Australian Open 2020

Coaches predictions, analysis, and a challenge for you (win a free lesson!)

Ravi Tewari, USPTA Certified Professional

With the first Grand Slam of the 2020 tennis season set to begin main draw play on Monday, all of the worlds’ top players have arrived in Melbourne are getting their last hours of practice in before the first round.

2019 winner and seven time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia is the oddsmakers favorite to take the men’s championship, followed by 2009 champion Rafael Nadal from Spain and Russian Daniil Medvedev. Djokovic seems to be feeling quite good on the match court as he recently led team Serbia to the title in the inaugural ATP Cup tournament, where he had wins over both Nadal and Medvedev in the semi-finals and finals. Other guys the oddsmakers like include Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE), Dominic Theim (AUT) and yes, six time champion Roger Federer (SWI) (Fed fans: I know I went a couple of sentences without mentioning his name, you can breathe now). Tsitsipas and Thiem both won the biggest hard court tournaments of their careers last year with Thiem winning the Masters 1000 in Indian Wells and Tsitsipas winning the ATP Finals in London. Roger’s resume speaks for itself, but he hasn’t beaten Djokovic in a Grand Slam match since 2012 and the draw has the two set to play in the semi-finals. 

In the women’s draw all eyes will be on American legend and seven time champion Serena Williams as she looks to build on her win at a WTA event in Auckland, New Zealand just a week ago. This was her first WTA title since 2017 and this one gave her the unique achievement of holding titles in 4 different decades. The next two favorites are younger stars Naomi Osaka (who is the defending champion) of Japan and current world number one Australian Ashleigh Barty. Osaka has been playing solid tennis and was on a fourteen match win streak dating back to last year before losing in a three set battle to world number two Karolina Pliskova (CZE) in a WTA Premier tournament in Brisbane last week. Ashleigh Barty’s crafty play style paired with the home-country crowd support will make all her matches extra entertaining this tournament as well. The draw has all three favorites mentioned above on the same half, with Osaka and Williams set to meet in the quarterfinal with Barty next in the semi-final. 

SVC Coaches Picks & Member Challenge:

Mens’ Singles Champion Womens’ Singles Champion
Alec Novak Djokovic (SRB) Serena Williams (USA)
Ravi Rafael Nadal (ESP) Naomi Osaka (JPN)
Gianni Novak Djokovic (SRB) Serena Williams (USA)
Garcian Rafael Nadal (ESP) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
Amy Novak Djokovic (SRB) Naomi Osaka (JPN)
Nelson Novak Djokovic (SRB) Sofia Kenin (USA)
Max Novak Djokovic (SRB) Serena Williams (USA)

As you can see the list of men’s picks from our team is quite short. I’m glad coach Garcian agrees with me on this one; “I believe Nadal will be out to avenge that loss” he said speaking about the lopsided match Rafa and Novak played in last year’s final. Coach Nelson likes how the draw is laid out for Novak saying “…his only real threat on his side of the draw is big server Raonic.” The big canadian has been able to score wins against highly ranked players in majors but isn’t at the top of his form right now, so unless Federer can turn back the clock one more time I think coach Nelson is right: draw advantage to Novak. Coach Gianni made a good point in Novak’s favor saying “…fitness level is going to be a huge factor in who succeeds in this major.” Tough conditions and Djokovic’s superhuman athletic abilities could very well be the recipe for another successful two weeks for the Serb.

It looks like the team sees the women’s draw as being more wide open, with some pretty big surprise names on this list. I think coach Nelson gets the award for the biggest underdog pick with American up and comer Sofia Kenin. “I remember seeing her play at tournaments as a junior and her backhand is just too consistent and powerful,” he said. I understand the Florida love from Nelson, but in her young career Kenin hasn’t been past the fourth round in a major. Kenin is poised to have a great year, with five of her seven top ten wins coming in 2019 so she’s definitely a name to pay attention to for American tennis fans. Coach Garcian predicted a victorious farewell tour for former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, who earlier reported that this year’s Australian Open will be her last tournament. She didn’t have great results last year, only making one WTA final but she won the title down under in 2018 so maybe this event will bring out her best tennis again. The favorite amongst the team seems to still be Osaka and Serena, with coach Alec adding “Bold prediction: Serena only drops one set all tourney.” This prediction is extra bold considering her draw, but history may be on coach Alec’s side because we all know how Serena can get on a roll. Coach Amy mentioned Osaka’s play style when I spoke to her; “…she’s tough to beat on hard courts,” she said. All five of Osaka’s career titles have come on hard courts (she’s never made a WTA final on any other surface), and I agree with coach Amy saying she might add one more at the end of this two weeks.

If you have a strong feeling about the winners of this years’ tournament email me (ravi@southernvillageclub.com) the last names of your predicted mens and womens singles champions. If you pick both correctly your next lesson or clinic with me (Ladies Night, or Adult Stroke/Strategy) is free of charge! This is open to all ages and you can only submit one set of picks per person. Submissions close Tuesday at midnight, good luck!

