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US Open…day 1…. 2012

The US Open is the last major of the year and it has a different “feel” than the other three. It’s not as “happy” as the Australian, not as “sexy” as the French and not as “quaint” as Wimbledon but it is “loud and wild’ and if you don’t like noise.. stay home.

To play well here you have to find an inner peace and enjoy the chaos, maybe “find a fan” who’s so into it that you can “feed” off of him or her. All the players will face these distractions which is why the US Open is more “fair” than the other three. Let’s take the players out on court 10, smell the hamburgers and hot dogs being cooked and listen to the vendors selling everything from wristbands to tracksuits and then go to the Arthur Ashe stadium where the “video screen” is more exciting than the live tennis being played. ‘Cause you might catch a glimpse of yourself or any other celebrity you cherish. You’ll even find that the players are “checking out the action”!

So what does it take to play well at the “Open”? Fall in love with something..could be a person..or a restaurant..or a song..or a building.. New York City is a place where the “sorry are left to cry” and the “lucky are turned into stars”!

“I’m a tennis fan”, I’m Mats Wilander

P.S Thanks for checking out WOW’s website… stay tuned…

Djokovic wins a 2nd major title

Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray in three straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 to win his 2nd Australian Open title. What an impressive tournament from start to finish for Novak, beating Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray in the last three rounds 9-0 in sets, that’s a good start to a career that will surely win as much as it needs to feel like “I deserve a little respect around here”, and if you do it with a “contagious attitude” you’re a champion for life”. WOW he made it look so simple! Andy Murray… grow up.. mom.. lay down the rules..stop swearing at yourself and all of us…have to listen to this immature language..when will “chair umpire” wake up and explain to Andy that this is not “cool” and you better stop or you’ll be punished and to all of us who promote the game, we don’t need this ” “…behaviour and without us tennis dies. Learn from Novac!! I was going to go into the “tactical” reasons why Djokovic won in 3 sets, but it’s too obvious, so put a smile on your face and suck it up . Mats Wilander.

Quarterfinals

Roger Federer takes on his countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in what might be the most “attractive” quarterfinal in the mens 2011 Australian Open. Wawrinka has been very impressive up to this point and in a world where everything is relative, he is the one that has “improved” the most during the first four rounds. The one handed topspin backhand is simply the most effective and beautiful shot “left” in the tournament. It’s easily the best single handed backhand we have ever seen. Still he looks to “run around” his backhand and use his forehand whenever he can without giving up a “neutral’ court position. This “shrinks” his side of the court down to a pretty narrow area to hit into. If anyone can widen it though, it’s Roger Federer who is playing at a level that could prove to be a little bit higher than the others left in the tournament. What we know is that Federer saves his very best ’til he really needs it. He just might need it against his fellow countryman and look for Federer to really mix it up in todays match. I’m expecting him to keep the points short and also “move” Wawrinka around as Stanislas movement is still a weakness. Allthough if Wawrinka has a good “serving day” this match could go the distance!

The night match features big hitting Tomas Berdych and “spiderman” Novak Djokovic. You never know what kind of effect Berdychs game is going to have on the best players in the world, sometimes it makes you wonder why he hasn’t won multiple majors already. I do expect Djokovic to “absorb” the power and send it back with interest. Novaks mobility around the court is second to none and it’s based on flexibility. Of course you also need a fair amount of “muscle” strength and anticipation, but boys and girls out there trying to become as good a player as you can, spend more time stretching than you think is necessary. This match could turn out to look like two kids playing a video game with clean, “flat” ground strokes close to the lines and with Novak Djokovic winning eventually. It should be two fascinating quarterfinals and I’ll be there watching from the first point to the last.

Out of the four womens quarterfinals the one that stands out is the one between world # 1, Caroline Wozniacki and Francesca Schiavone. The “princess” from Denmark is the favorite, we are all hoping Schiavone has something left in the tank after her record breaking victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova. That match was overall the best, most entertaining womens tennis match I have ever seen. Both Schiavone and Kuznetsova gave more of themselves than I think neither of them thought was possible. We in the audience certainly thought they did. Wozniacki brings a “match toughness” though that will most probably make the difference in her match against the “fiery” italian. Caroline is not number 1 in the world for nothing, she is consistent of both sides and she doesn’t ever go away. As much as the womens game needs players like Francesca Schiavone, it’s a very complicated way to play tennis for a woman as movement is the most important ingredient. The other quarterfinal today is between Andrea Petkovic of Germany and Na Li of China. Na Li reached the semis here last year and has a really good chance to do it again, but then Petkovic is a “newcomer” at this level and anyone that is not intimidated by Maria Sharapova, who Petkovic beat easily in the previous round, is dangerous. It should be a great day for a tennis fan.
Enjoy, all the best , Mats Wilander.

