Giving tennis more than a shot

Of Candlelit Tennis, Racquets, And Too Many Time Zones

If 2011 ended with a bang, 2012 started with a concert of chamber music that I couldn’t help hearing inside my head as soon as I saw the images of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal opening the season in a very special way in Doha, on New Year’s Day. But most of all, it means that the new tennis season is now entering its fourth day today with, in the ATP, the tournaments of Brisbane (joint), Chennai and Doha.


Furthermore, to celebrate the tournament’s 20th anniversary, the ATP is offering tennis fans from certain regions of the world (see the list underneath the viewing screen in the link) free streaming of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open (Doha) for the duration of the tournament. Which means high quality Center Court action for the whole week.


This also means that as the streaming is available in Canada (but not in Great Britain or Argentina, for instance), I was able to watch Alex Bogomolov Jr register his first win as a Russian, a 5-7 6-4 6-2 win over Italian Filippo Volandri, but a very difficult match to watch. As Bogomolov said to Robbie Koenig (who did the best on-court post-match interviews I’ve heard in years!), he won ugly today and there’s no denying it. But he admitted to be very happy to be through and that those “ugly wins” are usually more satisfying than the pretty ones because they are more worked for. And work for it he did indeed!


Is this what you call a play date?

We know that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are rivals on the court, but great friends off it. In fact, a lot of people like to joke around a lot about their bromance, which is, really, pretty cute, I have to say.


So, like last year, it was for Fedal to launch the new season in Doha. But, wait, why World no 3 Federer and not World no 1 Novak Djokovic to launch the season with World no 2 Nadal? Simple: Nole the Ist isn’t playing until the Australian Open. Consequently, Roger Federer takes his place and we have the Fedal sequel of the already incredible “playing on water” from the 2011 launch.


This time, the setting was an absolutely spectacular and oh, so romantic fully candlelit stadium and court lines that greeted Federer and Nadal for the season launch.


Photo: Paul Zimmer/AP/QTF


Photo: Paul Zimmer/AP/QTF


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Is this the true definition of a play date?


It is a very nice way for Federer and Nadal to start the season, as they will both have tricky first round matches ahead of them, Federer facing Nikolay Davydenko and Nadal, Philipp Kohlschreiber.


A weighty racquet

Talking about Rafael Nadal, in order to have more power, for instance on his serve, he started to train with a more weighty racquet after the Davis Cup final. This way, he will be able to put more pressure on his opponents, and less on his damaged shoulder. However, he couldn’t start training with his new racquets when he wanted. As you know, a lingering shoulder injury impaired his post-Davis Cup preparation for the new season.


Of course, talking about racquet change means talking about adjustments and Rafa is conscious of it, as he mentioned during the Abu Dhabi exhibition event last weekend:


“Every change at the beginning is something new, and you go a little bit down before you go up.

“We are trying to have a little bit more power with the racquet. Trying to find a little bit more winners. We believe that can help but when you are able just to practice for five, six days, that’s not enough.” 


Thankfully for Nadal (and for his fans as well), it is an adjustment on his existing racquet and not a complete change of racquet model or, worse, of racquet sponsor. I’m sure a lot of you remember the long and painful adjustment that Novak Djokovic went through when he switched from Wilson to Head, a couple of years ago, especially when, at about the same time, he had tried to make changes in his service. No such thing for Nadal; he stays with his same Babolat frame.


More racquet news

If Rafa added more weight to his stick, other players have undergone, for 2012, a whole other type of racquet changes, ranging from a new model to a whole new racquet sponsor.


We thought for a moment that Roger Federer had changed his racquet model, but I learned from a reliable source that he hasn’t. It is still the same frame he’s been using for years, but painted with the new colours used by Wilson for the corresponding model.


