High jinks at the Hurlingham Club

By Melina Harris

 

I jumped at the chance to attend the pre-Wimbledon tennis event at the prestigious Hurlingham Club in London last week. The club has a very relaxed, London-park feel and the grounds are just beautiful. The many grass courts scattered throughout the club are impeccably well maintained and it came as no surprise that Andy Roddick wanted to follow up his Queens’ appearance with a practice match against Thomas Berdych that afternoon.

 

I made my way to the press room, through what appeared to be a five star hotel lobby, with dining tables laid out for corporate guests either side. Evian were heavily involved in the event and had brought along presenter Kirsty Gallagher along for the ride. Free bottles were being given away, but didn’t seem to be nearly as popular as the complimentary champagne.  The majority of the guests were congregated around the free bar at the front of the building, shaded by trees and fed with canapés. I thought I saw one of the cast of E4’s posh reality show ‘Made in Chelsea’ but then realized everyone was dressed in chinos, deck shoes and Ralph Lauren shirts.

 

When I entered the press room, I was stunned by how quiet it was, however when lunch time arrived I was pleasantly surprised to be joined by legends such as Henri Laconte, Pat Cash, Mansour Bahrami and Thomas Enquist. Andy Roddick seemed to be enjoying himself around a table with his entourage including coach Larry Stefanki. I recognized a familiar face on the table next to me, but it took me a couple of minutes to realize it was former England Rugby Captain, Will Carling. What was he doing there, I thought?  We all enjoyed a lunch of salmon, new potatoes and of course, some strawberries and cream.

 

I was happy when I noticed my friend and photographer Paul Cunningham who always provides the highest caliber of banter and incidentally promised to send me some pictures for my new website. At 2.30pm we walked out to the press box to watch Roddick take on Berdych. The standard of tennis was high and thankfully the rain held off in time for Roddick to take the match in two sets. He only seemed a little perturbed with the fact that he kept ‘shanking’ his first serve, a term familiar to amateur players across the globe, but one not often connected to one of the best servers in the game. On this showing, despite the aforementioned ‘shanking’ he should do well at Wimbledon. Berdych looked pretty sharp too and will be looking to follow up his final appearance last year with a good run this fortnight.

 

Despite the threat of rain, the legends brought sunshine to South London with their trickery and wit in the exhibition doubles. Goran Ivanisevic received a warm welcome and an award to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his famous Wimbledon victory as a wild card. Having also watched him compete against Tim Henman at the Royal Albert Hall late last year, it wouldn’t be such a reach to have offered him another for this year’s championships at SW19.

 

Unfortunately, the rain renewed its threat and there was a mass exodus to the bar as it was clearly Pimms O’clock. Luckily it was a brief shower and Pat Cash and co were on again in no time to finish their game, motioning to the students on the entrances to let the spectators in even if it wasn’t a change-over. Shock horror! Predictably, they were told off by the management who I overheard as saying ‘We are the Hurlingham Club. We have standards to uphold. Who cares what the players say!’ Ooh er, for a moment there I forgot I was in London! So, with the seats half full, we watched the last few points of the match, before heading back for a well-earned cuppa in the press room. Paul even managed to get a paparazzi shot of me in the press box! All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day and one I would recommend to anyone with some holiday leave to use up!

 

On the way home I realized that a certain someone had retweeted my Twitter conversation with one of my followers who had asked ‘What the hell is Will Carling doing there?’ to which I replied, ‘Presumably speaking to fifty old farts’ in reference to his famous comment about the Rugby Association.  Hilariously, he somehow found the cyberspace exchange and answered, ‘I was interviewing Pat Cash and btw my tennis is bloody good haha’.  So you’ve heard it here first people, Will Carling is a wannabe Sue Barker. Sorry Will, you’re going to have to tackle me first for that job!


