Disadvantage Point: Is the Home Court the Most Ruthless?

15/05/2011 at 12:13 pm (Great Britain, Tennis, The Ruthless Court) (, , , , , , , )

In The Ruthless Court, Andy Murray and Laura Robson’s sometime doubles partner Georgie Gent both get to the Wimbledon singles finals. It’ll happen in real life too, of course. This year. And it’ll be for the first time since 1912. Hardly surprising, considering that either final is very rarely reached by a Brit, since nationalities other than Brits started entering the tournament, that is.

Ignoring the argument that the relative smallness of GB’s population, compared to say the USA or Germany, isn’t conducive to the production of masses of Championship-winning p layers, how about that other well-worn debate about home advantage actually being a pressure point? As Billie Jean King said, ‘pressure is a privilege’ but try telling that to some poor British soul who’s out there on Centre Court in a semi-final against a Sampras or a Nadal, or in a 1st round match against a Williams sister, with 15,000 supporters willing the plucky Brit to play the match of their life. And of course the supporters’ sole intention is to offer support. But is there a case to be made that sometimes the fervent support from a player’s compatriots—be they media or fans—can weigh heavy on the soul, especially if we’re talking about a country starved of tennis success?

We’re not just talking about Britain here. Novak “Nole” Djokovic hasn’t yet been beaten in 2011. That’s 36 matches, as of the night of Saturday 14th May. His winning run actually stretches back into last year, when he won the Davis Cup with Serbia, making that 38 unbeaten matches in total—and counting. This astounding streak includes his Australian Open final win over Murray. Nole is tipped to be World No.1 by the end of this year. He is certainly the best player on tour this year. Serbian tennis fans finally have something to boast about for the first time since Ana Ivanovic’s 2008 French Open win and the long gone days of Ivanovic’s and Jelena Jankovic’s reigns as World No. 1.

Yet in this year’s final of the Serbia Open (a tournament nicknamed the ‘Nole Open’, so powerful is his draw to home fans) Djokovic wasn’t performing as well as he did in, say, the aforementioned Aussie Open final, or his two American finals against Rafa Nadal in early spring.  For instance, he had quite a few problems with his serve. His opponent, Feliciano Lopez, played well, but one can’t help but feel that if Nole had been facing a Nadal or a Murray, his run could have ended there and then. The home crowd were undoubtedly and vocally warm towards their hero, but did this warmth turn the heat up on Djokovic? After all, following the final, it was back to business as usual as Nole upped his game to end Rafa’s 37 match winning run on clay in the final of the Madrid Open.

What do you think? Is the home crowd more an advantage or a burden?  I guess the theory will have to be tested in this year’s Wimbledon finals featuring Gent and Murray!! It doesn’t really get tested in The Ruthless Court, as the home crowd soon have more than tennis to worry about….

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