Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

THE WIMBLEDON FILES

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The Independent Online

Milos Raonic is getting close to becoming a contender. He made the semi-finals here last year, the quarter-finals in Paris last year and in Melbourne in January. Each time, however, he lost in straight sets – admittedly to Roger Federer at Wimbledon and Novak Djokovic in the other two.

So while I think the Canadian has improved every part of his game, he needs to show he can withstand the pressure when he gets into those big games against big players.

He has a thumping serve and moves quite well for a big guy, but for him to win a Grand Slam he has to come in 30-40 per cent more.

Today he’s playing a guy I have known since he turned up at my academy as an 11-year-old. Tommy Haas was homesick then and went back to Germany, but at 13 he came back to Florida and stayed. He’s 37 now and he’s been a terrific player who, but for injuries, would have won a lot more. Typically he is coming back from surgery on his right shoulder. A shoulder injury is a killer for a tennis player. The deeper this match goes, the more that goes against Tommy because his shoulder will get tired.

For Tommy the secret today will be returning serve. When you have a serve like Raonic’s, which can produce an ace at any time, it puts a lot of pressure on the other guy to win his serve. But if you can break their serve one time, or just get to a tie-breaker, you have a chance. In the tie-breaker anything can happen, you just need a lucky net cord or something.

This game creates character – don’t try to take a short cut

Sport has been my entire life. I’ve been a tennis teacher for nearly six decades and, as in every other sport, technique and physical and mental conditioning are the main objects of a coach’s attention. You want your students to win and you try to help them do so.

But even though I am a competitive guy, even I believe sport is about more than winning. Sport and its coaches should also teach character development.

Character is described in the dictionary with reference to qualities such as honesty, courage and integrity. Sports in general teach these qualities and more – especially tennis.

Every beginner receives lessons in losing because losing is common at the beginning of everyone’s competitive experience. Learning to accept these losses and make the necessary adjustments to reverse the trajectory is a primary experience in tennis and in life. It is the thoughtful, calculated determination to change a negative situation into a positive one that separates a winner from a loser – on the tennis court and off it. Think for a moment about athletes who inject anabolic steroids into their bodies to improve performance. It is common knowledge that the long-term negative effects can be life-threatening. But winning immediately is more important to them than what might happen in the hazy, distant future. People with depth of character can see beyond the winning and losing, which are fleeting conditions however great the prize. Damaging your body and mind with injections will alter the quality of your entire life sooner or later. And we don’t know whether it will be sooner or later.

I ask all parents – and coaches, who are often in loco parentis – to consider the odds against their child making it into the top 100 in the tennis world (outside of which it can be a struggle to make a decent living). Under the very best of circumstances – the best coaches, unlimited financial resources – the chances are slim. The rest of your child’s life is far more important to focus on.

Help your child develop his or her brand as someone who can be trusted, someone who is reliable and someone who will always choose the “high road”.

It won’t go unnoticed. That well-developed character will help provide success in every aspect of your child’s life. And yes, someone of upstanding character will also make a great tennis player!

COACHING REPORT

Watson showed true grit but Robson needs time

Heather Watson is a plucky girl and she really showed that. The break at one set all on Monday night due to bad light hurt her, she was on a roll. She had to start all over again yesterday and there were times when she had us all worried. But she showed real guts to hang in there, then seal the deal. It wasn’t about who had the best technique, it was about grit, she said: “I refuse to lose.”

Sadly for you guys, Heather is the only British woman left after Laura Robson lost. It was always going to be tough for Laura coming back from a wrist injury. That is one of the toughest for players to deal with, especially for a lefty – for some reason they are more handsy. Robson has a big forehand with good racket-head speed.

If you don’t have that and can’t hit through the ball, it makes a big difference. So while Laura will have been disappointed to lose, she will have taken encouragement. She played some good points but needs two to three more treatments to get that feeling of confidence back on court. But she’s on the way back.

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