Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Dossier: Karlovic must hurry to end Tsonga's tricks
Exclusive briefing from the man who has coached players from Agassi to Sharapova and the Williams sisters
Friday 26 June 2009
This has the potential to be a terrific match, a real contrast of styles. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has great ability and nobody on the Tour questions that. But he's had a few injuries and perhaps he hasn't achieved what his ability demands. He's always been a strong guy, he is an offensive player, he's built on powerful foundations. And he gets the fans on his side.
One of his big shots is the backhand down the line. He also doesn't hesitate to use that big runaround forehand. And he is a purist in the sense that he likes to serve-volley and will do it on the lawns here. In short, he's a crowd pleaser, fun to watch.
Ivo Karlovic recently spent a month at my academy. He is a mountain of a guy (at 6ft 10in, the tallest man ever to play on the Tour) but a real gentleman, and not afraid of hard work. His major weapon is obviously that enormous serve. He's one of the few guys who is actually big enough to hit down on the ball when serving. He has also got a good forehand.
I'd talked to him a few times after bumping into him on the road and he asked if he could come and see if we could help his game at all. We identified a weakness in that he went to the slice too easily. We worked on two specific things. First, we worked on him hitting over the ball on his backhand, not slicing. Second, we've got him to move closer to the net for his first volley.
This is an interesting match-up, not just in style but temperament. Tsonga has a flamboyance about him. Ivo is a cool operator who won't say a word. He stands tall, statue-like. I think you can try to take his pulse on court and fail to find one. But he's a helluva nice guy.
To win this match, Ivo will have to serve big, look to close points out quickly, and come forward. If Ivo's serve falters, it's advantage to Tsonga. Also, I think if Ivo doesn't shoot Tsonga down quickly, as in the first three sets, then Tsonga takes the initiative in that situation, too.
In other men's matches in the bottom half of the draw, I have got to say good luck to my boy Tommy Haas against Igor Andreev. I thought it was a classy touch for him to play with those kids on Court One the other day when Michael Llodra retired after colliding with the ball girl. And elsewhere, though I like the look of Philipp Kohlschreiber, his tournament will end today when he faces Roger Federer, who looks ominously good.
Today's big match: Ivo Karlovic v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Ivo Karlovic Name Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Croatian Nationality French
30 Age 24
Zagreb Place of birth Le Mans
Zagreb Residence La Rippe, Swit
2000 Turned pro 2004
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
6ft 10in Height 6ft 2in
104kg Weight 91kg
No 36 World ranking No 9
No 22 Wimbledon seeding No 9
4 Career titles 4
£1.6m Career prize-money £1.5m
W7 L6 Wimbledon record W5 L1
4R (2004) Wimbledon best 4R (2007)
7-4 Odds 8-15
Head-to-head: One previous meeting – Tsonga won
Bollettieri's prediction: Karlovic in three, otherwise Tsonga
You can tell a winner by his body language
On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of dining at the famous London restaurant The Ivy. The food was wonderful, the ambience terrific. It's a simple but elegant place, with a fantastic mix of people. It was packed with beautiful, attractive women. Let's put it this way; a guy could get in a lot of trouble in a place like that!
Jerry Springer was in for dinner. I was also introduced to Terry Venables, who is, of course, a former manager of the England football team. I was fascinated to hear about one of Terry's current projects – he's building a sports academy in Spain. So we're in the same business, and we had a good chat about that. I was impressed with him. He oozed confidence. He's a strong-looking guy, charming but clearly a no-nonsense operator. You can tell he's a player in more ways than one.
Lleyton Hewitt is one astonishing fighter
I was astonished and elated for Lleyton Hewitt as he beat Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets yesterday. Holy mackerel! Who could have predicted that? Not me. I picked the Argentinian guy, although in mitigation I did also write yesterday that Hewitt just never gives up and his prayer of a chance lay in going for broke early.
Boy, did he do that, neutralising the power of Del Potro by turning it right back at him with wonderful, attacking returns. Lleyton moved well, no sign of injury. Time and again he hit behind Del Potro, who couldn't reverse position. Del Potro never once made a change of pace on his serve, which helped Lleyton, who knew what was coming every time. I wonder too if hero worship hurt the South American. He said this week Lleyton was his hero. Maybe facing him messed his head a bit.
Doh! How did we get that wrong?
I wrote yesterday about a hugely promising 10-year-old girl from Kent called Mia, who has a wonderful, Henin-esque, single-handed backhand. I'm giving her a scholarship. I'm famously not good with names at the best of times and I got her surname wrong. Sorry, Mia. In the heat of battle, I threw in a double-fault! By the way, folks, that full name is Mia Smith. Remember it.
On the subject of players with promise, yesterday I went out to watch Sabine Lisicki beat Patricia Mayr. Sabine is 19, German-born of Polish parents, and she's lived at my academy and trained there for about four years now. Sabine's focus broke down a few times but she pulled through and it's the result that matters. Well done, Sabine. Next up is Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Improve your game: Playing against the wall
For all players out there, I invite you to email me your tennis problems and I'll try to help. Today's question comes from Fayaz Shah, who has relocated from the UK to Dubai, where there's limited court access for his six-year-old. Fayaz writes: "I've been wanting to get him to start grooving his shots against a wall. Will regular practice against the wall benefit his development?" In short, yes. The greatest practice partner in the world is the wall, or the backboard as I call it. Nobody ever beat a backboard.
The A to Z of Bollettieri: Snapshots from 53 years as a top tennis coach
I is for Ice cream, as in the full-sized ice-cream parlour that I built in one room of my house some years ago, because I felt like it. I had a condo and I didn't like the lady who lived next door, so I bought hers. Then I bought two more, and knocked them altogether to build an eight-bedroom mansion. Why? So I could also house some of my students. Anna Kournikova lived there, and Tommy Haas and others. We also put in a games room, and an old- fashioned ice-cream parlour. Life should be entertaining, otherwise what's the point?
J is for Jelena Jankovic, who I like to jest has a preference for three-set matches as often as possible. Why? Because she's an actress who wants more TV time. She actually does want to be an actress at some stage of her career and she loves being the centre of attention. I know Jelena well. She trained at my academy for a long time. So I know her temperament and her potential. But really it is still potential, not fulfilled achievement. She reached No 1 last year but was the first woman in tour history to get there not having won a Slam.
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. Yesterday's winner was Sebastian Foss (second daily win this week for him!) and he goes into the hat, again. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to meeting the winner.
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