Nick Bollettieri’s Wimbledon Dossier: Top two men simply out of this world
Coaching Report: Roger Federer (Swit) v Rafael Nadal (Sp) Centre Court
And that, ladies and gentleman, is genius. Sheer class. Style to please angels. Technical magnificence. And cojones like you’ve never seen. From both men.
Roger Federer, like Bjorn Borg, could not get six in a row. Borg went down to John McEnroe, a left-hander, like Rafael Nadal. And what Federer and Nadal gifted us last night was, like Borg-Mac, a match for history, one of the greatest.
Oh. My. Goodness. I’m out of “Holy”. No mackerel. No cow. Just sen-frickin’-sational. This was an instant classic to catapult the Federer-Nadal rivalry right up there. Make way, please. Young gods on the way to the pantheon.
I said before the match that I was sticking with Federer, just, in a thriller. They’ve given us a thriller, in a battle of champions. But we also knew that Nadal would give it everything and never stop fighting for a title he craved. At one stage Nadal had Federer in a box, lid shut, in the ground. And Federer got out of there to take it to five. And almost did enough to win. But the kid from Mallorca just would not let it go.
Roger said he’ll be back. And Nadal, who has been breathing down his neck for so long, will be on his back. In the furnace of such competition, neither man can take anything for granted.
After two sets I was lost for words. I knew well what Nadal was capable of. The boy is a force of nature. He takes the breath away with his shots, some of which defy the laws of physics. He hits winners from positions no other player would arrive at until seconds afterwards, with racket speed so bewildering the slo-mo can barely catch it.
Rafa was top-spinning Federer to death in those two sets. Federer just could not handle it. He couldn’t get over it to put anything on it. He couldn’t chip. He looked low on confidence.
Nadal has improved immensely even in the space of a year since they last played on Centre Court. And he was goddam’ brilliant then. Federer was simply brilliant too then, and still is. And the pair of them are in a different orbit to everyone else.
Nadal’s two-handed backhand was just much stronger than Federer’s one-handed. Nadal’s serve was consistently aggressive. He just kept jamming, into the body. Federer just could not nail a break point. A statistic of one from 13 (and 12 of those before the comeback) is nightmare reading for anyone, let alone a man who wants to be universally accepted as the greatest ever.
But then, on later big points, Federer’s nerve held, during the early match points against him and with the mini-breaks he needed to steal to stay in the fight. Twice towards the end of the fourth set Federer was two points from defeat. But he got back into it. He got to the breaker, where Nadal led 5-2, against just two points from victory. The passing shots in that breaker were not of this world.
When Federer got in gear, he ran around the ball and just whooped the crap out of it. With a touch of silk. He crashed forehand winners to the corner, and rained aces. But Nadal took it the distance. You could write a book on all the amazing shots in this match. Balletic leaps (from Federer), (bull) running passes (from Nadal), magnificent wide serves. Twists and turns and rallies to leave you stunned.
I’ll take a lie down now.
Ten things to take home from SW19
1. Passion bears fruit
The passion sealed it. Venus Williams’ win on Saturday in the women’s singles – and the march to the same final by her sister, Serena – was achieved through a passion that most can only marvel at. Centre Court. The world’s biggest title. And five years after they last contested it. That takes technique and athleticism, of course. But the sheer will to win is still so evident. If they pick their tournaments and be careful of hard courts that batter the body, and stay healthy, they can challenge at Wimbledon for years, even if they didn’t win a thing in between. I thought Saturday was a good match. Boy, they smash that ball. The difference was break points. Serena handled them poorly, winning two from 13. If you can’t break, you can’t win. The only other thought on the final was this: at their peak, and fully physically fit, has there ever been a person in history who could’ve beat either? I don’t think so.
2. This Brit’s a hit
Laura Robson should be an inspiration to young British tennis players. She won the Eddie Herr tournament – staged at my academy – on a hard court last year and now she’s showed versatility by winning on grass. I haven’t seen her play a lot but I know she’s well put together, solid, athletic, moves well and has the inherent advantages of the leftie. Martina Hingis has been a mentor, and that’s not a bad thing because Hingis was a tough young champion. Now get back to work, Laura.
