Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Dossier: Magic v the Matador – bring it on
Coaching Report: Roger Federer (Swit) v Marat Safin (Rus) Centre Court
Saturday 05 July 2008
Pull up your chairs, world! We're in a for a ring-a-ding-ding on Centre Court tomorrow. This men's final could be so hot that it'll burn away the clouds and take place despite the forecast of rain. We wish. Still, we've got our dream final of Magic and Matador, and we've got it because Roger Federer was just too good for Marat Safin, while Rafael Nadal did what the planet expected against Rainer Schüttler.
There comes a point where it gets hard to say anything new about the Swiss genius who has made the Centre Court his own these past five years. He beat Safin yesterday by doing most things well and some superbly. He won the big points, man! Look at the second-set breaker to see that.
But tomorrow IS different. Roger needs this more than Nadal does. This is destiny calling. This is one more step towards Sampras's 14 Grand Slam titles. One more step to being acclaimed beyond any mother's doubt that you are the best player of all time. One more step that many people think Roger might fail to take. I'm with Federer though, just.
Yesterday the serve was on, with 14 aces, spaced neatly 6-4-4 through the three sets and Federer had no double faults at all. He hit almost 70 per cent of first serves in and won 77 per cent of those points. He mixed it up serving to both the Russian's backhand (57 per cent) and forehand (43 per cent) and he served equally wide and down the middle (44 per cent each) and to the body the other 12 per cent.
Roger whips forehands like the ball's offended him and strokes backhands with enough force to take a layer of skin off. He floats like a butterfly and stings like a wrecking ball. For match point, the ball hit the net cord and then sat up slowly before dropping. I'd guess it was scared of the beating Federer was about to give it. He hammered it.
Bye Marat. Hello Rafa!
Roger and Nadal have contrasting serves. Rafa is a leftie, which is an advantage in the ad court with the serve breaking out wide. But it's the heaviness to the Spaniard's serve that makes it dangerous for Fed's one-handed backhand. Roger's placement is amazing: it's just there when he needs it.
Nadal's forehand is interesting especially when hit running out wide because he has this ability to hook it back in, with a lot of spin. Roger has less spin.
The backhands are totally different too. Double-handed for Rafa, single for Federer. Nadal can hit unbelievable angled passing shots and deep, deep shots. Roger has regained the confidence in his backhand and it's a hugely versatile weapon.
Roger moves with ease. Rafa moves well but you wouldn't ever say he'd be able to sneak in quietly after dark! You know when he's moving. The ground rumbles. At the net, Roger can do more but Nadal is not afraid to come in.
So how do we separate them? It's hard, very hard, which is why they might just serve up one of the great finals. I hope they do. Roger Federer talked yesterday about this being his part of the year – Wimbledon, Olympics, US Open. He likes to annex summer. And he won't be giving up that right – because he takes it as his right, because he's earned the right to – easily.
He knows that already, even though he's still just 26, time is in one sense starting to run out on him, relatively. Nadal is only 22, and wants to be not just the greatest ever clay-courter, but just the greatest, period.
That's two of them, then. Pull up your chairs, world.
Take Federer to edge a thriller
Even the best playersin the world can havea mental lapse from timeto time, and Rafael Nadal seemed to have one in the second set during yesterday's victory againstRainer Schüttler. Itwas hard to understandwhy he started chippingand hitting high above his shoulder. Weird, man.Odd, like seeing a Tiger Woods double-bogey.Then he changed his shoes, and seemed to hurt hisknee a bit, but not much.And he kept picking athis pants like he does. Buthe sorted out his mojo inthe end, took care ofbusiness and reached the final. His wobble has no bearing on how I thinkhe'll play in tomorrow's final. I started the tournament giving Roger Federer the edge and I'm not jumping horses now. I take the Swiss magician to edge an absolute thriller.
For more picks, and a full record of what happens to my predictions, visit:
Today's Big Match Serena Williams v Venus Williams
Let's get this straight from the start. I'm not avoiding picking a winner because of anything to do with conspiracy theories about matches being settled before they start. That's all horseshit. I'm avoiding it because I just can't separate them. There are fine arguments to be made in favour of either of these tremendous athletes. Serena can beat Venus and has done on big occasions. Venus can beat Serena and I know the special attachment to Wimbledon will drive her hard. Serena hits the ball harder, forehand and backhand. I'd say she edges power overall on all strokes. Her serve is probably a little better overall, while not being the bigger in mph terms. But Venus is fit for this task. She'll come to the net more, mix up her play more and is capable of staying in any rally. If anything is susceptible to breaking down it might be Venus's forehand, but then Serena has days when she's not as consistent as she needs to be and if today is one of those she'll have a problem. I can say with certainty that Williams will triumph.
*Tip No11: Stretch yourself
Win a week at Bollettieri Tennis Academy
Last chance 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 (below left). 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.
It's been fun receiving all your entries and comments. Yesterday's winner for Federer-Safin was David Ward (closest score) who was among a surprise minority who said Federer in straight sets. David goes into the hat for the prize. 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. Overall winner announced on Monday.
To enter today, email me at email@example.com
Nick's tips to improve your game
My final tip of the tournament for you to improve your own play, whatever the level, is watch the Williams sisters running for the ball today and then go out and try to replicate their dedication to chasing balls down. Make sure you try to get EVERY single ball with your racket, even ones that are clearly out. Venus and Serena obviously won't do this in a Slam final but you better believe they'll be busting their guts on almost everything. Try to make a contact with every ball, any contact. Stretch your racket arm as far as it will go. Bend. Jump. Chase. Do whatever it takes. It won't be many points before you're tired but chase absolutely everything. You'll be reaching balls you thought you never had a chance to reach before you know it.
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