Djokovic defeats Murray in Miami finalIt seems almost as if Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic tennis careers have been in constant alignment.

Born just a week apart – they both celebrate their 28th birthdays in May – the pair even learned their craft together as teenagers in Spain.

Since then, they have met in countless tournament finals – 11 to be exact, as well as in many other classic matches.

So who tends to get the upper hand? And who has developed into the better player?

The Champ vs. The Nearly Man

When you consider their Major records, it’s a no-brainer. The Serb has won eight Grand Slam singles titles, and has been ranked number one in the world for nigh on three calendar years.

In 2012, Djokovic became only the fourth player in history to reach all four Grand Slam finals although the French Open still eludes him.

But he’s won the big ones on eight separate occasions – five Australian Open titles, two Wimbledon wins and a single US Open championship, and this has secured his legacy as one of the best players to ever pick up a racket.

For Andy Murray, the title of ‘nearly man’ must be starting to wear a little thin. He has appeared in eight Grand Slam finals… but only lifted the trophy on two occasions (Wimbledon in 2013 and the US Open in 2012).

His career has been beset by injuries, but his finals record suggests that there is a lack of the killer instinct that Djokovic boasts in abundance. The fact that he has lost four of those majors to the Serb perhaps sums up this discussion quite nicely.

The Battle of the Aussie Open

It was surprising then that the Scot entered his 2015 final against Djokovic in Australia as the man most likely to – according to the bookmakers anyway, for whom ‘Murray favourite for Aus Open’ was a regular headline.

It was perhaps the way in which he had disposed of his Wimbledon conqueror Grigor Dimitrov, home favourite Nick Kyrgios and the dangerous Tomas Berdych en route to the final that had convinced the bookies he was the man to beat.

And they looked to be correct as the players shared the opening two sets, both going to a tiebreak. But from then on Djokovic champions’ instinct kicked in; and he took the last two sets 6-3, 6-0 with ease.

This tied the Serb level on eight Grand Slam victories with court legends Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi. He’s still got a lot of work on his hands to catch Roger Federer on 17 wins however.

And for Murray, well, he’ll be hoping to shake off that nearly man tag during the 2015 season.

Photo courtesy of HEAD Tennis please follow @head_tennis on Twitter

 

Tennis Aces turn to poker

Boris Becker

The path from the tennis court to the poker table is one that has been followed by a variety of previous world sports stars, choosing to swap the tennis racket for a hand of dealt cards in search of further success.

Becker serving up aces

Former World No. 1, Boris Becker, has enjoyed much success on the tennis court, becoming and still holding the record for youngest ever Wimbeldon champion, after clinching the title back in 1985.

The German, who is now the coach of current World No.1 Novak Djokovic, has brought the same intensity and will to win to the table that he had on the court, if not the same level of results, yet. Becker’s live tournament winnings currently stand over an eye-watering $25,000,000.

The poker industry across the globe has been growing at an extremely rapid pace and competition has never been fiercer. Gambling companies across the world are under constant pressure to innovate and come up with original promotions, strategies and events that appeal to a world-wide audience.

Recognizing this constant need to invent and promote effective, The Global Poker Index announced that it had teamed up with tennis legend and grand slam winner Boris Becker. Becker who is a former world number one player loves playing poker and has now joined the GPI to promote their brand and bridge the gap between sports and poker.

For practise, in between coaching superstar Djokovic and playing in live poker events, Becker would take to online casino sites like Betsafe in order keep up his intensity and skills while waiting for the next upcoming live tournament. This is a technique used by several top sports stars who have dived into the world of poker, after originally starting off in a different sporting background. Others to have dipped into online poker are former AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko and Tennis ace Rafael Nadal.

Becker started playing poker seriously when a sponsor paid him to attend a tournament. Now he is on the circuit, playing for big money in Vegas and Monte Carlo, travelling all around the world again, like when he was in the prime of his career as a tennis pro. “The poker tour is like the tennis tour, travelling from city to city. Very competitive. It reminds me of being 20 again,” he said.

