Why Serena wins

Serena’s Not-so-Secret Weapon

Serena wins well over 90% of the matches she plays.  No other female tennis player these days has that sort of record.  Why?

One answer often suggested is her power. Essentially unmatched, she hits the ball incredibly hard.  She’s a big woman but very athletic, running down opponents’ drop shots more easily than one would expect.  Power is definitely an advantage, but other players win without anywhere near the power that Serena wields.  Look at Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.

For me, tennis success in the current era with the new technology in racquets, is measured with the three A’s.  Accuracy, Angle, and Anticipation.  Perhaps Nadal has the best range of capabilities across all three measures.  Most of the top players have superb Accuracy in their repertoire.  Watch how often they are within an inch of the line on straight shots.  Watch how close they are to the line on short Angle cross-court shots.  Radwanska and Wozniacki excel in Anticipation.  Serena can hit from any deep corner to the opposite deep corner better than anyone else, getting both Angle and Accuracy.

But there’s still something that Serena has that the other women don’t.  Kill instinct for sure.  It’s why Sharapova will probably never beat her again. Serena has never forgiven her for beating her in that amazing Wimbledon final years ago. Revenge is sustained.

If you watch the women players Serena has one facet that only a few others use however.   Most women players today hold a second ball in their undershorts when they serve. Not Serena. If she needs a second serve she gets fed a ball from a ballperson behind her. Think about it. When others pull out the second ball that has been hidden under their shorts it is probably laced with a little perspiration and possibly body oil.  The felt cover is impregnated with moisture making the ball just a little heavier and less maneuverable in flight.

That’s not the case when Serena receives a second ball. It is free of any moisture beyond that from the ballperson’s hands.  I think that’s why Serena’s second serves are nearly as deadly as her first serves.

Could un-shorted second serve balls be Serena’s secret weapon?

If only we had the balls to ask…..

Tennis Fashion

Why do some of the top male tennis players wear baseball caps backwards?

Tennis is my favorite sport. I’ve been playing it for over 55 years and as in all other sports fashions have come and gone. The one sacred dress code of ‘whites only’ at Wimbledon is a tradition I cherish, as seems to be so for all the participants as well. Coloured outfits with sponsors names – some charmingly feminine as in Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniackli’s outfits, some refined as In Roger Federer’s tailored look and some just functional like those Mardy Fish wears – all have their place. But I cannot come to grips with one of the current trends – mainly among male players – of wearing baseball caps back-to-front.

Not many females wear baseball caps – Venus Williams does, Elena Dementieva does and the only backwards wearer I can recall is Akgul Amanmuradova from Uzbekistan. She also tends to wear men’s shirts and men’s shorts when she plays. Pockets to hold the second ball when serving instead of having it tucked up under underpants? Not sure the other girls will follow.

I think Lleyton Hewitt takes credit for first wearing his cap backwards. And I do know he will it wear it with brim forward if the sun is really in his eyes.

But why, why, wear it backwards at all?

Is it carried that way in case on an overcast day the sun comes out suddenly and it can be turned? If so why not leave it at the court side chair? Let’s agree that no-one is going to turn the cap around in the middle of a point.

Also, those caps are not meant to be sponge towels soaking up head-generated sweat. Why Andy Roddick doesn’t bring a dozen with him when he plays I don’t understand as one can often see sweat literally running off the brim as he steps up to serve. Maybe his sponsors only supply one per match?

Nope, I guess the reasons they are worn backwards must be a lot more subtle. Maybe it’s to protect the back of their neck from the sun and melanoma cancer. That would make sense. Of course protecting the forehead would also make sense. Or perhaps it really does reflect a sense of delicacy in allowing sweat from the hair to drip down the shirt at back rather than in front where everyone would notice it more. But TV cameras show players from behind as well as in font so I think we have to pass that one up as well…

The women may give us a clue. Many of the female players have long hair which gets twisted into a ponytail. Marcos Baghdatis wears a tiny ‘tuft’ but has a large forehead sweatband which has two long tails trailing down his neck. I think the girls’ pony tails and Baghdatis’ white cotton tails provide a certain flowing transition from top of head to shoulders. And that’s what the backward caps are about.

Hewitt and Roddick and Isner aren’t about to let their hair grow long. So without that natural head to shoulder hair flow, the brim of a baseball cap is a great substitute to effect that smooth transition from head to back.

Who said those chaps weren’t fashion conscious? Not me.

Remember you read it here first… !