A List of Court Speeds


I’ve been wondering for a while now about the different court speeds and the above table pretty much sums it up. In the table the court speed is determined by the percentage of points won on serve, which I think is pretty accurate. As expected Paris is number one and is probably the only event on the list which is still conducive to serve-and-volley play. Interestingly Paris has probably been Roger’s worst Masters Series event. Last year was his best result yet where he made semis and lost to Monfils after having match points. I think it shows that he hasn’t really worked that hard on his attacking game over the years. Last year when he joined up with Annacone he started to work more on coming to the net which could be why he had his best result yet in Paris. I wish Roger gave more attention to his net game over the years.

When Wimbledon was still fast he was right up there with the best serve-and-volley players. Then as the surfaces became slower he became a base liner and his net game basically died. I think that hurt him especially against Nadal. He was too stubborn and wanted to dominate Nadal from the base line. I don’t think it was as much the slowing down of the courts that hurt him against Nadal as his stubbornness to go to the net. Now that Annacone is helping him to be more attacking it is at a pretty late stage and a lot of the damage has already been done. To get back to the table, I’m a bit surprised that Wimbledon is still in second spot. Wimbledon has been slowed down some, but I think it is mostly the height and consistency of the bounce that has changed, which have helped someone like Nadal. The surface itself still seems to be pretty fast.

Cincinnati is high up as expected. Cincy has been one of Roger’s best Masters Series events especially of late, having won it the last two years. This to me shows that he does enjoy the faster surfaces, coupled with the fact that he has done so well at Wimbledon over the years. Canada is also pretty high up, although I’m not sure if the stat is conclusive since they alternate between Toronto and Montreal. Anyway Roger has won it twice and made two finals. It’s also quite interesting to see the US Open having about average speed, but I suppose that’s more or less expected. The US Open have been slowed down along with all the other courts, but is still a surface which Roger loves to play on. Then it’s quite surprising to see a clay court event ahead of Miami, Indian Wells, and the Oz Open.

The altitude in Madrid obviously has a lot to do with it but it also shows how slow some of the hard courts have become. Indian Wells, Miami, and the Oz Open are classified as slow hard court. In Indian Wells and Miami Roger was doing really well earlier in his career, while the results have dropped off a little of late. And this year at the Oz Open he lost in straight sets to Djokovic. In that match it looked like the slower courts really got to him because he was unable to penetrate Djokovic’s defenses. Finally at the bottom of the list we have Roland Garros and Rome, which is to be expected. It is worth noting that Roger beat Djokovic on a slower court than the Oz Open when he beat him at Roland Garros this year. How could he not get through Djokovic’s defenses at the Oz Open but was able to do it at the French?

It’s a hard question to answer. Maybe the clay helped him to vary his game more with drop shots and slices. The crowd also played a role as they were really behind Roger. Roger looked inspired on the day, like he was out to prove something. Finally he played a really good tournament throughout, not dropping a set until that match. At the Oz Open he lost two sets to Simon earlier on and wasn’t exactly full of confidence. It looks like from here on if Roger is going to win a slam he is going to have look really confident from the start. Coming back to the surface speeds, Roger have done well on all surface speeds throughout his career. But as he gets older he seems to favor faster courts. That could have to do with the fact that he is trying to play more attacking these days and the fact that he doesn’t move as well as he used to.

Therefor he needs to play first strike tennis and keep the points short. With guys like Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray around who all have amazing defenses, faster courts will obviously help him. It means he gets involved in less long rallies where there is a better chance of him making unforced errors. So it doesn’t work in his favor that things have been slowed down so much these days, but at the same time he left it pretty late to start working on a more attacking game. If he did so earlier it may have been easier to deal with the rise of the defensive base liners and for him to make up for his lack of foot speed as he grew older. My overall conclusions are that Roger started neglecting his net game as surface speeds slowed down and it cost him, in his prime as well as now.


Early Thoughts on the Hard Court Season

Missing tennis yet? I am. I didn’t make any posts about the Davis Cup since I wasn’t able to view it and besides, it wasn’t exactly a huge deal. Roger won his singles and doubles against Portugal. He lost the first set against Machado on an indoor court which shows you the playing mode he was in. Anyway I am glad Switzerland won and as far as I know they are back in the world group now. But since there isn’t much going on in tennis right now I would like to look ahead to the hard court season in North America. There are basically four players who I think can make a big impact. They are Roger, Djokovic, Nadal, Del Potro, and Murray. I don’t see anyone who can really threaten these five guys, so let me take a closer look at each player:

  • Roger – I have always thought hard court is Roger’s best surface. Last year he came off disappointing clay and grass court seasons but when the hard courts came around he basically locked back into his highest gear, making the final of Toronto, winning Cincinnati, and making semis at the US Open. The semis loss at the US Open was a disappointment, especially after having match points, but at least his form was showing an upwards trend. The summer of 2011 was more successful for him than the summer of 2010, but the quarters loss at Wimbledon was once again a disappointment. I think he will want to put that behind him with a good showing on the hard courts. It will be hard for him to top his results of last year at Toronto and Cincy, but he will once again believe that he can make it all the way to the finals at the US Open. It won’t get any easier that’s for sure. I’m actually hoping he gets drawn in Nadal’s half this time. I think the US Open is still the one place where he has a good shot at beating Nadal. And besides it is getting ridiculous that Roger is always in Djokovic’s side of the draw. It just appears more and more like they fix the draws. Djokovic will be hard to beat anyway and I’d prefer to see Roger meet him in the final. Roger should be able to make at least semis again, unless he gets Del Potro in his quarter. He could have trouble beating Del Potro as he did in the 2009 final. But then again Roger could go ahead and win the whole thing. I certainly won’t count him out to win a 6th title in New York. He knows how to win there and it will be his last chance to break the record of most consecutive years winning at least one slam title. It would really be a beautiful way to finish the year.
  • Djokovic – No doubt Djokovic 2.0 is a different animal going into the hard court season in 2011. He comes off one of the most impressive winning streaks in history as well as two slam titles. If it wasn’t for Roger at the French Open he would probably have been gunning for the calender slam at the US Open. Hard courts is probably Djokovic’s best surface as well and he will look to do some serious damage in Montreal, Cincy, and New York. Djokovic is probably the favorite to win the US Open. But I like Roger’s chances against him better in New York where the conditions are faster than in Melbourne. The fact that Djokovic 1.0 beat Roger last year in New York isn’t exactly a great sign though, although I did think a lot of that had to do with the fact that Nadal was waiting in the final. If Djokovic is to meet Nadal again in a hard court final I think Djokovic will be the overwhelming favorite. So in the end I think Djokovic will be very hard to stop. The only guys that could possibly upset him I think is Roger and Del Potro, but both would have to play out of their skin.
  • Nadal – For me there is a pretty big question mark over Nadal for the upcoming hard court season. After the losses to Djokovic in Madrid and Rome there were clear signs that it was starting to affect his confidence. He did bounce back well however. But the Wimbledon loss was really the decisive loss to Djokovic. I think if there were tournaments directly after Wimbledon we may have seen him struggle with his confidence again, but now he has some time off to lick his wounds. Nonetheless, it is going to be very interesting to see how he copes with the hard courts, given that it’s his worst surface. He already knows that Djokovic owns him on hard courts. It can’t exactly be a confidence booster knowing that Djokovic is always looming in the draw. But at least he can only meet him in the finals so he won’t have to focus on that for a while. The question is whether other players will take advantage of the fact that he is losing his air of invincibility. Even players outside of the guys I’m mentioning here may be able to do it. You can never count Nadal out, but I don’t see him doing as well in the US Open as last year. I’d be quite surprised if he makes the final again. I think Murray or Roger will take care of him in the semis this year if he doesn’t lose earlier.
  • Del Potro – If Del Potro stays healthy I think he will be as big a threat as anyone for the hard court season. He actually made a good showing at Wimbledon and I think he is getting close to peak form again. Hard courts is also probably his favorite surface. One thing is for sure, none of the top four guys wants to see him in their quarter of the draw. When he is on form he is capable of beating any of the top four guys. By the time the US Open rolls around he would probably have played himself nicely into form and will be one of the favorites to win it. With his big serve and destructive ground strokes, as well as all court game, he is certainly capable of winning it. Of course I hope he gets drawn in Nadal’s quarter as often as possible. He has already beaten Nadal three straight times on hard court and I’m sure Nadal wants to avoid him at all costs.
  • Murray – I was quite hard on Murray the last time I talked about him, calling him a relentless choke artist, so I will try to be a little nicer this time. I think Murray can do well in the lead up events to the US Open. We already know he is capable of winning the Masters Series events. But he would of course like to prove himself on a bigger stage. I think Murray can take a big scalp like Nadal for instance, but it remains to be seen whether he can make the next step and win a slam. He will now be coached by Roger Rasheed, but in the end Murray must overcome his fear in the big moments. That is something that I don’t think a coach can help him with. Rasheed couldn’t help Monfils to take the next big step and I don’t see how he can do it for Murray. In the past Murray has relentlessly fallen over the final hurdle, and it will take some effort to avoid doing so again. So in the end I don’t see him winning the US Open, although he could possibly make the final. But lets not forget that Murray is the most inconsistent of the top four, and an early round exit is once again not out of the question for him.

