Preview to the ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2 Arena: Federer or Nadal?

Intense anticipation is building for the year-end climax to the men’s professional tennis season whereby at The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the world will compete for the crown at London’s imposing 02 Arena.

The Finals kick off in spectacular style on Sunday, 21 November, with home grown, Brit, Andy Murray taking on in-form Robin Soderling in the first Group B singles match.

The players have been competing all season long for South African Airways ATP Rankings points in a bid to earn a coveted place in the final eight and a chance to win the $1.6m prize money on offer to the winner.

Competition for places was fierce in the run up to the finals, with Fernando Verdasco narrowly losing out to Andy Roddick, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych for the remaining three spots.

This year, world number one, Rafael Nadal faces a rejuvenated Novak Djokovic, Czech, Tomas Berdych and plucky American, Andy Roddick in Group A, while five-time finals champion and world number 2, Roger Federer faces the prospect of in-from Robin Soderling, Britain’s Andy Murray on home turf and diminutive Spaniard, David Ferrer in Group B.

All eight players were greeted by Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron – an avid tennis fan – at a reception held at 10 Downing Street on Thursday 17 November to signal the start of what bodes to be an incredibly exciting week.

“It’s fantastic that the ATP World Tour Finals tournament is back in London for the second year running. It’s great for London and great for the country,” Mr Cameron said.

The PM himself gave Murray a warm up in the dining room with a series of volleys back and forth, and the young Scot hopes to have the home crowd on his side on Sunday.

“Every tennis player will tell you when you play at home it really helps you to have the crowd behind you,” Murray said at a press conference in London.

Last year, despite winning two out of his three group matches, Murray failed to qualify for the semi-finals on game difference, but what are his chances now?

The Scot began the year in fantastic form reaching the Australian Open final, only to lose to his nemesis, Roger Federer. The psychological impact of this loss caused Murray to incur mixed fortunes and an inconsistent season which saw him overtaken by Robin Soderling in the world rankings. However, in reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon, Murray proved that a home crowd could play a significant role.

Soderling is arguably the man to beat. Currently riding high on the back of his victory over Gael Monfils to claim his first Masters title in Paris in November, coupled with his penetrating ground strokes indoors, many are tipping Soderling to win the year-end title.

After a break following tendinitis in his arm, world number one, Rafael Nadal, despite having a fantastic season, winning three out of the four majors and completing a career grand slam, is not favoured to do well, but anyone would be mad to bet against him.

Nadal, who failed to win a single match at the O2 last year, appeared relaxed outside Downing Street on Thursday, but insists he has put no pressure on himself.

“This tournament is a more difficult one for me because of the surface, because of the opponents,” he said.

Andy Roddick was forced to watch the 2009 World Tour Finals from the stands, after suffering from a knee injury earlier in the season. Roddick will want to prove his critics wrong, after many believed he would not even make it to London this year. Many feel he could well cause an upset this year, starting with his huge opening match against crowd favourite, Rafael Nadal, in his opening match on Monday night.  At their last encounter in Miami, Roddick defeated Nadal at the Sony Ericsson Open.

Not only did David Ferrer look out of place, being the only player in a grey suit when meeting Britain’s Prime Minister, many have written off the diminutive Spaniard’s chances. However, it would be wrong to dismiss him. His victories against Andy Murray and Robin Soderling this season, as well as a string of consistent performances in the past few tournaments, including his impressive win at the Valencia Open at the start of November, suggest he is in good form.

The 2010 Wimbledon runner-up, Tomas Berdych from the Czech Republic, will be experiencing his first World Tour Finals, after rising to a career-high six in the world this year. However, the 25-year-old has faltered in recent weeks, failing to progress past the third round of any tournament. But could the buzz of London help him to end his season on a high?

Last but not least, anyone would be crazy to write off the 16-time Majors Champion, Roger Federer. But, despite his success at the recent Swiss indoor event in Basel, throwing away several match points to the unpredictable Gael Monfils in November’s Paris Masters semi-final has thrown a shadow of doubt over his invincibility.

The Bryan brothers are clear favourites to retain their doubles title from last year.