Game, set and match

Seemingly discontent with being one of the world’s best tennis players, Nadal has been undergoing some extreme training to turn himself into a poker expert too.

Nadal is another top sports star to have made the huge leap into the rewarding and risky world of high-stakes poker.

Last year, the 14-time Grand Slam winner, scored a first when he beat a line-up of sports stars, including the world number one poker player, to claim the EPT Charity Challenge title. It was the Spaniard’s first ever competitive live game of poker and the tennis ace’s competitive streak shone through to win €50,000 for his charity, The Good Hand Project.

The two-time Wimbeldon champion recently joined up with Brazilian football legend, Ronaldo, for another charity poker game in which the Spanish tennis star triumphed in. Nadal’s win earned $50,000 for his other charity, the Rafa Nadal Foundation. Unfortunately for Ronaldo, he was then left with 400 plates to wash up as punishment and a forfeit.

Brisbane International logo AO Series

The 2015 Brisbane International women’s championships are the 7th time the women’s singles tournament will be held.

The specifics of what the schedule of play is for every day i.e. what time play commences for each session and which round is being played are listed to make it easier for you to follow, watch and/or attend this tournament.

Buy your tennis tickets now from the official website-> Brisbane International 2015 tickets.

The schedule of play for the 2015 Brisbane International women’s singles tournament is:

Main Draw:

Sunday 4 January: 1st round from 11am;
Monday 5 January: 1st round from 11am and 7pm;
Tuesday 6 January: 2nd round from 11am and 7pm;
Wednesday 7 January: 2nd round from 11am and 7pm;
Thursday 8 January: Quarter Finals from 11am and 7pm;
Friday 9 January: Semi Finals from 11am and 7pm; and
Saturday 10 January: Women’s Singles Final at 7pm.

Please note that the tournament management can alter the schedule from day to day.

Brisbane International logoThe 2015 Brisbane International men’s championships are the 38th time the men’s singles tournament will be held.

The specifics of what the schedule of play is for every day i.e. what time play commences for each session and which round is being played are listed to make it easier for you to follow, watch and/or attend this tournament.

Buy your tennis tickets now from the official website-> Brisbane International 2015 tickets.

The schedule of play for the 2015 Brisbane International men’s singles tournament is:

Main Draw:

Sunday 4 January: 1st round from 11am;
Monday 5 January: 1st round from 11am and 7pm;
Tuesday 6 January: 1st round from 11am and 7pm;
Wednesday 7 January: 2nd round from 11am and 7pm;
Thursday 8 January: 2nd round from 11am and 7pm;
Friday 9 January: Quarter Finals from 11am and 7pm;
Saturday 10 January: Semi Finals from 12 noon; and
Sunday 11 January: Men’s Singles Final at 4:30pm.

Please note that the tournament management can alter the schedule from day to day.

Photo courtesy of Brisbane Tennis, follow @BrisbaneTennis on Twitter.

Hopman Cup logoThe 2015 Hopman Cup is being played for the 27th straight time.

The tournament is played from January 4-10 on Perth Arena’s indoor Plexicushion courts.

The Hopman Cup capacity crowd is 12,489 tennis fans, make sure you are one of them each session!

The eight teams in alphabetical order are: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Great Britain, Italy, Poland and the United States.

The schedule of play for the 2015 Hopman Cup tournament is:

Sunday 4 January: 10am Canada v Czech Republic followed by 5.30pm Australia v Poland

Monday 5 January: 10am Italy v USA followed by 5.30pm Great Britain v France

Tuesday 6 January: 10am Czech Republic v Italy followed by 5.30pm Canada v USA

Wednesday 7 January: 10am Great Britain v Poland followed by 5.30pm Australia v France

Thursday 8 January: 10am Canada v Italy followed by 5.30pm Czech Republic v USA

Friday 9 January: 10am France v Poland followed by 5.30pm Australia v Great Britain

Saturday 10 January: 3.30pm The FINAL – winner of Group A versus winner of Group B

Li Na at the Australian Open

At first glance, Andy Murray and Li Na may appear to have little in common. While they both play tennis and sit within the upper echelons of their sport, for example, they are also separated by vast geographical and cultural differences that are inescapable. Despite this, however, there is one other thing that unites them, as they both carry the hopes of an entire nation on their shoulders every time they step out onto the court. This is a great challenge with both players winning a Grand Slam title and in the case of Murray – two.

