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What the papers say

Laura Robson takes in the atmosphere on No.1 Court.
by Clive White
Saturday 29 June 2013

Paul Hayward, of the The Daily Telegraph, sees Andy Murray power his way into the fourth round of the gentlemen’s singles and says it’s time to acknowledge that here is a British winner who can achieve his goals without putting his followers through torture. He also believes its time Wimbledon was turned into a sporting fortress.

“Heaven knows this crowd have suffered enough down the years,” he writes. “They are sick of having to put the kettle on for beaten British challengers, tired of the false hopes and let-downs. The strain of being terribly nice about everything tells in the end. They want someone to burst from that locker room and claim this patch of grass as a place that belongs to Brtish sport. No more deferring to overseas guests, no more prime-time TV torture.

“A swaggering brute is what they want to see out there. One that still talks nicely to Sue Barker on the BBC and holds doors open for the elderly, but a swaggering brute nonetheless.

“Sport in sacred places demands a proprietorial element. Lord’s must be owned by the mighty English opener and the demon bowler. Twickenham can only be the home of the English rugby monster. Wimbledon has never had this in men’s tennis: or not since Fred Perry in 1936. The story of the men’s game here is one of gracious hosting and institutionalised failure.”

James Lawton, of the The Indepedent, wonders whether the British sporting public is getting ahead of itself in its anointment of Laura Robson as a Wimbeldon champion in-waiting. He writes: “There are good reasons to believe in Laura Robson. She has the power, which has already claimed a high quality of victim. She is a natural fighter who hits the ball extremely hard. The trouble, though, is that she has already been anointed. It is something that happens in this place too frequently, too quickly, and, with depressing regularity, too hazardously.”

Oliver Brown, in The Daily Telegraph, notes that Robson doesn’t yet know how to handle her new-found fame. “Robson appeared faintly overwhelmed by the adulation she received beneath the Centre Court roof, saying that she had not yet worked out the best way to wave to her legions of fans,” he writes. Quoting her, he says, “‘I’m still very awkward when I wave to them, because I haven’t decided what I want to do,’ she said, smiling. ‘Maria Sharapova blows kisses. It’s something I need to work on’.”

However, Alyson Rudd, in the The Times, was impressed with the way she handled herself in the interview after her straight sets defeat of the qualifier Mariana Duque-Marino, of Colombia: “The 19-year-old was able to tell jokes about One Direction, spot the smut in a question about Andy Murray facing Serena Williams in Las Vegas, frown in response to suggestions that her workload might be too heavy and giggle about her extra 20,000 followers on Twitter.”

Nick Bollettieri, the American coach in his column in The Independent, adopted a cautionary tone. “She has what it takes but we are still talking about a girl who is developing,” he says. “Give her a couple of years, give her space, let her breathe and let her become the player she has the ability to become without any extra baggage being attached to her.

He continues: ”What she needs to do is keep working on her movement, keep practising every day the things she is uncomfortable with, work on the junk balls, the slice, broaden her repertoire. She has what it takes.”

Giles Smith, of The Times, sees the Spaniard David Ferrer - as is his wont – go deep into another Grand Slam with a typically efficient, if less than thrilling performance, against fellow countryman Roberto Bautista Agut. “Ferrer is a good player to find on the schedule for a rainy day,” he says, “because he plays with the haste of someone who wants to get it all done before the weather closes in. Slightly hunched, arms a-kimbo, his general disposition is that of someone made very resentful by a late taxi.

Smith’s slightly backhanded appreciation of Ferrer continues: ”On grass, he is probably always going to be someone who has to excavate results, rather than simply pluck them up off the surface . In the course of getting down to deep and wide backhands, his racket does, indeed, become a kind of spade or power-shovel, digging the ball up out of the ground and offloading it as if it were rubble.

“It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s dirty work. But someone has got to do it, and it might as well be Ferrer because he is very good at it.”

**************

James Olley, of the Evening Standard, reports how the No.8 seed Juan Martin Del Potro is finally taking a liking to grass court tennis, particularly after winning the bronze medal at last year’s London Olympics here at the All England Club. He says in his piece, quoting the Argentine on this subject: “ ‘I like grass more than I did a few years ago,’ he said. “I remember when I was a junior, I came here and I lost really easily. I said to myself that I will never play good tennis on grass. But I’ve learnt to play here. My coach taught me good things for the grass courts and my game can be dangerous for my opponents’.”

***********

Jim White, of The Daily Telegraph, sees the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov take a tumble in his match against Grega Zemlja, of Slovenia, on Thursday evening before play is suspended and then another on its resumption the following day before he eventually tumbles out of the competition. “His legs-akimbo position provided momentary visual homage to the tumble suffered by his equally inconvenienced girlfriend, Maria Sharapova, on Wednesday,” he writes. “There have been a lot of splits in their relationship.

“Visibly hurt, Dimitrov refused to continue and hobbled to his seat, demanding a timeout. In the stand, his girlfriend – wearing a pair of sunglasses in the attempt to be as anonymous as a 6ft 2in blonde can be – looked agitated by this latest grass-court assault on her well-being.”

***********

Those who thought that Sergiy Stakhovsky’s shock defeat of the champion Roger Federer was all down to his serve-and-volley tactics might be surprised to hear that there was a “magic” ingredient involved. Derrick Whyte, of The Independent, quotes an interview the Ukrainian had with BBC Sport on the subject, presumably prior to his defeat on Friday.

“We’re staying in the house of a lovely family and they have four kids,” Stakhovsky says. “The night before I played Roger, they left a pot of chocolate spread in front of the door to our room with a sticker on it saying ‘magic recipe for Sergiy’.

“I had a little bit of it in the morning so the kids were happy, and it worked. That’s why I said it was magic and now I’m taking it every day because they believe in it.”


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