Category Archives: Tennis

Wimbledon: A Spectator’s View

Guest post by Anna MacDiarmid, Specialist Editorial Intern

With Wimbledon now over, and Britain’s Andy Murray declared the winner of the coveted golden trophy, I wanted to look back to the very beginning, and relive the events that occurred on Court 1 on the 24th July.

Two weeks ago I finally got my day at Wimbledon, day one of The Championship on Court 1, and what a day it was.

wimbledon 1
The weather on the morning was not great and rain is always a possibility in the British climate, even when the sun is shining. So with sun cream, umbrella, blanket and picnic packed we headed off to Wimbledon.

After familiarizing ourselves with the club and most importantly getting our free voucher for strawberries and cream (finally, a benefit to being an HSBC customer) we made our way to our seats.

First on court was Victoria Azarenka vs. Maria Koehler. This was the match I was looking forward to least – Azarenka’s war cry starts to grate on most people after a while. There were some good points in the women’s game, but Azarenka dominated from the start, and her opponent did not put up much of a fight. However, this match did have some drama. Part way through the second set Azarenka let out an almighty scream and the crowd gave a collective gasp of shock. Azarenka was down, one slightly skewed turn and she twisted her knee. While she did go onto win the match, she was limping around the court. Her opponent should have used that to her advantage and sent her running, but she didn’t. The next day Azarenka pulled out; her competition was at an end.
wimbledon 2
Next on court was a match that I was very excited about, Rafael Nadal vs. Steve Darcis. Nadal is one of tennis’ greats and I was looking forward to seeing him play. Everyone expected him to wipe the floor with Darcis – I for one had never heard of his opponent. I was looking forward to seeing Nadal’s trademark power dominating the match from the baseline.

The tennis was fantastic from the start. As Darcis took the lead in the first set, everyone was incredulous; we were fully expecting Nadal to win in straight sets. Credit to both players, Nadal was not playing poorly at all – admittedly nowhere near his best, but you do not expect that in the first round of a tournament. Darcis was just playing better, he was getting the crucial points and he was playing as though he had nothing to loose. Okay, we thought, Nadal has lost the first set. That’s nothing. He has come back from far worse situations.

I found myself cheering on Darcis, the pluckiness and the style with which he was wearing down Nadal was just too good to not roar in delight at. When he took the second set, the crowd was in a state of disbelief. But still, Nadal has come back from 2 sets down many a time. No one was putting him out of the tournament until match point was won! But Darcis kept going, he was unstoppable; where many unseeded players might crumble under the pressure of serving out a match against a player such as Nadal, Darcis did not flinch. When the final point was played, only then did the crowd accept Nadal’s loss, and they went wild. I did feel sorry for Nadal, he looked very forlorn as he walked off the court to face a pounding from the press about his injury and tennis future. Darcis of course was jumping for joy, and rightly so; he had pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament.

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I was sad when Darcis pulled out the next day due to a shoulder injury; I wanted to know how he would progress. Would he be a one hit wonder like so many unseeded players that knock out the greats?

Next up on court was former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt vs. 10th seed Stanilas Wawrinka. This was expected to be THE match of the day. Hewitt’s career has been plagued by injury, but he still has so much grit and determination left in him. He is a joy to watch, and after reaching the semi-final at Queen’s the previous week, he was definitely on top form. Wawrinka is another fabulous player, with one of the best single-handed backhands on the tour.

After the epic match we had just been treated to, I honestly felt exhausted, and I think the crowd felt the same. It was as though the energy had been sapped out of the stadium, and while the next two players were rushed on, I think the crowd was only half paying attention for the first thirty minutes. Hewitt was having absolutely none of that; always a crowd pleaser, he was revving up his audience. He had his own little group of Australian fans dressed up and ready with rehearsed chants to egg their hero on. Hewitt loved it.