Getting back into tennis coaching: the next chapter

Hey everyone,

I am now just one month away from getting my British Tennis Coaching License. I’ve had a fantastic time on the PTR ACE course run by Johnny and Clive Carrigan of the UK PTR (www.ptruk.com).

I have been offered a great coaching position at a David Lloyds centre in Enfield, North London, where I used to have a scholarship growing up. I’m hoping to combine my coaching, teaching and writing from now on.

As we speak, I’m in the process of setting up a tennis website and online magazine with a Hertfordshire publisher, which is incredibly exciting and a dream come true. I really can’t wait to get started on the design and content. I believe I can offer a unique look at tennis with my coaching and journalism background. I’m definitely going to video some coaching sessions for the site which will be fun!

I’m currently waiting to go to my physio as I’m still getting a bit of trouble with my left arm due to the hours of dreaded shorthand practice! Silly I know!

Anyway, I shall keep you posted about my coaching and writing progress,

I hope you are all happy and well. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan, especially my friend who coaches out there.

Speak to you soon,

Melina xxx


On finishing the NCTJ fast track course….

Hiya everyone,

Sorry I’ve been a little quiet of late, I’ve been absolutely run off my feet with the National Council for the Training of Journalists course and final exams. However, after a gruelling five months, I’ve finally finished and extremely relieved to be able to now move on with my writing and teaching career.

I’m currently in the middle of my PTR ACE course, which will hopefully award me my LTA British Tennis License. I have another three days of the course starting this Saturday 12th Feb and can’t wait to hang out with all of the great players and of course the wonderful PTR teachers, my friend and coach, Clive Carrigan (PTRUk Director) and his brother Johnny who runs all of the PTR’s brilliant courses throughout the year across the country.

Unfortunately, due to funds being spent on the journalism and tennis courses, I won’t be joining them at the PTR International coaches symposium in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in just over a week’s time. I’m hoping though, that I will be there next year promoting myself as a possible editor of a new tennis magazine and website.

I met a very successful publisher this weekend who was extremely interested in my ideas at a casino of all places (I was there with my parents and we only gambled about 20 quid between us haha). Keep your fingers crossed for me that something will come of this.

I have also been asked by two separate tennis companies to undertake some PR work for them, so I really feel I have begun to carve out a niche for myself. I’m extremely proud to say that I am approaching the 1000 mark on Twitter which I feel is a great achievement. It is certainly a confidence boost to be followed by some of the best tennis writers/editors/coaches/players and companies world-wide.

I have thoroughly enjoyed tweeting live through matches and joining in with the global dialogue between the most ardent of tennis fans. If you aren’t on Twitter yet, you really should give it a try: it’s a fantastic networking tool!

At the moment, I am helping quite a number of GCSE students through their coursework and preparing them for their exams. For some reason, I am always drawn back to teaching. I always feel happier after helping and inspiring these teenagers to want more and aim higher. The look on their faces when they start getting excellent grades and soaring to the top of their classes brings me so much happiness. Some of my past pupils are now in their third year at university and are about to graduate; I am so proud to have set them on that path and every one of them keeps in touch with me which is great.

I watched The King’s Speech this week and I could really relate to the friendship between the King and his speech therapist. I taught a boy with a stutter for three years and he went from a D grade in English to an A for GCSE and achieved a good A’level result. He now sends me short stories to read, which is great and we meet for a coffee now and again.

So for now, it seems I have to make a decision between staying freelance so that I can combine my teaching, coaching and writing or throwing myself into becoming a full-time editor. Whatever I choose, I know that I will always be mentoring at least a handful of teenagers – it seems as if it’s my destiny somehow.

Anyway, I’m off to sleep now as I’ve organised a hit with a former Futures tennis player at the Globe Tennis Club in Hampstead North London tomorrow and I’m seriously unfit after five months of studying!

Thank you all for your support,

Love Melina xxx

 

 


Photo gallery from the Aegon Masters by Paul Cunningham…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Paul….

