassi was the same. When he won Wimbledon in 1992 with me in his coaching box, he won because that was the year he let all his preconceptions about hating grass fall away. He just came to play ball, man, and he ended up winning.
I've called you a street fighter. You're also a fighter pilot. Those guys make adjustments that until they have to make them in a dogfight they didn't even realise they were going to have to make. You'll have to do the same today. You're in for a tough ride.
Nadal is a monster of a competitor. His forte is getting the ball over the net one more time than you. His experience will be in his favour. He's deservedly strong favourite. But today is about you, Andy. You.
HOW THEY MATCH UP...
British NATIONALITY Spanish
21 AGE 22
Dunblane PLACE OF BIRTH Mallorca
Dunblane RESIDENCE Mallorca
2005 TURNED PRO 2001
Right-handed PLAYS Left-handed
6ft 3in HEIGHT 6ft 1in
79kg WEIGHT 85kg
No 11 WORLD RANKING No 2
No 12 SEEDING No 2
5 CAREER TITLES 28
£1.2m PRIZE MONEY £9m
W9 L2 WIMBLEDON RECORD W19 L4
Q-F (2008) WIMBLEDON BEST R-U (2006-7)
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Three previous meetings. Nadal leads 3-0.
ODDS: Murray 4-1, Nadal 2-9.
Bollettieri predicts: Murray to make a fight of it but Nadal's big-stage experience to edge it.
Win a week at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy
You still have four chances to enter my easy competition to win a week's stay at my Florida academy. Travel to America and train in the footsteps of Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova and other top players. Just email to tell me who is going to win today's big match. I'm looking for a scoreline and a short forecast of how your pick will win. Each day, I'll select a daily winner, with the overall winner drawn from all those at the end of the tournament.
Thanks for your many entries so far, and I truly appreciate all your comments on the column! Yesterday's winner for Radwanska-Serena was Ben Fergie, who got the closest scoreline and described Serena's no-nonsense approach.
The competition is open to all ages. Your trip will be tailored to your requirements, junior or adult. I'll cover tuition, accommodation and meals. You buy the air ticket. Read all about the trip of last year's winner, Rachel O'Reilly, on this newspaper's website. To enter today, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick's tips to improve your game
Tip No8: Use fresh junk
Whether you're a recreational player at your local club or a pro on the elite tours, the chances are you'll come up against the same bunch of opponents time and again, either your tennis friends or your ATP/WTA rivals. Get an edge by doing something they're not expecting. That might be serve-volley; it might be more spin; it might be using a different base-court position; it might be drop shots or lobs. Mix it up. Amateurs should also remember to chase every last ball. Every single one, whether you initially think it's gettable or not. It helps your fitness and in time you'll end up getting balls you never thought possible.
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