STUART FRASER

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TALKING BALLS 028 Ė TUESDAY 6TH JULY 2010
By Stuart Fraser

Nadal completes the French Open & Wimbledon double

It was somehow only right that after being robbed of the chance to defend his Wimbledon title last year, Rafael Nadal steamrolled to victory at SW19 this year.

What a difference a year makes.  In June 2009, an emotional Nadal called a press conference to announce his withdrawal from Wimbledon due to recurring knee problems.  This came just weeks after his shock fourth round defeat at the French Open by Robin Soderling.

Then at the end of the year, when he was knocked out of the ATP World Tour Finals having failed to win a set in three matches, sceptics wondered if his dodgy knees were going to cut his career short.

However, that seems long ago after seeing him clinch the coveted French Open & Wimbledon double over the past month and a half.  The world No.1 is back to his best and how pleasing it is to see.

The Spaniard had been troubled in some of his earlier matches at the All England Club this year, particularly his second round match with Robin Haase and against Philipp Petzschner in the third round.

But he turned it on when it mattered.  In his semi-final against Andy Murray, Nadal was at his best.  I counted at least two points where Murray hit at least three shots which would have been outright winners against the majority of players, only for the Scot to see the ball come back at him each time from the raging bull at the other side of the net.

Another straight sets defeat for Murray in the latter stages of a grand slam immediately had people claiming that the Scot will never win a major.  How can that be said though when the 23-year-old has already reached two grand slam finals, playing the greatest player of all time on both occasions, and two semi-finals.

After an inconsistent year on tour, Murrayís form at SW19 over the past fortnight was encouraging and he will rightly look forward to the US hard court swing with confidence.

The final on Sunday between Nadal and Tomas Berdych was hardly a classic, but after the past two drama-packed Wimbledon finals, it would have been too selfish of us to expect another.

Whilst watching the match, you never felt as if it was going to be anything other than a Nadal victory.  He comfortably controlled the match from start to finish and Tomas Berdych hardly had a sniff.

Before we knew it, Nadal was performing a forward roll on the Centre Court surface in celebration of winning his eighth grand slam title.  Only he could make a simple forward roll look so cool.

It will be intriguing now to see how he performs at Flushing Meadows in less than two months time.  The US Open is the only slam he hasnít won yet and after a well-earned break, he will no doubt put all his effort into practice and preparation ahead of his attempt to clinch the career grand slam.

Runner-up Berdych should also look ahead to the US Open with confidence.  The Czechís improved performances in recent months have been reflected by a new career high ranking of No.8 this week.  The mental block that used to dog him in the past seems to have gone and his strong hitting will be a danger for anyone on the US hard courts.

In truth, the conclusion to the third grand slam of 2010 was slightly flat compared to the drama we seen in the tournamentís first few days last week, but at least British performances in the junior events gave us a bit of hope for the future.

There has been a bit of talk about 16-year-old Oliver Golding in recent months, and he showed his promise with a semi-final run in the Boysí Singles, knocking out the Australian No.1 seed Jason Kubler on the way.

Anything less than a title win for Laura Robson was expected, given the progress she has made so far this year, but a semi-final run in the Girlsí Singles was respectable.  The crucial time for Robson will be when she leaves the junior game and concentrates full-time on the senior tour.

And well done to Liam Broady and Tom Farquharson who won an all-British Boysí Doubles final, beating George Morgan and Lewis Burton.  Itís great to have British Wimbledon champions and it will have been good experience for the young Brits to have competed in a showpiece match on a stadium court like Court No.1.

It was a fitting way to end this yearís Wimbledon Championships.  It was a fortnight which saw no rain delays for the first time since 1995.  The sun shone non-stop, just like the action on court.

Eastbourne hosts Davis Cup

Now that another Wimbledon fortnight is over, all eyes turn to the Davis Cup where the World Group quarter-finals take place.

Oh how we Brits wish to be a part of the tennis elite.  Instead, we face a Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 relegation play-off against Turkey on the grass of Devonshire Park in Eastbourne.

The Davis Cup has brought doom and gloom for Great Britain in recent times, but surely this is the weekend which changes all that. If not, weíre down to the bottom tier of the competition for the first time in our history.  Just when you thought things couldnít get any worse after that defeat by Lithuania in March.

