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  Topic Review (Newest First)
03-07-2012 03:09 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

What happens to the Murray forehand in big occasions???
02-19-2012 11:42 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

Return of the Youz: Video of the Week
02-13-2012 03:44 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

The Mystery of the Missing Forehand
02-08-2012 09:35 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

Blistering single handed backhands
01-30-2012 10:47 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

Reflection on the 2012 Australian Open: The Slow and Painful Death of Net Play
01-28-2012 09:21 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

Thoughts on Djokovic Nadal, including what Rafa has to do to stand a chance and Novak's net game
01-25-2012 06:29 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

A look at Federer ten years ago, when he was a bit of an uncomposed headcase and waaaay before grand slam glory:
01-23-2012 12:43 AM
Re: Tennis Niche

A brief catch up of the first batch of fourth round matches

In typical TennisNiche fashion, this entry will arbitrarily skim over the largely unspectacular Third Round clashes, dismissing these matches as entirely unworthy its rather embarrassingly oversized intellect. Instead, here is a round-up of the first batch of 4th round action from the Australian Open.

Roger Federer swept aside spunky Australian Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, producing this spectacular shot of tennis artistry in the process. TN has cast it’s unwavering, omniscient eye over the young Australian in a previous post, and this match largely confirmed suspicions. His opponent, the legendary Roger Federer, is a man who has been in gradual decline and yet is still capable of beating any mere mortal when it so fits his fancy. The one-sided scoreline may suggest that Fed was indeed enjoying such an evening of imperious form, but unfortunately for Tomic’s pride, this was not the case.

Federer produced several shots of unique magnificence, the type of shot which, to coin a cliché, cannot be taught (Novak Djokovic, for all his dominance, can still only dream of such improvisational brilliance). Despite this, it would be a vast exaggeration to compare his performance in this match to the god-like figure who took to the court in the years 2004-2007. The simple truth is that Federer didn’t need to be that good - at this stage in Tomic’s career, he simply does not match up well with Federer, even more so when they are playing on slower surfaces.

The type of player to bother Federer has changed throughout the course of his career, but a Tomic-like player has never been problematic to the great man. In the early years of his career, when ‘surface specialists’ had not been made redundant by the homogenisation of court surfaces, Fed struggled both with fast court serve – volleyers (most notably, Tim Henman) and classical clay-courters (Mantilla, Kuerten and Horna). In his peak years, the only players to truly bother him were Nadal, Safin and Nalbandian, none of whom have styles which can be exactly replicated. Now, in the twilight of his tennis career, he has started to lose to heavy-hitters such as Del Potro, Berdych, Soderling and Tsonga.

Unlike the above-mentioned players, Tomic does not rely on power or speed for his primary gameplan. Instead, he prefers to win matches through his variety – he can play one point retrieving everything his opponent throws at him, the next point attacking on the third or fourth shot of the rally with a flat forehand, the next with a delicate drop shot followed to the net. He relishes the act of frustrating his opponent, ripping away from them the element of control with his unpredictable play. Unfortunately for Bernard in this match, it was simply a case of Federer doing everything that little bit better. Tomic is able to exploit the fact that many of today’s players are one-dimensional baseliners who do not enjoy playing against variety, but Federer has been doing this far longer and far better.

Tomas Berdych beat Nicolas Almagro 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 in a contest packed with controversy. With the contest at 5-6 in the fourth set, Berdych approached the net and hit a rather weak first volley. Almagro approached the ball on what was a fairly comfortable passing shot, and decided to go straight for his man. He hit Berdych in the chest, causing the tall Czech to dramatically jump to the ground. After the match Berdych refused to shake Almagro’s hand, much to the mire of the typically boisterous Aussie crowd.

Rafael Nadal defeated compatriot Feliciano Lopez in an encounter as predictable as night following day.

