Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Dossier: Del Potro has the weapons to floor Hewitt
Exclusive briefing from the man who has coached players from Agassi to Sharapova and the Williams sisters
Thursday 25 June 2009
Today's big match: Juan Martin del Potro v Lleyton Hewitt
Juan Martin del Potro is one exciting player. When I first saw this kid play about three or four years ago, I knew he was going to be something special, and it hasn't surprised me that he's climbed the rankings and broken records. In the fall last year, when he was still a teenager, he became the first man in ATP history to win his first four titles on the bounce, in Stuttgart, Kitzbühel, LA and Washington.
He's a big boy, 6ft 6in of physical freak in the same way that the Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt is freaky. Del Potro too is comfortable in his big shell, and moves extremely well. He's got excellent groundstrokes, takes the ball early and hard. He can also volley, and when he does move in his nimbleness defies his height. His two-handed backhand is excellent. He's more than capable of reaching deep into that second week if he maintains his smooth consistency. If I were in the draw, I certainly wouldn't want to run into the guy this fortnight.
We know all about Lleyton Hewitt and regular readers will know of my admiration for the scrapping Aussie fighter. I'd want him in my foxhole. He'll never go down without leaving it all out there. But he's had injuries, and he took the last part of 2008 off to have surgery to his damaged hip and then recuperate. He returned early this year. Anything at all that hinders his movement is going to detract from his game. His whole game is based around his movement, which allows him to keep that ball in play.
Here's how I envisage the game will unfold. Del Potro will have a big serving day, which will give him a significant advantage, but not the only one because he's got a lot of weapons. He'll move well, and if his first match against the veteran Frenchman Arnaud Clément is any sign, he'll look languid as he tangles with a much older, wiser opponent. Del Potro popped Clément 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 and while I can't see Hewitt being on the end of a beating like that, I think Del Potro has the tools to do a job today and Hewitt will be left looking for half-chances.
If the 2002 Wimbledon champion has a prayer, it will come from going for broke, probably from the get-go. Not that we should assume he would struggle for stamina in a long scrap. He had a five-setter early on in Paris that he won. And he fought a gutsy battle with the in-form Andy Roddick at Queen's. Today could be tasty.
Tale of the tape
Juan Martin del Potro Name Lleyton Hewitt
Argentinian Nationality Australian
20 Age 28
Tandil Place of birth Adelaide
Tandil Residence Sydney
2005 Turned pro 1998
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
6ft 6in Height 5ft 11in
83kg Weight 77kg
No 5 World ranking No 56
No 5 Wimbledon seeding Unseeded
5 Career titles 27
£1.6m Career prize-money £10m
W3 L2 Wimbledon record W32 L9
R (2007-9) Wimbledon best Winner (2002)
1-2 Odds 7-4
Head-to-head: No previous meetings
Bollettieri's prediction: Del Potro in four sets
Improve your game: The volley
Has Britain got talent?
On the evidence of clinics this week, yes. On Tuesday night at Halton Tennis Club in Buckinghamshire, there were hundreds of kids, oozing enthusiasm. And I'll be at the David Lloyd Club in Cambridge tomorrow.
To digress, as a former US paratrooper, I was truly thrilled at Halton that they presented me with the gift of a painting of US troops parachuting into the Netherlands in the Second World War, and it was signed by the four last surviving members of the real-life Band of Brothers. Awesome.
Back to my main theme, I also have exciting news for British tennis of a 10-year-old, Mia Harris from Kent, who came to the academy for a couple of weeks recently. She has the most sensational one-handed backhanded. We're talking mini-Justine Henin. She's also a leftie. The kid's special. I'm gonna give her a scholarship.
There's a reason why Maria's going home early
Well, we knew it was a possibility and I said as much in the tournament preview. Given that she's had a serious shoulder injury that has limited her matches this year, it was always in doubt whether she would last the fortnight. After going out in three sets to Gisela Dulko, Maria said: "I just couldn't go up and hit the serve with the same velocity as the first two sets." I think that's her exit in a nutshell. Understandably, she's not back in top condition yet. End of.
On a more positive note I was thrilled that Daniela Hantuchova came through against Zheng Jie. It's the result my heart wanted even while head thought it might not happen. Daniela mixed it up in her 6-3, 7-5 win, with graceful, varied play, executed with new confidence.
Murray's return of serve will see him past Gulbis
I believe so. Murray's performance against Robert Kendrick impressed me. Why? His return of serve was his biggest weapon and that's significant against a big-serving guy like Kendrick, who came out and played brilliantly in a first set he should probably have won. Instead, Kendrick took the second. I believe it's just what Andy needed for his first match. A proper test. And he passed it with some variation of play, a bit of biting slice and a good helping of cojones.
Let's face it. When it's just you versus the opponent, the yoga guy can't help, nor the stretch man or the dietician. It's all about striding on to Centre Court with a nation's hopes on your shoulders and shrugging them off. Coping with pressure is what this tournament will be all about for Andy. One match at a time, boy.
Improve your game: The volley
For all players out there, I invite you to email me your tennis problems and I'll try to help out. Steve Parker wrote to ask about his volleying, which is on target all the time in practice, but, he says, "awful in matches". Well, Steve, I think your problem is probably not technical if you can execute at times but not others. So it could be mental. You could try "reversing your mind", repeating "I'm practising" in your head while you play a match. When I have this problem with students, I make all practice more competitive.
The A to Z of Bollettieri: Snapshots from 53 years as a top tennis coach
G is for Gottfried (Brian) and Gilbert (Brad), two ex-students of mine who went on to become coaches and are both back working as part-time coaches at my academy. Gottfried reached world No 3. He hated tomatoes. Every time we went out to eat, he put them under the table! Gilbert you'll know more about. He reached No 4 in the world, has coached [Andre] Agassi, [Andy] Roddick and Andy Murray. And Holy Cow! Was Gilbert an ugly player! I started wearing shades so I couldn't see him! But he knew how to win.
H is for Hunger, or the essence of success that can make a good player great and an ordinary player special. By hunger I mean turning up before the coach, working harder all day, and then begging for more. The hungriest female player I've ever known in my life was Monica Seles, skinny as a rail but tungsten tough, and the hungriest man was Jim Courier, big, clumsy and indefatigable. The sheer intensity of desire to make good of themselves on the court drove them on. What they lacked in zip they replaced with hard, hard work.
Win a week in Florida at my tennis academy
Want a week's tennis holiday at my academy in Florida? Included in the prize is five days' top-class tuition, accommodation in our poolside clubhouse, and all meals. The winner arranges the travel. 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.
At the end of the tournament, all the daily winners will go into a hat, and one overall winner will be chosen.
Tuesday's winner was Sebastian Foss. Yesterday's was Chris Blake. Both enter the hat. Email me at: email@example.com
I look forward to meeting the winner.
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