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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From The Ruthless Court to the Clay Courts

05/04/2011 at 8:42 pm (Tennis, The Ruthless Court) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Who'll win big in Monte Carlo?

The aristocratic and regal characters populating the late 19th and early 20th centuries in The Ruthless Court are exactly the type to grace the high-stakes world of Monte Carlo and may even have heard of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters tennis tournament, as the event debuted way back in 1906.

Sadly the tennis-playing Catherine Verkhovnova—one of TRC’s present day characters–isn’t eligible for the tournament as it’s strictly men allowed (or aloud, if you’ve ever heard their grunting). Never mind—in The Ruthless Court, Catherine wins 6 straight matches on grass to reach the Wimbledon final against GB’s Georgie Gent, so she’s obviously more suited to grass than clay anyway. For those who can’t instantly recall, Georgie, (the player formerly known as Georgie Stoop) as well as being a character in The Ruthless Court, is also a very real person, as her sometime doubles partner Laura Robson will testify.

But back to Monte Carlo. The first tournament of the European clay season, this event is a favourite playground of player and fan alike, thanks to the Monte-Carlo Country Club being a ball’s throw away from a postcard-perfect sea. This casino of clay has boasted a royal flush of great champions over the decades with the roll of honour including Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl and Rafael Nadal. Attendance this year is guaranteed to be well in excess of 120,000 and each spectator is licking their lips at the prospect of an elite 56 man draw featuring many of the world’s best players.

Rafael Nadal will be chasing down an amazing seventh successive title here, after crushing compatriot Fernando Verdasco 6-0 6-1 in the 2010 final. Although World No. 3 Roger Federer has failed to win the tournament in his previous nine attempts, his participation in 2011’s proceedings is worth the gamble. After giving last year’s event a miss, Fed doesn’t have any points to defend—unlike many other visitors to Monaco, Roger’s coming to the table with nothing to lose.

No longer the djoker in the pack, Monte Carlo resident and man-about-town Novak Djokovic is pottering into the clay season off the back of a 26 match-winning streak stretching all the way back to last December and  including his January 2011 Australian Open victory.  Djoko has proven himself to be 2011’s King of the Hard Courts so far, but his hard-fought Miami Masters win against Nadal in the final on Sunday shows that an easy time against the King of Clay is something Djokovic knows better than to ever bet on. This is especially the case in Monaco’s best known place-to-be, where the Serb took his turn at losing the final to Nadal in 2009. Last year, Djokovic reached the semi-final, going down to Verdasco.

And what of Fernando Verdasco this year? He’ll once again be in the Principality, looking to build upon 2010’s run to the final, which was the first Masters final of his career. Other super players in the draw include Andy Murray and David Ferrer.  Murray’s wild card entry was announced on Monday, after it was originally thought that the Briton would be skipping Monaco’s delights and starting his clay season in beautiful Barcelona instead. After reclaiming his world 4. status in the latest rankings, Murray will be looking to stem a losing streak of four defeats. Ferrer lost to Nadal in last year’s Monte Carlo semi-final but has proven to be dangerous on clay.

Nadal, Ferrer and Verdasco will be joined by compatriots such as Nicolas Almagro and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Meanwhile expect the home crowd to cheer on the likes of Frenchmen Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon. Canadian young gun Milos Raonic, a revelation in the early part of this year, is aiming to use Monte Carlo to launch the European leg of his journey up the rankings.  Like Murray, Tomas Berdych is a top ten player with a wild card in his hand and a glint in his eye. But who’ll be left holding all the cards after the clay swing’s curtain-raising event? The only thing you can put your chips on is an amazing week of tennis with as many twists and turns as The Ruthless Court. The fun properly gets underway on Sunday 10th April, with the final bound to cause fireworks on Sunday 17th April.

This post is recycled from an article written by Autumn as ‘mrsshakeyjake’ and posted on My Tennis Lounge.

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