Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Dossier: Vaidisova will learn from lost chances
Coaching Report: A Ivanovic (Serb) v N Vaidisova (Cz Rep), Centre Court
Published: 06 July 2007
In the role of coach, you can be, in turn, an adviser on technique, a trainer, motivator, restaurant-booker, driver, bag-carrier, friend, practice-partner booker, surrogate parent (and in many cases, parent), appeaser, pacifier, baby-sitter, critic. And about 100 other things. And sometimes you just have to tell a player exactly how it is.
Nicole Vaidisova is a superb athlete with enormous potential to achieve great things in the game. I've known her for years and she's based at my academy along with her family, including her stepfather Alex, who is also her coach.
But on Centre Court in yesterday's last-eight match-up against Ana Ivanovic, with Ivanovic serving at 3-5 down in the final set, and at 15-40, you cannot get away from the conclusion that the match was Nicole's. It was hers for the taking. Two match points, hard-earned and thoroughly deserved on the day, on a plate.
On the first, I felt she tightened, and hit long, for 30-40 to Ivanovic. On the second Ivanovic hit a forehand winner for deuce. A third came later, on Ivanovic's second serve, and it was a poor one! And Nicole netted the service return. Ivanovic went on to victory.
Nicole said in her post-match press conference: "Of course nerves kick in - you're so close." She also said: "I had my chances and I didn't use them. Tennis is all about using your chances."
And actually, that's music of sorts to a coach's ears. Because in a situation like this I'd sit Nicole down and make her watch the video. More than once. And when you know you have a student who's already acknowledging the chances were there, you can work on the mindset.
When a player has seen on screen how close they were, it can fire them up. And the coach then needs to remind the player of all those players - "Great players, and you want to join them, don't you?" - who, in such situations, took them. Sampras, Agassi, Seles. Your attitude has got to be: "My time has come. The only way to go down is fighting. My opponent is down. I'll stamp on their neck and close it out. There's time for a handshake and smile when the business is done."
Our whole team congratulates Nicole on her progress this fortnight and we'll move upwards and onwards from here.
Another match I was anticipating with relish yesterday was Andy Roddick versus Richard Gasquet. Gasquet was one reason, a subject I'll return to. Others were: a) to see how early Roddick's coach, Jimmy Connors, would arrive on court to guarantee the front-row seat he absolutely must have; b) how far Jimmy would lean over the rail, and whether he would actually fall off; and c) how long if would take - if he missed front row - to borrow some scaffolding and make himself a one-man front row of his own.
The racket is invisible, but believe me, you look long enough and you'll see it in his hand.
Novak to knock next fighter out
Yesterday I said that Novak Djokovic was the future of tennis and urged him to make Serbia's day by tying down the fighter I selected to beat him, Lleyton Hewitt. He did, so thanks a bunch for that, Novak! More importantly, he excelled in all departments, and now faces clean-shaven Marcos Baghdatis, who with no beard to take the wind from his sails is showing he's for real again. As fans, we can only hope for another great spectacle. As a tipster, I give the edge to Novak.
Rafael Nadal is a breakfast, lunch and dinner player. He's happy to be out there early and still there when the dishes are being cleared at night. Tired? Pressure? Hell, no! He's having fun out there. His quarters opponent is Tomas Berdych, who's now a contained, confident, danger-man with whopping strokes and a big inside-out forehand. Yet Nadal's ability to find a way to win - even if he's searching all day long in five-set marathons of ups, downs and diversions - gives him the edge for me.
More picks, and check my success rate, at www.nickbollettieri.com
Today's Big Match Venus Williams v Ana Ivanovic
I told you in the first days of the tournament how I bumped into Venus' father, Richard, and while Serena was among the leading favourites then, he warned: "Venus is truly up for this challenge."
The essential drama of this semi is that there's one Williams left. Venus wants this title for a fourth time, craves it for herself. But her work here now is also Family Business.
Ivanovic's successes and nerve belie the French Open finalist's tender years and lack of truly top-end experience until recently. And by top-end I mean Slam semis or later. She's got a solid serve, hits powerful groundstrokes well on both sides, covers the court quite well, and as we saw when she beat Nicole Vaidisova, possesses a toughness to the last. She does not come to the net much but her game is coming on leaps and bounds.
But I feel if Venus maintains the astonishing level of tennis we have seen in her last two matches, she will be able to apply simply too much pressure to Ana, be too athletic, be a frustration to Ivanovic that doesn't let up. Venus has been moving beautifully. She's taking the ball very early, and - holy mackerel! - is she hitting it hard. When she serves well, she's tough to beat. Such power and passion are an awesome combination.
HOW THEY MATCH UP
California PLACE OF BIRTH
1994 TURNED PRO
6ft 1in HEIGHT
No 31 WORLD RANKING
No 23 SEEDING
34 CAREER TITLES
£9m PRIZE MONEY
Head-to-head: Two previous meetings. Venus leads 2-0.
Odds: Williams: 2-5. Ivanovic: 2-1.
Bollettieri's prediction: Venus has the edge.
The next Agassi or just want to improve your game? Win a week at the Bollettieri Academy
First, the winning entrants from Wednesday's Serena-Henin match. The Under-18 daily winner who progresses to the draw for the prize was Hein Botha (age 16), who predicted a three-set win for Henin, and forecast Serena would struggle through injury. With accuracy, Hein wrote: "It will be a competitive match in the first set, with Henin taking it, then Serena will come back - but Justine will run away with a three-set victory."
The adults' entries came down to a toe-to-toe battle between two of you. Congratulations therefore to Sandra Lane and Rachel O'Reilly, who on this special occasion both get their names in the hat, Rachel for the second time.
Sandra's prediction included: "Serena's grit and passion will make her a very tough opponent - which will get to Justine at some point. However, Justine's complete repertoire of shots will eventually find one of those chinks that are there in Serena's armour this year."
Rachel highlighted Serena's serve and Henin's fewer errors as factors, and concluded: "At times it will be too close to call but at crucial times in the third set Henin will make Williams hit one extra shot; it will prove vital."
You can win the chance of a week-long tennis holiday at my Florida academy by telling me who you think will win today's big match. I have two prizes: a one-week programme of your choice for an adult (18 and over) and the same for one kid (Under-18). I'll cover tuition, meals, accommodation. You buy the flight.
Email, in 100 words or fewer, the score in the Venus-Ivanovic match, and tell me how your pick will win. Each day I'll choose one adult and one kids' finalist to go into the hat on the final weekend, when the two overall winners will be drawn. We'll catch up with predictions - and winners - for yesterday's matches.
For your chance to win, email your entry to n.bollettieri@ independent.co.uk