Holy smoke, what a semi-final line-up we have. I wasn’t alone in saying before Wimbledon that this year’s champion would be one of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal – and the three guys have looked better than ever. Roberto Bautista Agut, who meets Djokovic in the semis, must be feeling like a gatecrasher at a Buckingham Palace garden party.
The Big Three have all played brilliantly at this tournament, but on this occasion I thought Djokovic was the pick of them. Has there ever been a more complete player than this guy? Man, he has everything, from his serve to his return, from his volleys to his drop shots, from his touch to his movement, from his balance to his speed. He just has no weaknesses. David Goffin is a fine player, but he just couldn’t handle Djokovic’s all-round excellence.
Any debate over the greatest player of all time will not be resolved here this week, but Djokovic is staking a strong claim. There were times earlier this year when his level seemed to have dipped, but he is now looking back to his absolute best.
While Djokovic will take nothing for granted against Bautista Agut, I’m sure he’s relishing the thought of Federer and Nadal beating each other up in their first meeting at Wimbledon for 11 years.
In the quarter-finals Kei Nishikori pushed Federer as hard as he could. Nishikori moves as well as anybody, is a great shot-maker, volleys beautifully and has a wonderful two-handed backhand down the line, but the pressure is always on him when he doesn’t get his first serve in. At the very highest level his second serve just isn’t quite good enough
Nadal played as well as he needed to in order to beat Sam Querrey. Big Sam’s serve was always going to be his biggest weapon but Nadal broke him six times, which is some achievement.
Thursday’s match of the day
Barbora Strycova was very clever in the way she outmanoeuvred Johanna Konta in the quarter-finals, but I think she’ll be hard pressed to do the same against Serena Williams in the semis. She will just have to try and go out there and play loose, knowing she has nothing to lose.
Strycova will never be able to outhit Serena, so I’ll expect her to play with the same variety of shots that Konta found so hard to handle. She’ll have to throw in some surprise attacks and get into the net on occasions, all the time mixing her game up with some drop shots and variations of pace. In terms of power Serena will always come out on top, so Strycova has to find other ways to win.
I see Simona Halep as the slight favourite to beat Elina Svitolina in the other semi-final, but it could be close. She’ll need to stay very positive and not get emotional out there.
If you have a question for me – whether it’s about how to improve your game, training techniques or anything else – just email me at QuestionsforNickB@gmail.com.
One reader – I’m afraid she didn’t leave her name – says that she has a decent forehand but has trouble hitting the shot on the run. What should she do to correct that?
The secret to hitting the ball on the run is to have the racket in position by the time you get to the point of contact. It’s no good arriving there and having your racket dangling out in front of you. When you reach the ball you should have already taken the racket back, ready to begin your swing. By the time you get to the point of contact you should have completed your backswing. Now you just have the forward part of the swing left to complete.
My A-Z of the IMG
Llooking back over my life at the IMG Academy in Florida which I founded in 1978
Q is for Qatar, which is one of many interesting countries where I was invited to hold coaching clinics as a result of the academy’s reputation.
Danielle, my daughter did some research before our first trip there and provided a list of things we should and should not do. One of the tips was never to use a toothpick in the presence of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruler of Qatar.
One evening we attended a feast with the sheikh. Some of the meat stuck in my teeth, but I resisted the urge to do anything about it until I saw the sheikh pull out a large toothpick. “You’re my man!” I told the sheikh before relating what my daughter had told us. He burst into laughter – and I proceeded to pick my teeth.
R is for Richard Williams, the father of Serena and Venus, who first brought his girls to the academy when they were nine and 10 years old. I can’t speak highly enough of Richard and the way he brought up his girls to be fine people as well as wonderful tennis players. At one of our first meetings he told me his girls were going to be “bigger stars than Michael Jordan”.
For more information on the IMG Academy’s tennis programmes email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +1-800-872-6425
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