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What the papers say

Rafael Nadal shows his intensity on court
by Clive White
Wednesday 25 June 2014

So Rafael Nadal, the two-time Wimbledon champion, is up and running and over his first hurdle which, for him at Wimbledon, is quite something after his experiences of the past two years.

But he did so only after ‘framing’ a serve in the first set in a way a novice player might do. What came afterwards from the Spaniard, however, had very little in common with novices, as Simon Briggs, in the Daily Telegraph, noted.

“It was an unusual moment: a professional committing the sort of elementary error you might snigger at on a park court,” he wrote. “Yes, he might have stalked off to his chair with a comic-book speech bubble over his head reading ‘@$£!@’. Yes, he might have lost the opening set – largely as a result of the break donated via that duff serve.

“But there is no athlete in the world with greater emotional resilience, and Nadal performed a sort of mental control-alt-delete in the next changeover. It only took a few minutes’ more play to see that he had lifted his intensity and would find a way to outmuscle his opponent, no matter how well Klizan played.”

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Nick Bollettieri, the famous American coach writing in The Independent, drooled over Roger Federer’s straight sets win against Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi and then asked what, to most of us, would seem a rhetorical question: “What can a new coach do for a guy who is 32 going on 33 and has won everything there is to win and gone back and done it all again?”

Bollettieri, of course, had an idea and there was something that he thought Federer’s new coach Stefan Edberg, one of the game’s greatest serve-and-volleyers, had already introduced to the seven-time Wimbledon champion’s game. “There is one small but obvious change to Federer’s game and it’s a sure sign of having Edberg up in your box. He is coming in more and that is something he has got to do here if he is to go deep into the second week.”

Simon Cambers, in The Guardian, noted that it was a tactic Federer had applied when he first made his mark at Wimbledon in 2001, beating Pete Sampras in the fourth round when he “served and volleyed almost exclusively on first serve and half the time on his second serve.

“In the past he has often struggled to accept being passed, almost as if it is an affront to his skills,” wrote Cambers, “and so he stopped doing it. The addition of Stefan Edberg to his coaching team reminded him that serve-and-volleying, and attacking the net in general, is also about putting doutt in his opponent’s mind.”

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Love games, as usual, abounded and Kevin Garside, of the The Independent, mischievously speculated whether, during her recent improved form, Caroline Wozniacki still had her estranged ex-partner Rory McIlroy in mind, suggesting “one imagines Wozniacki saw McIlroy’s face stitched to the surface of the ball. Maybe that, as much as the attentions paid her by [Felicianio] Lopez, was behind the gathering recovery.”

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If it wasn’t bad enough that the big-serving Jerzy Janowicz has seen his form plummet since reaching last year’s semi-finals because of injury, the Pole revealed that that wasn’t the worst of it and that his ranking in another game had also nose-dived. In Daniel Schofield’s Wimbledon diary in The Times he quoted Janowicz as saying: ‘I lost my skill in Battlefield. I lost my ranking a little bit. I had a killing rate that was much higher than now.’ It might be only a game, but which game are we talking about.

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Poor Heather Watson is still in the wars after her 2013 season was disrupted by glandular fever, but it hasn’t stopped her winning. Following her defeat of Croatia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, Watson, who beat a top 20 player player – Flavia Pennetta – for the first time at Eastbourne last week, told Steve Tongue, of The Independent: ‘I woke up at 4am and again at seven. It’s become quite normal, it doesn’t matter. Coming to Wimbledon with confidence, I really wanted to make the most of it and was a bit nervous. My jaw was locking and I couldn’t even eat my bananas. But as soon as we started play I got into it.’

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Kevin Garside, of the The Independent, was unhappy about the absence of a radar gun on Madison Keys’s court when the young American powered her way past Monica Puig. “Keys hit the fastest serve of 2014 at Eastbourne last week and one of the quickest ever recorded by a woman – 126mph. The unforgiveable absence of a radar gun on court here denied us proof of the cordite measure that so excites. According to Keys she was rocking the internal speed trap just as much.”

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Following England’s premature elimination from the World Cup and their final “indignation” of failing to beat a very good Cost Rican team, Daniel Schofield in The Times diary offered some consolation to fans possibly mocked by the Central American team. He wrote: “The worst record of any player in a grand slam belongs to one of their compatriots Juan-Antonio Marin, whose record reads no wins, 17 losses. This should put the Central American concerned firmly in their place.” I bet it will. I’m sure it will hurt the Costa Ricans no end as they head for a very winnable last 16 match against Greece while England head home with their tail between their legs.

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20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...

20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."

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