King at Queens: Feli’s dream finally comes true!

Dreams to come true. For 15/16 years one man keeps coming back to Queens a tournament he called like a home and at the age of 35 Feliciano Lopez finally gets his hands on one of the most famous trophies in men’s tennis.

Feli was ‘meant’ to lose in round one to Stan Wawrinka but saw off the Roland Garros runner up before seeing off Chardy, Dimitrov, Berdych and of course Cilic saving two match points throughout the week which has to be some record and at the age of 35 is playing some of his greatest tennis on the grass courts.

Feli brought flair, skill and composure to centre court at Queen’s throughout the week which brought cheers from the crowd as they helped push him to one of his biggest singles titles of his career.

In a week where the top seeds fell immediately I think it was right that Feliciano walked away the winner, the man of the moment on the grass just shows with hard work and commitment dreams can come true and watch out for this man at Wimbledon, he may not be a contender but he can cause a fair few upsets!

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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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CHAMP10N

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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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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From London to Rome, Goffin’s small improvement which has made a big difference!

Back in November David Goffin turned up to London as an alternate at the World Tour Finals. It pays to hang around and that is what he did as he got to play at the O2 and after his brief encounter with the tour finals I wrote a piece saying he’s had a taster and this year he needs to press on and he has.

I have been meaning to write this piece for quite a while as over the clay court season he has been exceptional and the performance against Novak topped it off but not only was the performance bloody brilliant but you can see the improvements in his game compared to 6 months ago.

The aspect of his game I want to pick out is the backhand. It was never a backhand which made you think this would cause me danger it was all about his forehand but the key there is the word ‘was’.

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Above we have a still of two backhands six months apart and those little changes have helped make it a massive shot for Goffin making him more dangerous.

1.  Footwork. The footwork is pretty much the same with the right foot holding the weight but instead of being one behind the other which leaves you a bit wobbly he has changed it to have his foot planted and leaning into the backhand with body weight.

2.  Lean of the body. The body has much more impact on the backhand now as his body is more tense and is a big factor in the improvement of the backhand.

3.  Racket head. This is the most important improvement to his game. Look at the backhand at the O2 in London. It’s what I would call a training backhand it isn’t asking much but because of the lack of follow through on the racket head he’s hitting the ball with the middle of the racket so isn’t focusing the racket to maximum effect.

Roll on to Rome and this is where it gets better! Goffin is hitting the ball towards the corner of the racket hitting a low backhand with power instead of a powerful short backhand and you can see the difference in the follow through with Goffin focusing his backhand to hit the ball and direct cross court and end the rally.

The improvement deserves credit and his results have been very good, London is a possibility in November but he has his eyes set on a title in Paris and I wouldn’t completely rule it out!