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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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Carlos Alcaraz reaches his first ATP Tour final in Umag

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Spanish Next Gen star Carlos Alcaraz secured a spot in his first ATP tour-level final with a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open in Umag. 

 

Alcaraz has become the youngest ATP Tour finalist since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori won the Delray Beach title in 2008. 

Alcaraz broke twice to open up a 4-0 lead and held his next service games to close out the first set 6-2. 

Ramos Vinolas came back from a break down three times in the second set, when Alcaraz served for the match. Alcaraz battled through the second-set tie-break to clinch the win after two hours. 

Alcaraz set up a final against Richard Gasquet, who battled past German qualifier Daniel Altmeier 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 after three hours and 11 minutes. 

Gasquet has become the second oldest finalist in tournament history. The 35-year-old saved seven of hi sten break points, but he converted just just 3 of his 17 break points.  

Gasquet rallied from a break down twice to draw level to 4-4 before winning the tie-break 7-2. Altmeier converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3. Altmeier saved three break points in the second game, before Gasquet converted his second break point in the sixth game to win the second set 6-3. 

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Novak Djokovic Cruises Past Dellien In Olympics Opener

Novak Djokovic’s bid for a historic golden slam continued in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-2 to open his bid for a gold medal at the Olympics.

 

The world number one’s bid to achieve the golden slam is on after thrashing the Bolivian in humid conditions.

A perfect start for the Serbian who is looking to achieve the one thing he is yet to achieve and that’s win a gold medal.

Next for Djokovic will be Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

In 32C temperatures, Djokovic was looking to start his campaign off against Bolivian veteran Hugo Dellien.

The slow paced courts would suit Dellien as he engaged in some long rallies with the world number one early on.

Despite creating three break points in the fourth game, Djokovic would fail to break early on.

However Djokovic increased his level mixing up the pace and depth of his shots to create angles for simple winners.

On his fifth break point Djokovic would break for a 4-2 lead and the top seed would break for a second time as Dellien had no answers for the Serb’s defensive skills. First set to Djokovic in 33 minutes.

A similar pattern evolved in the second set only this time Djokovic did get a break in the fourth game, breaking to love.

Accurate serving and construction of points gave Djokovic an easy first round match as another break secured the match and sealed his spot into the second round.

A fine performance in tough conditions gave Djokovic’s bid for history the best possible start.

Next for Djokovic will be Jan-Lennard Struff who beat Thiago Monteiro 6-3 6-4.

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Brandon Nakashima shocks John Isner to reach first ATP final in Los Cabos

Brandon Nakashima stunned John Isner to reach the final in Los Cabos.

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Brandon Nakashima (@AbiertoLosCabos - Twitter)

The American became the youngest American to reach a final outside the US since Andy Roddick back in 2001.

 

Brandon Nakashima booked his spot in the final beating an out of sorts John Isner 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 28 minutes firing 12 aces and winning 82% points with his first serve.

“It’s always going to be tough playing against him, It’s always so hard to return his serve and try to get into the rallies with him but I tried to get back as many returns as I could and there was blocking or chipping the return or hitting over it and just try to mix it up a lot while getting different looks and I knew when I had the opportunities and when I got close in games I knew I had to take advantage of that as much as possible so luckily I was able to do it and of course taking care of my service games was important as well”.

For the first six games of the opening set, neither player had an issue holding serve but at 3-3, it was the San Diego native with the first chance to break but was denied by the world number 39’s big serve.

At 5-4, the world number 134 had two more chances to break and he got the crucial break and served out the first set.

Winning the first set seemed to invigorate the 19-year-old and he earned an early chance to break in the first game of the second set and broke to take a 1-0 lead. Once again that one break was enough to serve out the match and seal the victory.

After the match, Nakashima spoke about becoming the first American player to reach a final outside the US since Andy Roddick back in 2001.

“It feels great and it’s a big accomplishment for me and of course all the Americans, we like to play in the US but it’s nice to see that I am playing well outside the US and luckily it’s not too far from my home here so I have been enjoying it here a lot both on and off the court and really looking forward to playing tomorrow again”.

Nakashima will face the number one seed Cameron Norrie in the final and can feel confident as the last time these two players met, the American beat him.

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