Iím confident about this home tie for the Brits on grass this weekend though.  Especially when I heard that some members of the Turkish team turned up in Eastbourne without grass court shoes.

Other positive news ahead of this weekendís tie came from the grass courts of Manchester where James Ward beat Jamie Baker in the final of a Futures days after both were named in the British team for this weekend. 

This backed-up captain Leon Smithís choice to pick the pair considering that players like Dan Evans and Josh Goodall would have been out to prove him wrong.

Looking at the rankings of the Turkish players, apart from world No.103 Marsel Ilhan, there is nothing too much to be concerned about with the rest ranked outwith the top 800.  However we all know from previous experience that rankings can often not count for much in Davis Cup ties.

Stand-out player Ilhan showed decent form at Wimbledon, coming through qualifying to reach the second round where he was beaten in four sets by Victor Hanescu.  He will be expected to win the two singles rubbers he plays this weekend.

Itís not clear who will play as their singles No.2 out of Ergun Zorlu, Tuna Altuna and Haluk Akkoyun, but surely Baker and Ward will win the two rubbers against whoever is fielded out of these three players.

In the doubles, Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski are in good form ahead of the tie.  The pair have had nine wins and three losses in four grass court tournaments in recent weeks, with one of these losses unashamedly coming against the Bryans in the second round at Wimbledon last week.

They should have too much for the pair that Turkish captain Alaaddin Karagoz decides to field on Saturday.  Judging by previous ties, it will be Ilhan along with either Zorlu or Akkoyun.

So going by that method of thinking, it should come down to the decisive fifth rubber on Sunday which Britain will win to clinch the tie 3-2.  However, whenever a Davis Cup tie comes down to the last match, anything can happen, contrary to the rankings, as we seen in Lithuania just a few months ago.

The tie can be seen on British Eurosport 2 this weekend with coverage starting at 11:30am on Friday.  Good luck GB!

Other Brits head to Newport

For some of the Brits not taking part in Davis Cup this weekend, they head over to the USA for the final ATP grass court event of the season in Newport.

When the Campbells Hall of Fame tennis championships come around each year, I always remember the damning verdict that Murray gave the courts in 2005 when after losing in the second round, he said: ďThat is by far the worst tennis court I've ever played onĒ.

Perhaps not the best thing to say when you had been awarded a wild card for the event, but you have got to admire his honesty.  We all know the courts at Newport arenít the best, but despite their dodgy bounces, there are still a few Brits who have thought it worthwhile to compete there this week.

After refusing to play Davis Cup this weekend, Alex Bogdanovic would have been hoping to make the decision seem even more worthwhile by picking up some valuable ranking points.  Sadly he lost to the German Michael Kohlmann in the second round of qualifying.

Richard Bloomfield gained revenge for the Brits though by beating Kohlmann in the next qualifying round to clinch a place in the main draw.  Itís not often we get British qualifiers at ATP events so itís great to see Bloomfield come through three close qualifying matches.

It has not been the best of years for Bloomfield who now sits at No.552 in the world rankings having once been at a high of No.176 in March 2007.  A relatively kind first round draw against Belgian Christophe Rochus will give him the chance to get that ranking going upwards again.

There is also British interest in the doubles with Ross Hutchins and Australian Jordan Kerr seeded third.  Not the easiest of first round ties for the pair though against Jonathan Erlich and Scott Lipsky.

Jamie Murray also appears along with Jonathan Marray, and the pair have been given a kind first round draw against the wild card pairing of James Cerretani and Adil Shamasdin.  A good opportunity for the pair to pick up some crucial ranking points in their aim to become regulars at the main ATP tour events.

Watch the Wimbledon pressers

Having recently watched plenty of after match one-on-one interviews with tennis players who have immediately come off court, itís reinforced my thought that these generic interviews are nothing compared to the post-match press conferences held with a pack of journalists.

Itís a shame that we hardly get to see them apart from the odd video on YouTube here and there, so I was delighted to find a new online service from Wimbledon which streamed press conferences live and also archived them for later viewing.

Whether you are looking for entertaining exchanges between journalists and players or press conferences in other languages like French and Spanish from this yearís championships, check out: http://www.livestream.com/wimbledon/