Juan Martin Del Potro overcame Phillip Kohlschreiber in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. Del Potro was fairly comfortable in victory, his potent mixture of brute power applied with consistency and a low unforced-error count proving too much for the German.
01-19-2012 10:04 AM
Re: Tennis Niche

Sporadic update on days two and three, with a focus on Baghdatis' decline and the Del-Pot Mannarino match up

In a first-round clash, Juan Martin Del Potro defeated Adrian Mannarino 2-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 in an enjoyable clash of styles. Both men are strictly baseline operators but have contrasting approaches defined by their physiological differences. The 6’6 Del Potro has long swings on his groundstrokes and hits the ball as hard as anyone else on tour, constantly probing for a short ball on which to unleash his devastating forehand. Mannarino, 6′ tall with a very slight build, is as pure a counterpuncher as one is likely to see. His abbreviated, minute backswings are almost comical to the eye, giving the impression of a louche, very Gallic indifference.

The lower ranked Mannarino was able to take a set off the 2009 US Open champ and competed well throughout, using his compact groundstrokes to redirect Del Potro’s typically fierce but central groundstrokes, totally catching the Argentine off guard. Ultimately though Del Potro was too good for his opponent and prevailed in just under three hours.

Moving on to the second round, Stanislas Wawrinka overcame Marcos Baghdatis in an entertaining encounter, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 . Wawrinka deserved the victory – he was the more aggressive of the two, taking up a more offensive position on the baseline and seizing the initiative in rallies with his spectacular backhand down the line. His opponent was curiously feeble in his resistance, only showing fighting spirit when faced with the almighty challenge of demolishing four of his rackets in succession.

For Baghdatis to lose in such passive fashion would have been almost unthinkable five years ago. The Cypriot established himself as one of the game’s most exciting talents when he reached the final of the 2006 Australian Open where he took the first set of Federer and looked like the more likely winner until his inexperience caught up to him. He missed much of the 2008 season with injury and truthfully has never looked the same player. The injury seems to have had just as much a mental effect as it has had physical. He is far more risk-averse now; while he still hits one of the cleanest balls on the tour, he is no longer the unpredicable, gung-ho player who struck fear into his opponens with a sudden, unexpected injection of pace. He now appears more conservative and consistent, happy to play extended rallies further back in the court. It’s unfortunate that he has spent so long injured, as he is far less effective playing this new, patient game – his athletic prowess is falls considerably short of his natural talent on a tennis court, and against a powerful and experienced opponent like Wawrinka his limitations will always be exposed when he is playing defense and not taking the initiative in rallies.

Lastly, in tragic news, TennisNiche golden boy David Nalbandian fell to serving god John Isner in a Eurpidic encounter, the American winning 10-8 in the final set. With Isner serving at 8-8 in the fifth set, Nalbandian suffered from the fatal mixture of inopportune lapses of concentration combined with bad fortune, which could be said rather neatly symbolises his career. Firstly, Nalbandian squandered two break points with backhand unforced errors. Widely considered to be one of the greatest backhands of the past ten years, it is perplexing how he could miss two of these, particularly as his 6’10 opponent is not quick at the best of times, even more so when he is cramping after four hours of play. This was followed by the classic Nalbandian screw job, in which the umpire absurdly did not allow Nalbandian to challenge a dubious ace down the middle by Isner, as he felt the Argentine had taken too long to challenge (in reality, the serve was originally called out and the umpire overruled. Nalbandian went to look at the mark, asked confusedly whether the serve was called in or not, by which time the umpire had decided that the time for a challenge had gone).

The sentient being which is TennisNiche would verbally dismantle this petulant umpire right here and now, were it not for the fact that it has been programmed as an omniscient and benevolent artificial intelligence designed to educate the wider tennis world on the perils of an ATP Tour dominated by generic baseline clones who hit drop volleys with full-western grips. So, the last word will be left the the blonde haired, rally team owning David Nalbandian:

“I asked for Hawk-Eye as he made an overrule. I say ‘okay, I see the mark, I challenge’ – not a big deal, but he didn’t want to do it,” said Nalbandian. “How many times do we check the mark and ask for Hawk-Eye?

“So somebody from the umpires or ATP can explain this situation. I mean, what is this? This is a grand slam. I haven’t seen the video but I don’t think it was too late to call. John said, ‘yeah, ask’.