On a more serious note, it’s hard to follow the matches and results in tennis while many Australians are still dealing with hazardous conditions due to the bushfires. World number 26 Nick Kyrgios, with the support of his Australian ATP cup teammates, started a movement of tennis stars donating portions of their winnings from playing multiple events in the country to relief resources. The list of pros that have contributed includes Federer, Nadal, Williams and many more. Disasters like these remind us how lucky we are to enjoy the sport of tennis in safe conditions and it’s inspiring to see so many top pros use their platform to help others. If you have a moment and feel like helping out, below is a link to the Australian Red Cross donation page.

https://www.redcross.org.au/campaigns/donation-selection

Helpful Hints for Match Success–Performing Under Pressure

Ravi Tewari, USPTA Certified Professional

Tennis is a uniquely pressure filled sport.  Any of you that have played singles or doubles competitively know that being able to produce your best tennis at key points or moments in the match is a huge advantage.  Many of our tennis members are involved in USTA leagues or tournaments because it’s a fun way to build mental toughness and competitive strategies. I hope some of you can use these small tips that have helped me gain a mental edge in high pressure situations when I’m competing.  

Preparation

Starting a match loose and warmed up is the best way to be ready physically as well as mentally.  Even if you don’t have time to get a complete hitting warm up in before the match time, a dynamic running/stretching warm up can go a long way.  Starting a match with a little bit of a sweat developing helps the body accurately and effectively deliver oxygen to your muscles right from the first point.  Being thoroughly warmed up can also help significantly with pre-match nerves. Try to make this warm up regimented; pick your favorite 5-8 stretches and do those, every time in a similar order.

Service Ritual

Serving is arguably the most psychological shot in tennis.  Rhythm is also incredibly important for a good server, so it’s important to start a match with a high service percentage.  Preparing for a serve should involve some sort of ritual to prepare your body and mind to start the service motion. This can involve bouncing the ball, looking up and locating your target, and deep breathing in any order.  Making sure that you follow the same ritual for every serve will ensure that you’re mentally prepared before you start every point.

Use Time Between Points

If you feel a game or set slipping away, or you feel nerves coming on make sure you take advantage of the 20 seconds you are given between each point.  The best thing to do when you feel your rhythm is off is to slow the match down, so don’t be hesitant to take your time between points. Have a towel sitting back by the fence so you have a way to mentally regroup before starting the next point.  Nerves generally cause people to rush and a tennis match can fly by so make sure you are utilizing the time given to you to regather your thoughts between points.

I hope you can use some of these tips to help in your next match, best of luck to all the Southern Village teams and players competing this season and beyond!

Slice Backhand—Change up the pace

Nelson Hughes, USPTA Certified Professional

While there are a variety of uses for the slice in today’s tennis world, the one reason I think the slice is so important to learn is the ability to create off-pace shots that are still difficult, and perhaps even more difficult than hard shots, for your opponent to handle.  Most players tend to assume that the harder the shot they hit, the more effective it will be.  This, however, is not always the case.  Some opponents love playing someone with a power game because they can use your pace on their shots.  This means they are simply using the power you generated and redirecting it effectively to their advantage.  When you find an opponent is doing this, one of the most effective things you can do to counter it is to throw in the slice ball.

The slice ball forces an opponent to generate his or her own power instead of simply getting to use yours, and it is also gives you more time to get back in position.  When the slice is hit correctly, it starts with the racket preparation at a high angle so that you can strike the back underside of the ball in a slightly downward and forward swing of the racket.  Therefore when the ball bounces on the other side of the court, it is going to lose speed rapidly, forcing your opponent both to move to the ball and predict which way it is going to bounce.  It also forces your opponent to really explode into the shot if they want to get the ball back.

Anatomy of the Slice

Grip

Notice that Coach Ravi uses a continental grip and lays the racket back to rest on his left hand.  This helps ensure he keeps his racket head up when preparing for the slice.

Preparation/Backswing

As the ball approaches, Ravi steps to the ball with his left foot so that his body is essentially pointing at the ball.  Notice that his entire body is rotated into a closed stance, with his shoulders and hips running parallel to the singles line.

Swing Path/Contact Point

Ravi brings his racket slightly downward and forward to strike the back underside of the ball.  Notice he meets the ball in front of him and ensure that his swing is more forward than downward.  If the swing is too much downward, it will result in a “chopping” of the ball that will cause it to sit up for your opponent.

Follow Through

By driving the ball forward, he ensures it stays low and goes deep into the court.  Notice in the fourth image that Ravi’s racket head continues forward even after striking the ball.  This is essential to ensure the ball is struck cleanly.

Extension/Finish

Finally, as his right arm brings the racket forward, his left arm moves backward.  This contributes to his exceptional dynamic balance, which means that he stays on balance throughout the shot.

The slice is an effective weapon that can be used to throw off your opponent’s timing. By adding the slice to your game plan, you can stop your opponent from stealing the pace of your shots. Hit the slice and make them create their own.