Day 5 at the 2011 Australian Open

Mats Wilander reporting from Melbourne. Justine Henin vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova was the match of day and the only match that involved two Grand Slam champions. Neither in their prime but certainly with a few years left in their respective careers. Both of them still looking to add to their collection of major wins. Henin has been suffering from a sore right arm for a while and it looked like it was at times very painful, especially whilst hitting a forehand. Kuznetsova came out on top with a 6-3, 7-6 victory having saved a set point in the 2nd set. Kuznetsova played the best match she’s played in a long time and she looks mentally and physically ready to start the 2nd half of her tennis career. Even though she’s ranked outside the top 10, she’s still one of the best players on the WTA tour and someone who knows how to win major championships. Justine Henin on the other hand needs to rededicate herself to the sport and stay injury free for at least a year so she can build some confidence and get back to the top of the game where she belongs. On the mens side, Stanislas Wawrinka beat Gail Monfils in three straight sets 7-6, 6-2, 6-3. Wawrinka was a little bit lucky to win the first set after Monfils had been the better player. But to what expense? You can’t “empty your gas tank” in an hour and 35 minutes, which is what Monfils did and does to often in the 3-5 set Grand Slams. Surely Wawrinka knew that and even if he loses the first, there is no way Monfils was going to “sprint” to the finish line. Monfils needs  to change the way he plays and become more aggressive, otherwise he will never win a “big” one..Defending is his strength but it’s not enough in todays game, so he has go against his nature or settle as a “non threat’ in the majors! All the best, Mats Wilander.

Roger wins in five sets

Mats Wilander here, I hope everybody is enjoying  the Aussie Open. Roger Federer is today but not so much last night in his five set victory over Gilles Simon. Federer came out and played brilliantly in the first two sets winning both very comfortably. It was hard to see how Simon had beaten Federer the only two times they had played. But then the third set started and Simon was a different player. He started playing a little bit more agressive and that was enough to turn Federer into a player without any confidence at all, no self belief and no idea what to do. Simon broke Federer’s serve three times in winning  the set 6-3. All the work Federer had done in the last six months with new coach Paul Annacone  wasn’t paying off, because  of  Gilles Simon’s ability to absorb pace and then suddenly generate enough pace of his own to hit outright winners. To be very critical, Federer didn’t do a very good job adjusting to the situation. He stayed very close to the baseline without going for his shots and that’s no place to be defending from. Simon eventually won the fourth set 7-5 and if I had to pick the winner at that stage I would have gone for Simon. He had won the only two matches they had played and now the last two sets. But Roger Federer is a different player these days and again became the “dictator” of the court. Sometimes it’s good to be stubborn and stick to the gameplan, because the same way Federer had lost the third and the fourth set he somehow won the fifth 6-3.  Play safe and take a lot of chances, just like Roger Federer….by Mats Wilander, Melbourne.

Nalbandian vs. Hewitt

David Nalbandian managed to squeeze by Lleyton Hewitt in the opening round of the Australian Open in five very hard fought sets. Nalbandian is the better player these days, but Hewitt deserved to win this time having had a match point at 7-6  in the 5th set when Nalbandian for some reason decided to serve and volley for only about the 3rd time in nearly 5 hours. Hewitt hit the perfect return right at the shoelaces and somehow Nalbandian got down for it and finessed the most delicate backhand halfvolley dropshot that not even the still very quick australian could get to before it bounced twice. Hewitt also had 3-1 and 0-40 in the last set but played a little bit to defensive to secure the “doublebreak” which surely would have been enough the argentinians spirit which was extremely positive throughout the match. Hewitt still wants it as badly as ever allthough towards the end of a match like this nothing in the whole world can be of more importance than winning. To be a bit cruel, not your wife, not your kids, you should feel like your world is going to fall apart if you don’t win. Easier said than done and I think Lleyton Hewitt has moved on in life and just wants the “confirmation” that he’s still good enough to compete with the best players in the world. It’s sad for australian tennis but everything comes to an end, I hope I’m wrong but Hewitt might have played his last match at the Australian Open. I am Mats Wilander in Melbourne.