“It’s ridiculous playing this kind of tournament with this kind of umpire. Eight-all, break point. Can you be that stupid to do that in that moment? What does the umpire need? Press, the name, his picture [in the paper] tomorrow? Incredible.”

- TN
01-16-2012 08:07 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

A brief look at what happened on the men’s side of the Australian Open last night:

Rafael Nadal defeated Alex Kuznetsov but announced in his press conference immediately after that he was considering pulling out of the whole tournament after an injury scare which he said caused the worst feeling he has ever had in his knee. Fortunately the Spaniard slept on the decision and then easily dispatched the world no. 167 Kuznetsov in a straightforward 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 encounter

Donald Young triumphed in a bizarre five set encounter against Peter Gojowczyk, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 1-6, 6-2. Gojowczyk led 2-0 in the last set before his form totally collapsed, collecting a mighty four points in the final six games. Unfortunate recipient of futile British hopes James Ward put in a mammoth effort to wrestle eleven games from Slovenian clay-merchant Blaz Kavcic.

Two exciting young talents scraped through in five sets, with Grigor Dimitrov overcoming the erratic big-hitting Jeremy Chardy 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, while the great white hope of Austrlian tennis Bernard Tomic came back from a two set deficit against notorious headcase Fernando Verdasco.

Former Australian Open semi finalist Nikolay Davydenko crashed out to Italian Flavio Cipolla. Formerly a regular of the top ten, Davydenko’s form has tailed off badly after sustaining a wrist injury in 2010, his ranking now lying way down at 52.

Meanwhile, talented shotmaker Alexander Dolgopolov won from two sets down against Greg Jones. Dolgopolov produced his usual mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly to overcome the Aussie wildcard recipient Jones 1-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.

Barrel-chested Argentine hero David Nalbandian was the fortunate beneficiary of a Jarkko Niemenen abdominal injury which forced the Finn to return 2-4 down in the second set, having lost the first 6-4.

Roger Federer breezed through in typical first-round fashion, defeating Alexandre Kudryavtsev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. Sergiy Stakhovsky beat Ilia Marchenko 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in an all-Ukranian clash.
01-15-2012 01:54 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

Video of the Week:
01-07-2012 08:33 PM
Re: Tennis Niche

Upcoming articles:

Match Report: Davydenko vs Verdasco @ Australian Open 2010

Match Report: Donald Young vs Juan Monaco @ ATP Paris Masters

Anyone who has read (and hopefully enjoyed!) the articles so far - any suggestions for future pieces?

All suggestions appreciated!

- TN
01-07-2012 08:05 AM
Re: Tennis Niche

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Andre Agassi vs Pete Sampras @ End of Year Masters 1991
01-06-2012 10:16 AM
Re: Tennis Niche

Player Profile: Bernard Tomic

The typically suave Australian teenager Bernard Tomic begins his ball toss at the 2011 Australian Open
In an era of tennis characterised by ever homogenising court surfaces, a static top ten and a rather tedious prevalence of baseline play, the sport is crying out for a top player to emerge who plays with something approaching flair, ingenuity and flamboyance. Roger Federer epitomizes these qualities but is nearing his thirties and has his best days behind him, while Andy Murray possesses the tools to play both a varied baseline game and to effectively finish points at the net, but lacks the mental intangibles to fully utilise his abilities on the biggest stage.

Going through the current ATP top 30 makes depressing reading – the vast majority of players have solid two handed backhands, possess excellent lateral movement and defense (those who move sluggishly tend to compensate with a cannon of a serve – read, John Isner, Andy Roddick) but move towards the net with a great reluctance and lack both volleying technique and the awareness of how to cut off angles for passing shots.

Tomic, not unlike fellow counter-puncher and strategist Andy Murray, does not suffer for lack of natural talent or variety in his game. On the surface his style has some facets which are symptomatic of the generic modern game – a two handed backhand, excellent defensive anticipation and a inclination toward prolonged baseline points. What separates Tomic from this group is his unique technique and tactical variety. His languid, relaxed style on the forehand and his willingness to hit a series of slow, floated slices followed by a flat, risky forehand are among the facets which mark him as a potential saviour from a future tennis scene dominated by those with great consistency and athletic talents but scant in the way of court craft or ingenuity (think along the lines of Viktor Troicki).

