Following elbow issues Novak Djokovic has a new serve, so how will it hold up?

After missing the last 6 months of the year with elbow the trouble the former world number one has returned to his most successful tournament with a new serve but what are changes and how will it do?

Changing the serve is massive and is something which will take time to adapt and you’d imagine this is something that has been worked on for quite some time. So let’s take a look!

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The first two pictures are from 2016 and the last one is from 2018. Straight away you can see the first motion has been reduced heavily this year. When he tosses the ball up in the air its a shorter toss and instead of going with the arm out straight and bringing it in he tosses the ball now and immediately begins to bring the right elbow down but with less snap than before and is looking to create that snap and kick off the serve with the bend in his chest.

If you look at the pictures the first two the body is straight but with this new serve with less pull back on the elbow more power is generated through the body.

The new serve could mean a decrease in speed and is something we and Novak will learn in these first few weeks. We did see it in Kooyong against Hewitt and Thiem but you can’t read much into it via a exhibition match. A positive with the serve is with the way his body is positioned now it does give more reaction time to restart on the baseline or potentially go forward if that what he feels like doing.

The concern if the serve is slower even by 5mph which sounds a lot but is nothing in tennis could be tempting for opponents so it will be interesting to see what unfolds during this fortnight in Melbourne.

First up for Novak is Donald Young in just over 12 hours time and then if he comes through that a match most likely with Gael Monfils.

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Australian Open Day 1 – Bencic stuns, Grigor and Rafa cruise but top American’s fall!

The Australian Open never fails to deliver and on day 1 we saw some surprises and of course upsets as the seasons major opener got under way at Melbourne Park

American Wipe-out!

The day began with 13 American’s taking court in Melbourne and the number 13 ended up being unlucky for with only 3 American’s progressing to round two. Incredibly the day saw Jack Sock, Coco Vandeweghe, John Isner, Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams amongst others lose with the only winners being Ryan Harrison, Nicole Gibbs and 22 year old qualifier Mackenzie McDonald!

Venus out! Bencic through!

Belinda Bencic’ comeback from injury has been exceptional. The Swiss star has battled hard on the tour winning a long streak of matches before joining up with Roger Federer in Perth where they won the Hopman Cup but has now fully announced her return with this big win against last years Runner up!

Welcome Rafa!

After a few months off the world number one looks very sharp and was very impressive in his 6-1 6-1 6-1 victory against Estrella Burgos. The biggest cheer of the evening in Australia was when Nadal’s serve was broken by Burgos but nothing was stopping this man in his quest for another title down under!

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Marathon wins for youngsters!

Kevin Anderson and David Ferrer came up against Kyle Edmund and Andrey Rublev respectively but their time in Australia has been short lived for this year as the Brit and the Russian managed to construct good solid wins against two tour regulars who know what it takes to go deep in majors!

Business as usual!

On a day of a few surprises there were wins for Wozniacki and Svitolina (who were both very impressive). Dimitrov was also in action winning 3,2 and 1 as well as wins for Ostapenko, Kyrgios and Cilic whilst tour veteran Victor Troicki had to come from two sets down but also a shoutout to Monica Puig who fought incredibly hard against home favourite Sam Stosur to come through in three sets.

Day 2 will see Sharapova, Djokovic, Federer and many more in action!

 

Australian Open Preview – Thanasi Kokkinakis v Daniil Medvedev

The wait is over. The Australian Open is back and one player Australian’s are happy to see back is Thanasi Kokkinakis. Having burst onto the scene a couple of years back with some impressive performances injuries have halted the young Aussie but he has worked extremely hard to be competitive on the tour once again.

Thanasi played alongside fellow Aussie Daria Gavrilova at the season opener in Perth for the Hopman Cup and he was impressive securing a solid three set win over top 10 Alex Zverev.

The challenge for Thanasi in round one is Daniil Medvedev, the Russian is a difficult customer to play against and was in great form in Brisbane qualifying and then winning the tournament by defeating Alex De Minaur in the final.