Follow Melina Harris’ coverage for MiamiTennisNews on twitter under the username @thetenniswriter

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Check out my archive articles from Tennisgrandstand

I couldn't believe my luck when Boris agreed to hit with me! I hit a forehand past him too!

Hey guys,
Here’s a quick link to all of my archive articles on www.tennisgrandstand.com for all of my new readers –http://www.tennisgrandstand.com/archives/author/murilo/ and a cheeky pic of Boris and I at a Ralph Lauren event in London I was invited to.
Bye for now,
The Tennis Writer xxx

Update from The Tennis Writer :)

Hi guys,

Sorry I have been a little quiet on the blogging front, I am currently in the middle of a 20 week NCTJ journalism course at News Associates in Wimbledon, literally a stone’s throw from the hallowed grounds of the All England Club.

I have been a little snowed under with shorthand practice and writing for Tennishead magazine and website, which has been pretty exciting!

Check out their website at http://www.tennishead.net

I am in the current issue with a six page spread on ‘How to become a tennis coach’ which can be bought in WH Smiths, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tescos.

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I interviewed Matthew Syed from The Times last week about his new book ‘Bounce’, which was fantastic. I will be publishing the interview on here when I get a moment! My article on ‘Bounce’ will appear in the December issue of tennishead magazine, which is now the ONLY UK’s tennis mag, as Ace is stopping publication.

I currently have a couple of very exciting freelance projects on the boil and will update you with any more information asap!

The WTA and ATP are now sending me their press releases and videos, so I hope to share up to date news and insights with you on a daily basis.

Bye for now,

The Tennis Writer xxx


Murray applies the heat in Flushing Meadows…

Despite looking suspiciously like Jasper, the dashing vampire from the Twilight films, Slovakian, Lukas Lacko, failed to draw blood against an impressive Andy Murray amidst the blistering heat of a New York afternoon, losing 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in just under two hours.

Murray used his typical variety of shot to gain two break points with a drop shot at 2-1 in the first set; a fabulous topspin lob awarded him his first break of serve. A muscular looking Murray continued his aggressive style of late, in the following games, stepping well inside the baseline to attack Lacko’s second serve and approach the net; a tactic that served him well throughout the course of the match. After a closely fought game at 5-3 and a couple of erratic shots from Murray, the Scot took the first set in 38 minutes.

Murray applied the pressure early on in the second set, breaking Lacko immediately, however buoyed by an audacious defensive shot in the second game, Lacko broke back straight away to level the set at one game a-piece. After taking out his frustration on his racket, Murray decided it was time for a new one and broke back once again in the following game.

A couple of service holds later and Murray went up a gear once again to set up three break points; a double fault by Lacko handed him the game and a definite psychological advantage. There really was no return for the Slovakian as Murray served out the second set with a penetrating forehand winner.

Murray’s impressive serving and aggressive returning made it hard work for Lacko who still didn’t have the answers in the final set, going down 6-2 once again.

The signs look bright for the Briton, who looks set to progress well into the tournament and possibly go all the way. Memories of a once physically weak Murray, cramping through lack of conditioning, have well and truly faded into insignificance; he could almost give the werewolves in Twilight a run for their money; well maybe not, but a transformation has certainly occurred.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.


The Lone Ranger versus the Father: preview of Murray and Federer at the US OPEN

Andy Murray’s recent impressive defence of his Toronto Master’s title following back to back victories over Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, has meant that once again he is one of the firm favourites for the US Open which starts tomorrow.

The final marked a welcome return to the more aggressive style of play witnessed before the devastating psychological impact of losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open at the start of the year. The Canadian fans were treated to a more focused and mature performance from the young Scot, unnerved by the rain delays and the prospect of facing his arch nemesis once again, prevailing 7-5, 7-5 to record his first title victory of the season.

The win brought Murray’s head to head record to seven wins out of twelve against the majestic Swiss master, but the world waits with baited breath to see whether he can maintain his form throughout the grueling two weeks of a Grand Slam or simply continue his reign as the best player never to have won a major.

Murray remains confident of his chances and revealed, “I feel very fresh after taking a couple of days off after reaching the quarter finals in Cincinnati and right now I’m fine physically. The Toronto win was very good for the confidence and now I’ve been in New York, a city I love, for a week. I feel good which is important because I know I have got to produce my best tennis.”

