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Nick Bollettieri: What Makes Them Special

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TENNIS NICK BOLLETTIERI – I have been watching and consuming sports my entire life, and I absolutely cannot get enough of it. My wife, Cindi, often asks me how every single game whether it be baseball, football, golf, or tennis can be such a special game? My answer is very simple. By Nick Bollettieri

 

I have been watching and consuming sports my entire life, and I absolutely cannot get enough of it. My wife, Cindi, often asks me how every single game whether it be baseball, football, golf, or tennis can be such a special game? My answer is very simple – it’s special to me because I enjoy the excitement and observing athletes playing the same game, but with their own style of play and reaction to almost every move. Let’s take a look at some of tennis’ all-time greats and what makes them so unique and special…

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John McEnroe

Serve. His starting position of standing totally parallel to the baseline with his racquet and ball pointing directly at fans made them so nervous that they were just about ducking for safety every time he served. As a result he had one of the very best wide-slice serves to the ad court, and it didn’t hurt that he was a lefty!

Rafael Nadal

The majority of players in the 1960s hit their forehands with an Eastern forehand grip. Little by little, starting out with Jimmy Arias in the early 80s, grips began to shit to semi-Westerns, the power game, and then the extreme western grip hit by Nadal. He has perfected this shot and in the process, he has inspired so many youngsters to hit it as well.

Pete Sampras

Sampras had a very simple forehand (Eastern grip), beginning with the elbow of his hitting arm leading the backswing. Pete also had one of the top serves in the history of tennis. He wasn’t as powerful as the guys who hit them today, but he was as consistent as they come and his placement (including his wide slice to the forehand which was hit between 114 and 118 miles per hour) was incredible. In addition to this, he had a beautiful one-handed backhand, a devastating attacking slice, and one of the very best simple first volleys.

Roger Federer

I could write volumes of information about this man, but whatever and however much I write, I could not describe the totality of everything he does both on and off the court. He plays with very little physical effort and always respects his opponents. His movement across the board is absolutely beautiful and his charity work off of it is also fantastic to see.

Jim Courier

When Jim arrived at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy at 14 years old, his mother sent me a letter asking to completely change his Western grip and baseball-swing backhand. I did just the opposite – I told him to forget about your backhand and hit forehands all the time! He did exactly what he was told and became No. 1 in the world!

Andre Agassi

Agassi was known for many things, but most of all for his incredible on-the-court play. He had unbelievable groundstrokes, superb footwork, and a few simple strategies that he would use. He would move his opponent side-to-side (Bradenton to Las Vegas and vice versa) and he’d never hit down the line with his backhand unless the ball was inside the baseline. Also, I ensured that Agassi didn’t hit the slice from the backhand side until he had the regular two-handed backhand shot perfected.

Monica Seles

Imagine a skinny, young girl at 12 years old hitting with two hands on both sides and standing smack on the baseline with great movement. This is what I witnessed watching Monica play at the Orange Bowl many years ago. What did I do? I offered her and her entire family a scholarship on the spot and never changed anything in her game, no matter what people thought I should do! Monica is one of the all-time greats of the game and she couldn’t be a nicer person off the court as well!

Maria Sharapova

Maria came to the Academy at nine, and I could tell then that she was a competitor. Her style was very simple. She stands on top of the baseline and pounds away from both wings with no spin. She will attack her opponent’s serve and come forward on defensive balls looking to hit winners without any concern about hitting errors. Lastly, no one is more determined in their mental approach to the game than Sharapova. Never count her out even if she is down a set and 5-0, love-40! That is what makes Maria so special.

Serena Williams

There is no other way to describe Serena other than saying the following:

1. She is a true athlete

2. She is big and strong

3. She can play offensive tennis from any position on the court

4. She has one of the biggest serves ever in the women’s game

5. She can hit winners from anywhere

6. She is very comfortable at the net When healthy, Serena is one of the best, if not the single best, players in the history of the sport!

