After the latest capitulation how can Novak Djokovic turn his form around?

Capitulation is the word that comes to mind as Novak Djokovic fell in three sets to Dominic Thiem in Paris in a defeat which underlines issues in his game and the last set of tennis from the former world number one is something we haven’t seen before.

We do have to sit here at the same time and congratulate Thiem for a very good performance but as the match went on it became less than a challenge against a man who this time last year held all four Grand Slam titles but now none…

Over the past 12 months there has been a lot of talk about personal life and of course recently made a big decision to split from his entire coaching team just a month or so ago and has recently added Andre Agassi to his team but it is unknown how long he will stick around for but either way there is plenty of work to do.

When Novak Djokovic was at his best the parts of his game which we spoke time and time again was his movement and of course his backhand which were his biggest strengths and now we are talking about these shots again but because they have become his biggest weakness in his game but what has changed?

Funnily enough a few days into the tournament on Game, Set and Mats coach of Serena Williams Patrick Mouratoglu was on talking about the former world number one’s backhand and how he seems to be rushing it and trying to take it early/too quick but also I’ve noticed a slump in his movement making it difficult to be effective and put himself on the front foot and his opponent under pressure.

The stats tell just a small side of the story, whether Novak is outside the tram line or inside the tram line the % of points won when the backhand is used is down around 20% from last year which can mean a number of things.

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This is just one backhand of many I could have chosen and you can see a tight push from the defending champion hitting the ball with no conviction producing an error and dropping the set.

I wrote a moment ago about Novak winning a smaller % on the backhand and this still above helps highlight a little bit of this. What is usually a well measured and time shot is rushed and panicked which you can below from the finishing position on the backhand, what is this?

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The higher % of points he has lost are usually ones he does win and  we can talk forehands and backhands until the cows come home but before we can even trust a shot you have to trust your movement and that movement which was second to none is now non-existent.

It’s gone from a free-hitting and ruthless backhand to a wooden and flat shot.

Is this something that you just put down to confidence or motivation? Winning Roland Garros last year was the final piece of the puzzle and we then saw the emotion in Rio when he missed out on another Olympic Medal.

Feliciano brings flair and craft to see of Stan

Feliciano Lopez has kept his good form going with a very solid and creative performance to see off what looked like an injured Stan Wawrinka following the Spaniard’s title win last week in Stuttgart on the grass and with this form it does make him a dangerous player.

From the beginning of the match the whole feeling seemed a bit flat with if anything too comfortable for Feliciano in particular to hold serve with that big lefty serve, variety and that crafty play he brings to the court.

Towards the end of the match we saw more and more brilliance from the Spaniard who took advantage of the situation Stan was in with the recent French Open finalist seeming to have some issues with his knee and struggling to respond and react quickly enough to have a chance but one moment where Stan looked to have got the better of Lopez with a lob the Spaniard replied in style.

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Chasing down the lob his shot placement was perfect running around to go for that forehand down the line which he found!

On the other side it is a worrying time for Stan who after a long couple of weeks in Paris still doesn’t look ready for the grass being knocked out in the first round for the second year running at Queen’s and with this knee injury it puts chances of doing well at Wimbledon (a tournament he’s never been past the quarter finals in) in doubt.

Thanasi Kokkinakis stuns a flat Milos Raonic at Queens!

 

Finalist here at Queens Club last year and at Wimbledon all eyes were on Milos Raonic who showed some promising signs in set one seeing 8 break points but failing on all occasions to convert them in what was a very flat and disappointing opening set from the Canadian who didn’t move well at the back of the court with Thanasi Kokkinakis able to send passing shots past him and his net play was ineffective winning 2/5 shots but the three he didn’t win were horrific errors.

The second set continued with the same theme with low key holds of serve with that emphasis and expectation on the Canadian to break serve and find something which has propelled him to the top end of the rankings and a forehand error from the Australian at 3-4 30-30 set up a break point but poor defencive play by Milos sent the game back to deuce trying to use the slice to keep a rally going but benefiting Thanasi more than himself instead of rushing the Australian.

Once again we were treated to a tie-break and once the Canadian found himself up 6-3 it looked like being a formality however Kokkinakis who has recently just returned from a two year injury nightmare had another idea and finished the match with a beautiful backhand down the line knocking out last year’s runner up.

After the O2 finals in London I spoke about the need to win big points for Raonic to become a contender and that is emphasised once again today.

All credit to Thanasi!