Medvedev brings a measured and strong game to the court. His serve is a massive weapon and has variety with kicking or swinging serve but his power control and accuracy especially in Brisbane was frightening.

That is the challenge now for Kokkinakis is dealing with that pressure Daniil will definitely bring to the court. Despite a very good performance against Zverev in Perth he did lack any bite on the return of serve which was a little long and powerless but he has to make sure he finds that power and accuracy otherwise it could be a quick afternoon for the Russian.

As well as a good return game needed it is essential Kokkinakis brings that flair game to the court and if anything not just about himself going to the net and playing a variety of shots but also using his quality to bring Daniil to the net.

This is a tough one to call for me, my head says Daniil will win but how much recovery has he done in time for Melbourne? He had an 8 match week in Brisbane but Thanasi is fresher and has the home crowd behind him who will want to see him do well following an injury nightmare.

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Pliskova is still lacking that ruthless spark in her game!

Karolina Pliskova is one of the players’ names being thrown about as a potential winner at the Australian Open which begins next week but I’ve watched a lot of Karolina over the last few years and I still feel she is lacking that ruthlessness in her game.

She can be tough to play against and her shots can be unforgiving but to be a major champion you can’t give too much away and in Brisbane just about a week ago against Elina Svitolina we saw that.

Pliskova was 4-0 up in the first set and became too comfortable and even when Svitolina got one break of serve back the Czech number one should have knuckled down but it was a naïve and intense-less performance from her.

It was difficult find a moment in the match when the momentum started to swift and she brought it on herself with this volley at the net.

Up until this point she played the point very well using the court to move the Ukrainian number one around but the volley was poor.

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From this position Karolina should put the ball away and Svitolina should just be spectating, 4 seconds later she hits a forehand winner up the line for another break down a more ruthless volley would bring up game point for Karolina.

I remember a similar volley from Thiem in London back in November and it frustrated me and I remember saying it was a ‘show volley’ and not a ruthless one and it cost him big and it cost Karolina big whether you are 4-0 up, 3-1 or 4-2 it has to be with the same intensity as once you let that intensity drop from a winning position so early the likely hood is you won’t gain it back as you become frustrated with yourself.

I like Pliskova but I feel like that ruthless streak is missing at times. I often call her ‘cool and calm’ and that isn’t a bad thing but maybe seeing that grit and frustration might help her and put off opponents at times.

Rafa, Novak or Stan, which former champion is best prepared for Melbourne?

The question is who is best prepared?

Stan hasn’t played a tournament since Wimbledon, Novak has been missing for about 5 months and Rafa pulled out of London with knee trouble so who out of these former Australian Open champions is best prepared for the first major?

Rafael Nadal

The world number one has played the most tennis but not much since November but the draw has been favourable to him. He turned up to Melbourne last year with little practice and got to the final and to be honest I’d be astounded if he didn’t get to the semi-finals as with respect his path there is not challenging with only one other top 10 player in that section of the draw that being Cilic who he could meet in the quarter finals.

Stan Wawrinka

I don’t really fancy Stan’s chances in Melbourne, he is lacking match practice since late June/early July and I’d be surprised if he made it past round four which would likely be Dominic Thiem but failing that he could run into Verdasco or RBA in the third round.

Novak

Novak played well against Thiem the other day winning 6-4 6-2 but you can’t read anything into it going into Melbourne. First up for Novak is Donald Young which will be tough then most likely Monfils and if he is going to get to the semi-final could have to defeat Zverev as well and then in the semi-final Roger is also in that half. If he does it will be one of the biggest achievements in recent history on the men’s tour but whilst I wouldn’t rule anything out I wouldn’t bet on it.

trio

Best prepared? Nadal then Djokovic and finally Stan. All have been at Melbourne Park for a week now so are finding their feet but winning here in Melbourne will be difficult but they are multiple champions for a reason!

New ladies champion in Melbourne?

