It’s a tough, four-tourney trip for me now
I leave for the United States later this week on what should be a tough six-week tour. I will be playing four tournaments, the first of which is the Tier I Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California. This will be followed by the Tier I NASDAQ Open in Miami, which in recent times has been elevated to ‘near’ Grand Slam status.
All those with a ranking good enough to play are expected to participate in this tournament, and one stands to lose points and hence one’s ranking if one fails to show up. Most of the top 64 players in the world will be there, and it is an honour to be included among some of the big names.
The draw will be known only a day before the event, but when competing at the highest level of the game, you have got to be prepared for any opponent. The next few weeks are important, because I need to consolidate my position in the top 50. One not only needs to play well but well enough to beat some of the top players of the current era.
I had written about my match against Martina Hingis in my previous column. I would like to reiterate that I was happy with my serves, volleys and slices in the game. Martina won that day in Dubai by playing the big points better than me and I have to keep learning quickly all the time.
Every player has his or her personal preferences with regard to the surfaces they play on. There are some like Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, who loved grass, and then there are others who feel that grass is meant only for cows!
Grass courts present a formidable challenge as the ball skids and stays low. These surfaces also tend to become uneven as a tournament progresses, thus rendering the bounce unpredictable. The Serve-and-volley game assumes immense significance, for it is tougher to control the ball when the bounce off the surface is unpredictable. Volleying helps you to prevent the ball from ‘misbehaving’ after bouncing.
Clay courts are the slowest of the lot, and playing on them calls for a fine-tuning of the ‘sliding’ technique. It is as much a test of one’s talent and technique as it is of stamina and endurance. So many Europeans grow up playing on this surface and are the toughest to beat on clay.
The US tournaments will be played on hard courts, which is the surface I like. Most players who like to play their shots on the rise prefer hard courts, where the bounce is truer and makes it that much easier to predict the behaviour of the ball after pitching. It is not a surprise that my best performances at the Grand Slams came at the US Open, which is played on hard courts.
I am also looking forward to the doubles, though I still do not have a fixed partner. Not many seem to have noticed that my doubles ranking has jumped by leaps and bounds over the last few weeks and I am at my best ever rank of 64 in the world in doubles. I’m looking forward to break into the top 50 in the next few weeks.