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Halep must look forward after Roland Garros defeat!

Simona Halep had her best fortnight of tennis for three years. For the second time in her career the Romanian fought to a Roland Garros final but fell short despite being in a greater position this time around leading by a set and a break but must move on quickly as she can’t afford to look back.

Halep is a player who plays with her a heart on her sleeve which I like to see from a player to show that emotion but it can also become a bad thing as you can quickly become your own worst enemy.

Earlier on in the year Halep around Australia and Indian Wells Halep wasn’t playing well and you could see tensions from he ron court and showed a lot of emotion to her coach but before Madrid she spoke about how it’s behind her and how she is focusing more on court and in Madrid when she won the title she looked sharp.

Unfortunately in Rome it fell short for her after a bad ankle roll and for the first few matches at Roland Garros I was watching and thinking to myself don’t get carried away as she is carrying this injury but throughout the whole fortnight she was professional and composed and even in defeat she stood there like a champion and one day her day will come.

Many players on the tour have made finals and won titles but struggled to find that motivation and confidence and there has been a struggle but she can do it and with the tour so open at the moment opportunity will knock again soon but you cannot look backwards otherwise success may be hard to find.

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Next up for Halep will be Wimbledon, the Romanian doesn’t usually play a warm-up event and after a long few weeks on the clay the rest might do her some good as she looks for her first major title.

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In this sport, some things are just meant to be. After a tough 3 years after winning his 9th Roland Garros Rafal Nadal etches his name onto that famous trophy for a 10th time which is incredible!

After making the final in Australia all talk turned to that Roland Garros title aiming for number 10 but Nadal always saying 9 is his favourite number but he might be re-evaluating that right now.

Over the past three years he has struggled with injuries and form but as well as celebrating another major for the Spaniard also celebrate and praise his work ethic and commitment to always trying to be a better player. When things got tough after Grand Slam No.14 you couldn’t fault him if he decided to hang up his racket at this point but he wasn’t done and I have a feeling he isn’t done yet.

Even the best can go through that period of having a lack of confidence which shows despite title after title they are human and you can see what it meant to him to win once again and in style, the forehand was immense but his consistency throughout the fortnight in Paris was special dropping just 35 games in 7 matches which is his lowest number of games dropped during his run to 10 titles!

VAMOS!

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Go big and go home (with your first title)

Jelena Ostapenko was never at Roland Garros to make up the numbers. The Latvian was ranked at 47 in the world and 19 when the tournament began now she will be ranked as high as 12 and just turned 20 and what a way to celebrate than with your first career title which is just one of the four majors in the world so no big deal!

Jelena’s style of play is what helped propel her to an unthinkable title in which she hit 299 winners in 7 matches which is unheard of in tennis, Nadal hit 118 in his first 5 matches!

Every match Jelena arrived with a ‘go big or go home’ style of tennis and she did go big from the first to last match and went big, went home but with a Grand Slam title.

There was never any pressure on Ostapenko. With respect she never came into Roland Garros with much expectation on her which brings pressure and as the tournament went on and on she continued to play more freely seeing off Puig, Stosur, Wozniacki, Bacsinzky and Halep on her way to winning the title.

She wasn’t phased by anything and the crowd got behind her and her explosive style of tennis as she went from strength to strength with no fear and this could be the start of something major.

I still don’t feel there will be too much pressure on her which we have seen in the past from young players in her position. She seems to be a young lady with her feet on the ground coached by her mother and former top 20 player Anabel Medina the future does look good for the Latvian who no matter was thrown at her these last couple of weeks in Paris played with a smile on her face!

Well done Jelena!

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Photo credit – Getty Images 

3-6 1-5, Simona Survives!

In her post match interview Simona Halep said she didn’t know she was match point down in the second set tie-break. The Romanian turned her quarter final around in incredible style and deserves a lot of credit for the grit she showed from 3-6 1-5 down in the match to turn it around at the last moment possible winning 12 of the next 13 games to keep her dream of winning her first major alive.

At the same time I do feel for Svitolina who’s game capitulated and it looks like a case of seeing the finish line before it was reached.

The whole tournament so far has shown such a big step in Halep’s mental preparation, guts and determination on the court which she has lacked for a while and even admitted herself a short break from her coach made her realise she needs to be more controlled and composed on the court and what I enjoy seeing come the end of a match is that fist pump from Halep. She doesn’t overreact to winning but she knows it’s a job gone and she is two wins away from her greatest completed job!

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