Friday, June 6, 2014

The ITF Nottingham experience: Day 2

My second day at ITF Nottingham was absolutely great: a lot of action, some nice interviews and a bit of drama.

If by any chance you can read Italian or trust google translate for the job, you might find a more serious and longer piece on the day here.
Moore vs the rain

To summarise the day quickly, because it is well past midnight and tomorrow I have another long day to cover, the day was smashing. It started with the weather being a bit dodgy, but it definitely improved later on.

As for me it started with a nice chat-interview with Christina McHale, which will be out soon –I’ll keep you updated with that-, who told me that she had finally started hitting again and despite the pain, she is happy and confident for the upcoming weeks.

I then watched Madison Keys hitting with Lauren Davis and it was nice, though Keys was not very centred, but her forehand was absolutely stunning at times. Davis is also nice to watch as her shots seems to be always landing in the last 20cm of the court.

Cox has some great game for grass!
That was on some hardcourts, funnily enough, on the courts next to them, British Tara More was trying to dry the concrete with not much success, so that after some nice 15 minutes of work she gave up.

From actual tennis matches, I watched the first set between Daniel Evans and Daniel Cox. Though Evans won in two 7-5 sets, I was not very impressed by his game, not as much as Cox’s at least.

Cox could be the unknown underdog to make a (small) surprise if he is given a WC in one of the next grass events, including Wimbledon. Nice solid from the back, good serve and obviously very used to the surface.

Who really needs a lot more training on grass is Nick Kyrgios, who lost to Australian qualifier John-Patrick Smith in straights, looking completely unable to move nor adjust to the low bounces.

Johnson vs the net
Thumbs up for Steve Johnson instead. He won his opening match in two comfortable sets against crowd favourite James Ward.

The American has a massive serve, good forehand and his backhand slice works perfectly on grass, his movements need some work on, as he kept slipping and once even crashed into and almost over the net trying to get to a dropshot.

On the women’s tournament I will give just a few flashes for each of the match I followed.
Kristyna Pliskova is clearly finding wins again on grass because it is the only surface where she does not have to move much, nor use her backhand a lot. She generally needs to hit her first serve in and she can definitely do that.
Dunne and her Vika-vibe

Her opponent, the young Katy Dunne was a nice surprise: despite looking 15, she actually is 19. She reminds me of a young Azarenka, because of her look, her game and her on-court tantrums. 

Her biggest problem is that she is some 20cm shorter and way thinner, she has a nice game and could develop in the future.

Both Melanie Oudin and Sharon Fichman impressed me in a positive way: they both won their matches easily against good grass-courters and they both played some very inspiring tennis.

Oudin was radiant as we talked after her match. After the physical problems she is truly enthusiastic of winning matches again, playing some nice too.

I think I’ve been really solid so far,” she said: “I’m serving really well and returning well, I mean that’s the most important thing on the grass. I’m so far so good, I mean, I’m really happy with how I played my past matches so hopefully I will be able to play like this again tomorrow.”

Fichman, who is the highest seed left, played very well as well and it looked very confident out there in dealing with the powerful shots of Vesna Dolonc.

The Canadian closed in two showing how her flat strokes can do a lot of damage on grass, despite their speed may not be as high.
Fichman vs  Dolonc

The lowest quality, but one of the greatest intensity was reached by the match between Irina Falconi and Eleni Daniilidou. The American easily got the first set for 6-0, then she suffered the return of the Greek and finally disappeared mentally especially. 0-6 6-4 6-0 the final score for the former champion.

The last match of the day for me was an epic three set battle between Coco Vandeweghe and Michelle Larcher de Brito.

I did not write that, but Kontaveit looks like young Masha!
It was epic in many senses, but ultimately for the horrible and yet entertaining attitude showed by the New Yorker in the third set, when things were going in favor of the Portuguese.

Let’s make it clear, I like Vandeweghe and I do believe that her strokes are genuinely among the most beautiful of the WTA tour in terms of smoothness and aesthetics. But in the third set, she would have got a good use of a cold shower or alike.

She played very erratic and brainless points just for the sake of implementing her negative aura, just to save several match points with sensational winners.

very nice to see Mel back!
She came back from 5-2 down despite throwing tantrums including a smashed chair, a flying visor and a out-of-the-blue second serve ace probably faster than any other serve of her match, just after she had netted the slowest of her second serves.

As said above, she came back to 5-5, but then surrendered again, this time for good, especially in the last service game, where she hit two double faults and basically refused to chase the other two returns.

Massive credits to Larcher de Brito though, she was the only one believing she could turn the match around after the first set and so she did, playing a very solid and yet aggressive game.

Larcher de Brito
After the match she said: “I’ve just tried to stay as calm as possible, it was really hard at some stages. You know, even though you’re winning, it’s tough to close it out, it’s always the hardest part of the match, the end, you know.

“I’ve got really nervous,but I’ve just tried to stay as calm as possible and keep fighting. And it was very nerve wracking but, you know, I’ve just wanted and tried to stay calmer.”

Tomorrow it will be a big day with both the quarters and the semis being played. Stay tuned!

A nice tantrum by Coco

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