Tenniszine - UK tennis blog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm still playing, and watching

Boy have I let this blog go quiet. I'm still playing regularly despite getting closer to sixty. Had plenty of injuries along the way including a nasty 'separated shoulder' from a fall on a hard court.

I still visit Eastbourne, now mens and womens, and the Masters Tennis in the London Royal Albert Hall, and so far also Queens. I don't think I will go to Queens again because it's become too big and you can no longer be sure of getting a good seat close to the action.

London now hosts the mens end of season ATP Tour World finals which I went to on one day this year and that was great (but also too big for a close seat).

Maybe I'll start blogging again the 2010. Still love the tennis!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New racket for Amelie?

I couldn't help noticing this photo on Yahoo tennis news. (Photo courtesy AFP).

That's not the Dunlop MFIL 300G which is my new racket.

So I watched Eurosport and sure enough in the match against Jankovic, Mauresmo was using what appears to be a new Dunlop racket. Its paint job is predominantly yellow and white with some black, which doesn't seem to be from last years stock of Dunlop rackets.

It's a shame that Dunlop can't get their act together on the US website which has been 'due for relaunch in January 2007' status for some time now. In fact the whole Dunlop Slazenger Sports marketing effort by its parent company seems to be abysmal, IMHO. Apart from a site in Australia, trying to find some more information about this company and its products is hard work. The MFIL 300G rackets I have came with a postal address, telephone number and email for contact in the UK, but no website!

Anyway, does anyone know anything about the racket Amelie is using in 2007? She seemed to be still adjusting to it in her loss to Jelena, as she shanked quite a few shots. Or was it just windy in Sydney and the racket is just a new paint job?

Update: Tommy Robredo too!

Tags: Amelie Mauresmo, Dunlop Slazenger, Tommy Robredo

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Rios v McEnroe

Rios waiting for tossIt was a drizzly and overcast grey day in London on Friday 8th 2006 when, after a lot of press hype about a grudge match and some pre-match sparring between the players, Rios and McEnroe faced off at the Royal Abert Hall in the season ending Blackrock Masters quarter finals. This was the second meeting between the two this year, and had come about with Rios winning his group in the round robin and McEnroe coming second (lucky loser) in his.

The crowd was overwhelmingly in favour of McEnroe, evidenced by the sustained applause he received when walking on court, also on his winning shots, and the numerous shouts of encouragement "come on John". There didn't seem to be a single Rios supporter in the audience, although there was applause for his tennis.

The match started out as a tense affair, with both players trading safe groundstrokes. McEnroe lost his temper quite early when a wide Rios swinging serve to the ad court was called in, whereas McEnroe obviously thought it was out. I was quite surprised over the fuss he made, as I was sitting with a good look down the line and the ball was 'on' the line, and not even close to out.

The first set continued much in the same way with McEnroe losing most of the extended rallies and having only about 50% success on his forays to the net. Either his volleys were short resulting in a successful Rios pass, or Rios won with exquisitely judged lobs. Both players had breaks but it wasn't until Rios came to serve out the first set that he appeared to go up a level in both service and the quality of his shots. It was as if Rios was playing within himself until the time came to close it out.

Unhappy McEnroe

The second set was slightly more competitive (despite the eventual score), although there were two occasions when theatre intevened. Rios was at one stage unhappy about one of the balls which was eventually replaced by the umpire, and McEnroe had a hissy fit over what he considered to be unfair line calling (of course).

Rios won the second set quite comfortably 6-2. His shot making wasn't awesome, just very controlled, often taking the ball quite early for a winner, his movement and speed were quite good. He didn't use his trademark double handed backhand with both feet off the ground but maybe that's because of the low bounce on a fast court that he had complained about. He also didn't make a single cross court forehand passing shot when pulled out wide to the ad-court side (he's a lefty like McEnroe).

Anyway, although Rios may not be the most charismatic person he let his tennis do the talking. It was difficult to tell his chances of winning the Championship, as his play didn't seem outstanding, doing just enough to win. A test against Haarhuis in the semi-finals will reveal more about his form, and on this court Ivanisevic's serve bombs and serve volley game might be too much if they both get to the final.

Update: Haarhuis beat Rios and faces Ivanisevic in the final.