Wawrinka was the favorite to win this match, as the highest seed, but that meant nothing to a crowd who had just watched Nadal get knocked out by ‘a nobody’. Hewitt is very far from ‘a nobody’, so it could swing either way. From the beginning of the match Wawrinka didn’t seem to be there. He was making many unforced errors and his famous backhand was failing to live up to expectations. Hewitt of course took advantage of this and battered down his opponent. By the end of the first set the crowd was in full swing, and I can say the majority were definitely supporting the old Wimbledon hero. It was majestic to watch, Wawrinka upped his game a lot in the 2nd and 3rd set, but it was just not enough. Hewitt was being carried along by the crowd, and loving every second of it. When he won I was left feeling all warm and bubbly inside. The BBC website ended its Wimbledon commentary with a quote I thought perfectly described the feeling in the stands: ‘As the sun sets on the first day of The Championships, an old Wimbledon flame burns bright’. As I left, my vision was clouded with idealism – I could see him going all the way.

Two days later Hewitt’s dream was over. That meant that all 6 players we had seen that day were now out. A small superstitious part of me worried that we had jinxed the players. But really it just goes to show that nothing in tennis, or sport, can be taken for granted. This year has been the year of shock exits, with Federer going out in the second round and Serena Williams in the fourth. They were preceded by an array of injury drop-outs from some of the best players, including Tsonga and Cilic. These top players know that they cannot take anything for granted so they take care of their bodies and they will all be back next year, stronger than ever, I am sure.

So this year we celebrate two brand new Wimbledon winners, Marion Bartoli and Andy Murray; let us hope they both go on to win many more titles.

Tennis: A Call to Ranks

Guest Post by Anna MacDiarmid, Editorial Intern for Team Sport

Olympic Stars - Andy Murray and Laura Robson

Olympic Stars – Andy Murray & Laura Robson

The first major event on the tennis calendar, the Australian Open, is well underway. And the question on every tennis fan’s lips is: who will raise the trophy this year? British number one Andy Murray has already won one trophy this year, defending his title at the Brisbane International. 2012 was a fantastic year for British tennis, along with most British sport, with Murray winning an Olympic Gold Medal and the US Open, ending the UK’s long wait for a Grand Slam Champion. Can he top 2012 with a Wimbledon win? We shall see. While Murray is the only British male tennis player in the world’s top 100, things are looking up for female tennis, with young players Laura Robson and Heather Watson entering the top 50 this year. My question is: why must we tennis fans rest all our hopes on so few contenders?

Britain is the home of tennis, so why is it we produce so few Murray-like players? Most people love to sit down to a good Wimbledon match with a Pimms in one hand and some strawberries and cream in the other, so why do we not play tennis with such devotion? This is set to change; with such a good year for British tennis last year, as well as the lasting Olympic Legacy British sport is keen to promote, things are starting to look up. Tennis does have a reputation for being an expensive sport, and I can understand this as a tennis player myself. It is rare to find a court you can play on without paying £5 a game and often you have to pay an extortionate fee to join a club. However, things are set to change, with more free courts popping up around the country as well as taster sessions allowing people to try out the sport.

tennis

Grab a racquet this Spring!

One excellent organisation promoting just this is Tennis For Free (www.tennisforfree.com). TFF works with schools, tennis clubs and local authorities throughout the UK to create more opportunities for tennis communities to utilise public park court facilities for free. One of their main projects is to provide free equipment and a 2 year coaching programme delivered by qualified coaches to all ages and standards for 50 weeks of the year, for free. Their website is also an excellent resource for finding courts you can play on around the country (…for free). Just enter your postcode and browse the results for your most convenient court.

January is the month to take up a new sport and get fit, so I say take up tennis, let’s start producing our own Federers, Djokovics and Nadals. This game really is fantastic for all areas of fitness, not only does it improve your aerobic fitness, but also builds muscle and improves balance as well as being great fun! The average player will cover between 3 and 5 miles during a competitive match and burn up to 600 calories per hour. Also tennis players repeat the same movements over and over which helps to tone the body. Don’t wait for the summer, pick up your racquet and get on court.

Editorial Intern for Team Sport at Bloomsbury, Anna is a keen tennis player and has been playing on and off for about eight years; she secretly hopes to hit the big time. While admitting racquet sports are probably the only kind of exercise she really enjoys, she does also like swimming, and desperately wants to try scuba diving in a tropical underwater world one day.

