Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files: Odds stacked against her but Heather Watson belongs on centre stage
I want to see all Heather's zip and enthusiasm, going for her shots and not being tentative
Friday 29 June 2012
Let's face facts. Whatever way you look at it, the odds are stacked against Heather Watson this afternoon. She is ranked No 103 in the world, Agnieszka Radwanska is No 3. Watson has not won a single title, Radwanska has 10. Radwanska is twice a quarter-finalist here and reached the last eight in Australia earlier this year, while this is already Watson's best performance in a Slam. Radwanska has collected more than $9m (£5.8m) in prize money – Heather Watson has lost more matches than she has won.
You cannot hide the facts and you must not hide from the facts. This is a whole different ball game for Heather and she has got to understand that.
It was eight years ago that she and her mom arrived at the IMG Bollettieri academy and, you know what, at first I didn't pay much attention to this small English girl. It was about a year later, she was around 14, when we sat up and took notice that we had a player.
Her and her mom were staying in a house just outside the academy and every day Heather would climb over the wall to get in rather than make the walk around to the gate but I tell you that is the only shortcut this girl has taken. She's a bubbly character, has a great personality and, above all, she is a worker. She has always worked hard but over the past year she has really put the time in and that is one of the reasons she is heading into the world's top 100.
A year ago, I said that her serve needed work and boy has she worked on it with Mauricio Hadad, her coach, who used to look after Maria Sharapova. She had a McEnroe stance, with both feet parallel to the baseline rather than open. When you have your feet that way, you must use your legs to thrust your whole body and right side upwards so you end up with the feet facing the serve box. If you don't do that turn, and get the power of your body into it, then you are only serving with your arm. That means less power. Now she is using her legs and she is going up and off her feet by a good two feet and getting a lot more body into her serve. At Wimbledon, she has hit 108mph in both her victories so far – that's on a par with Radwanska.
There is something else and this may be even more important. Heather has always enjoyed her tennis but I look at her out on court now and you know what I see? I see Heather Watson finally believing that she belongs out there. When you feel that, you belong somewhere, it increases your chances of getting positive results.
So what about the match? Heather said an interesting thing yesterday: "I'm going to come in more because I love to volley." That is going to be important because she has to face reality. She is 5ft 7in which is on the small side in today's game. That's why she needs to be looking to add bits to her game as she cannot stand on the baseline and trade blow for blow.
Against Radwanska, she's going to have to serve well, and take advantage of every error – because they don't happen very often. In her second-round match against Elena Vesina, Radwanska got 75 per cent of her first serves in and did not make a single unforced error in the entire match.
But if I know anything about Heather Watson it is that she will not be phased by the match today. She will embrace it.
She has got further than any British girl for a long, long time, she is on centre stage, she should just go out and whack the hell out of the ball. She's got to have fun and whatever the result is – that's the way it's going to be. I want to see all her zip and enthusiasm and going for her shots, not being tentative. Go for it Heather.
Today's big match: Radwanska v Watson
How they match up:
Polish Nationality British
23 Age 20
Krakow Residence Guernsey
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
5ft 8in Height 5ft 7in
3 World ranking 103
10 Career titles 0
$9m Career prize money $336,730
17-6 Wimbledon record 2-2
QF 2008, 09 Wimbledon best 3r 2012
0 Head-to-head 0
1-6 Odds 4-1
Bollettieri's prediction Radwanska in three.
Thoughts for the day
1. I would say this, but Nishikori is one to watch
I spent the first part of play yesterday out at Court 17 enjoying the sunshine and watching young Kei Nishikori playing. He's one of the guys from my IMG Bollettieri academy and is still based with us out in Florida.
Keep an eye on him. He's only 22 years old and is not a big man but he's got talent. He got to the quarter-finals in Australia in January and progressed to the third round in style yesterday, winning in straight sets against Florent Serra, of France.
2. If you want to know who's the daddy, ask Mr Williams
I bumped into Richard Williams yesterday morning. He told me that the other day Serena had told him I was like a second father to her. "Hey," said Richard, "that's fine by me… as long as she doesn't forget who her No 1 daddy is."
Coaching report: Andy Murray v Ivo Karlovic
The way Ivo Karlovic served yesterday – sending down those missiles at an average speed of 127mph – would have been enough to beat most people in the men's draw at the Championships. Even his second serve averaged 118mph.
But Andy Murray stood firm and let me tell you what this was a true test of. This was all about Murray's mental discipline over the course of three tough, tough hours out there on Centre Court. And he passed it with flying colours.
This was a big moment. It showed to me, and to opponents out there, that he can handle it up top. There are those who think he can be broken mentally but yesterday he stood fast and said, "No way, man".
This is the influence of Ivan Lendl and this is where Murray's new coach has had such a big impact. It was no easy second-round match yesterday – Karlovic played well, served well and got to the net. Rhythm can be difficult to find against such an opponent, which all players are desperate to do.
Murray returned well, as we knew he would, across the four sets and served well too – he gave Karlovic only one break point throughout.
But here's a key number – Murray made just eight unforced errors. Now you can talk of serves and volleys and backhands all night but that last figure says it all to me. This match was won because he stayed stable in the mind. It was a major breakthrough and it suggests to me that he will go well into the second week.
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