Steffi Graf

Steffi was a fantastic athlete who built her game on a very aggressive forehand hit with very little spin. Her athleticism and movement made it possible to hit most of her strokes with her forehand from anywhere on the court. Her one-handed backhand was 90% slice and allowed her time to not only recover, but also break down the rhythm of her opponents. Her serve was also a weapon, including a very high toss which actually threw off her opponent’s concentration.

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P.S. People always ask me if I would have changed anything in Steffi’s game. I would have suggested she hit with a two-handed backhand, and I think if she would have done this she would’ve been unbeatable! If you could combine her forehand with Andre’s backhand, you would have the ultimate groundstrokes!

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Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo secure their semifinal spot in the ATP Finals in London

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Former ATP Finals runners-up Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo battled past Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 10-7 after 1 hour and 44 minutes to finish the Group Jonas Bjorkman with a 2-1 round robin record.

 

Kubot and Melo came back from an early break down and fended off four set points before Ram and Salisbury converted their fifth chance to win the opening set 6-4.

Kubot and Melo fended off a break point in the seventh game with a great serve, before they converted their first break point in the 10th game.

Kubot and Melo won five consecutive points in the Match Tie-Break to open up a 6-2 lead. The Polish and Brazilian players converted their fourth match point to secure their spot in the semifinal.

 

 

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Matteo Berrettini Scores Historic Win Before Exit From ATP Finals

The 23-year-old ends his breakthrough season on the ATP Tour with another milestone in his career.

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LONDON: Matteo Berrettini has become the first Italian man in history to win a match at the ATP Finals after defeating Dominic Thiem on Thursday afternoon.

 

The world No.8 managed to dismantle the game of his rival, who was far from his best at times, with the help of his blistering serve to seal the 7-6(3), 6-3, victory. Ending Thiem’s streak of four consecutive wins over top 10 players, including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer earlier this week. In total Berrettini hit 30 winners to 21 unforced errors and converted both of his break point opportunities.

“I’ve always had great fights against him. I was able to stay mentally focused, especially in the first set when I lost my serve because I didn’t play a great game.” Berrettini said afterward.
“I’m really happy with my performance because I am not feeling great physically.” He added.

The downside to the round-robin format of the event is that some matches end up being irrelevant with this being one of them. Regardless of the outcome, Thiem has already qualified for the semi-finals and Berrettini is on his way out. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old Italian was playing for pride at The O2 Arena.

A close start to the match saw neither playing managing to gain any momentum during the first eight games. Then inconsistencies in Thiem’s game started to haunt him. Berrettini’s ability to hit the ball deep into the court forced his rival to make a series of errors as he broke for a 5-4 lead. However, it was his turn to stumble behind his serve as Thiem broke back to level with relative ease.

Despite neither player capitalizing on their advantages, the tiebreaker was a one-sided encounter. Three Thiem unforced errors, as well as a winning Berrettini slice, saw him go behind 0-4 in the blink of an eye. Creating enough of a margin for Berrettini to seal the first set with the help of a 134 mph ace.

Thiem clearly looked flat on the court compared to two days ago when he downed Djokovic, however, nothing should be taken away from Berrettini. Who kept focus and stuck to his game plan throughout the match. A backhand passing shot, followed by a crosscourt winner enabled him to break once again midway through the second set. Easing towards victory after just 76 minutes play, Berrettini closed the match out with a delicate drop shot.

“I’m really proud of myself, but also for my team, my family and my friends. It’s been an unbelievable season.” He reflected on his year.
“I didn’t expect at the beginning of the season to be here (in London). I hope to come back next year, but now I just want to say thanks to those guys (his team). Without them, it couldn’t be possible.”
“I’m happy to finish with a win.“

Despite the loss, Thiem will finish at the top of the Bjorg Born Group. He will play the runner-up of the other group in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Whilst Berrettini’s ATP season is over, he can’t rest yet. Next week he will be in Madrid playing for his country in the Davis Cup along with many other of his fellow players.

