Time is running fast and the summer will be soon over. We still have plans for Cincy this year but you heard that neither Fed nor Rafa will come over. Very surprising how the doctors recommended Fed to take a longer break now but gave him the green light 3 weeks after the surgery to play in Miami.
Immediately after we got back from vacation he played 2 tournaments, and did not compete too well, he ended up beating himself, as usual, including not listening to me and slicing the FH in a supertiebreak. Not that it is a bad shot but because he lacks the fitness, he is too complacent on that shot and always put it in the band! He lost 11-9 because of that stupid mistake, one stupid mistake!
On the other tournament he got crazy at 5-2 for himself apparently with no reason and ended up losing 5-7; 2-6 to a player ranked lower than him in the UTR (it’s true, he was older, and more calm).
And last week he played well with a UTR10, but clearly above him technically. He got back from 1-4. It was 15-0 at 5-4, he hit an ace on the ‘T’ and the opponent called it out. Yes, the kid was a jerk, cause he did it on purpose, he could not accept the fact that Andrei could come back so easily. From that moment on, Andrei was so pissed off that lost 5-7; 3-6. Can’t blame him too much, at 30-0 the set was almost likely his and then he could get to the supertiebreak at the worst, where he proved to everybody that he is hard to beat. But once he gets nervous that’s it, he’s exploding like Challenger in the sky, he is the easiest prey…
OK, and now the real deal. Andrei started to play 3 times a week, an hour and half with Nadin and once with Steve. Four solid sessions and tournaments in weekends. Pretty intense. So we tried to catch up as much as we could and headed to a very important tournament. Was the open L2 U16 in Wisconsin. Basically, since he was injured from last summer constantly, or played subpar being injured his points were gone… For this reason he could not play in the Fall even a L3… From January to June he did not play at all! So if he loses both matches at this tournament, 128 draw, he’ll not gonna get in the next L3 and so on, including all the L2 and L1 in the Fall, so he would be sidelined again! The system is so unforgiven. No wild Cards, no protected ranking, no anything.
So we headed to Elkhorn on Friday, at noon. Supposed to be a 6 hours drive. But it took us 3 hours to drive across Chicago, it was a nightmare!
In the first round he played a player with a UTR ranking exactly like his. But we all know why the UTR for Andrei is so low, it’s not the ability but the way he plays, too often recklessly. So I told him: ‘make sure you don’t waste this UNIQUE and LAST opportunity’. But man, he is genuinely so committed to only play his game… He just feels the urge to attack, quickly! Did you see the new sensation I was telling you, Shapovalov playing Kyrgios? Well, that’s Andrei! But a TRAINED Andrei. 5 hours a day, not a week. So, hard to me that I had to tell him, cause I always encourage his aggressive style, but now we NEED to win this f… match. No other way around. So I told him, for God’s sake, please, please keep 3 balls in play! Cause it was obviously from the last couple of games that his opponent was not that consistent. Not bad player, but come on, it’s L2, all got there because of the points they already earn by winning! The weather was brutal. Hot and humid. You could see Andrei gets tired, cause he did not get his body used this summer with that intensity. But Andrei was in control in the set, playing aggressively but still focusing to allow the opponent to miss. So he won 6-2 the first set, much closer than the score shows it! He got tensed, of course then, and started to offer all sorts of free points. He was still the better player but Eric, he drove me nuts! If you play well, why in the whole world changing the game! I made some signs like almost begging him to calm down. He was so close to get out of the zone and beat himself with no reason whatsoever.
Please take a look in the clip on the last point of the match. I am curious, was it necessary to be a winner from the opponent serve? I mean, yes, I love his gut, and fearless play at any score, but come on, if he kept the ball in play with spin, the results would have been the same, the lesser skilled opponent will miss first. I’ll prove it to you.
So I was sooo relieved after seeing him getting those crucial points. Of course the focus went to the next match, but the mission was almost accomplished, he’s back in the rankings, he jumped 50 places in USTA rankings!