Hello everyone, Mats Wilander here. I hope you enjoyed the first day of the 2011 Australian Open as much as I did. If you didn’t see Federers’s match against Lukas Lacko then call the Tennis Channel and have a videotape sent to you! I have never seen Roger or anyone ever play better than he did in the first two sets winning both 6-1. Lacko just recently lost to Rafael Nadal in three sets and actually won one set 6-0 so he can play and will be top 30 in the world before the end of the year. So what’s different about Fedrerer’s game now compared to the last eight in which he has won 16 majors? Well, first of all he’s playing tennis for the right reasons. For one he’s having fun. Second, he’s trying to get better and not just maintaining what he has. I remember watching him practice at Wimbledon a few years back, when he was getting beaten by Nadal not only on clay but other surfaces too. I was surprised that he wasn’t “working” on the things he needed to improve to at least play the “right” way and give himself a better chance to win. He just wasn’t aggressive enough. Those days are long gone. Over the last 6 months he has transformed his game into the most aggressive player of all time, sorry John McEnroe and Stefan Edberg. Federer is taking the ball “earlier”, he’s coming to the net more often, coming “over’ the backhand more, hitting dropshots at the right time from the right part of the court (inside the baseline) and on top of all this he believes in this new way of playing! If we had “world records” in tennis he broke all of them except the number of service aces in two sets. The question is can he keep it up? Most probably not the level of execution, but it doesn’t matter, he doesn’t have to play as good as he did against Lacko to beat Nadal, Murray, Djokovic or anyone. In fact if his level drops 10% he still wouldn’t lose a set ever again! Now, it’s impossible for anyone now or in the future to be as perfect as he was yesterday. One day there will be player who is better than Federer or Nadal, not while they are still playing at the highest level but maybe in 20 years or maybe not. Everything is relative. But no one will make it “look” as good and as “easy” as Roger does at the moment. Is he the favourite to win here in Melbourne? Not really. He has never tried to play the way he’s playing now against Nadal in a 3 out of 5 set match before. We saw glimpses of it at the ATP Finals in London last year ( Federer beat Nadal 2 sets to 1) but there’s a big difference in doing it over a five set match and to go into the match knowing that if on the day in question ( the final against Nadal hopefully ) you could also “lose” your “rythm and timing” because the margins are very small at that level and then not to retreat to the “old” way , the way that has Nadal ahead 14-8 in matches! Do your self a favour and “call in sick” when Roger plays his next round ’cause it’s a treat at the moment and no one knows how long it’s going to last, not even Roger Federer himself. Be safe and take a lot of chances, I am Mats Wilander in “the land down under”.

The draw Australian Open 2011

The draw is made and Rafael Nadal dodged the first bullet as he has a pretty easy first couple of rounds. He plays Daniel Marcos of Brazil in the 1st round and Daniel Gimeno-Traver from Spain or a qualifier in the 2nd. Obviously Nadal is going to feel the pressure because he is trying to do something that hasn’t been done since 1969, which is not having more # 1’s than the Beatles…but win 4 majors in a row. The last man to do this was Rod Laver and wouldn’t it be fitting to do it right here in Melbourne on the Rod Laver Arena with the Australian handing Rafa the trophee. On the womens side Steffi Graf actually won all four, the Grand Slam, in 1988 and took away my only chance of being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the most important sports magazine in the world and I have not forgiven her for that! In fact Steffi won the Gold medal at the Olympics that year as well.

In the 3rd round Nadal is supposed to play the 31st seed Feliciano Lopez but young australian Bernard Tomic is ready to take a step towards the very best so potentially a tricky round to get through.

Australian Open predictions.

If Rafa wins the Australian Open, he should be talked about as the “greatest ever”.

But then again, why do we keep this conversation going? Well..he’s playing at the same time as Roger Federer.Who has won the most Grand Slams of any. And who has the right to say Roger is not “it”?

Rafa won the Gold Medal in China, and Davis Cup in a “Bull Fighting Arena”, I don’t even think RF cares, he likes Rafa to break all them records..

Serbia wins Davis Cup!

What an unbelievable effort by Victor Troicki to bounce back and win the fifth deciding match after the disapointment he suffered yesterday in the doubles. To beat Michael Llodra 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 without letting Llodra into any of the three sets from the beginning might be the best match that he’ll ever play, certainly the most important. I know that Llodra is a great volleyer and if he ‘s going to win this match he has to do it at the net, but after “asking” the question to Troicki : Can you pass me all day, ’cause that’s your only chance to beat me?..and Troicki answers: Yes, today I can and I will so you should change your tactics or you’ll lose!! So what could Llodra have done? Stay in the rally longer and wait for a better opportunity to come forwards instead of “throwing” himself at the first possible chance, the court didn’t seem to play quick enough for that kind of attacking tennis.
It wouldn’t have made much difference how Llodra had played today ’cause Victor Troicki was just to good and Serbia deserves to win, and well done Novak Djokovic, not just for playing for his country, I hope Roger Federer next time he talks about goals he wants to achieve he mentions winning Davis Cup in the same breath as winning a gold medal in singles at the Olympics! After having seen that how could anyone say no to Davis Cup, and the chance to win at home in front of “your”fans!
Frances problems don’t end on the court, in fact the reason they don’t win the Davis Cup title is because of the players that are not playing. It’s great to see Tsonga and Gasquet support their team on site, but the team would be better of if they were able to play. I know that Tsonga is injured and has had a lot of bad luck with his health, but at what point is it time to do something about it? Maybe practice different, maybe less time in the gym, maybe lose a few kilos, like Nadal did when he had problems with his knees.
You have to change something, because from the bench you ain’t winning any matches and what’s up with Richard Gasquets hunger for winning? Is that it ? Is that all they are going to do in tennis, play a little here and there or is there “to much” team spirit in the french team, no one dares to step up and be the leader like Djokovic did and like Nadal has done and Roddick, so to Roger and the french , don’t be so afraid of “failure”. If you don’t play you sure as hell can’t win! Until next week,Mats.