 

Sport Is Bad for You

The legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics some have hoped aloud is that more of us, still all geed up and whooping, will take part in sport. When I say ‘us’ imagine instead the unspoken target: some pre-teen lazybones hunched over her smartphone. Suddenly she’s shot-putting her pillowcase of junk food out the window and joining squadrons of her kind in the streets, hurdling bins, moonwalking like dressage horses, going all Beth Tweddle on lamp-posts. Healthiness being the age’s religion, this is seen as a good thing. Sport is good for you. It makes you a fitter biomechanical machine, and a fitter body is happier, lives longer and, though I have gone too far already, contributes more to society. Here I am at a sports publisher, and such a groundswell of interest in sport should have me licking my chops – moo-ha-ha! Allow me instead to pooh-pooh.

But why? Why emit a sales-sapping grump of a blog? Am I so cynical, so sour of puss, so easily prepared to kill joy and rain on the parade of something community-spirited and optimistic, something right-headed and good. I would hope so, yes.

And now I hold up exhibit A, my left ring finger in a splint. This is what sport has done to me. A detached tendon suffered while keeping goal in five-a-side football. Do not, I suggest, try to block a cannonball using your ring finger like a pool cue, tip first. The digit has contracted the deformity known as mallet finger and is now permanently bent at the top joint. It may never fully heal, and in the meanwhile I am forced to wear my plastic finger hat of shame – for weeks.

My question is this: In the light of such a catastrophe, how can anyone of passing sanity suggest that sport is good for you?

Like most people involved in such things I have an atlas of injury remnants across my body: from bone bruises and dicky joints to multiply shucked toenails. We are not alone. Sport leads to a continuous barrage of impacts, crunches, wrenches and body damage. They don’t call them tennis elbows nor swimmer’s shoulders for nothing. One of the Olympic equestrian team was discussing how commonly they break fingers after being thrown. A recent crash in the Tour de France was called the Massacre at Metz for the mangled piles of bodies and bikes it left behind, all their skimpy little bike vests in tatters, with gravel-rash oozing horribly through the holes. None of this is strictly speaking good for you, is it. And I suspect it is only the very luckiest of sportspersons who will not wear the brunt of some injury or other to the grave.

Sport is bad for you. So should we wish it upon pubescent slobs and those less disposed towards physical movement? I don’t know. The only reason I can imagine, and probably the real impetus behind our participation anyway, is – no not self-esteem, goal-orientation, team-cooperative-learning-enhancement or some other policy-speak codswallop – fun. Sport is fun. Play it if you want. Unfortunately I will continue to.

I could break your leg, Nadal, just like THAT

For grisly close-ups of the Massacre at Metz see the brilliant and otherwise pretty Allez Wiggo!

Murray vs Tsonga

We here at team sport are completely hooked on this year’s Wimbledon and what a tournament it’s been so far!

Undeterred by having no luck getting tickets by public ballot, I decided to head down after work one day and for a few pounds you gain entry to the grounds and to the outside courts. Nothing beats seeing the speed of those serves first-hand, and on most courts you are right next to the action! After play finished around 9 o’clock, we moved over to Henman Hill/Murray Mount to soak up the atmosphere by watching the rest of the Federer/Benneteau match on the big screen. All in all a great way to experience Wimbledon!

Unexpected defeats of the French Open champs Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova completely opened up the championships and now, as all eyes are turned towards tomorrow’s semi-final matches, we are all asking ourselves – can Murray do it?

Bunny Austin in 1938 was the last British player to reach the men’s singles final at the All England Club, but that could all end tomorrow…

Tsonga and Murray have met twice on grass; the first time in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2010 which went to Murray in four sets and last year in the final at Queen’s club, which Murray took in three sets. Overall, from their six meetings, Murray has won five.

Both players are bound to be feeling the pressure as their nation’s hopes are placed upon them, and as neither player has made it to the Wimbledon final to date, you can guarantee it is going to be a spectacular match.

Of course, we heartily wish both players luck – especially as the winner will face either Federer or Djokovic in the final on Sunday!

If you are thinking about picking up a racket yourself and giving tennis a go, visit http://www.lta.org.uk/Search/Find-A-Tennis-Court to find a court or club near you, or for some top tips and ideas to keep you focused during tennis matches, check out 303 Tips for Successful Tennis: Your Tennis Coach on Court by Angela Buxton and Nenad Simic.

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