Indeed, on recent form and the shape of the US Open draw, Murray is likely to face Federer once again in the final, with Rafael Nadal certainly less impressive during the American hard court season. While each feels equally confident of victory, their summer preparations couldn’t have been further apart.
Murray has spent the summer enjoying his rekindled romance with Kim Sears, whilst Federer has had to come to terms with balancing being a father to twins with the pressures of the tour; a fact he has taken into consideration when taking on the advice of new coach, Paul Annacone, who also had children early in his playing career. Meanwhile, in July Murray chose to sever ties with his coach of two and a half years, Miles Maclagan.

Will Murray carry on his good form and survive the two weeks unscathed as a lone ranger or will Federer succeed with the inspiration and insight of his new right hand man and former coach of Pete Sampras? Or will a certain Spaniard spoil the party? Be sure to tune and join the rollercoaster ride at Flushing Meadows, but remember to hold on to your hats and glasses folks, as we’re certainly in for some unpredictable twists and turns!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.


Sunshine, showers and strawberries – day two of the Aegon Championships…

On day two of the AEGON Championships, the indecisive British weather threatened for most of the day causing play to be held back until 1.30pm on Centre Court and the players to be pulled off for a break at 3.30pm during a heavy shower. However, the sunshine prevailed towards the latter stages, but unfortunately did not shine kindly on British number two, Alex Bogdanovic who lost the final set to talented Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 after a missed challenge and two double faults ended his campaign on Centre Court. Bogdanovic revealed his “disappointment” over having his funding cut by the LTA after the match, but remained positive that he could still be “a top 100 player”.

Next up on centre was the talented Frenchman, number 6 seed Gael Monfils against German, Rainer Schuettler, ranked 82 in the ATP world rankings. During the first game, Monfils appeared to twist his knee and looked extremely uncomfortable moving on the grass for the rest of the match losing in three 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, meaning the Wimbledon semi finalist, Shuettler had pulled off his biggest win since beating Sam Querry in the first round of this year’s Australian Open.

Performance of the day had to go to Andy Murray, who was next up on centre, playing Ivan Navarro. Surprisingly for a Spainard, Navarro took his serve volley game to Murray who did well to get the first set to his first tiebreak at Queen’s since 2008. Murray managed to pull off some spectacular shots to take the first set, which must have thrilled his girlfriend, Kim Sears back watching on the side lines since rekindling their romance earlier this year. Murray started to see the ball a lot better in the second set, winning it convincingly 6-3. He came back at the end of the day’s play to partner his brother Jamie against Sam Querry and Scott Lipsky of the USA. The pair looked impressive as they won in two in front of a more vocal home crowd after several glasses of Pimms. Murray was suitably grumpy in the post match press conference and I can see why he hasn’t always won many popularity points with the press.

Andy Roddick made easy work of Russian Igor Kunitsyn, thrashing him 6-2, 6-1 in a flash. Roddick revealed an interesting theory after the match, saying that he would “love three months of 1000 tournaments in the lead up to Wimbledon. We have a couple of 250s before Wimbledon. So for me that’s just a glaring issue, you know.”  More Pimms and strawberries for three months before Wimbledon? I second that Andy, but what about the weather?

 Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.  


Celebrity spotting at the Aegon Championships!

As I walked from Barons Court tube station, feeling the buzz of excitement, I was pleased to dodge the long train of tennis fans snaking their way around Queen’s Club for ground passes and head straight for the dizzy heights of the media gazebo. I was immediately distracted by a dashing familiar stranger directly in front of me – former Wimbledon champion, Pat Cash. It never fails to amaze me how many famous faces you will see mingling with the public at both Queen’s and Wimbledon; that’s what I love about these tournaments.

While waiting for my press pass, BBC Commentator and Andy Murray’s former coach, Mark Petchey surprisingly needed to give his name to the girl behind the counter. Two famous commentators spotted and I hadn’t even entered the grounds yet.

I was led to the media centre directly behind centre court, shown where the press seats were situated and was greeted by the lovely Sue Barker, ex Davis Cup Captain, John Lloyd, commentator John Inverdale and former British number one, Annabel Croft congregating in the bar area – how surreal!