Annual trip to the Royal Albert Hall to see the seniors

On Friday the 8th December I made my annual trip to the Royal Albert Hall in London to watch the quarter finals of the seniors tour. Of course it's more commercial these days so the tour is called the Merrill Lynch Tour of Champions and the season concluding event is the Black Rock Masters.

Also the description of seniors is no longer apt in an age context since the 30 year old Marcelo Rios also plays. There's a lot of noise about this from John McEnroe and maybe others. It's possibly justified since although none of the players play full time, it's certainly the case that the older you are the harder it is to maintain the form at high level over several days of intense competition, and anyway you're at least a step slower or two with each decade.

I saw Rios take out McEnroe, and will blog separately about that match.

In the other quarter final I also saw Pioline defeat Leconte. That was pretty much a friendly affair, with a lot of exhibition stuff, some good natured bantering between the players and the crowd, but when it came to the competitive points it was Pioline who had the goods, or really I suppose it was Leconte who missed a few sitters.

In the doubles I saw Fleming and Gullikson take on Muster and McNamara. I had been looking forward to seeing Muster, a previous favorite of mine (despite his lack of flair), but I would say on the evidence that he is not a doubles player by choice. The maestro out of the four was McNamara, making incredible angled drive winners and remarkable reflex volleys. Even so they lost to Fleming and Gullikson in the tie-break.

All in all, as ever, a most enjoyable day out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Book review: Play better tennis in 2 hours by Oscar Wegner

I was recently given this book as a gift. Its full title is "Play Better Tennis in Two Hours: Simplify the game and PLAY like THE PROS" and the Play like the Pros bit sounds good to me.

Reviews on Amazon range from "too basic" and "aimed at beginners" to "revolutionary". I found it to be rather basic, a bit slim and can be summarized (for me) as follows:

  • 1. Forehand groundstroke: use topspin by using a 'windscreen wiper' action and think about your stroke's finish.

  • 2. Backhand drive groundstroke: show the ball your butt, your rackets butt that is.

  • 3. Serve: use the triceps more than your shoulder muscles.

  • 4. Movement: find the ball.

  • 5. Forehand volley: cut from above.

  • 6. Backhand volley: turn from the shoulder.

Of course there's more than that, but that's really all I got out of it, and I've simplified the explanations given in the book with photo's to a one line summary.

So how did it work for me?

  1. Forehand: I already have a topspin forehand with a wrap around the shoulder when I'm not nervous (which I am most of the time in a competitive match!) but not the windscreen wiper action. I've seen Federer and others do this with a wrap to the side, but selectively. Thinking about the finish action helps when you're not hitting through the ball.

  2. Backhand drive: I tried it, instead of thinking about take back, hip rotation and stepping in, and it seems to work.

  3. Serve: I was really interested in that because of the chronic shoulder problem I have. Of course we're taught to back-scratch anyway but now 'I get it' and it seems to have added more power.

  4. Movement: yes it works. When you're on your game and playing well you're actively looking for, tracking, seeking, wanting and getting to the ball. Just remember this tip and it helps.

  5. Forehand volley: juries out.

  6. Backhand volley: maybe, juries also out.

So would I recommend it? It depends on your level of play. Beginner and improver then yes. Intermediate and Advanced, borrow a copy, you'll skim it in 30 minutes.

I was intrigued to see the acknowledgement Oscar gave to Ron L Hubbard the founder of Scientology.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dunlop M-FIL300 mini-review

Following my entry reviewing the Babolat Pure Storm Team, I recently demo-ed a very similar racquet in specifications: weight, size, power, balance, etc, the Dunlop M-FIL 300 as used by pro's Amelie Mauresmo, Tommy Haas and Tommy Robredo. You can read some feedback by others at Tennis Warehouse.

I was attracted to this racquet by the low flex rating of 61 shown on the Tennis Warehouse site, since I'm still seeking a cure for my now chronic arm and shoulder problems that is restricting my playing. The flex rating shown on the racquet itself is however 64RA.