Strengths & Weaknesses

Tomic’s unusual forehand technique is perhaps the most notable of his traits. One feature of modern tennis is a progression of players hitting with greater amounts of topspin, especially on the forehand. Most players now employ a semi western or full western grip on their forehand and follow through on the shot with a high finish (occasionally, like Nadal, with a lasso style above-the-head finish), both of which combine to produce maximum topspin.

Tomic’s forehand does not conform to the modern standard, but is not exactly a traditional stroke either. He has a moderate semi-western grip, a short take back and a fairly lateral motion throughout the swing, as opposed to a low-to-high finish. Consequently, Tomic’s forehand is concurrently a strength and a weakness. As a more conservative rallying shot it is vulnerable to falling short and inviting pressure from the opponent, but equally when he decides to go for a flat hit, can act as a deadly and unexpected weapon (crucially, owing to his technique, Tomic can vary the pace on his forehand without changing the take back on his swing).

Tomic possesses other weapons which are a rarity on the tour today; an almost insultingly effortless slice backhand which he can skim low over the net cross-court or just as easily hit down the line with vicious side-spin, producing both shots with the kind of grace which makes a mockery of Nadal and Djokovic’s muscling of the ball; a beautiful feel on both sides, particularly for drop shots; solid, textbook volleying technique; a good return of serve aided by a short take back on both forehand and backhand; a good service action which, although has ample room for improvement, produces a pacey and dangerous first serve; the ability to change direction of the ball with ease; and a great spatial awareness on the court which helps to compensate for his lack of foot speed and aides his already intelligent shot selection.

While it may seem harsh to point out flaws while he is still so young, there are obviously areas for improvement in Tomic’s game. Besides the aforementioned weakness in his rallying forehand, he also needs work on his second serve, which unfortunately resembles too much that of Murray’s (slow, lacking kick and easily attackable). Some have placed question marks over his attitude, pointing out his occasional arrogant off-court statements and seemingly indifferent attitude on the court. While clearly he hasn’t fully developed physically, at present he certainly fits into the ‘lanky’ category, and his rather anaemic movement around the court reflects this (although some connect this to the aforementioned indifference on court).


Tomic will be a top 5 player and a grand slam contender within the next three years; TennisNiche predicts multiple grand slam titles and the no. 1 spot but this is heavily dependant on how Tomic’s character develops and whether he can stay injury free.
As for 2012, TennisNiche will go out on a limb and predict the following:
1 Grand Slam semi-final (Wimbledon or the US Open) and one 4th round. An early exit at Roland Garros seems a near certainty owing to his lack of wins on clay at the professional level.
1 Masters Series final (probably later in the year, at Shanghai or Paris), and one semi-final.
1 victory over the ‘top 4′ of Federer/ Nadal/ Djokovic/ Murray in a best of 3 format.
01-04-2012 05:29 PM
Tennis Niche

Hello all!

Long time reader who has seldom posted here.

Like many others, I did not know of this forum until I created my own blog - but having perused it for half an hour already I have seen some quality writing. Henry Chinaski's (for the humour and interesting topics chosen) and Hewitt=Legend's (for quality of writing and sheer comprehensive coverage of 2011!) being the ones which caught my eye, for whatever that is worth =).

On a more selfish note, I would like to bring to attention my own blog.

I have only four posts so far but I will be updating it weekly from now on (please hold the racuous applause).

For those still reading, it will mostly be player reports and match analysis with a focus on the technical side of the game.

I try to avoid blogging about the 'top 4' out of sheer boredom of having heard endless discussions about them already. That, and I find the slightly lesser known players more interesting.

Unfortunately I live in London and have scant opportunities to travel, so any live reports will be limited to Wimbledon.

Please do check it out

- TN

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