Boy, oh boy, today is the day. Middle Monday is moving day and just about my favourite day of the entire tournament. Everybody will be out there and for the big boys it is the chance to lay down a marker for the rest of the week. For some of them, though, it will be the first big test of the tournament and it’s that last match-up on Centre Court that catches my eye – the top seed, the main man, Novak Djokovic against Tommy Haas, my man!
Novak has looked immaculate so far. What an all-round game this guy has. It’s all there and it is all in fine working order, judging by his display on Saturday. Against Jérémy Chardy, a guy who can play, Djokovic lost six service points and made three unforced errors over the course of the three sets. This is a player on the top of his game and with the concentration and focus to back it up. And it’s not only what he does that makes Djokovic such a force, it’s also what his game does to his opponent. Djokovic forces players to overhit; bit by bit he reduces their game.
Haas has a chance today if he can get certain things right. He is playing well – as well as I have seen him for some time, and I have been watching this kid since he turned up at the IMG Academy when he was 11 years old. I have always liked the boy – I say boy, he’s 35 now, but hey, everybody’s a boy to me! – and he has been supported by great parents. His daddy, Peter, handed him over to me full-time when he was 12 and he has been round the academy pretty much ever since.
Haas is a player who has been through it, a guy who has had his ups and downs. A decade or so ago he was up at No 2 in the world, this time last year he was in the 100s, this time two years ago he was nearly 900. That was when he was undergoing a couple of operations – he had hip surgery and elbow surgery. That has worked out well for him and the big guy is back.
I knew he was in good shape coming into the tournament and he played well throughout the week, serving real good. He was stretched by Feliciano Lopez on Saturday, losing the first set but recovering well to go through in four. What he needs to do to trouble Djokovic is to make sure he gets off the baseline – he must not let the Serb pin him there or he will be in real trouble. Haas must mix his game up, get that biting slice into action, move Djokovic around.
Do not forget that Tommy knows how to beat Djokovic. They have met twice this season and it stands at one win apiece. Djokovic won a tight contest on the clay at Roland Garros, straight sets but not a straightforward victory. Back in March on the hard court in Miami, Haas won 6-2, 6-4 – his first win over a world No 1 since 1999! Tommy is a survivor, all right.
Djokovic said that the low bounce that day suited Haas better and that could come into play on grass. It will be the return of serve that determines the outcome. Tommy called that win in Miami one of the best in his career and if he repeats it this evening it will be the best of his long career. Djokovic has the edge – of course he does, he is one hell of a player – but Haas has a chance, and a live one too.
Today’s big game Djokovic v Haas
Djokovic: Serbian Nationality: German: Haas
26 Age 35
Monte Carlo, France Residence Bradenton, US
Right-handed Plays Right-handed
6ft 2in Height 6ft 2in
1 World ranking 13
37 Career titles 14
$50.2m Prize-money $11.9m
35-7 Wimbledon record (W-L) 23-12
Winner Wimbledon best SF (2011)(2009)
5 Head-to-head 3
Nick’s prediction: Novak in four sets
Lisicki can push Serena further than anyone else yet
This is a match-up between two of the mightiest hitters in the game, two great sluggers, and two players who enjoy playing on grass.
Of course, Sabine Lisicki’s record at Wimbledon cannot compare to Serena’s – but whose can?
What the German can do is give Serena her biggest test so far.Believe me, guys, this will be a real test for Serena provided Sabine gets her serve right. I expect she will because she is comfortable here – her last three Wimbledons have seen her reach the last eight, the semis and the quarters last year.
I watched her beat the battling Aussie Sam Stosur on Saturday and her serve was in good working order. It looked fast out on court, but take a closer look and you can see just what a weapon it is. Her quickest against Stosur was 122mph – that is quick – and she averaged 108mph. Serving at that speed, and getting it in the right area, will trouble any opponent.
Compare those with the stats Serena recorded against Kimiko Date-Krumm. Her quickest serve was 118mph, with an average of 104mph, so Sabine can certainly match her firepower.
Sabine will go for broke, as she has no other choice. With her positive approach, combined with that firepower, she can stretch Serena. But while Sabine might take a set, it is tough to see her stopping the great American.
My week at Wimbledon: You Brits sure know how to be organised
So we come into the second week here at Wimbledon and everything is going like clockwork. You know that is one of the reasons I love this place so much and also why a lot of the players do too.
It is such a well organised tournament, everything happens when and how it should, the players always know what is going on, and I can tell you that makes a big difference – it is not always the way at some of the other tournaments worldwide.
You know what people have asked me more than anything else over the last week (apart from “can Andy Murray win Wimbledon” that is!)? It is what goes on at your academy, what do you teach the people there, Nick?
Next year will be the 30th anniversary of the academy and we now not only teach tennis, we have soccer, basketball, American football, baseball, track and field and even lacrosse coaching for people of all ages and standards. It is not only for the pros, anyone can take lessons. It would be great to see you there – come on over to Florida!
My wife Cindi read Saturday’s paper online back home in the US and saw me say her taking the picture of me and the boys at Wimbledon was my own personal highlight of week one. So she has sent it over and here it is – me, Giovanni and Giacomo.