Li Na: Bridging the Gap between Western and Eastern Culture

While Li Na may not have reached the heights of Andy Murray or players like Serena Williams in the women’s game, however, she is arguably more influential than any other player in tennis. This is because her immense popularity has spread far beyond the passionate and dedicated fans in her homeland of China, and reached across into the depths of Western culture. By unifying fans across the globe with her talent, personality and Omni-present smile, she has emerged as an icon for an entire generation and bridged the considerable gap between Eastern and Western cultures.

This is no mean feat; even though Li Na is not the first sports start to transcend the reason for her fame. After all, the great Muhammed Ali achieved something similar when he fought George Foreman in Zaire, as his infectious personality and beaming smile won the hearts of African fans and an enthralled global audience. Modern sports stars such as David Beckham and Chris Hoy have also earned widespread global acclaim though the exploits, although Li Na is unique in that she has achieved this without reaching the pinnacle of her game.

The Last Word

In fact, it would be interesting to see how success affected Li Na’s global popularity and status as a multicultural icon. After all, anyone who purchased Wimbledon tickets this year and saw how German Sabine Lisicki was embraced by the British public will testify that the West loves nothing more than a courageous and charismatic underdog. This is undoubtedly a consideration for the future, however, and for now it must be enough to enjoy Li Na’s presence as someone who bridges a significant cultural gap and celebrate the purposefulness behind her smile.

Photo credit: globalite

Novak Djokovic at US Open 2013

Novak Djokovic gained the OnCourt Advantage by modifying what he put into his body in order to feel better, shed excess weight and achieve al lot more in his life. You can too, regardless of your current fitness level, health, weight and age.

Nutritional supplements such as creatine monohydrate and specific eating plans like Djokovic’s approach of eliminating gluten from his daily eating habits are part of the life of tennis pros.

The 26-year-old Djokovic reaped the rewards of being disciplined with his nutritional habits and continually looking into ways to refine his diet. The 1.88m Serbian loved pasta and bread but went gluten-free in 2010 after being disappointed in losing to Tomas Berdych in his second Wimbledon semi final, with the goal of realising his two childhood dreams: to win Wimbledon and earn the World No.1 ranking. Djokovic up until then was plagued by aches, breathing difficulties, fading stamina in long matches and with injuries.

After Wimbledon, Djokovic followed up by being the runner-up to Rafael Nadal who was at the peak of his career in 2010 at the US Open. During the 2010 US Open from the 1st Round onwards, an overwhelming agreement by sportswriters, tennis experts, commentators and past players was that Djokovic had lost too much weight and hence power since Wimbledon, so in their view had taken a backward step in his mission to win a scond Grand Slam singles title and contend for No.1. However, the standard idea of putting on muscle, hence weight to become stronger and more powerful is flawed.

The now 6-time Grand Slam singles champion, remained committed to his nutrition plan that definitely allowed him to shed excess weight, recover faster and sustain his energy to the end of each match. Most importantly, he really improved the critical physical performance factor in tennis – your power-to-weight ratio. This mechanical advantage provided him with far greater energy efficiency, agility and speed of movement and an indisputable edge over his opponents.

In 2011, many people agree that Djokovic had the greatest single season ever in men’s professional tennis history appearing even lighter then he was at the 2010 US Open. Not powerful enough to be successful in taking the next step hey? Haha. Djokovic certainly was laughing all the way as he achieved both the World No.1 ranking for the first time, won Wimbledon upon reaching his first final and prior to both of these winning both his singles rubbers in the 2010 Davis Cup final to help Serbia become chamopions for the first time in history.