On Monday it begins. 128 ladies will begin the fight for the first major of the year. Only 2 of the 128 have lifted this title before them being Angelique Kerber back in 2016 and Maria Sharapova 10 years in 2008 so are we due a new champion? I believe so, but who?

Caroline Wozniacki

As the world number one back in 2011 Caroline did make it to the semi-final in Melbourne before being defeated by Li Na who then lost to Kim Clijsters in the final. Since her semi-final appearance in 2011 she has only made the second week once in the last 6 years and that was in 2012.

Statistically it is her second best major but she hasn’t had much success here in recent times and with a surprise defeat to Georges in Auckland you never know what might happen. The draw has been favourable for Caroline and pushing on from Singapore is the challenge this year.

Elina Svitolina

Elina is in good form, the all court player won Brisbane to start the year and is now looking a contender in Melbourne.

The weather isn’t great at this point but when it does get very hot that endurance will be key and Elina has the ability to really push during these conditions. She hasn’t made it past the third round but after her run in Brisbane.

Venus Williams

Not many players have more experience in Melbourne than Venus. She was a finalist in 2003 and in 2017 but is yet to pick up the title and last years run in Melbourne was one of the stories of the year so could she further that story this year? I wouldn’t read too much into the early exit against Kerber in Sydney as Venus always performs when it matters!

Garbine Muguruza

Two time major champion in Paris and London I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere down the line she adds Melbourne to that list, will she do it this year? I’m not sure.

Following her exit from Brisbane there has been no tennis since for the two major champion who pulled out of Sydney with a thigh injury and retired in Brisbane with cramp to begin the year.

Karolina Pliskova

Pliskova did ok in Brisbane but I still think we are way off winning a major still, I think she will be a contender at Wimbledon but a ruthlessness is still missing in her game and it let her down in Brisbane against Svitolina who asked question and should have had the answers but didn’t seem to want it as much.

Simona Halep

And finally the world number one. Halep is yet to win a major and the pressure is on her as the top seed. The draw has not been kind to her at all with a potential match against Kvitova in round three. If she were to get to the final she might have to defeat Kvitova, Pliskova and Muguruza on route which would be very tough and unlikely despite her win in Dubai.

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Sydney Preview – Daniil Medvedev v Alex De Minaur

Two players who are going to be around on the tour for quite some time will face off in the first few weeks of 2018. Going into the first major of the season both have been in very good form this year.

Daniil qualified for the tournament beginning the week ranked outside worlds top 80 and wins against Philip Kohlschreiber and Fabio Fognini have seen him progress to his first ATP Final. The Russian was also one of the stars of the inaugural NextGen finals in Milan making the semi-finals in a year that saw the Russian defeat Wawrinka, Dimitrov, Johnson and Querrey throughout the season.

One player who wasn’t in Milan but looks on course to have a great year is Alex De Minaur. The 18 year old has been incredible to watch this first fortnight of the season with 5 top 50 wins under his belt and on top of being the youngest player since Nadal in 2005 to make back to back semi-finals has now a final to compete on his home turf!

Danil brings a plan to the court and is quite a clever player. I remember watching him at Queens Club in June and he was very solid and then against Wawrinka at Wimbledon I was surprised I was more surprised in the lack of a plan from Wawrinka.

I wrote a piece about the match which is below

How Medvedev saw off Stan by going after his backhand slice!

The backhand is Stan’s standout shot but you can either go into it with a slow shot or fast one. If you go to it with little you will get picked up but with power and pace you force the slice from Stan and with the quick surface of the grass court Medvedev could either camp on the baseline and fire backhands side to side or approach the net.

Alex’ game on the other hand is totally different. The level of tennis has been outstanding this fortnight and I think Simona Halep’s coach Darren Cahill summed it up the best on Twitter as he said anyone can have a great breakthrough week but backing it up is another story.  His tennis is beautiful to watch he brings skill, incredible movement and passion to the court and he’s only 18! It’s mad what he is doing but it’s bloody brilliant!

I think this will be tough for both who have had a long week but I have to stick with Alex!

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