However, another very well-known Wilson player, Juan Martín del Potro, has changed his racquet model and will now play with the very aesthetic Juice Pro BLX, although we haven’t yet seen him play with it, for example in the Nokia Summer Cup, an exhibition tournament in which he defeated Guga Kuerten Monday night. There have been many adjustments made, as his last racquet change, in 2010, when he went from the Six-One 95 BLX to the Pro Tour BLX, did not help his wrist issue in the least. That’s the reason why, shortly after coming back on the Tour, he switched back to the Six-One 95 BLX.


The Juice Pro BLX will also be used by Feliciano López, who shot a very amusing commercial ad to promote the new model:


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Kei Nishikori, on the other hand, will use the new Wilson Steam:


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Two other players went for a more “radical” change, by this meaning that they changed racquet sponsors: Swiss no 2 Stanislas Wawrinka, and Aussie rising star Bernard Tomic, who both went from Head to Yonex. Both will play with the new Yonex VCORE 98D, the same model that will also be used by David Nalbandian and Juan Mónaco, two of the best-known Yonex players. Another of the Yonex tennis faces, Lleyton Hewitt, will play with the VCORE 95D.


You can learn more about the VCORE technology by visiting Yonex’s website.


Did you say “time zones”?

Are you following both ATP and WTA, and also the Hopman Cup? Are you following the Challenger Tour as well? Then you’re in deep time zone trouble, having to check all the different schedules of play in order to determine when to go to sleep and when to get up in order to watch one of your favourites play, isn’t it? Or just to watch that prospect that you’ve been told so much good about, or that you’ve been watching for some time and finally have a chance to watch live.


If that’s the case, you also must be quite confused in how all these time zones convert into yours. I surely am, but thanks to my Twitter friend Anna, I now use this very practical reminder for my lazy days, when I don’t feel like bothering to do time calculations:



Then again, if you wish to make the calculations yourself, here’s a little aide-mémoire (with Eastern Time):


  • Auckland: +18 hrs (GMT +13)
  • Brisbane: +15 hrs (GMT +10)
  • Perth: +13 hrs (GMT +8)
  • Chennai: +10:30 hrs (GMT +5:30)
  • Doha: +8 hrs (GMT +3)


For example, if you want to watch Vasek Pospisil’s first round match against Andreas Beck in Chennai, this match is the second from 4PM local on Court 1 (so technically streamed). Theoretically, it should not start before 5:30PM local time, which means 7AM ET.


As well, if you want to watch Andy Murray play his first singles match of the season (and of the new Ivan Lendl as a coach era) in the Brisbane tournament, the match is the first of the evening session, starting at 7PM local, which means that it will start at 4AM ET.


Finally, if you want to watch Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the two matches are one after the other (second and third on Doha’s Central), they should start as early as 4:30PM local time (no, I don’t give much chance to Malek Jaziri against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga), which means around 8:30AM ET.


Not easy, as you see. And I have not even gone into the Nouméa’s and São Paulo’s (the Challengers) schedules! (Note: the links are the day’s schedules of play for each tournament.)


Everybody wants to be top 10

Well, maybe not everybody, but there are quite a few players who expressed the wish to enter or re-enter the top 10 in 2012.


So here’s a list of some of the players who have expressed having such a goal for the season:


  • Bernard Tomic
  • Alexandr Dolgopolov
  • Gilles Simon
  • Richard Gasquet
  • Juan Martín del Potro (the most realistic player, along with Gilles Simon, to get there early in the season, as they are right now no 11 and no 12 respectively in the World rankings)


Quite a lot of people to take the place of those already in the top 10 (and who surely want to stay there as well, no doubt). Gilles Simon even expressed the ambitious goal of wanting to win a Grand Slam this year! As for Alexandr Dolgopolov, his main goal for this season is to stay healthy and be more consistent in his play… on top of the top 10, of course, but his priority is to remain healthy.


What do you think? Who will end the season in the top 10, and who will leave it? The competition promises to be fierce!


Welcome, 2012 season!

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