Tenniszine - UK tennis blog.

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.