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one handed tennis, anyone?
So maybe I am a dinosaur who can't seem to get the sentimental favorites out of my head. But I grew up with McEnroe, Edberg, Becker and Cash, and moved on to Rafter and Sampras. I love beautiful tennis, I love risk takers, guys who come to net and force their opponent to come up with the goods, or who could unload on a one handed backhand and hit a dime in the distance.
Many would argue and that's fine, but I think that the object of tennis is to do more than get the ball back over the net. The only 'slap' hitter I have ever truly respected was Mats Wilander, because Mats consistently beat better players than himself with no real arsenal to speak of. And I wouldn't give him too much credit if he had only done so on clay, but beating Lendl in a USO final was proof enough. Still, a guy more aggressive than Ivan would have won that title from Wilander, because usually ultra aggressive guys handled him.
The object of the game is to win. Those players who aggressively sought victory with masterful artistry under pressure are the ones who truly have my respect. Agassi? You can keep him. He played in Sampras' era and he watched as Sampras dominated, sometimes even offering himself up for the slaughter. Sure, Andre hung around to defeat the Rainer Scheuttler's and Andrei Medvedev's of the world in Slam Finals, and sure, he has his career slam, but when he lies down to sleep, it's next to a greater slam champ than he ever was, where he dreams about never beating Pete in the big spot.
With every passing day, more one handers go and more two handers make the scene. You know what? It's depressing. From what I saw of Rome last week, I perhaps caught about 20 true serve and volley points, and I was lucky to see that many.
Is there hope at all for a fan like me in today's game? Well, Roger usually keeps me from the ledge, this year not withstanding. But in this space, I hope to talk about all subjects one handed, from why the game has gone 2 handed, to what players remain on the landscape that would give a one handed fan some hope. I will talk about the disappointments, the surprises, the new guys on the radar, and any good one handers leaving the scene.
A few one handers have caught my eye of late, and at the very least, give me some longshot rooting interests. Obviously Wawrinka is a keeper. Roger's occassional hitting partner is a gritty one hander with a nice repertoire, and he has had some good success of late--a good USO, some wins over Nalbandian, a few finals appearances, etc.
A guy like me has to love Philip Kohlschreiber. His epic win over Roddick at the AO was very impressive, and his backhand is one of the more under rated shots in the game. Ranked in the mid 20's, he has a shot to make some noise in Grand Slam tennis. On a side note, Germany seems to be the only country that gives us a lot of one handers--from Becker and Stich to Kohly and Haas, and even a journeyman like Berrer, who one has to appreciate for his willingness to play aggressively.
Karlovic, the one handed giant and only man besides Roger, I believe, to take a tourny on grass, clay, and hards last year.
And of course, my Frenchman and his titles: Michael Llodra. Always a great doubles player, now having a breakthrough season on the singles tour as well, playing aggressively and as always, coming to net.
On this topic, I have a lot to talk to about, so it may be best to stop here for now before I wear you guys out. In the coming weeks, I hope to talk about the disappointments in one handed tennis--Blake, Gasquet, Gonzo, and Robredo, to name a few. I'd also like to discuss why there are so many 2 handers as I have some theories about that, and what could be done to change the trend. Just about anything going on with one handers will be my purview, including the occasional trip down memory lane as well.
Thanks for this unique opportunity to talk one handed tennis. Real tennis.
Re: one handed tennis, anyone?
You forgot Gasquet. ;)
Re: one handed tennis, anyone?
On this topic, I have a lot to talk to about, so it may be best to stop here for now before I wear you guys out. In the coming weeks, I hope to talk about the disappointments in one handed tennis--Blake, Gasquet, Gonzo, and Robredo, to name a few...
Nah, I mentioned him...and I bet against him today. I love his talent, and I am not the type to get down on a 21 year old guy like him, but he is not there yet. If I was, I would have backed off Federer. But Gasquet, while still evolving, shows none of the fire of a Roger Federer. Right now, Gasquet is an incredibly weak favorite. When Roger was still up and down, he was at least a fiery guy with a temper...you could tell how disappointed he was when he underperformed.
Gasquet is too gentlemanly. He doesn't seem very upset with himself after many a bad loss, or during. Even when he is playing at the top of his game, Gasquet loses to counter punchers b/c he isn't aggressive enough. Too many times have I seen a Ferrer or a Nadal or guys of that ilk beat Gasquet. If he wants to beat those guys, he has to take some initiative. If he thinks rallying all day with them is the way to go, then he is a fool.
But tactics are not his strong suit. At 21, with a Wimbledon semi now on resume, I can't go crazy. He is still learning the game. As much as you question how a guy with a great serve, a great bh, and who volleys nicely in doubles can't put it all together, Federer had not yet done so by this age.
Roger though, could play at net in singles. He came in a lot in his first few Wimbledons, most notably, in defeating Pete Sampras there. Yes, the game is different now, but not so different that coming in can't be effective. Gasquet's fellow Frenchman, JW Tsonga, showed as much when he beat Gasquet at the AO,in the way he played Andy Murray and his demolition of Nadal, who many feel, and mistakenly so, is impervious to pressure.