3. Maria will be back
Anyone who thinks that Maria Sharapova is on the out needs to go see a shrink. We ain’t seen the end of the kid yet. Not by a long, long, long, long way. Sometimes you lose big matches. Shocks happen. That’s life. Get over it. Get on with it. Maria will. OK, so you see her face on a thousand billboards, and she’s making millions from endorsements and other interests. But being 21 and No 2 on the planet is not the worst situation in the world, is it? Don’t write her off. Since I knew her as a kid, she’s responded to adversity in the same way. She told it where to go.
4. Murray is on course
I’m very, very pleased for Andy Murray at the progress he’s made at this year’s championships. Holy mackerel! You only had to see what Rafael Nadal could do to Roger Federer yesterday to know he’s capable of making mince out of Titans, let alone out of a hugely promising but still developing 21-year-old in his first Slam quarter-final. Andy got as far as he was meant to. Past the last 16. Out before the semis. He can now go away and get better.
5. Ana’s fine; Jelena wobbles
Ana Ivanovic will have caused a few people to wonder about her status as the world No 1 by being knocked out early. My take is not to worry about that too much. She won the French Open. She’s had a big year. Her head is understandably in a spin. This wobble is nothing but that. She’ll be fine. Jelena Jankovic, on the other hand, has a more fundamental problem. She needs to add to her game. She’s just too damn predictable. She’s never going to win a Slam playing north-south tennis with no east-west or mixing it up.
6. It’s time to raise the roof
The weather has been excellent for most of the fortnight. But from next year, with Centre Court’s new roof, even if the weather is bad there will never again be a need for a rain delay to prevent at least one big match going on. I know rain is part of the mystique of Wimbledon. I appreciate the mystique. But I’d rather watch tennis.
7. Nadal is one hell of a shot
Trying to pick a shot of the tournament is tough when we’ve seen so much fantastic play. Murray’s winner to turn the tide in the third-set tie-break against Richard Gasquet was a contender. But I think one of Nadal’s winners against Murray tops that. The Spaniard hooked at least two of those utterly unbelievable forehands down the line – around the pole – from way outside the line. Too. Darn. Good.
8. Squabs are a damp squib
My Independent colleagues, Nick Harris and Paul Newman, broke the biggest pigeon story of the tournament, and I know our Diary asked fans if they would want to eat pigeons shot at the Club! I used to eat pigeons, years ago. Squabs. Tasty. But though Wimbledon has class coming out at the seams, with the organisers handling every situation in the right way, I wouldn’t eat one of theirs. It would probably cost too much anyway.
9. Marat should bathe in it
My positive shock of the tournament was the performance of Marat Safin in reaching the semis. I turned him away as a teenager but have a sentimental attachment and was thrilled for him.
10. Nothing bad happened
And my negative shock? How can you have any negatives about Wimbledon? Thanks for reading.
Win a week at Bollettieri Tennis Academy
I can’t thank you all enough for taking the time and trouble to enter my daily competition during Wimbledon fortnight, the prize being a week’s tennis holiday at my academy. I am paying for tuition and accommodation in Florida – our winner gets his own plane ticket.
The entries have poured in from across Britain, and from countries around the world as well. So thanks to all of you for that. You certainly love your tennis. That much is obvious from all the personal stories you told me in your emails.
We had 12 daily winners from which the one overall winner was drawn. Those 12 were: G Goodger, D O’Carrol, C Blake, D Mulreany, L Arrowsmith, G Akos, R O’Reilly, B Fergie, G Mardell, C Stewart, D Ward, and M Ravden (the last being the daily winner on Saturday, for Venus Williams’ win).
The names went into a hat yesterday (a paper cup, actually), and congratulations go to … Dan Mulreany! A special thank you to all those who entered the competition every day. It has been a fantastic two weeks.