 

In the heat of the moment, at the heart of a triumphant celebration of the winning team or athlete, to keep a cool head and capture those moments that live forever is the passion of photography.

As a freelance photographer, I’ve had the extreme honour and absolute pleasure of capturing those moments and working with some truly outstanding, creative and talented people that has generated an enormous variety of photographic situations, from the studio setup to wiring images to picture desks minutes after an event – sleek product images and posing models – to live corporate events, film sets and
auto shows – from London to New York and Sydney and many fantastic places inbetween.

Recent accreditations include; AEGON Masters Tennis, the London
stage of the FIS World Cup Ski and Snowboarding, Twickenham England Rugby Open Training Sessions, the London stage of the Tour of Britain cycling, ITU Dextro Triathlon UK, the Mastercard Final Trophy – Barbarians v All Blacks & the Friends Provident Cricket Trophy Final.

Rising to the next challenge; if you are planning your next project and would like an informal chat about your ideas or would like to discuss my work, my folios and contact details can be reached at: www.paulcunningham.co.uk

Other contact details -
youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/paulcunninghamphoto


Goran Ivanisevic sets up another Wimbledon rematch against Pat Rafter…

 

 

Goran Ivanisevic set up yet another mouth-watering Wimbledon rematch at the Aegon Masters event, by beating Greg Rusedski in the quarter-final stage at London’s historic Royal Albert Hall yesterday.

 

Today, the popular Croatian will face Aussie Pat Rafter in the semi finals: a rematch of their epic Wimbledon final in 2001, a turning point in Ivanisevic’s career which he now believes ‘saved his life’.

 

Ivanisevic continued to crush the Brit contingent by beating Rusedski 7-6(6), 7-6(6) in a frenzied exchange of aces, saving set points in both sets, a familiar moment in their rivalry which dates back to 1994.

 

Rusedski said: “I’ve only beaten him once on tour. Goran for me is always a challenge.”

 

In the post match press conference, I was eager to know whether Goran had changed his game at all to suit the new slower courts and technology of the rackets.

He said: “I don’t mind to stay back but still I always like to serve my aces and go for the big shots.”

 

The Croatian is doing a great job of reminding tennis fans of why he was such an asset to the tour with his attacking all-or-nothing style of play at the Royal Albert Hall; a rare glimpse of tennis as it was played in the 90s
juxtaposed with the recent Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London’s
contrasting O2 Arena where Rafael Nadal and co punished each other with long baseline rallies and formidable topspin.

 

Ivanisevic said: “You can’t serve and volley in tennis now. The courts are too slow. The top ten guys, I don’t want to mention any names, but a lot of them haven’t got a clue how to volley. They don’t come to the net enough.”

 

“You have to come in on the right ball. The guys are so quick.”

 

Another player providing an exhibition of exquisite approach play is none other than Britain’s, Tim Henman, who defeated ATP Champions Tour Rankings leader, Thomas Enqvist 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 to reach the semi final stage of his first competitive tournament since his retirement three years ago.

 

“It’s always a pleasure to play at home,” said Henman. “This is my first
event on the Champions Tour and there’s no better way to start than at the Royal Albert Hall with a crowd like this.”

 

Henman looked remarkably sharp against Enqvist in his quarter-final yesterday, but unusually had to ask the patriotic British crowd to start cheering for him, as the “silence” was making him nervous (the chant ‘c’mon Tim’ is so ingrained into the British collective consciousness, that some even say it when Andy Murray is on court, such is his enduring appeal).

 

It’s all set for Tim and Goran to meet for a second time in the final on Sunday, unless Pat Rafter or Champions Tour veteran, Todd Martin can produce something special today.

Rafter said: “Goran’s serve is ridiculous and so hard to return. I’ll probably come dressed in cricket gear and see what
happens!”

Coverage of the event is on ITV4 for British viewers.

