How much does Kei Nishikori have left in the tank?

Once again Kei Nishikori has edged his way into the next round at Roland Garros with a four sets win against Fernando Verdasco which to be honest was quite messy and for the second match running lost a set of tennis 6-0.

The match was a mess and in all honesty if I had to rate Nishikori out of 10 based on the whole match it would be a 5. To me he seemed flat, uninterested and emotionless and he huffed, puffed and blew Verdasco away but how much does he have left in the tank?

Mid-way through the third set a statistic was thrown up when the set was level at 3-3 with Nishikori hitting 21 winners compared to 38 unforced errors and as the tournament progresses he won’t continue to get away with it and looked knackered by the end of his match but to become a genuine contender at one of these majors at some point you have find that level where you will have to play top player after top player day after day and potentially go to five sets and I don’t see it.

Next up for Kei is Andy Murray who has got much better as the week has gone on with a couple of perfect performances against Del Potro and Kacanhov in the last round and I’d expect a long battle between these two but how much does Kei have left in the tank? He has looked tired and flat and with this vibe he gives off it’s difficult for the crowd as well to get behind him as these crowds at the major tournaments react to you and if you’re flat the crowd is flat and to win these majors you need that extra push by the crowd.

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Photo credit – Getty Images

Roland Garros Preview – Andy Murray v Juan Martin Del Potro

Wherever these two meet they bring a crowd. Rome, New York, Rio, London and now add Paris to that list as Juan Martin Del Potro and Andy Murray face off once again. Sadly someone’s run at Roland Garros comes to an end on the clay their first meeting on the surface since 2009.

Preparing to play against Juan Martin is a tough ask because it’s not about what game you are going to play but how to stop a player of Del Potro’s quality and if I were Andy Murray I’d be having a look at Djokovic’ performance Del Potro not long ago when the defending champion nullified the strength of Del Potro which is his forehand.

We did some much better tennis from Murray against Klizan despite taking four sets to get the win but after losing the first set he did react quickly taking a step back on the baseline to get more security behind the backhand which was a little rushed and found contact with the net instead of the baseline in set one but he also used that backhand slice well and is something he should deploy against the Argentine.

Murray has used the drop shot and the sliced backhand well so far this week and hasn’t really missed many of eight sets of tennis and if he can take the pace away from the rally then he has a good chance of gaining control and removing that build up to a massive forehand from the Argentine.

Del Potro did have a bit of an issue during his match with Almagro when the Spaniard unfortunately had to retire but Del Potro did suffer with what looked like a groin injury at the end of the first set.

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Murray outlasts Ramos-Vinolas in ‘Messy Marathon’ at Barcelona!

Sometimes you actually don’t know where to begin. After going through the motions last week in Monte Carlo tennis fans especially those who support Murray groaned a little when they saw Albert Ramos Vinolas would play the Brit again but a sigh of relief after what can only be described as a ‘messy marathon.’

The first set of tennis from a Murray fan perspective was horrific. I described it on twitter as the worst set I have seen from him this year and if we want to go further back, Federer at the O2 a couple of years ago?

As the first set went on it got a little awkward, you start thinking back to last week’s mess of a final set from Murray and it felt like the same. Murray finished the first set with 35% of first serves in which is something I don’t think I’ve seen before and hit 21 unforced errors in 8 games which is almost 3 a game.

Watching the match my word to describe the first set was ‘flat’. Murray just never got into it. The backhand lacked power, the forehand either hit the net or went long and the serve didn’t pose a threat and just couldn’t generate power.

To describe the second set I would use the word ‘grit’ Murray got stuck in and certainly found a little bit of rhythm. Rallies certainly became extended and he started to peel off the backhand but it wasn’t as flat as he would have hoped for.

Despite going down 0-2 in the final set I felt an ‘inevitability’ that Murray would get over the line. The difference in his tennis from set one compared to set three was night and day, he controlled that baseline which is something he struggled with as Albert did camp about 2-3 metres constantly throughout the match but Murray began to find the forehand the backhand but especially the net play made a massive difference as the Brit took the final set tie-break to set up a semi-final with Dominic Thiem.

Murray to play Monte Carlo on Wednesday despite recent elbow issues

After an appearance in Zurich about a week ago alongside Roger Federer in a match for charity doubts were raised as if Murray would be fit for Monte-Carlo.

The world number one had been training at the Patrick Mouratoglu Academy in Nice before a quick stop off in Zurich and then immediately travelled to Monte-Carlo.

During the match against Federer which you can’t really judge a players fitness on one notable problem was the speed of the serve.

Murray had missed Miami due to this elbow injury which meant he couldn’t find power on the serve and seemed to be struggling with it in this exhibition match but after training for what would have been five days the Brit has said that he has been training and serving fine throughout the week so maybe decided to take a bit off it as the exhibition isn’t obviously a competitive match.

Andy Murray being the top seed for the tournament will not be in action until Wednesday which does mean as well if he is to get to the final then he will have to play five days running with the final being on Sunday 23rd.

We don’t yet know who the Brit will be up against but it will be either big serving Gilles Muller who was formerly coached by Andy’s coach Jamie Delgado or Tommy Robredo with the Spaniard using a protective ranking to get himself into the main draw this week in Monte Carlo.