The second match he played a kid he played before, in 2 years ago. And Andrei played then a great first set, won at tiebreak and the opponent could not take the power any more and lost 1-6. Now that player is a utr10, no injuries, no anything. Andrei won to utr12 in the past but recently he could not beat any utr10… So I knew it’s gonna be a tough match. Not to mention that the match was scheduled just an hour later…
I’ll make a long story short. I feel sorry I did not tape the match, the shot making Andrei produced, the winners were outstanding. But at the end at the day he lost at 3 and 2. Why? 2 reasons. First, we started to pay more attention on the percentages of the first serve. Andrei breaks the opponent easily, 2- 3 times a set, but he struggles to hold his serve. He won the first game of the match by making exactly one out of 10 first serves. At that moment I told to myself it does not matter if he wins, we have bigger fish to fry, get that freaking serve IN! What stunned me was how bad he missed them. The toss was all over so he missed by 10 feet or in the middle of the net. Unacceptable! What happens? Well, it’s true he plays with a heavier and new racket, less forgiving racket. And customized with 4g of lead tape, all together 330g racket. I get it. But his motion was altered. By heat, by wind, by whatever. Anytime he served 2 ace/unreturned and did not make a double fault he won the game. It’s that easy! But come in, Kyrgios committed 18 doubles so we should scale down our expectations. What drives me nuts is that I can’t coach him in a match. When I am THERE, with him, and ask him to PERFECTLY serve, he does it! But when is by himself, tired, and frustrated that’s it. He rushes the serve and does only stupid things with it. Nadin could not believe the percentage, less that 20% in! And he told him a story. When he was 14 years old he went EVERY SINGLE (FUCKING- that’s my note) DAY and practice at least a hundred at serves. He actually placed a beach towel for targets! He said he did it REGARDLESS it was his birthday, New Year or Christmas. Every single day! And man, you saw him serving! So from yesterday Andrei picked up the bike, and a backpack of balls and went to the courts and practice serves. What could be so difficult? Those 5 minutes serving a day with Nadin or Steve are not enough! It’s muscle memory. And you could see in the clip that his mechanics is sound, so no excuse!
What other aspect made the difference and lost the match? Well, the opponent was a great…pusher. He got stuck to the fence and returned everything back high and with spin. Andrei shortened the rally and made more errors, is that simple…
The next match, thanks God the rain came over, was scheduled the next day. But the organizing the tournament was so poor. First they tld me that this tournament is not a FIC, so I was about to go home. Then someone told me that no way, it’s a L2! And sure enough they found the schedule! Embarrassing!
So the match was scheduled at 9:45, it started at noon. How stupid can one be to schedule the second round of matches after the first round were scheduled at 9:00, and in fact there were twice as many matches at 9 than number of courts!
That’s the USTA, no refs, no good timing, 3 matches a day plus one or two round of doubles, no anything. And they don’t understand why the americans do soo poorly in ATP. Not to mentioned that the site was the farthest possible for driving from all the states except WI and IL!
Anyways, Andrei plays a 13 years old but with a higher UTR than him, 9.22. So I knew it’s gonna be tough but it proved even tougher. The kid was a fierceful fighter. He took the ball fast and knew the game. Andrei was dreaming. The wind was horrible and his legs frozen. Tons of mishits. No first serves in. But he understood if he loses no extra points will be added ( by the way, for the doubles they assigned us a partner, utr7, so we said thanks but no thanks…so no points from doubles, we did not play). Andrei recovered again from 1-4 and won 6-4. Then he relaxed again and started the second set from 0-3. He just kinda refused to adjust his shots for the heavy wind. And of course he committed fast tons of unforced errors.
So he lost the set 6-4… So we’ll have our ‘friendly’ talk. Which by the way, it should be useless, cause always I tell him the same thing and he ALWAYS wins if he LISTENS and APPLIES what is he told. It’s about focus on making more first serves. Than focus on playing the second shot, critical to stay in control if the serve was ok, but not lethal. And make sure, I emphasized, make sure to execute flawlessly at least 3 shots in the rally and resist temptation to play high risk game.
He started soo poorly, hitting under pressure 2 shots in the net and overhitting one, all three quickly. Plus a double fault and sure enough is 1-5. Than the kid started to miss more and here we are at 8-8. At that time I could not take it any more, I won SO many matches by ENFORCING this needed strategy in the supertiebreak, so I just seriously stared at him. Cause he knows what this means. I means that you get serious NOW and play what we talked!
And sure enough Eric, take a look over the last 2 points, at 8-8, such a clear display that Andrei cannot be beaten unless he wants to by playing carelessly! I am glad I got it on the tape so I can show him for reference what high percentage tennis means. And executed by him!
He played one more match, another utr10, nothing special but the other kid moves well. Andrei lost 3-6; 6-7 (4-7). Played ok, he was tired too, what kind of deal is this to play 5 hours in one day!! But in the supertiebreak, cause he did not talk to me he smacked 2 forehands barely out at 4-5… Such a silly mistake, like I said, in the rally he plays from the gut, and gave away the match… He needs to learn to apply strategy better and understand that is great that he can hit winners left and right but ultimately this is a game of errors. If he is serious about tennis, he needs to quickly understand this aspect and alter his game accordingly.
We look forward to see what future will bring. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey what really matters!
Here’s the clip with him playing in those matches he won, quite an effort to play…enforced tennis.