One last note on Gasquet before coming back to him in a later entry: his behavior in the most recent Davis Cup does not bode well. When Guy Forget tells you to get your ass out there and play, you do it. If his finger was so blistered up for the potential Roddick match, how would that have changed in a few hours time to play Blake in a meaningless match? He doesn't just lack tactics, he lacks toughness. Not everyone is an Andre Agassi who will develop toughness over time. With all of France's great players, it wouldn't surprise me if we didn't see Gasquet play DC for quite a while. And when your own teammates are interviewed on national tv, like Mathieu, and says, "maybe he didn't want to play Roddick", you better rethink some things.
Re: one handed tennis, anyone?
First off, I'd like to acknowledge a few one handed news worthy items from the last few days.
Honorable mention goes to Roger Federer for Sunday's hard fought loss to Nadal in the finals of Hamburg.
Another honorable mention goes out to James Blake. Blake, not playing on his best surface as we well know, played the awkward Czech big man Berdych on Sunday and lost 6-7(5), 6-7(5), before rebounding in Dusseldorf today to take out Guilermo Canas, a way more comfortable clay courter than Blake, at the World Team Cup. That might bode well for America's chances when we go down to Argentina for DC.
We have to make mention of talented one handers Mikhail Youzhny and Feliciano Lopez, also in action in Dusseldorf, but the top one handed performer this week has got to be Philip Kohlschreiber, who on Sunday took world #5 David Ferrer out to the woodshed in what may have been Kohly's signature performance to date, dominating the able Spaniard 6-1, 6-0. Keep hope alive for us one handed fans, Philip!
While there are many disappointments to talk about in the world of one handers, and while for much of the week I was leaning toward writing about one, the enigmatic big man from Croatia, Ivan Ljubicic, I had a change of heart, inspired by Philip Kohlschreiber, and decided to use the space to talk about a player who has been a pleasant surprise: Canadian Frank Dancevic.
The 23 year old, sporting his trademark headband, burst on to the scene this summer, announcing himself to the world after having been Canada's first singles player in DC for a few years now. Dancevic stepped into the big leagues while declaring himself a tough out for some good opponents in 2007. The Canadian got his first taste of slam success with a straight set victory down under against Victor Hianescu, only to lose to grand slam champ Lleyton Hewitt in 4 sets in round 2. In Zagreb, Dancevic straighted Alexander Waske before losing to Baghdatis after getting blitzed 7-1 in a first set tie breaker. From there, Dancevic went out to San Jose where he fell to Andy Roddick, then to Memphis where he had another first round loss, this time to Andy Murray, and then on to Vegas where Kunitsyn handed him a first round loss, coming from a set down.
Things would pick up though for the kid. He defeated Waske again @ Indian Wells before losing 7-5 in the third to another great one hander, Fernando Gonzalez. Wilmbledon saw Dancevic to his second grand slam match win, in straights over Stefan Koubek, the feisty Austrian journeyman. Then Dancevic fell in a tight one to David Nalbandian, who was forced to come up with many passing shots in what looked like anybody's match for much of the way.
Frank came back over the pond and had a tremendous summer, defeating 4 quality opponents in Indy, including Juan Martin Del Potro and Andy Roddick in straights in the semis before losing to wild Russian Dimitry Tursunov in the final. Dancevic took his success with him to his native land, where he stayed hot, again defeating Del Potro and Verdasco, before losing a tight qf to Nadal. There are some quality highlights of this match on youtube.
Dancevic had a tough matchup in Flusing, where he drew former champion Marat Safin in round 1, who beat the Canadian in a tight 3 setter, seeing two sets go to exciting tie breakers, the last of which went 9-7 in favor of Safin.
Dancevic receded a bit after that, with the lone highlights being his 3rd victory of the season over Del Potro in Thailand, and a hard fought victory over Wessels in Stockholm in which Dancevic reeled off 35 aces.
Dancevic lost to Jarkko Nimeinen at the AO this year, who also took out our man Kohlschreiber, who could not sustain his level directly after that epic victory over Dandy Andy under the lights.
Though Dancevic has a lot of learning to do as a player, he has garnered great experience in playing 5 set DC matches and doubles for Canada since 2002. Though hurt of late, the Canadian seems to be healthy again, although we don't truly expect much of him on clay.
Dancevic is well suited to grass court tennis and should have a shot to make some noise at Wimbledon, where he could be an interesting sleeper choice to pull an upset or two. With an aggressive style, Dancevic is not afraid to go for his shots and come to net, and his serve is definitely the hallmark of his game at this point. Who wouldn't love to see a rematch of Dancevic/Da-veed @ SW-19 this year?
We love the kid, despite him being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan (Lets Go Rangers!). Dancevic is Canada's best singles player in years and having reached a career high of #65 last summer, it isn't outrageous to think he may at some point crack #46, which would make him Canada's most highly ranked singles player ever.
Trivia: Anybody know who he'd be surpassing? We'll get to the answer during the week if nobody knows it.
We should also mention that Dancevic came up through the NCAAS, and was a Georgia Bulldog, as was American giant John Isner, and that Frank Dancevic made his first ATP doubles final also in 2007, again proving the kid is an old school, well rounded player who should soon improve on his current ranking position just outside the top 100.
CBS Sportsline and the ATP Official Website were valuable resources for providing details on this Canadian who has a shot because he goes for his shots.
Best of luck to the Canadian as the season heats up!
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