Federer at work in the gym. Is the run-up to Wimbledon beginning?

I know that if one looks at Rafa Nadal who has won the Principality tournament eleven times (and, en passant as they say in these parts, just 13 times at Roland Garros) having won this tournament “only” twice in a row how did he do Stefanos Tsitsipas it seems like a trivial undertaking even if, on closer inspection, he lost only one set in the whole tournament. The one against Schwartzman, when he was one set ahead and 4-1 in the second. But he found the strength to recover from 0-4 in the third.

And you want to know how he won a year ago? Here you are satisfied: Tsitsipas (seeded # 4 and therefore with a bye in the first round) b. Karatsev 6-3,6-4, then Garin 6-3,6-4 (identical score), Davidovich Fokina in the quarters 7-5 and retired, Evans in the semifinal 6-2,6-1, Rublev 6-3,6 -3 in the final. Is it clear to you that he did not lose a set but only 28 games in 5 matches?

This year even though he had left only 3 games to Fognini, 6-3,6-0, he lost more: 7-5,7-6 to Djere, 6-2,6-7,6-4 to Schwartzman , 6-4,6-2 in Zverev, 6-3,7-6 in Fokina. Total games allowed: 44. And ten straight games won, when not dominated (which was the majority).

If we went to see what the players who succeeded in the encore back to back in open tennis we see that it is:

Rafa Nadal (2005-2018 eight times in a row) and then also 2016-2018 (3 times… but the Manacor bull is a monster, comparisons cannot be made). Then there are Juan Carlos Ferrero2002-2003, Thomas Muster 1995-1996, Bjorn Borg 1979-1980 and Ilie Nastase who granted himself a hat-trick 1971-1973.

What do these gentlemen have in common? Well, what they have all become No.1 in the world.

And today Tsitsipas, answering a question from me about what his dream of the moment was – even dreams change, you know, in the course of life – after two years of telling that he came here to Monte Carlo at the age of 6 and his dream was first to come to play this tournament, then to win it … he said: “It would be to close the year between the top two players in the world”.

He didn’t say # 1. He said one of the first 2. Who knows if in the dream he self-specified who the other would be… Djokovic? Medvedev? Zverev?

Maybe he didn’t think about Sinner and Berrettini, but those – if anything – are our dreams.

To Tsitsipas, which is like that when he speaks you see that he always takes himself very seriously, he likes to catch not only his opponents, but also journalists. So when Simone Eterno of Eurosport in the introduction to his question that was about what was special about clay for him who, having seen him in the final at Roland Garros and twice winner here, he was answered – in the midst of general amazement before of all that “My tennis is great everywhere …” albeit smiling. But that it still isn’t on grass is pretty obvious. Otherwise would not have lost to Thomas Fabbiano at Wimbledon, without detracting from the very good boy from Puglia who beat Wawrinka at Wimbledon as well.

And Stefanos continued: “Maybe the earth is the surface on which I know how to adapt best, every now and then. There have been times when I also tried to implement my type of tennis on clay on hardcourt. But it didn’t work too hard. This is not how I was supposed to do it. I shouldn’t be obsessive with this. But I learned … I had difficulty on the grass precisely because I was determined to play the same way … Instead, it takes a lot of training “.

We will see what happens. The breadth of his gestures, of his openings leads me to think that he can hardly win Wimbledon … but I must tell you that when Bjorn Borg won his first Roland Garros in ’74 and then again in ’75, almost never going to the net, worrying more about serving very high percentages of first balls rather than aces and winning serves, playing exaggerated top-spins that in theory should have be counterproductive on the grass because they would have lifted the ball to the right height to hit it at hip height … well none of us insiders – I get into it too eh – thought we would see him win at Wimbledon too.

He, but you all know it, won it 5 times in a row, from 1975 to 1980, then losing the 81st final with McEnroe. And those were the times when between Paris and Wimbledon there was only one week for those who won at Roland Garros. He meant traveling on Mondays and starting training on Tuesdays on a completely different surface – much more different since it became … “beaten grass” with the more stripped parts of the lawns near the bottom lines; first it was the areas close to the net that fell apart – and then “practiced” the grass for five days.

Moreover, contrary to what happens at the US Open where sometimes some players take to the field for the first round even on Wednesday, in Wimbledon … woe to break the tradition that wanted to tread the center court was the first to be the champion of the previous year. So, from ’76 onwards Borg always had to play on Monday, with a maximum of 5 days of training on the fast grass of those times. Another monster, just like Nadal. After all Borg in ’78 won the 7 matches of Roland Garros losing only 32 games in 21 sets.

All this long digression to conclude about the chances of Tsitsipas even at Wimbledon… never say never. And that he becomes number 1 in the world … well I think not right now. In short, I would be surprised. But when a tennis player is young over the years, especially the former, but without excluding the latter, he can make enormous and perhaps unexpected progress. And once he stops Djokovic and Nadal leaves the pass, it’s not that the others, the various Zverevs, Medvedevs, Alcaraz have to stay ahead of him for life. The tennis throne doesn’t have to be an unattainable mirage.

Precisely for this reason I expect great things from Sinner And Musettiour twenties, without absolutely considering already … arrived, that is, unable to progress even the players like Berrettini and Sonego who at 25-26 years have the same margins of progress as many tennis players who have continued to make them at their age and even after.

The most banal examples, made a thousand times, are those of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Wawrinka, perhaps even more than all: all these phenomena, they were very young, but they continued to work and progress. Technically, physically (more and more athletes), strategically, mentally.

Have you noticed how many times the youngsters, the Sinners, the Musetti, but also the Tsitsipas, the Davidovich Fokina, lose their serve as soon as they have snatched it from their opponent? It happens to him why they still live with too much emotion the moment of the break they have just won, they get excited as they hit the target but immediately a second later they relax and lose focus. Very often they suffer the counterbreak to 0 or 15, not even to the advantages.

When they get more mature it doesn’t happen anymore. And how many times do we see them play much better when they play against a top ten, against someone who doesn’t see them as favorites? It’s age, just age. And with age there is a head, a different head.

It is no coincidence that you see that, regardless of the different effectiveness of its service, the Hammer Berrettini hardly gets distracted, he gets lost. When there is an important game to win … he often lost them at 22 and 23, but since he’s 24 he hardly loses them anymore.

I am convinced, and here I know I repeat myself, that at the end of this year or next – Piatti, Vagnozzi or another coach – Sinner will be closer to the top five than to the top ten. And that Musetti will soon enter the top 30, even if he has the handicap of having a type of tennis much more suited to clay (damps, touches, top-spin more than flat and penetrating Sinner hits … and without the serve di Berrettini that only Matteo has that one) than to the other surfaces. He will also learn to shorten the stroke preparation movements. He will have to lose many games, the process will be longer, but he will not have to be discouraged. Both he and Sinner will gradually acquire solidity and continuity. They will no longer be the protagonists of a single large set within a match. But two. And in the slams of three.

Meanwhile, here they have shown, perhaps for that set and also set and a half, that they have formidable potential. Both them, but also us, we just have to be patient.

The complete draw of Montecarlo

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