 


Henman – Ivanisevic: the Wimbledon rematch…

Tim Henman and Goran Ivanisevic faced each other at the
Royal Albert Hall in London last night for the first time since their epic
three day semi-final at Wimbledon in 2001.

Credit: Tim Edwards

Ivanisevic broke the hearts of the British public by beating
Henman in a thrilling five set match spread across three days due to the
unpredictable British weather. I clearly remember listening to the commentary secretly during lessons at my school in North London on my vintage Sony Walkman, nerves on edge.
This was arguably Henman’s most promising opportunity to be the first British man since Fred Perry to lift the Wimbledon crown, as a certain American, Pete Sampras, had been knocked out in the fourth round by none other than recent ATP Tour Finals champion, Roger Federer, leaving the path clear or so we had thought.
However, the stars were shining favourably on the
charismatic Croat, who famously ate at the same table at the same restaurant every night during the Wimbledon fortnight en route to his well deserved Wimbledon title: the pinnacle of any professional tennis player’s career, after three tough Wimbledon final losses to Andre Agassi in 1992 and Pete Sampras in 1994 and 1998 (I witnessed both heartbreaking finals at Wimbledon as an aspiring junior tennis player).
Ivanisevic won back the heart of the British crowd in his
fairytale win against Aussie, Pat Rafter, in the final as a wild card entry,
ranked world number 125 due to a recurring shoulder injury.
He famously said to reporters: “If some angel comes tonight
in my dreams and says: ‘OK Goran, you’re going to win Wimbledon tomorrow, but you’re not able to touch the racket ever again,’ I will say: ‘OK, I’d rather take that and then never play tennis again in my life.’”
But yet, the changeable Croat with his dual personalities is
back. And what a comeback it has been for the 39-year-old as a regular on the seniors tour winning two titles in Barcelona and Knokke this and recording his fastest ever serve this year. He was one of the many players who encouraged Henman out of retirement to join legends such as Stefen Edberg, John McEnroe and Britain’s own, Greg Rusedski on the ATP Champions Tour in a more jovial yet competitive atmosphere.
“I saw him at the World Tour Finals in London last year and
I told him he should come back and play with us,” Ivanisevic said of Henman. “He’s a great tennis player and we miss players like him.”
The players certainly didn’t disappoint the animated crowd
last night. In fact, with the pressure off, they produced an outstanding level of tennis, with Ivanisevic serving as well as I’d ever witnessed, winning the first set 6-4.
Indeed, Henman said in the post match press conference that no one had ever served as well against him in his entire career in that first set, heady praise for the Croat who revealed he is serving faster than ever before with the “new technology” of rackets these days.
With “good” Goran serving on all cylinders, this could have
been a baptism of fire on the fast indoor court for Henman, only in his second match out of retirement, but the Brit held his nerve well and showed many glimpses of his former glory, with great net play and feel around the court, winning the second set 7-5 and bringing the match to an exciting deciding championship tiebreak.
Despite the hecklings of the old Tim faithful, Goran served
his way to the match with an 11-9 victory in the tiebreak, looking impressively sharp on his backhand returns too.

Credit: Tim Edwards

Both looked exhilarated and liberated by the atmosphere of
the ATP Champions Tour, particularly in the historic setting of London’s Royal Albert Hall. In the post match press conference Henman revealed his “body felt good” and was pleased with the “good quality of tennis out there.”
Similarly, Goran was beaming as he said “today I felt great”
and emphasized how much he is enjoying his tennis without the mental pressure of the tour.
To my question of whether he still enjoyed playing up to his
loveable villain reputation, he laughed and said:
“People have always called me so many things. I don’t mind.”
Well, last night Goran, you were quite simply
brilliant.

Federer beats Nadal to win his fifth Barclays ATP World Tour Finals…

Roger Federer claimed his fifth year-end ATP finals title with a superlative performance over a defiant, but defeated world number one, Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 today.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer captivated audiences world-wide with a final that sparkled with explosive shot making, drama and as many twist and turns as a Shakespeare play; their 22nd meeting in an illustrious rivalry that will leave a great legacy for the game for years to come.

