Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Dossier: Murray exudes what Britain needs
Coaching Report: Andy Murray (GB) v Richard Gasquet (Fr) Centre Court
Tuesday 01 July 2008
Warning! Anyone of a delicate temperament should look away now. That's not just the message they should have flashed on your BBC screens last night before Andy Murray's rollercoaster victory that will go down in Wimbledon folklore. It's also what I advise right now. Anyone who finds strong, honest opinion, robustly expressed, in any way offensive, go read something else.
Because Holy Sweet Mackerel, what your Braveheart did above all last night was show that when it's time to get down in the dirt and fight for your life, you can hurl your prim, proper, etiquette bullshit right out of the nearest window.
Murray is a street fighter and my God he fought tooth and nail last night. You cannot bottle what he had out there. That was something frickin' else in the cojones department.
That's what British tennis needs. Those balls. That attitude. That giving of every sinew of your being in your quest to be a champion. Extrapolate that into your search for young warriors across the nation, and get tougher in the way you develop them to be hardened battlers instead of pampered cheerful losers and British tennis might actually start to get somewhere.
Murray never gave up the ghost for one single second. You could see that in his pumped-up face the whole way through. He was within a couple of points of being sent on his way on his own British territory but you wanna know what I think he was thinking? "This is horseshit!
"I will not lose this match. This is mine. So screw you, non-believers, watch me pull this one from the fire."
And that's what he did. With intelligence. With physical superiority imposed more and more as the match wore on.
He was physically fitter than Gasquet and it showed and it told in the end. And he was mentally tougher too. And he never gave up. Giving up is bull. If we're going to get technical here – and there is no great need because this above all is about desire – then we need to say just a few things. Murray's serve, which is generally improved, was not that great last night, down at 55 per cent of first serves in. And he didn't actually do too well on the break points. He had 15 of them and only converted four in the match.
But Holy Cow! Look at what else he's got in that locker. Those drop shots. That running until the last. That court coverage. Those soft hands that are rapidly making his touch game a delight, as I wrote yesterday morning when I said I thought he would win. He's got a whole lot of shots as well. But it was what I believe you people call "bottle" that made this thing happen.
I would be lying if I said I thought it would go five sets in such a remarkable way though. Like most other people I thought Andy was pretty much dead and buried in the third.
But then The Kid goes and does his Lazarus trick. What sheer bloody guts he showed. A lot of guys would have thrown in the towel that close to what seemed like inevitable defeat.
And then immediately afterwards Murray comes out and says he believes he can beat Nadal tomorrow! Attaboy! I like your style. Murray believes. He believes. Belief is good. Mere hope is bullshit in this context, at the sharp end of hard competitive sport.
Can Murray beat Nadal now?
I think we all need to go and have a long lie down in a darkened room before we come to that. Tomorrow is another day, a whole new, wholly tougher challenge all over again.
Williams to win in straight sets
Tamarine Tanasugarn caused an upset yesterday by ousting the No 2 seed, Jelena Jankovic, but in my view the Thai got lucky on a day when Jelena was below-par. So I take Venus Williams to beat her in their quarter-final today and would be surprised if it wasn't straight sets. Jelena was carrying an injury, but more than anything this defeat should tell her she needs to add more to her game. She's just too predictable these days. Venus had a comfortable passage to the last eight, but what impressed me most was her attitude to being stuck out on Court 2. In at least one post-match interview she said she was glad it gave a whole different lot of folks a chance to see her. She sounded like she meant it, and that's part of the mark of her being a great champion. Jelena moaned about an outside court, which tells its own story. For more picks, and a full record of what happens to my predictions, visit:
Today's Big Match Agnieszka Radwanska v Serena Williams
HEAD-TO-HEAD: One previous meeting, Williams leads 1-0.
ODDS: Radwanska 2-1, Williams 2-5.
Bollettieri predicts: Williams, after being tested.
Agnieszka Radwanska is a hard-hitting cookie who can cause Serena some problems. The Polish girl can hit damaging strokes from both sides. I think that if you'd asked Serena before Radwanska beat Svetlana Kuznetsova yesterday which one she would prefer to face, she would have said Kuznetsova, who has a solid physical foundation but less dimensions to her game. Serena would have found it easier to move her around east-west and hurt her while she wandered. Radwanska, though lower ranked, has more shots in her locker. If I were advising Serena, I would tell her to hit deep down the centre. That line of attack is to try to eradicate those forehand and backhand shots down the side that Radwanska is so good at. Serena is the clear favourite, and deservedly so. She WILL be tested, and that's not a bad thing at this stage. But she'll be in show court territory from now and both she and her sister Venus know they now have a fantastic chance to reach a final against each other.
Win a Week at Bollettieri Tennis Academy
You still have five 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 Federer-Hewitt was last year's overall winner, Rachel O'Reilly, who got the closest scoreline and provided good analysis about why. Rachel 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 about the trip of last year's winner, Rachel, on this newspaper's website. To enter today, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick's tips to improve your game
*No 7: Hit-recover-watch.
A point ain't over 'til it's over. So even if you think you've just bammed the greatest forehand that your town has ever seen, man, don't just stand there and watch it; make sure you start on your recovery step first. Far too many players hit-watch-recover, when really they need to hit-recover and THEN watch. To my mind, the recovery step is part of the stroke, moving your feet into the position from where they'll take you where you need to move next. Study what Roger Federer does with his feet the moment after connecting with the ball. Federer is the best in the business, movement so good you can't see it. Lleyton Hewitt is magnificent too.
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