‘Old soldiers never die, they just fade away’. This old saying may be the right way to describe the world’s men’s Tennis in 2014. Promising Spaniards appeared, unexpected successor to Roger Federer came from Switzerland and Eastern Europe rolled out many. None have shown the strength to displace the top rankers. In the French-Open of [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Where are the challengers?

French-Open 2014 – Men’s 2nd week

‘Old soldiers never die, they just fade away’. This old saying may be the right way to describe the world’s men’s Tennis in 2014. Promising Spaniards appeared, unexpected successor to Roger Federer came from Switzerland and Eastern Europe rolled out many. None have shown the strength to displace the top rankers. In the French-Open of 2014, the strength of two old soldiers prevailed; Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. With the ATP men’s circuit half way through the year, it is becoming a lesser possibility to see ‘change of guards’ this year in men’s global Tennis. Changing the ‘losing game’

It will take a lot to explain the poor Tennis we saw in the two men’s semi-finals of the French-Open. It was so unappealing. I have not witnessed two dull matches like those, for a long time. The challengers did not rise up to the occasion. With many reputed good players out of the draw, semi-finals were the last hope to see good Tennis. It did not happen. One Spaniard losing in the quarters even implied that he ‘threw in the towel’. In Tennis, matches can be won from being ‘match-Point’ down. So, what is this ‘throwing in the towel’ business has to do with Tennis? Are the players having agendas other than playing to win?

Changing a losing game is the best way to increase the challenge in Tennis. In the semi-finals, the two challengers Ernest Gulbis and Andy Murray committed the cardinal sin of not changing their losing game. It is considered madness to do the same thing repeatedly and expect a different result and that is what they did in the semi-finals. They did not change anything. It also means that they did not possess a second game. Latvian Gulbis facing Djokovic’s pace, threw shots out of the court. It happened in the first rally and in the last rally too. In that game plan he was so limited in variety. Only in the third set he varied a little with net approach and was rewarded with a set. For reason best known to him alone, he reverted back to the game which lost the first two sets. That made the fourth set a good hunting party for Djokovic.

Murray ‘pitched camp’ four metres behind the base line and gave Nadal time to ‘have a cup of tea’ between shots. Until the end he did not disturb Nadal’s tea party. I doubt the fifteen thousand spectators in the Roland Garros stadium will buy any excuse for that poor exhibition of the game. If his injury is the cause, it was not evident. I also do not understand the manner in which Czech Berdych lost to Gulbis in the quarter finals. It appeared as if Berdych did not even start the match in terms of challenging Gulbis.

This handout picture released on June 9, 2014 shows Rafael Nadal posing on June 8, with the "Coupe des Mousquetaires" (Trophy of French Tennis open Roland-Garros) after winning the French tennis Open final mach.

The men’s finals

Unfortunately this too turned out to be a bad ending for a big event. It must have been an organizer’s nightmare. Djokovic and Nadal looked tensed, cautious and committed to stay with stereotyped rallies. Tactically, the challenger Djokovic did not think or act outside the box and showed every sign of being unwell. Their performance did not do justice to the finals of the 2014 French-Open. It was more like Djokovic losing, than Nadal winning his 9th French Open title, which is significant. Unfortunately this is all I can say about this final.

‘Singles’ and Tennis teams

World Cup Football began on Thursday in Brazil. It is a team event. Since of late Tennis has been ‘shown’ as a team sport. This is most confusing. The players come with their supporting ‘team’ but the Tennis they exhibited did not show that kind of input. One tennis enthusiast even considered it funny to see a supporting team being congratulated in the grand stand after a win of an individual event. That makes the ‘player’ the machine they made. However, when the players lose, ‘teams’ are not responsible.

Every now and then, in the history of Tennis, some stupidities appeared. In two decades from now, I predict that in singles the ‘Tennis-Team’ concept will be seen that way. For the moment the ‘player’ has become the ‘paper tiger’ with a name. Chris Evert came as the guest of honour to present the cup to Maria Sharapova nearly 20 years after her career in Roland Garros this year. If Djokovic is invited 20 years from now, will it be his team that appears? This is something to think about! Realistically, how much does the team contribute? How much and from how many can a 22 year old player take? Why did we see poor tennis in the men’s event of the French-Open? Many will not buy the ‘team’ concept to improve a player’s performance. The game of Tennis is all about individual skills and strength of personality. Controlling bodies are aware of this disturbing issue and are helpless. Any communication between player and team during a match is penalized. Meanwhile the ‘show biz’ is in the center stage with the idea of ‘singles team’. In all probability it is an influence from Davis Cup and Fed Cup team events.

Face saving women’s finals

Luckily for the French-Open organizers, the women’s singles saved the championship. What a final it was between Romania’s Simona Halep appearing for the first time and amazing Russian Maria Sharapova. If you did not get to see it, you have missed something. Sharapova admitted it being the toughest finals she had ever played. The power that Sharapova exhibited will be remembered for years. In critical situations she also showed lethal accuracy. Due credit must be given to Halep for withstanding such an assault for 3 hours and 4 minutes. On record this is the second longest finals played. After that match Halep became No. 3 in the WTA ranking and Sharapova came to be No. 5. This year’s French-Open will be remembered for the two great matches Maria Sharapova played; One against Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the quarters and the other against Simona Halep of Romania in the finals. These three made the 2014 French-Open.

Time for Grass

The Ladies Doubles title came to Asia. In the finals world’s number one pair Taipei’s Hsieh Su Wei and China’s Peng Shuai beat Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci in straight sets. There will be some more clay court events in Europe but it is the English Grass court season that will take the main stage in June. It will end with Wimbledon Championships in the last week of the month.
-George Paldano, former international player; Accredited Coach of Germany, ITF and USPTR; National, Davis Cup and Federation Cup Coach–gptennis.ceylon@gmail.com-

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.