Ashleigh Barty has had a sensational year but I was disappointed on Monday with her attitude, which appeared to be very negative. A fourth-round meeting with Alison Riske offered her a great chance of reaching her first Wimbledon quarter-final but she never looked like taking it.
Barty won the French Open last month and followed that up by winning Edgbaston. She recently went to No 1 in the world rankings and had won 15 matches in a row going into her match against Riske.
Had her recent exertions caught up with her? Man, I don’t think that can be an excuse. When you’re out there on the court you have to find a way. Her attitude seemed poor throughout and she just wasn’t competitive. Her second serve often let her down, but I think it was her mental approach that was the key.
Compare that with Riske, who was up for the fight from the start. My fellow American is ranked No 55 in the world and had reached the fourth round in only one of her previous 29 appearances in Grand Slam tournaments, but she was positive and confident throughout. When you have nothing to lose that can be very liberating.
Riske surprised Barty by coming to the net a lot. She played a different game to what you see from most of the women today and carried out her game plan superbly.
Karolina Muchova, the world No 68, bridged an even bigger gap in the world rankings to beat Karolina Pliskova, the world No 3, who has a very good game for grass but isn’t the best mover. Muchova, in contrast, covered the court well and hit some great drop shots.
The defeats of Barty and Pliskova should be good news for Serena Williams, who barely broke sweat to beat Carla Suarez Navarro. If you’re going to have any chance against Serena you have to do much more than simply keep the ball in play, which seemed to be just about all that Suarez Navarro could manage.
Despite her defeat to Simona Halep, Coco Gauff will leave the Big W with plenty of happy memories. As for the future, I hope that everyone will remember the kid is only 15. We need to give her time to mature, both physically and mentally.
Hats off to Sam Querrey, who was out for two months with an abdominal injury in the spring but has now won eight of his nine matches on grass this year, the latest of them in the fourth round against Tennys Sandgren. Big Sam’s huge serve is his biggest weapon and he’ll need it in the quarter-finals against Rafael Nadal, who is looking all but unbeatable.
Tuesday’s match of the day
Johanna Konta has come through two tough encounters in a row against Sloane Stephens and Petra Kvitova, but I think she should be pleased to be facing Barbora Strycova in the quarter-finals.
Strycova is good, but I think Konta has the edge in most areas. She moves well, hits big groundies and has a damaging serve. She has a game that can force Strycova into mistakes. Strycova has beaten three seeds already, including the world No 4 Kiki Bertens, and beat Konta in their only previous meeting, but that was two years ago on a hard court in Tokyo.
Konta’s win over Kvitova will have done wonders for her confidence. She showed great mental strength in coming back after losing the first set and then holding on after Kvitova fought back at the end of the match.
If you have a question for me – whether it’s about how to improve your game, training techniques or anything else concerning this great sport of ours – just email me at QuestionsforNickB@gmail.com.
Tod from Vancouver, Canada has written to ask for my thoughts on last year’s Wimbledon semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Nadal. You’ll recall that the match was played with the roof closed because it did not start until 8pm after the preceding semi-final between Kevin Anderson and John Isner took more than six hours. Tod wants to know if I thought that having the roof closed was to Nadal’s disadvantage.
The conditions may well have favoured Djokovic, because the conditions certainly change when the roof is closed. For example, the bounce of the ball can be very different. Nadal, moreover, is rarely at his best indoors: he has won 70 tournaments in the last 13 years, only one of which was an indoor event.
However, I don’t see that as an excuse. When you’re one of the top players in the world you really shouldn’t let anything bother you. You have to play no matter what the conditions, which, after all, are the same for both sides. And as I recall it, Nadal never offered the closed roof afterwards as a reason for his defeat.
My A-Z of the IMG
Looking back over my life at the IMG Academy in Florida which I founded in 1978.
M is for Marcelo Rios, who in terms of pure ability was the most talented player who ever trained at the academy. He had wonderful natural gifts and worked hard on his game, but although he was briefly No 1 in the world there was something missing from his make-up that stopped him becoming a Grand Slam champion.
N is for Kei Nishikori, who arrived at the academy when he was 14. He didn’t speak a word of English and for a while he clearly missed his home and Japanese food, but from the start his tennis ability was clear. Kei’s a great shot maker who has wonderful hands and moves beautifully. It’s been a real treat to have him at the academy all these years.
For more information on the IMG Academy’s tennis programmes email email@example.com or call +1-800-872-6425