March 31, 2009
If you believe these photos and the celebrity gossip sites, actress Camilla Belle (Maria Sharapova’s good friend), is Fernando Verdasco’s new girlfriend. The two were spotted at the recent ATP tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California. Camilla was also in Fernando’s box when he played his quarter final against Roger Federer. Verdasco until very recently was dating Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic.
March 31, 2009
Here is some promo video of French playboy Richard Gasquet dancing it up with some Miami Dolphins. Say what you want about the guys lack of results but between his party shots we got a hold of last year and this video, the guy does seem like he is taking advantage of his status as a pro.
March 31, 2009
Tennis fan Shakira Shakira met the boys (Nadal, Feli, and Nole) in Miami and posed for some pictures. Shakira is becoming more and more visible on the tennis scene as she was also spotted in December in Dubai catching Rafa’s match. Video below:
March 30, 2009
Hello Tennis Connected minions. This is just a short post notifying you that we will not be posting our first full podcast tomorrow due to the fact that I have come down with a bad case of strep throat. I apologize but it seems that coughing sniffling into a microphone is not deemed as best practices. It isn’t all bad news though. We have received approval for our podcast in iTunes so we are available we will be searchable in a couple of days or so. Thanks for your support everyone and please don’t forget to send us your questions and comments that might be brought up on the show.
March 30, 2009
One cannot use the term “Speed kills”, to describe the current state of men’s tennis anymore. Now don’t get me wrong, certainly returning a 140 m.p.h. serve is not an easy task; but the days of sheer power and pace ruling the men’s game are all but over. The primary reason for ball speed not being as significant of factor as it once was, can be attributed to the slowing down of the court surfaces. Let’s call it “court unification”, if that’s allowed, as it is apparent that the hardcourts (except at the U.S. Open), have zero penetration left in them, and the claycourts and grasscourts are basically playing like one another.
A prime example of how the equal playing field has changed the game is the current dominating force of the ATP World Tour, Rafael Nadal. I will be the first one to admit that Nadal is a fantastic champion, his effort and talent level are beyond the mere mortals that he goes into combat with on a daily basis. However, as great as Nadal is, I do not think he would have the same kind of results that he is having today if he was playing, say back in 1997. His clay court results would have been similar, but his hardcourt and grasscourt success would have been pale in comparison.
Turning back the clock, names such as Mark Philippoussis and Greg Rusedski had remarkable success just over a decade ago as a result of the hardcourts playing much faster. The grasscourts were nothing like they are today, as the very slick and low bouncing surface benefited the big flat ball. The obvious leader of the “fast movement” was none other than 14-time grand slam champ Pete Sampras. In fact, Pistol Pete captured half of his major titles on the lawns of the Big W, as the points were short, and his worldly serve was untouchable.
Moving forward again, the last four to five years on the men’s tour have certainly seen a different kind of champion in the winners column, as opposed to the Sampras era. It is without question that current great Roger Federer (who is a Sampras type player), picked up on the fact that with the composition of the courts slowing down, his ability to get into the net was becoming less and less productive. Therefore a more consistent and baseline approach was adopted by the 13-time (and counting), major champion.
Recalling back to the the first and only time, Federer battled Sampras, (which was at Wimbledon in the round of sixteen in 2001), a point did not go by in which Sampras or Roger did not come into the net after their first or second serve deliveries. In fact the average rally in that match lasted under four strokes. Compare that with the baseline bashing that has gone on in the past three Wimbledon finals between Rafa and Roger, and one does not have to look any further to discover that lawns in England have definitely decreased in speed.
This change to capture a more unified court surface, has also brought forth success and failure to many tour players. A player who has suffered greatly as a result of the slower court surfaces is a player like Ivo Karlovic. Dr. Ivo has never made it past the fourth round at any major, and would have excelled even further at Wimbledon if he were playing in the days of Goran Ivan-ace-ovic and the aforementioned Philippoussis and Rusedski. There is no question that Karlovic is not better off of the ground or any facet of the game, than Goran, or Philipousis, but he certainly does have a better serve, which would have been more than good enough to capture at least a semi-final result in England.
The slowing down of the courts around the world has not only hurt a player like Karlovic, but it has effected players who reside at the top of the game as well. Case and point Andy Roddick. When the big serving American, first came on tour there was not be a match that went by that A-Rod did not strike at least 15 aces. Nowadays Roddick is lucky if he creeps into the double digits with aces on any given day.
To Andy’s credit, he has learned in recent times to deal with not depending on his power to win tennis matches. Roddick made reference towards the changing times, and his approach to the game as he discussed his game plan via his new coach Larry Stefanki, at the Miami Masters 1000, in Key Biscayne, Florida this week.