The facts – in 2011 Djokovic won…

  • A career-best 10 singles titles from 11 finals;
  • 70 matches to just 6 losses;
  • 3 Grand Slams, Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open;
  • 41 consecutive match winning streak and 43 if you include his 2 Davis Cup Final wins;
  • A record 5 ATP Tour Masters 1000 titles in the same year;
  • 6 wins over the 2010 king of tennis: Rafael Nadal;
  • Was the first player to win 20 matches against Top 10 opponents in a season since 1985;
  • The World No. 1 ranking for 1st time (on July 4, 2011 after winning Wimbledon);
  • Set an all-time men’s record in season prize money with $12,619,803; and
  • Was crowned the year-end World No.1.

 

 

Milos Raonic at the Monte Carlo MastersCanadian tennis has produced a few notable players. Retired player Greg Rusedski used his amazing serve on behalf of Canada before switching his allegiance to the U.K. On the women’s side, Aleksandra Wozniak has won one Women’s Tennis Association event, but she’s never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament. However, over the past two years, a new tennis sensation has emerged from Ontario. His name is Milos Raonic — and he has the future of Canadian tennis on his racket.

Anyone who loves sports betting in Canada needs to keep an eye on this rising tennis star. Raonic made it to the round of 16 at both the Australian and U.S. Opens this year, peaking at No. 10 and bagging a big endorsement deal from New Balance. Raonic led the Canadian Davis Cup team to the semis, which is the team’s all-time best performance, although they lost to the Serbian team led by Novak Djokovic. With more aces per match than any other player on the tour and a wily new Croatian coach named Ivan Ljubicic, Raonic seems destined to pack some major star power.

What to Watch:

For the most part, Raonic has a good all-court game. Let’s take a look at his assets:

The serve. Raonic’s serve is currently the best in the sport. He regularly serves at speeds over 140 mph, and he clocked the fifth-fastest recorded serve in history at the Rogers Cup competition in 2012 when he hit a 155.3-mph bullet. He leads the ATP tour in aces, first-serve points won and service games held. He also wins the majority of his second-serve points because he takes advantage of the body serve.

Groundstrokes. The forehand is Milos’s favorite shot. He often serves down the T to set up his forehand and dictate play. Like most tall players, he has a high-risk, high-reward forehand. He hits a lot of winners but also a lot of errors off of that side. On the other side, his backhand is effective but not a significant weapon. Too frequently, he runs around his backhand to hit a forehand, a strategy compromised by his inefficient footwork.

Raonic has a long way to go before he can count himself as more than “a serve and a forehand.” He needs to improve his:

Footwork. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, Raonic struggles with mobility. He has the wingspan to cover the net, but he has a difficult time hitting the ball when he’s not in good court position. As a result, he tends to miss opportunities to come forward and hangs out on the baseline trying to keep up with the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Bad idea. He also tries to run around his backhand to use his forehand, but he’s not fast enough to be consistent on the runaround.

Fitness. During Raonic’s fourth round match at the U.S. Open this year, the 22-year-old could not keep up with the speedier Frenchman, Richard Gasquet. Improving his economy of movement, which goes back to the footwork, could help him not to expend as much effort on the court. Also, improving his backhand so he didn’t run around it so often would make his movement more efficient.

Aggression and mental endurance. Milos could be deadly at the net thanks to his height, but his fitness limitations make him too tired to run forward when he’s deep into a match. He gets into a defensive position on the baseline, where he seems happy just to finish rallies. Running back and forth playing defense is not a great strategy for a guy who’s 6 feet 5 inches tall. Milos needs to come to the net more often and put points away quickly. Ljubicic should be a great help to him as a coach who can bring out his killer instinct.

While Raonic stuck his toe into the Top 10 in 2013, he isn’t ready to be a consistent threat to Djokovic, Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Still, on any given day, he has the potential to beat anyone on the tour. His next task is to become a dominating force instead of “that guy” who pulls the occasional major upset.

Photo credit: Beth Wilson

About the Author: Yanos Stanich is a tennis analyst for several publications in Canada.