Self confidence is the name of the game when it comes to winning matches. Especially, in an individual sport like Tennis, this is the deciding factor. The top world ranked players are coming after the annual recess of the 2014 season into the new-year an are not in commanding form or are they playing with [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Pushing limits to stardom

Warm ups for the 1st Grand-Slam

Self confidence is the name of the game when it comes to winning matches. Especially, in an individual sport like Tennis, this is the deciding factor. The top world ranked players are coming after the annual recess of the 2014 season into the new-year an are not in commanding form or are they playing with confidence. In the past two weeks players were using scattered Australasia events to peak into the first Grand-Slam of the year – Melbourne’s Australian-Open. Now it is Sydney, just one week away from the first Grand-Slam. The confidence with which players enter this Grand-Slam will have an impact for the rest of the year.

The first Tennis tournament in Sydney was held in 1885. The present Australian-Open was known originally as the Australasian Championships till 1927 and then on as the Australian Championships. In 1969 it became the Australian-Open signifying professional participation. Sydney was the host of the Australian Championships for 17 years. Now Sydney is a warm up event before the Grand-Slam and the draw this year did not show the full strength of the world ranking.

Performance and precaution for 2015

Most of the top ten men and women seem to have skipped Sydney. Heat could be the main reason. The Australian summer takes a toll. Many good players will use the week before the Grand-Slam to recuperate than strain themselves. The Grand-Slam in Melbourne will also be 40 centigrade plus heat affair. Martin Del Potro returning to the circuit after being away from February last year could not hold out the performance in Sydney this week due to heat and went out in an early round. He won the event last year. In the women’s side Rumania’s Simona Halep, seeded number one withdrew with a bad stomach ‘bug’ she contracted during the Shenzhen tournament in China. By and large big names are missing in the Sydney draw.

If the ‘top ten’ are to hold their positions in the ranking this year, they will have to perform incredible feats. On the average they will have to win around eight titles. This means they will have to get around one hundred service aces through the year; hit close to 30 winners in every match; be conditioned to avoid unforced errors; move an average of five kilometers in every match at high speed for court coverage; and take the mental strain for hours under tremendous pressure. Game-wise nothing significant was seen up to now this year. Players have made some changes around them with a hope to be better players.

Poland’s Agnieska Radwanska has recruited Martina Navratilova as her coach. Stanislas Wawrinka, although he won the tournament in Chennai, did not look comfortable overall. The events up to now have not showed any significant Tennis for two reasons – the good players are not playing in the same venue to challenge each other and produce good Tennis. The other is, the players seem to be shielding themselves without exposing themselves to extreme heat. They all know how tough it can be to win any match in the Australian-Open.

Secret of success for 2015

Work horse attitude in game making is not going bring good dividends this year. After the second round in any tournament the draw has players who can withstand any player in the top ten, shot for shot. This means lengthening the rally is not the deciding factor to win but shortening it. For this, imagination of the player, based on skills will be the biggest asset for players this year. Last year the game opened up a lot like in the seventies and all court play paid rich dividends. There are new comers and some second rank players capable of this revolution in both genders. If they are smart enough, they will make heads roll with this secret of success in 2015.

A good deal of recess time the players had in November and December last year would not have been all holidays. Adding effective aspects and removing ineffective parts of the game is not easy. In fact, it is a stressful and delicate operation for players in the sense as it can send the players completely off balance. The speed at which the game is played by both the genders does not give time to think and change. So changes unless well trained and instilled, will collapse under pressure.

Local events

The local events have taken off for 2015 and the Gymkhana ‘Queens-Open’ was on in Colombo. Our tournaments do not yet have the strength to attract international challenge anymore as they used to during the three decades after independence. As a result, local players do not get the opportunity to play against good players and reach the next level. With all the numbers we talk about in junior development, less than one percent made it into the senior open national rankings. Only a number, less than five, entered the international competitions. Local players should have the courage to get on their own, follow international players and train to challenge them head on.

Learning from international players was a process many local players in the past did and that culture has slipped out completely. Nationally, our pursuit does not cater for high performance anymore. I hope the future has some good roads for our players to follow. As a game, any Sri Lankan with a build to match international players, is a good potential. We have very good hands for skills to take on the international challenge. We are ignoring this and our game making ability in favour of drilling for power and repetition. Where we go wrong very badly is not knowing and not addressing the “game-making” aspects to play effective Tennis. I hope somebody seeing this, will change their approach and play international Tennis soon. It is not out of reach.


Mega purse and stardom through rankings are the two motivating factors in International Tennis. Only two continents are in a position to cater to this need now – Europe and North America. Asia is beginning to replace Australia. Grand-Slam in Melbourne with a mega purse of 36 million prize money and over one thousand ranking points seem like the last string for Australia to hold on to Tennis. The Australian-Open being a compulsory event for WTA and ATP rankings, we will see the best pitching against each other. I predict that some stars will be born and some known stars will tumble down. Either way the game of Tennis this year is going to be played in a different way and made interesting.

-George Paldano, former international player; Accredited Coach of Germany, ITF and USPTR; National, Davis Cup and Federation Cup Coach–

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