“There is one more event. I have to rest a little bit and then I think I deserve a holiday.” He declared.

Berrettini ends 2019 with 43 wins on the ATP Tour in what is a career best. He started the year ranked 54th in the world and didn’t make his top 10 debut until last month.

Italian men in the ATP Finals

-C. Barazzutti in 1978 – 0 wins and 3 loses
-A. Panatta in 1975 – 0 wins and 3 losses
-M. Barrettini in 2019 – 1 win and 2 losses

 

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ATP Finals 2019 Day 5 Preview: Will It Be Djokovic Or Federer In The Semis?

It’s the 49th installment of Federer against Djokovic, with the winner moving onto the semifinals, and the loser being eliminated from the tournament.

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The advancement scenarios for today are that simple, as Dominic Thiem has already guaranteed his place in the semis with tremendous back-to-back wins over both Djokovic and Federer.  For Djokovic, there are also year-end No.1 ranking implications, as he now needs to win this event to keep his hopes alive. And while Matteo Berrettini cannot advance to the semis after going 0-2 thus far, he’ll play to become the first Italian man to ever win a match at the ATP Finals.

 

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Matteo Berrettini (8)

This will be their third meeting within the past five weeks.  Berrettini prevailed in the Shanghai quarterfinals to reach his first Masters 1,000 semi, while Thiem was victorious at home in Vienna on his way to that title.  Their only other previous encounter was last year at Roland Garros, where Dominic won in four. What a week it’s already been for Thiem, but he has a lot of work still ahead of him.  And perhaps he is due for a letdown after two sensational wins, especially with his qualification for the semifinals already secured. However, Dominic should feel supremely confident coming off his results earlier this week.  And I’m sure his team will warn him of the danger in allowing his level to drop today, even with the result having no impact on his advancement. On the other side of the net, Berrettini has absolutely nothing to lose. Matteo can play freely, and knows he owns a recent win over Thiem.  Still, based on his form this week, Dominic should be favored to go 3-0 in the Bjorn Borg Group round robin play.

Novak Djokovic (2) vs. Roger Federer (3)

Four months ago in this same city, Djokovic saved two championship points and went on to defeat Federer in the first-ever 12-all fifth set tiebreak at Wimbledon to win his 16th Major singles title.  It was a heartbreaking loss for Federer, who was just one point away from his record-extending 21st Major.  Instead, he’s now just four Majors ahead of Djokovic, and only one ahead of Nadal after Rafa’s US Open victory.  Overall Djokovic leads this prolific rivalry 26-22. Novak has claimed their last five meetings, dating back to the championship match at this event four years ago.  But notably, Roger’s last win was just a few days prior, during the round robin stage of this tournament in 2015. On hard courts, Djokovic leads their head-to-head 19-17.  At the ATP Finals, Novak leads 3-2. Djokovic looked extremely agitated at times on Tuesday, seemingly surprised by how vehemently the crowd was rooting for Thiem. But Djokovic will know the London audience to be fully behind Roger today, so I don’t expect that to throw him.  Federer will certainly be eager to avenge the Wimbledon defeat from earlier this year, though overcoming Djokovic on this surface is no easy task. I anticipate another tight contest today between these two all-time greats, but give the slight edge to Novak to prevent Roger from advancing to the semifinals for just the second time in 17 appearances at the ATP Finals.

A breakdown of the Djokovic-Federer rivalry

By tournament

Grand Slams: Djokovic leads 10-6
ATP Finals: Djokovic leads 3-2
Masters 1000: Djokovic leads 11-9
ATP 500 events: Federer leads 4-2
Davis Cup: Federer leads 1-0

By year

YEAR

DJOKOVIC

FEDERER

2006

0

2

2007

1

3

2008

1

2

2009

3

2

2010

1

4

2011

4

1

2012

3

2

2013

2

0

2014

3

3

2015

5

3

2016

1

0

2017

0

0

2018

2

0

2019

1

0

 TOTAL

26

22

 

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