Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!


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I remember Vasek Pospisil playing on one of the outside courts here a few years ago, No 5 or 6 Court I think, and thinking, “This is going to be a darn fine player”. He would have been around 22 then and it might have been Sam Querry who he gave a tough game to.

He was ranked in the hundreds then and he did get as high as 25 before slipping back a bit, perhaps because he’s been concentrating on doubles, where he’s a top-five player. I’ve seen a bit of him at the IMG Academy as he and his coach, Frédéric Fontang, come down to Bradenton fairly regularly.

He’s smooth, good at everything, has fine groundstrokes and is an excellent competitor. He’s also a very nice guy. On Monday night, after he had lost a long, five-set doubles match, he was stopped on the way back to the dressing room by a fan who wanted one of those “selfies”. The guy had three attempts before he got it right and Vasek, who must have been sick, tired and pissed with it, put up with all of this, forcing a smile for the guy. That’s impressive.


One problem Pospisil has is that his workload this Wimbledon has been heavy. He’s played 19 sets of singles and 12 of men’s doubles – that’s 31 sets of tennis. Murray has played 14.

Pospisil played two five-setters on Monday – the second against Jamie Murray’s pairing. Talk about doing his little brother a favour. I bet Andy said to Jamie, “Keep him out there as long as possible”. It finished 8-6 in the fifth, with Pospisil on the losing side.

That may take a toll, but he has to bullshit himself, tell himself: “I’m in the quarter-final, baby. I feel fine, I’ve had a day’s rest and I’m raring to go.” Hell, at 25, he’s in the prime of his life and if a quarter-final on Centre Court doesn’t give him a buzz of adrenalin, nothing will.

The other problem Pospisil has is that he is playing an in-form Murray in his backyard. Murray’s lobs against Ivo Karlovic, a big, big man, were a thing of beauty. His return of serve is outstanding. When an opponent is attacking the net – and, being a doubles specialist, Pospisil likes to do that – his passing shots and lobs can make his opponent regret ever leaving the baseline.

People talk about strokes fluctuating. They do not if the foundation is solid. Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have solid lower foundations. People talk about this shot and that, forehands and backhands and the like, but many do not appreciate how important the lower half of the body is. If you have good foundations, you have balance. If not, the ball flies all over the place. If people want to get better, they should work on their foundations, on their core, on the strength in their legs.

Murray is favourite and I’d expect him to win. That ought to mean a semi-final against Federer – and that would be some contest. Federer right now is playing brilliantly and his demeanour on court matches that of those supporting him in the players’ box. He glides and they are all smooth as silk, they don’t jump up and down. Stefan Edberg and Mrs Federer are very similar – they are classy and composed.

Bad habits can be solved by tinkering, not total change...

I am often asked to change some fundamental part of a student’s game. Such an idea makes most of them panic, so in nearly six decades of teaching tennis, during which time my staff and I have come into contact with thousands of students at every level of play, I seldom tell a student that I’m planning to make specific changes. I tell them I will make “small adjustments”. These might involve minor changes to their grip or asking them to make a trigger movement.

In one case, the student never turned their shoulder when hitting a forehand volley. I asked them to try volleying with both hands on the racket, which forced the student to turn their shoulders. Once they became used to that movement, they could go back to playing single-handed.

The important thing is to know everything about your student’s game. Sometimes major changes are required and you may have to tell them this flat out. If they are concerned, I point out that Pete Sampras changed a two-handed backhand to one hand. It worked out pretty well!

But every individual is different and there are times when I simply go with their  God-given gifts.

Back in the 1980s I received a letter from a student’s mother. It read: “Dear Nick, Many thanks for giving our son a full scholarship. Please change his baseball grips on his two-handed backhand.”

I told her son to forget about the backhand. I said: “Run around your backhand and hit the Bollettieri ‘killer’ forehand. Go for it!”

He did exactly that and became No 1 in the world. His name? Jim Courier.

Coaching report: Anderson’s late collapse shows the limits of a coach’s powers

No one can read minds. We have computers, they do experiments, you can get behavioural indications, but no one can really get inside someone’s mind. If we could the world would be very different, and it would certainly be easier for coaches trying to help players.

It would, for instance, have made it simpler for the people around Kevin Anderson to find a way to settle his mind overnight as he attempted to close out his fourth-round match against Novak Djokovic. Kevin had a two-set lead on Monday – and he had further chances. He played well, very well at times, but in the end the pressure got to him. The biggest part of his game, his serve, crumbled as he double-faulted twice in succession to give Djokovic the crucial break in the final set.

What do you say to a player in Anderson’s situation? If I knew that I’d be a billionaire. You can bulls*** a player all you want, but in the end it is down to them.

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