It has been a long long time since we last had an update here – and I feel about as disconnected from the sport I adore, than I have for many years.
Still, with the second Slam of the year just around the corner, let’s look at who’s been wrapping up the wins in March and April.
Djokovic continues to dominate the men’s tour and so it largely proved as things transitioned from hard-courts to the clay.
After smaller wins for the dependable men of the dirt (Almagro, Verdasco Kohlschreiber), the old master Nadal announced himself yet again with victories in Monte Carlo and Barcelona – a small but punchy flourish and one that keeps him relevant for Roland Garros.
It seemed however in recent weeks, that Novak would tighten his grip once more on this most unfancied of services, winning in Madrid before his beaten opponent and birthday boy Murray through his name into the mix of potential Parisian champions with a 6-3, 6-3 dismantling of Djoko in Rome.
Vika Azarenka – after a couple of oh-so-nearly’s finally returned to the big time with a double-whammy of the Big Two US hardcourt titles in America in March. Her achievements somewhat overshadowing Kuznetsova’s run to the final, but hey ho.
Once the clay arrived, it was the form players of more recent times who returned to the winner’s circle: Bacsinsky, Safarova, Cibulkova and Kerber all snatched tournament victories.
The latter of which was a bittersweet moment for most I imagine, such was the remarkable run to the final of her opponent; qualifier Laura Siegemund.
But, ultimately for all the variation that winners list supplied, it was a case of ‘welcome back’ to two names who have shied away from the top step recently. Simona Halep (Madrid) and Serena William (Rome) may have peaked at just the right time to give their contenders something to fear in France.
My Matches 2016 – Triple round-up
5thMay – Sophie Dobinson def Al Warwick 7-6
The first of the Spring matches this year saw me up against my fiancée in the midst of her birthday week. With a particularly summery week in full swing I noticed both her energy and rnthusiasm draining away after the early exchanges. I eased even further off and began to hit my shots into the primary zone for her to make some decent groundstrokes of her own.
It is testament however that – near the end of proceedings when I tried to claw myself back (groundstrokes at 75% or so), she gave me little chance and triumphed deservedly.
14thMay – David Baker def Al Warwick 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (4)
Is there such thing as a satisfying defeat? True such a notion proves only too well how my game has dipped in recent years that a loss would register such an emotion – but I know I am nowhere near my physical or mental peak, and haven’t been for some time.
Last year’s match aside, I’ve had the measure of David largely over the past few years – which is significant as he represented my first real ‘nemesis’ player – one who would constantly have the edge over me and – often – would never truly be challenged,
I’ve mentioned before how our games are similar; the mix of a lethal but all-too shy first serve, more than competent groundstrokes and a capable sprinkle of talent for the short ball and drop shot. See also – a tendency to showboat and go for the headline-maker.
Here, the contest felt all-too familiar to our matches of old, and as close as it was and as well as my game held up (the smash, forehand and backhand all felt sturdy and a constant weapon) – I was forever fighting fires.
David’s game was burning all the brighter and so it proved the difference in an entertaining encounter.
15thMay – Rob Field def Al Warwick 6-2, 6-1
I have only played Rob a handful of times, all of which have proven a real challenge. His style of play: preferring to kill the pace and work the angles, all while maintaining a sturdy defence. With him more than any other regular opponent, the court seems to shrink and my options evaporate as every new point begins.
The previous day’s match had filled me with hope, the serve aside I had played well and could’ve realistically nicked a couple of sets, but as with the classic Drain era, our flat hitting allowed me into a rhythm and a comfort zone in which to flex the groundstrokes.
Rob offers no such luxury, instead his deliveries fly high and are at a constant chest to almost shoulder height! The few times one might find themselves in a good position and monsieur Field will likely be busy further perfecting a prowess at the net that has blossomed in the last year.
At times I simply didn’t have any answer, and yes, the mental fragility which has plagued my love affair with the sport only fed on my bad form, it festered as I concentrated not on the game, but on asking how my form could fluctuate so much in less than 24 hours.
Too many over-hit shots, movement all wrong and little to no co-ordination with the backhand. It was a royal mess frankly, and thinking about it again now, perhaps reopens the case for contact lenses.
Onwards and upwards as they say, best get myself down to the practice courts sharpish.