On day 1 in Monte Carlo a game of spot Andy Murray took place and the world number one was spotted watching fellow Brits Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund battling it out against each other and was joined by good friend of his Grigor Dimitrov and we also saw Jamie Delgado and Ross Hutchins watching on as well.

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Two good friends playing tennis and raising money for charity!

Two good friends playing for a great occasion. Away from the intensity of the court Roger Federer who is now on a break ahead of Roland Garros took on Andy Murray looking for form ahead of the second major of the year in The Match for Africa in Zurich.

It is nice just to see players relax outside of the competitiveness of the tour and have fun for a great cause.

They had fun and raised money which is the important thing at the end of the day and even laughed off moments including a slam dunk into the net as well as Murray hitting Federer at the net…

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These two will be back on the court quite soon in another exhibition as Roger Federer is down to join Andy Murray in Glasgow for Andy Murray Live once again later this year raising money for a number of charities.

Murray even played ball boy at the end with the ball boy taking his position and hitting a double fault on match point!

One week until Monte-Carlo! The best are set to return and where better to kick off the clay court season?

It’s that time of the year again. Monte-Carlo kicks off an incredible run of tournaments as they clay court season welcomes the big boys and there isn’t a better setting for tennis than this.

Tennis - Masters Series Monte-Carlo - Day 2 - Men's Singles 2nd Round - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v Nicolas Almagro (ESP)

As ever it attracts the best in the world as they look to get preparations for Roland Garros under way but who needs a big week and who could surprise a few?

Novak’s wait…

Former world number one Novak Djokovic is currently on his longest drought without winning a Masters 1000 title since 2009 when he waited 9 tournaments between Paris 2009 and Indian Wells 2011. This man was unstoppable and to go from that perfect form to being vulnerable and just looking out of sorts is worrying. Form this year hasn’t been good and throw injuries into that it just isn’t working for him.

No.10?

Rafael Nadal went 8 years undefeated in Monte-Carlo and then in 2013, 14, 15 he didn’t win the title as form and injuries took over but last year he returned to see off Gael Monfils in a thrilling final to claim his 16th Masters title but with no Federer and doubts over how good Murray and Djokovic will be coming into Monte-Carlo surely that makes the king of clay favourite once again?

Andy’s time?

Andy Murray has never won in Monte-Carlo it’s been a mixture of results for him over the years. This elbow injury halted him in Indian Wells and of course forced him out of Miami and the Davis Cup weekend in France but pictures and videos have appeared on social media of the world number one training with other players at the Mouratoglou tennis academy this last week.

Stay tuned!

There is a week to go until Monte-Carlo begins. It will be a massive week of tennis as clay court finally gets underway, players have something to prove and on these big stages anything is possible. Throughout the week there will be new pieces including Djokovic, Murray, Cilic and more!

 

Why has Murray struggled behind his 2nd serve and against serve and volley this year?

This year Andy Murray has had a couple of surprise defeats. First of all to Mischa Zverev in Melbourne and more recently Vasek Pospisil in Indian Wells but what has been a big issue in these defeats? 2nd serve seems to have dropped off but why has that invited serve and volley tactics from opponents?

Last year…

Murray went on a big run winning titles here, there and everywhere at the backend of the year and a big aspect of his game which improved was the second serve which I wrote about and will post a link at the bottom of the piece to but what has changed and why has it changed?

Novak, London, O2.

Let’s rewind to the final of the World Tour Finals in London. Murray blew Novak off the park and his serve was exceptional especially the second as even though it isn’t the fastest most damaging serve on the tour it was clinical in nullifying attacks from opponents.

 

This still put’s it into perspective. That kick second serve, if Murray goes into the body Novak has time to adjust but with down the T the only thing Novak can do is stretch on a neutral and central ball and being on the stretch means it won’t be coming back with more interest on it, so why has it changed?

Melbourne…

Two different matches, one against Sousa on the left and the other against Zverev on the right which shows a game point and a break point from two separate years!

 

Similar body position, similar return position, body weight moving forward but Murray scurrying back and similar speed. It’s like a mirror but on two completely contrasting points isn’t good, where is the variety?

The main issue is the position of the ball when it bounces which is tough to see from these stills above so let’s have a look below;

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Depth isn’t good enough, the backhand from both is being lined up and it comes in about 118mph which isn’t bad but because of the lack of depth they can push up.

There is effectively 12 months between these points and we see what he did v Novak in London so why revert back?

I don’t think he has reverted back due to choice and you sense frustration with his serve. He was knocked out of the singles and then a couple of days later after he and Dan Evans lost their doubles match in Indian Wells the world number one was seen out on centre court at Indian Wells about 10-10:30 at night practicing his serve so he is obviously not happy.

Serve and volley

This change up on serve has attracted the net approaches and against players who like to serve and volley they have stepped up on Murray’s serve especially down the middle of the box and because of his body position time and time again they go into the forward corner with it being further for him to stretch.

The speed of the serve is ok but the placement isn’t and I’ve shown that graphic v Novak in London where he kept the serve tight to the T but surprisingly has gone more central.