The racquet is quite light for a pro's racquet, and whilst it's power rating is low I found it can be lively although this could be the strings it came supplied with in the UK (Dunlop M-FIL Tour 16). Compared to the Pure Storm Team there is less weight in the head, and the swing weight figures bear this out. Therefore the racquet is quite easy to handle at the net or when dealing with high bouncing backhands. It feels quite soft and is arm and shoulder friendly which is what I'm looking for. Certainly after an hours play I was not sore the next day which is encouraging. It's also control oriented, low to medium powered and quite a joy to use as part of an all round game. It was easy to generate lots of topspin off both sides, and I would say is more suited to a topspin stroke player than a flat heavy hitter. I had no problems serving with it but there was nothing special.

Compared to some rackets I've played with, it lacks a feeling of solidity which probably comes from heavier weight and stiffness of those rackets. Its soft flex rating can be felt in the overall damped response. Overall I would say, hmmmm....this racket has prospects, I'm going to stick with the demo a while longer. I think some aspects of it need getting used to, but it could be just what I'm looking for, and its weight and balance is open to some tweaking with lead tape, or a change of strings or string tension would also affect the control/power balance. In other words nothing jumps out that makes you go "wow, awesome racquet", but there's nothing bad about it either.

As one of the reviewers said on the Tennis Warehouse site, this could be one of the best kept racquet secrets around. Certainly the price in the UK, is low, obtainable for around £50 or less. I tried to find more details on the Dunlop Slazenger International web site but it's under construction for re-launch in 2007.

Update: it's going on my Xmas prezzie list!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

TNR Blog of the US Open

This is worth reading, IMHO, a blog covering the US Open written by various journalists and hosted by The New Republic. Some sparklers in there including the one that Murray didn't beat Federer with power but courtcraft and tactics. Yes we've all heard that Federer had an off day, but Murray also made it an off day for him!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Davis Cup update

Oh dear, as I was saying!

Andy Murray

Picture courtesy of BBC Sport.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Davis Cup, GB v Israel, first day

The GB v Israel Davis Cup tie took place in Eastbourne on grass at Devonshire Park, which is where I go annually to see the ladies WTA warm up for Wimbledon. I was lucky enough to visit on Friday 21st the first day of the Davis Cup tie in which the two opening singles matches are held.

During the opening ceremony I found the occasion to be rather surreal seeing the Israeli team parading in the pleasant surrounding at Eastbourne, knowing that their country was currently engaged in the wanton destruction of Lebanon and its civilians. The other side of the argument is that is just what Hezbollah are engaged in against Israel. This blog is not the place to debate those arguments, but I still found the occasion surreal.

The normally gentile grounds of the WTA visit were transformed into the harsher tones of the advertising hoardings and colors of the ITF Davis Cup. The crowd were noisy, raucous, decked out in the slightly common look of the Union Jack. This was quite different from the polite audience that occurs during ladies week. It occurred to me during the opening ceremony that the UK flag needs a makeover, some modern design to replace the dated look that has associations with football hooligans, yobs, and chavs. So too does the National Anthem. The Israeli National Anthem was grand, stirring, emotional, but sadly for me the UK National Anthem reminds me of Billy Connolly's send up of it during one of his classic shows.

By comparison to the ladies, the speed and power of the men was there to be seen. Best of five sets too for the Davis Cup instead of best of three which the ladies play. Rusedski was out, injured with a labral tear in the hip. I saw him retire at Queens and he missed Wimbledon too, so let's hope he recovers. That let in Alex Bogdanovic. His talent was there to be seen at times, but his opponent Noam Okun rose to the occasion with solid first serves and powerful backhands that proved too much. The second set could have gone either way, but Alex lost it and that gave Noam more confidence and he won quite easily in the end. Second rubber was Andy Murray against Andy Ram.

Now I've blogged about Murray before, and seen him in person too a couple of years ago at Superset tennis before he was well known, and I was looking forward to watching him ply his craft. He took to the Court like a menacing warrior and it was soon clear that he is not a one-dimensional player. However his game took a while to click and for two sets he was a petulant teenager, scowling, distracted, and unhappy with his game and everything around. He went down two sets to love and the crowd were stunned. He scraped the third set with some courageous, harrying play. The fourth set finally showed his full range of talent: screaming passing shots, drops shots, lobs and counterpunching at its best. Irrespective of the fact that his opponent is a doubles specialist ranked a few hundred places below him. there's no doubt that Andy Murray showed he has the grit and heart that makes a champion. Read the BBC report here. I have to say I was won over.