“Larry recognized there is a change in the game,” Roddick said. “It seems like everything is slowing down a little bit as far as surface and balls, and therefore you see a lot more guys dependent upon their running ability and their legs.
“So we’re just trying to keep up. It has worked so far, but we’re talking about 2 1/2 months. It needs to be proven for a little bit longer than that to consider it an ultimate success.”
With that being said, it is no wonder that the top four players in the world are also the best movers in the game. Along with Nadal and Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray certainly have proven that their court coverage is the single greatest asset which they all prosper in. All four of these players can rip the cover off of the ball at will, but that is in no way, shape or form, how they all win over 60 tennis matches per year.
One player who has certainly dealt with the new composition of the professional courts around the world with great success, is Rafael Nadal. Watching Rafa carve up the field last week in Indian Wells, I couldn’t help but notice, that A) his first concern was the get in as many first serves in as possible, and B) he was very keen on hitting his slice backhand. This thought process to me was designed around the premise of promoting spin and consistency. These are also the key elements to technically winning tennis matches for the Spaniard on hardcourts. Nadal certainly has the wheels, and with his ability to be solid as a rock off of the baseline, he will without question, be at that top of the game for many years to come.
Although men’s tennis has always been known for big aces and rocket forehands, I challenge all of you out there to pay close attention to the lack of penetration that the court surfaces around the world are providing. In fact, let your first lesson be watching this weeks Miami Masters 1000, tournament and observing how most matches are won with movement and spin, as opposed to sheer brute force. You will also notice that names such as Ivo Karlovic, John Isner and Sam Querrey, are no longer left in the draw. I caution you to also not look at this as a fluke or coincidence, but rather that the courts at Crandon Park , in Key Biscayne, Florida are not allowing the pace that once ruled the tour a decade ago to sabotage the many great rallies and defensive replies that will take place for the remainder of this weeks event.
March 30, 2009
We have some new screenshots of Sega’s upcoming release of Virtua Tennis 2009. The screens look ok in my opinion but nothing ground breaking. I just hope they get rid of the constant diving to every ball which made it so ridiculous that it ruined the gameplay. But of course, I will give it a full review once it is release.
March 30, 2009
In a time where power is all that consumes a tennis players mind, a new movement that has taken shape, which predominately has been noticed in the men’s game is the slice backhand. As I watched numerous Rafa Nadal practice sessions last week in Palm Springs, the top ranked Spaniard certainly allocated a lot of time towards working on his chip backhand. Hitting with his close friend and doubles partner Marc Lopez, Nadal would take a least half an hour a day to just work on this remarkably improved shot, as he also used it in every match that he played. This new addition to Rafa’s game is also an attempt in my opinion to further polish his arsenal of shots, as he now sets his sights on capturing the last piece of the grand slam puzzle that has eluded him thus far in his young career, the U.S. Open. With New York’s hardcourts providing the fastest court surface in the world, Rafa’s slice will definitely be used to great advantage.
The slower pace court surfaces do not allow for flatter struck ground strokes to create the same kind of damage which they once did. As well with the U.S. Open being perhaps the fastest court surface in the world, a great knifing slice backhand, is a great asset for one to have.
There is no question that Roger Federer and Andy Murray use the slice backhand to great effect as well, and a player like Federer could even use it more in my opinion. Adding this new addition to a pro players game in this day and age, is a great choice as it allows for a higher margin for error off of the ground as well as adding a new element to defensive recovery.
In light of the slice becoming “a fashion” shot once again, I do not want to hear all the haters saying that men’s tennis continues to be one dimensional and boring. Pretty much all of the top players can hit every shot, and the current leader of the pack, Rafa Nadal has shown that he is constantly looking to alter and diversify his game.
I’m not going to stick my neck out here and say that you will see the “chip and charge” tactic make a comeback, as the return of serve, and quality of passing shots in today’s game is far too high, to constantly attack the net. However, in say that I am glad that the slice is back officially and I also hope that it becomes a shot that not only the top players in the world use and work on, but everyone at home attempts to acquire as well.
March 26, 2009
Here are some images of world #1 Rafael Nadal taking in a bit of promotional golf with former world #1 Ana Ivanovic in Miami. I am not trying to start anything here but doesn’t anyone else think that they make quite the cute couple? Check out the pics below and let us know what you think.
March 26, 2009
Yes that is not a typo. Andy Murray along with Venus Williams drove up to Ocean Drive in Miami and started to play tennis on the roofs of the Mercedes SUVs. Obviously this was not a random act but rather a promotion event for the Sony Ericsson Open taken place this week and next week. Check out the video below:
March 24, 2009
Here is the latest installment of the Novak Djokovic Speed lessons presented by Head. This one features, mafia personnel, disco dancing, pinball and many other off the wall ideas. What do you guys think of these videos? Are they good or do you think they are dumb?