I found my way through the maze of stairs and corridors to the press seats to watch the first match on centre – Britain’s wild card entry, Jamie Baker versus Denis Istomin. Baker, ranked 254 in the ATP World rankings failed to get any sort of grip on the match or the slippery grass surface as he lost 6-1, 6-4, falling no less than three times on his backside, repeatedly chastising his shoes for letting him down. In the post match press conference, he looked a little forlorn as he mentioned the difficulty of “stepping up to the level of the player” he was up against. It remained to be seen whether Brits, James Ward and Alex Bogdanovic would fare any better.

During the second set of Baker’s match, I couldn’t help but notice a tanned and gorgeous Novak Djokovic strolling nonchalantly to the practice courts beneath us – knowing how close you can get to the players practicing, I rejected the nonchalance and nearly broke my leg rushing down the several flights of stairs in heels to get a prime position to watch my favourite player’s tomfoolery on the beautiful grass.

He didn’t fail to disappoint with his series of jokes, trick shots and a well timed shirt change! I wished I’d brought my tennis gear and trainers, as I have a feeling he could have sneaked me on court for a quick rally or two – well, maybe in my dreams!

After the Djoker sadly left the practice courts, I wandered back to the press seats to see if Britain’s James Ward could fare any better. He was against stiff opposition in the form of American Robbie Ginepri, who looked a little incongruous in his coloured shorts and shirt on the grass. Ward put up a decent display and should have had a convincing 5-2 lead in the second set if he’d held his serve after breaking the American in the sixth game, but instead he allowed Ginepri to come back and secure a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Ward spoke of his relationship with the new British Davis Cup Captain, Leon Smith in the post match press conference, revealing, “I’ve been in contact with Leon the whole time I was in America. I was away for seven weeks. E-mails, text messages, BBM, everything. Since I’ve been back, he’s been to see me practice a lot, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

A fellow journalist told me the Murray brothers were training on an outside court in preparation for their doubles match later that evening, so I nipped out of the media centre to watch Britain’s number one hopeful. When I arrived I barely recognized his brother Jamie, who appeared to have had an argument with his hairdresser, as he was sporting a pretty horrific crew cut fit for the army. Apparently Andy commented on Twitter, saying he hoped Jamie had kept the receipt – who said he doesn’t have a sense of humour?     

Team Murray were on good form as they practiced varying volley to ground stroke drills to a heaving crowd. A Spanish coach tried to get them off the court early – on home turf – adios! French maestro, Richard Gasquet was due on Centre court so I left the Murrays to it and headed back once again up the stairs to the press seats – who said being a reporter wasn’t hard work?

Eleventh seed, Gasquet faced Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who turned out to be no push over in a 6-3, 6-3 victory for the Frenchman, whose glorious backhand was really a sight to be seen first-hand. Gasquet often needed a translator to answer journalist’s questions, but revealed he believes the French have had such a great tradition on grass due to “good technique” and the talent needed to succeed on grass rather than clay.  No one could ever say he lacks talent, but it remains to be seen if he will ever weave his way like a cobra to the top ten again – his highest ranking was 7, but is now placed at 45.

Britain’s number two, Alex Bogdanovic was up next after getting through the qualifying rounds to play Bulgarian former Junior Wimbledon Champion, Grigor Dimitriv, currently ranked 360 in the ATP World rankings. Bogdanovic looked comfortable in front of his home crowd winning the first set convincingly 6-4, but lost the second 6-3. Rain stopped play at 2-1 in the third. If Bogdanovic loses the third, then Murray will be the only Britain left in the tournament – a situation he is very familiar with.

For the past eight years, a first round defeat at Wimbledon for Alex Bogdanovic following wild card entry has been as predictable as rain stopping play, but he still must have been a little bemused that he had been left out of the All England Club’s first batch of wild cards along with being denied one for the Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club this week. He has also stubbornly refused to rejoin the Davis Cup fold following his miserable performances in the past. I really do hope that tomorrow brings some much needed luck for Alex and sunshine instead of rain for my second day reporting for Tennis Grandstand. Watch this space for more news, reports and gossip from London.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.