Why does Andy Murray have a losing record on clay and do you remember who Craig Kardon is?

Andy Murray on Clay

Andy Murray Promotes Barclays ATP World Tour Finals At O2

That’s not a picture of Andy Murray on clay. It’s a picture of Andy at the O2 Arena in London, site of the ATP year end championships. There are a few things to talk about today but let’s start by asking the question: Given his all-court game and excellent movement, why isn’t Andy a better clay court player? I’m going to start by looking at Andy’s final win in Miami over Novak Djokovic last Sunday because my DVR recordings got wiped out when I went Hi Def so I don’t have any of Andy’s matches on clay to watch.

TennisTV.com told me that they plan to have on demand matches in the future, thank heavens, though I should add that that this tidbit of info was included in an email warning me that I was breaking their service agreement by telling you guys how to record matches off the computer screen. Oh well, whatever it takes.

Andy has a career losing record on the surface and was 7-5 last year and didn’t make it past the third round of a clay court event. So what does it take to play winning clay court tennis?

Speed. No problem there. In Andy’s first service game, he and Novak played a cat and mouse game of drop shots with a five stroke exchange that Andy won handily. Novak started off with a drop shot just over the net and even though Andy had to run all the way from the opposite half of the court, he had to slow himself down as he got near the ball to make sure he didn’t overrun it.

Conditioning. There are plenty of reports on Andy’s off-season boot camp in the South Florida humidity with the swimming, wind sprints, iron pumping, yoga, and scrimmaging against the University of Miami women’s soccer team. Oh, and the 6000 calories per day intake. And that’s been a huge part of his success so far this year. But he’s still a delicate kind of guy next to clay court bulls like Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer and I already wrote about Andy overworking himself and how that might have contributed to the virus that knocked him out of Davis Cup. And he’s injury prone.

Bullishness. Or maybe we should call it aggressiveness. After a bad start by Novak, and I mean really bad – he hit volleys and overheads in to the net and lost the first set 2-6, he recovered to take a 4-1 lead in the second set. While Andy hit running passing shots for winners time and time again, that’s a defensive shot if you think about it. It means that your opponent is getting to the net. Andy made his own recovery to take six of the last seven games, but you have to play relentlessly aggressive tennis on clay courts to win a match, and even then you might still be out there for hours.

Having said all this, Novak’s confidence built steadily throughout this event so this loss must have really hurt – especially as he had a set point in the second set. So while his clay court results are likely to drop because he reached the semifinals or better in every clay court event he entered last year, Andy’s results are likely to improve. A respectable clay court season on Andy’s part could well take him past Novak and into the number three ranking by the time grass comes around.

Who is Craig Kardon?

Craig Kardon is Ana Ivanovic’s new coach, that’s who he is. If you’re old like me, you know him as Martina Navratilova’s coach, and if you’re a World Team Tennis fan you know him as the coach of the Philadelphia Freedom. He’s not a big name now as you can tell by looking at his website. The picture of Kardon with Navratilova is too dark, the forums have no entries, his on tour calendar is empty, and the tennis library is “Coming Soon.”

But Kardon could be an inspired choice for Ivanovic. Navratilova played in an entirely different era so clearly Ivanovic isn’t going to turn into a serve and volley player, but playing more aggressively could help her confidence, and from everything I know, as much as I love Martina – and absolutely I do, she was a very emotionally up and down player behind that swagger and Kardon handled her beautifully.

We won’t mention any names but maybe a few players on the men’s side could dig a bit deeper to come up with an inspired coaching choice themselves.

This would be a good time to step up on the women’s tour. Dinara Safina will take over the number one ranking on April 13 and not because she snatched it away from Serena Williams, but because Serena has lost two straight matches with that injured thigh. I seriously doubt Serena would have taken off for Marbella this week only to lose in the first round if the number one ranking wasn’t in danger.

For just a bit of historical perspective, Safina will be the 19th player to reach the WTA number one ranking, a system that dates back to 1975. The men have had 24 number one players dating back to 1973. As of today, both tours had one number one who didn’t win a slam. Marcelo Rios is the ATP version and he’s never gonna win one. Jelena Jankovic is the WTA player and she’ll be joined by Safina who has two slam finals on her record but no slam titles.

I’m gonna say that Safina gets her slam but not Jankovic. What do you think?

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