So those are my thought about the five best hard court players. I really do think these five guys will fight it out for the big trophies. And that goes for all the surfaces. I just hope Roger can still hang around for some time to come, or else it may be hard to stay interested…

Roger Federer

Wimbledon was a Changing of the Guard for Fedal?

I don’t know about you but I have always felt that Roger and Nadal’s destinies were intertwined. I remember at the Australian Open this year Roger was asked by journalists about him and Nadal’s dominance. Nadal had lost in the quarters and Roger in the semis. And it was Djokovic on that occasion who beat Roger in straight sets. It was a convincing loss at an event that he dominated for several years. Nadal on the other hand had won the last three majors, and it was a little unfair to talk about him being on the decline. On that occasion Roger answered that people are always looking to write him and Nadal off, and that they should give it 6 months to come to any real conclusions. Well we are 6 months down the line and both Roger and Nadal have suffered decisive losses at Wimbledon. Did we finally see a changing of the guard?

I think we might well have. Last year Roger lost in the quarters to Berdych at Wimbledon which was a big upset. There were talks of changing of the guard then, but it was a little early given that it was the first time Roger had not made the final in 8 years. It looked like Roger would set the record straight this year after coming off an inspired performance at the French Open. He was many people’s favorite to win the title. So the fact that he lost to Tsonga in the quarters was a big setback. You never want to admit to a changing of the guard as a fan, but you have to be honest too. I think it was a changing of the guard. It’s going to be hard for Roger to win Wimbledon from here on, or any slam for that matter. As far as Nadal goes, he was pretty lucky to escape Djokovic in the French Open final.

If Djokovic had beaten him there it would have been a very telling loss. But in the Wimbledon final it was once again Djokovic who overcame Nadal. I don’t think Nadal’s loss in the final was as telling as Roger’s loss to Tsonga, but it does signal another kind of changing of the guard to me. Nadal was in 5 straight Wimbledon finals, counting out 2009 when he didn’t play. He had won two straight finals until this year and looked like he could dominate Wimbledon for some time. Nadal is now completely owned by Djokovic after losing 5 straight finals to him, which in itself signals some kind of changing of the guard. Given that Nadal is closer to his prime still, one would expect that he can win more major titles than Roger still. I think there are similarities between Roger’s 2009 Oz Open loss to Nadal, and Nadal’s loss to Djokovic in this year’s Wimbledon.

The ownage of Nadal over Roger became official in that match. It was a chaging of the guard as well. After that loss Roger went out to win 3 more slams, but Nadal wasn’t a factor in those slams. The question is how many slams Nadal can now add after being displaced by Djokovic as the dominant player. Some people are still uncertain as to whether Djokovic can keep up his recent level. Personally I feel like Djokovic had transformed as a player and there is no reason he should go back to Djokovic 1.0. He is now number one and is starting to win slams on a regular basis. He is also a more complete player than Nadal and less injury prone. Therefor he will challenge at every slam which means it will be hard for Nadal to avoid him. It will be interesting now to see if Nadal’s confidence will be really dented by all these losses to Djokovic, in which case other players could take advantage.

Once a player loses that air of invincibility the other players take notice and gets more belief themselves. On the other hand Nadal has hardly lost this year to anyone other than Djokovic. He has still been very consistent. I just think it will be hard for him to keep up his consistency with his Wimbledon loss to Djokovic. We saw how he struggled in the first round of Rome and Roland Garros after the final losses to Djokovic. The fact that he now lost in a slam final to Djokovic may have a deeper impact on his confidence. I am very much looking forward to the North American hard court season for that reason. I would’t be surprised if other players than Djokovic starts to beat Nadal on a more regular basis. Del Potro specifically will be a serious threat to Nadal on hard court. And of course you can’t count Roger and Murray out.

Having said that, I never count Nadal out. For that he has proved me wrong too many times in the past. I won’t rest in peace about Roger’s slam record until the day Nadal retires. I won’t even count him out for defending the US Open this year. But if I look at it optimistically, then I would say Nadal has 2-3 more slams left in him. He could win two more French Opens and perhaps a Wimbledon. I think hard court slams will be tough going for him from now on, with Djokovic, Del Potro, and Murray around. So in the end I would say we saw a changing of the guard at Wimbledon for Fedal, where Roger will perhaps win one more slam, and Nadal will only pick up a few slams if he avoids Djokovic. What do you think?

How many more slams will Nadal win?

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