Australian Open diary
February 3, 2016
I have now headed home to Florida from Brisbane International Airport in order to begin training for the US hard-court tournaments. The first of which commences in my hometown of Delray Beach.
The plan of action is for me to experience a few tough weeks of further preparation in order to get my body healthy for competition.
I have a great support team helping get me healthy and I'm highly motivated, so that when the next Major finals rolls around, I will be out on the court rather than watching the competition unfold in front of the TV at home.
January 30, 2016
The men’s singles semifinals lived up to expectations. The match that pitted Novak Djokovic against Roger Federer contained some of the greatest points in tennis that I recall seeing, and is worth trying to catch a replay of if you missed the action live.
Federer fans were most likely hitting the panic button during the first semifinal when the encounter quickly appeared to be spiraling out of the Swiss legend’s control. Fortunately, we were treated to a closely-fought third and fourth set when Novak leveled off a little bit right around the time that Roger picked up his game.
Meanwhile, the Milos Raonic-Andy Murray semifinal also produced some theatrics, with the players trading sets until the decider in the fifth. Unfortunately, as the match wore on, Canada’s Raonic wasn’t at his best due to a leg injury. In terms of Murray, the fact that he can compete in so many long matches and remain healthy is testament to his strength and fitness. Often with Grand Slam level tennis, the best-of-five-set format will ultimately favour the player in the finest physical condition.
Tomorrow, we can all look forward to a great championship match between two very deserving competitors. Novak will enter the match as the favourite, but Andy definitely boasts the skills to beat him. Murray will be incredibly hungry for the title, having appeared in (and lost) the Australian Open final on four separate occasions. However, Muray has a tall task ahead of him at the Rod Laver Arena in trying to defeat an impressively sharp opponent in search of his sixth Australian Open title.
If Murray can effectively put his past encounters with Djokovic behind him, he will have a viable shot of winning his first Australian Open crown. I’ll be following the final from my base in New Zealand, where I’m continuing with the rehabilitation of my knee.
January 28, 2016
After visiting doctors in Melbourne and continuing intensive work with my physiotherapist, Carlos Costa, his departure to fulfil Fed Cup commitments has led me to continue my rehabilitation in one of my favourite countries, New Zealand.
I have spent the past few days relaxing at Lake Rotorua in the North Island. I have enjoyed boating, kayaking, swimming and watching my wife and friends waterski.
Today I’ve recommenced intensive treatment and will continue working in order to get my knee back in fighting form.
Watching the men’s singles quarterfinals yesterday, I was less than surprised to witness a close-fought match between Andy Murray and David Ferrer. The pair have consistently produced closely contested and highly physical matches. I believe Murray’s extra power on the first serve and his ability to chance pace and spins better than Ferrer gave him the edge. He was able to turn the tide in the third and fourth sets. Murray’s set to take plenty of confidence from that match going forward.
Meanwhile, Milos Raonic continued with his fine form from the start of the year. It appears as though he’s making a concerted effort to come to the net more – evidenced by the fact that he came forward well over 50 times in his quarterfinal clash against Gael Monfils. While Monfils actually served more aces, Raonic was able to win a far higher percentage of serve points.
Raonic versus Murray will prove to be a very exciting semifinal showdown. The two players boast contrasting styles. I’m confident Raonic will look to try to dictate the points as much as possible and come forward whenever he has Murray on the ropes.
Murray will need to rely on his own strengths; namely his returns and ability to stay alive in so many points. Murray will still head into the encounter as the favourite, but will have to play well to get himself through to the final.
On the other end of the draw, fans must be very excited for the forthcoming Novak Djokovic-Roger Federer semifinal blockbuster. The current world No 1 has enjoyed major dominance over the game in the past year, but many consider Federer to be the greatest tennis player of all time. It’s tough for me to pick sides. As with most of Federer’s matches, the outcome will be decided on his racquet. If he can execute and stay aggressive throughout, it will give him the greatest chance of winning.
On the other hand, everything about Djokovic’s game makes Federer’s approach as difficult as possible, which explains why they have such a close head-to-head record (compared to Federer’s record against almost everybody else). Regardless of the outcome, it’s sure to be a fantastic semifinal for the spectators.
January 26, 2016
Having exited the tournament early owing to an injured knee, my first order of business was to sort out my plans for rehabilitation. Together with my physios and coaches, we decided that the best plan for the time being is for me to take three full weeks off from tennis to allow for the inflammation and irritation to settle down.
Unfortunately, this has caused me to withdraw from the Memphis 250 event, which I was looking forward to playing in again.
However, the brief break from tennis pursuits has afforded me the time to enjoy aspects of tourism I usually miss out on during tournaments. My wife Kelsey organised an outing for us to visit some of the native Australian wildlife at Moonlit Sanctuary. We saw a number of unique birds, marsupials, koalas and tame dingoes.
It’s not often you’re able to experience close up encounters with animals at zoos. Moonlit offers a range of fun interactions, such as feeding and playing with the animals. My personal favourite moment was getting to feed a wallaby with a baby joey in her pouch.