However I fear that five sets over four hours is too much since he's scheduled to play in the doubles and reverse singles.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Babolat Pure Team Storm mini-review

I blogged earlier this year that I was using the Prince O3 Tour racket. Nice racket, arm friendly which is why I started using it, but sadly it gave me a nasty shoulder problem and I had to stop using it. My shoulder eventually healed but the golfers elbow wouldn't go, so I reverted to an older racket of mine the Babolat VS Control which has a softer flex rated at 64RA.

I started looking for a later soft flex racket and play tested the Babolat Pure Storm Team which has similar specs to the VS Control except for the balance. The Pure Storm Team has a more even balance than the VS Control and so you can feel the weight in the head even though it is head light. It feels solid and reassuring and is quite low powered with the emphasis on control. The reviews at tennis warehouse indicated it was arm friendly and sure enough I was amazed to find that after playing with it, despite having golfers elbow, I had no need to ice my arm as usual, and the next day there were no after effects.

On that basis I purchased one. I played with it once in a match and just couldn't get on with it. It's probably the strings as when I played with the demo there was much less power and more control than the one I purchased. Then just to sway my overall view I went home with a slight shoulder pull. Now that may not have been the racket, rather it's probably because I didn't warm up and stretch properly, but being paranoid about shoulder injuries I'm not going to risk it again. So, that's another racket, brand new this time, that's going to go on ebay. A bargain for someone since I'll sell below the retail, even below the 'two matching rackets' discount price.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Pro Kennex Kinetic 5G mini-review

With my golfers elbow arm troubles I was fortunate to get hold of and play with a Pro Kennex Kinetic 5G tennis racket. This racket has a well established reputation as being arm friendly especially for people with tennis elbow. The one I got hold of, and still have, is a couple of years old and so has the older colours with black paint and carbon fiber laminate styling, although that I believe is just a clever flashy looking stencil.

The racket feels solid, quite heavy, 336gms on my scales. If you shake it gently you can hear a rustling like sand in the frame. I suppose this is part of the kinetic system technology. It swings quite freely because it is several points head light. After playing with it I would characterize it as a players racket. It's low powered, almost dead, requiring a good swing to generate any depth or power. I happen to like low powered rackets but this was just about one of the lowest I've ever hit with.

At the time I tried it I was suffering from golfers elbow and a shoulder problem. I played with it for two hours in a social match as a test hoping that my arm would not feel any adverse effects. The next day I was sore. In retrospect I don't think it aggravated the injuries since I recovered quickly, instead I was muscle sore in both the forearm and shoulder where I had been handling weight I was not used to, and swinging harder to generate power on groundstrokes and serves. So if you're big and strong and hit groundies with long fast swings then maybe this racket is for you.

I never used it again and now have it in my collection. I plan to put it on ebay sometime, but if anyone reading this is interested, especially in the UK, feel free to email me and make a sensible offer around £30. That's half the price of a new one. It's not new, but the frame is sound with some chips around the top of the head which I've painted over using black gloss (I fill in the chips on all my rackets). The grip size is probably 3 which is ideal to make larger which I started to do. It's a good racket for the right person, almost a collector's item I would say.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Young guns at Wimbledon

As we start the second week in Wimbledon the Brit status is very much the same as last year, except that we still have James Auckland and Jamie Delgado left in the men's doubles.

It's interesting to see the number of younger players still in the slam. McEnroe said on the BBC that he wouldn't be surprised if Federer got caught out this year, much like Sampras in 2001.

So who's left of the youngsters, starting with the men:
  • The superlative Nadal who's looking increasingly useful on grass. Read Agassi's post match interview. He's full of respect.
  • Murray of course. He's a dogged hustler of a tennis player with a touch of class. He can win his next match too, against Baghdatis.
  • Berdych. Don't know much about him. What's he done since the Paris Masters? He's got to get past Federer next.
  • Baghdatis. Can he repeat his success at the Australian Open and then go one better. I don't think so because he's carrying an injury and Murray is going to make him run.
  • Djokovic. Who's he?
I guess the French youngsters don't like grass!

The women:
Just kidding with the "who's he/she" but I'm going to be saying "who's she" a lot more in the future when it comes to women's Chinese players.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Eastbourne ladies semi finals

I went along on my annual outing to the Ladies semi's at Eastbourne. The weather was kind, hot and sunny with very little wind. Apparently it had been very windy earlier in the week with a few odd showers.