The world number one and two are polar opposites with one thing in common; an extraordinary will to win. While many began to question
Federer’s mental strength following his failure to capitalize on two match
points against an often mentally fragile Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the US Open earlier in the year, questions have also been raised of Nadal’s physical problems.

A shoulder injury in his serving arm caused Nadal to take a five week break before the ATP Finals and his recurring knee problems are
always a concern; many wondered how his body would cope after a grueling three set match against Britain’s Andy Murray in the semi-finals. Federer, however, seemed to have shrugged off any niggling doubts of his own authority in matches in the run up to the final. The tennis world waited with baited breath to see how the latest act in tennis’ greatest rivalry since Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras would play out.

It certainly didn’t disappoint the animated crowd in London, which included the likes of footballer, Thierry Henry, the London Mayor, Boris
Johnson and previous X-Factor winner, Alexandra Burke. Oh, and a certain Argentine; the omnipresent, Diego Maradona.

In the opening set, Nadal described Federer as “unplayable”
and it was evident from the outset that the Swiss Maestro was back to his absolute best. The players went tactically toe to toe until the seventh game of the set when Nadal’s continued tactic of playing to Federer’s backhand backfired spectacularly as a superb cross court winner from that wing, gained the break of serve for the former world number one, who then closed out the first set 6-3 with a forehand winner in just 32 minutes.

But, with a dramatic swing of momentum, like an incensed lion released from its cage, Nadal characteristically pounced on Federer’s drop
in form in the second set, securing a break of serve in the fourth game,
switching tactics to work the Federer forehand with spectacular success.
Federer took a tumble in the fifth game following an unkind net cord for Nadal and so did his form, allowing the Spaniard to pull ahead with a comfortable 4-1 lead.

The second set went with serve and Nadal held his nerve after losing the first point when serving out the set at 5-3 by finishing Federer off with a wonderfully executed backhand slice right at the master’s feet. Game on.

It seemed as if Nadal had all of the momentum, but instead the first appeared to foreshadow the deciding set as Federer regained his
composure to tell the world and all who ever doubted him that he was back.

Brimming with a new found confidence and possibly with the
direction from his new coach, Paul Annacone (former coach of Tim Henman), Federer hugged the baseline and ventured forward forcing Nadal into more unforced errors from the outset.

Federer gained his first break of serve in the third game following a tense hawk-eye heart thumping moment of pure drama to give him the opportunity of a break point which he finished off with a volley. Nadal made him work especially hard for the following hold of serve, but a flurry of fantastic first serves and an ace at the end secured Federer a 4-1 lead.

There was no come back for the visibly tired Nadal as he was
broken again with the help of a backhand cross court return straight out of the textbook by Federer who looked particularly calm as he stepped up to serve for the match at 5-1.

Once again, Federer’s attacking tactics served him well as
he closed down the net to give himself three match points. Despite saving one, Nadal succumbed to a well and truly rejuvenated Roger Federer, 6-3, 3-6 6-1, who lifted the ATP World Tour Finals trophy aloft to the sounds of Coldplay’s iconic, ‘Fix you.’ Annacone certainly has Roger.

By winning the year-end event, Federer has once again reignited the rivalry between two of the world’s greatest ever tennis players,
who revealed the upmost respect for one another in the post match interviews on court, congratulating each other on yet another fantastic year. But who will reign supreme in 2011?

Former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker said: “I wouldn’t be
surprised if Roger Federer isn’t the world number one at the end of next year.”

While former British number one, Tim Henman conceded: “Rafa
looked a bit jaded after the Murray match.”

Whatever transpires between the two in 2011, one thing
remains, the balance of power has once again shifted – for the moment, at
least.

This report was used by www.miamitennisnews.com

 


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