I saw the Belgium contest between Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Justin won 6-3, 5-7, 6-1. The last set was much closer than the score suggests, it just got away from Kim but Justine's persistence and aggression on key points paid off. It was my first chance to see Justine in person, and I was impressed by the power this rather diminutive person is able to generate on both sides. Her footwork and speed just have to be seen to be appreciated. Constant glances towards her coach make you wonder what's going on there - insecurity or just part of the coach player bond?

I also saw the Russian match up between Anastasia Myskina and Svetlana Kuznetsova. I first saw Kuznetsova two years ago at Eastbourne which she eventually won. On this occasion she was favoured to win over the two Russians, but Myskina's groundstrokes were awesome. Flat and hard into both corners and Kuznetsova was just off the pace so Anastasia deserved her win 6-4 2-6 6-4.

Then it was the doubles.

First up was Raymond and Stosur v Navratilova and Huber. I'm a big fan of Lisa Raymond but sadly on this occasion she was unable to make up for the off day her partner Stosur was having, and they lost eventually in the tie breaker on both sets. There was a special presentation after the match to honour Lisa Raymond's win at the French Open this year which means she has now won doubles at all of the Grand Slams.

Next up was Kuznetsova and Mauresmo v Bartoli and Peer. I first saw Bartoli last year practising with her father coaching, and it was intense if not rather unorthodox too. She was small, very slim and lithe but this year she has grown and gained quite a bit of weight. Too much I would suggest unless there is a plan to convert that in the gym into muscle. Her style and technique is definitely unusual, but effective. She hits double handed off both wings, takes the ball very early, stands inside the baseline to receive serves and overall has very strong returns and groundstrokes. She plays with the Prince O3 Red that I was using for a while. Peer was also using a Prince O3 racket but I could not make out the model as it was painted black all over which I have not seen anywhere before. Maybe this is a hybrid under development or test? It was also my first time to see Mauresmo who I had not seen before in person. She is nowhere near as hunky as TV would suggest, but quite tall and slim, legs especially so and overall a nicely proportioned athlete. Then the last thing to get my attention was the racket Navratilova was using, presumably a custom build from Bosworth. Anyway Bartoli and Peer put up a good fight but lost to Kuznetsova and Mauresmo 6-3, 6-2.

Wondering around the ground I saw pieces of an exhibition mixed doubles that included Ian Hislop the editor of Private Eye and Trevor McDonald the TV presenter. I'm a subscriber and fan of Private Eye and Ian Hislop and although the tennis was good fun, it was also a bit cringeworthy.

Overall a good day out, but I do hope the building of Eastbourne's new Cultural Center does not spoil the rather pleasant and gentile feel of the tennis grounds.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Queens club and the Stella Artois

I had the pleasure of visting the Stella Artois championships at Queens Club this week. It was my first time. I saw several good matches including Henman v Agassi, and many players practising, including: Monfils, Mathieu, Davydenko, Philippoussis, Gonzalez, Mirnyi, Knowles, Nestor.

This week I am going on my regular annual visit to the Hastings Direct at Eastbourne.

The two tournaments contrast in many different ways.

The Stella of course is mens and was busy, busy, busy, and very cramped, whereas Eastbourne is far more pleasant and not just because it's ladies. Even so, the seat I had at the Stella on Centre Court was excellent as were most seats because the venue is so small. So the hectic and cramped environment is more than made up for by the proximity to the top men players. When I first arrived I resolved "never again" but by the end of the day and that was nearly six hours of play, I had changed my mind. If you're a tennis fan then Queens is OK. I suppose my main criticism is the limited access to watch players practising. Eastbourne wins hands down in this respect.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Murray and McEnroe, Wow!

I've blogged previously about the time I saw these two play one another over a year ago.

The San Jose win has really put Murray on the ATP map. I didn't watch it on TV but just saw the first game, which he lost; however it was lost by Murray rather than won Hewitt and when I went to bed I was already thinking that if he held his nerve he could win it.

McEnroe did OK. I saw that as a replay on TV. I wouldn't say he played great, but let's not diminish the fact he's won another doubles title on the men's ATP tour.

I've only played once in the last week, last night at club night. The UK weather has turned cold again so it was a bit of a miserable session. My play was solid but not outstanding.