Even though my focus has primarily been on leisure over the past few days, it’s difficult to ignore the exciting results at the Australian Open. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are in fine fettle, having dismissed talented players Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori respectively in straight sets.
In the bottom half of the draw, Milos Raonic appears to be in excellent form. Hopefully his quarterfinal opponent, Gael Monfils, won’t injure himself with his on-court acrobatics. I saw an almost “too incredible to be true” photo of Monfils in fourth-round action. His body was parallel to the court surface, while he dove outstretched for a ball. His athleticism and movement is really something to see.
In the Andy Murray versus David Ferrer duel, we will witness a battle of arguably the two best movers and grinders on tour. I’m definitely expecting a long match between the Brit and the Spaniard in which endurance will be crucial. I’m looking forward to the remaining matches and, as usual, will be following the results closely.
January 20, 2016
The 2016 Australian Open has turned into quite a disappointing tournament for me.
I was forced to retire from my first-round match yesterday when the pain in my knee made it impossible to continue playing. I have been struggling to treat the injury since the beginning of the year in Abu Dhabi. I pulled out of competition two weeks ago in Chennai as a result of the same injury.
These days, tennis is an incredibly physical sport and managing injuries is one of the most difficult parts of the game. All players put a tremendous amount of stress on their bodies owing to the rigorous training and match exertions. If you ask any tour-level competitor, I’m confident they could list a whole host of injuries they are currently treating.
With respect to the year’s first Slam, I felt I did everything in my power in an effort to be 100 percent ready for competition. This included an aggressive physiotherapy rehabilitation programme as well as affording the knee time to rest. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, sometimes the body simply cannot heal itself that rapidly. My result yesterday was a sad manifestation of the pain I’ve been battling for weeks.
The one upside of already being eliminated from the competition is that I now have ample time in which to figure out a plan for my recovery and determine when I will be able compete again. I’m currently formulating a rehabilitation plan with my physiotherapists in order to strengthen my body and get the pain in check. I’m confident that I’m in the right hands and that my knee will be feel better soon.
It’s incredibly unfortunate I’ve been unable to perform to my full potential thus far in 2016 and reap the rewards of my hard-fought efforts because I worked tirelessly in the off-season. However, I know my diligence and commitment to improving my game will serve me well in the future when I’m healthy and ready for competition. The hard work has been done; now it’s just a matter of becoming fully healthy.
Check back tomorrow for additional analysis and commentary of the tournament.
January 18, 2016
Today was my final day of preparation before my main draw match at the Australian Open.
Sound in the knowledge that I would be on the playing schedule tomorrow, and coupled with competition for court space owing to the matches taking place on site today, I planned my practice session for a little earlier in the day than I had done during the past few days.
I hit with David Ferrer on Court 11 around midday. It was really hot, so I felt it was effective conditioning for some of the extreme Australian weather I may have to endure over the coming fortnight. It was great to practice with a top-ranked player just before the tournament. I feel this helps to bolster my confidence and sharpen my reactions.
After practice, I carried out my typical cool-down and stretch routine. I then ventured to the top-notch Player Café to refuel. The food at the Australian Open is some of the best cuisine on offer. Today I enjoyed sushi and a custom smoothie. The only downside of the food being so delicious is that the restaurant is often jam-packed with players.
After lunch, I had a few on-site interviews to perform, which were official press requests through the tournament. Once I completed my media commitments, I returned to our house to unwind for the remainder of the afternoon. My team and I relaxed by watching a movie, following which I had treatment from my physiotherapist. Kelsey and I then shared a relaxing dinner at home. I plan to watch T20 cricket for the rest of the evening, while practicing my guitar-playing skills.
Tomorrow I play the second match on Court Three against fellow University of Illinois tennis alumni, Rajeev Ram. I have not played my friend Raj since 2007, so my strategy is to focus on playing my own game tomorrow. I’ll head to the site quite early tomorrow morning for my warm-up and pre-match preparations. I’m hoping for a strong start. Wish me luck!
January 17, 2016
Today was my final day of preparations before the official start of the Australian Open on Monday.
It was the last day players and their support staff could move about freely around the grounds without the presence of spectators. As such, it’s somewhat “the calm before the storm” around the facility.
Countless employees and volunteers were hard at work making sure that everything looks perfect and will run smoothly when the gates open tomorrow.
Being in the bottom half of the draw, I have a Tuesday start. I’m therefore afforded an extra day off before my first round encounter. Today, I practiced with my good friend Jeremy Chardy. We played a practice set on a match court.
Outside of tennis preparations, I experienced a very busy day of overall ATP commitments. I partook in my annual ATP photo shoot – the ATP acquires images that will be used in promotional materials and content throughout 2016. I also participated in a video shoot for my racquet sponsor, Srixon.
On the not-so-glamorous side of things, I was required to hang around the site for a few hours after practice in order to give blood. It’s part of tennis’s Anti-Doping Programme, which establishes and maintains biological passports for each player.
After the aforementioned obligations, I went to the gym to work on my rehab, which is incredibly important at the beginning of such a physically demanding event. We will be playing long, best-of-five-set matches in the coming weeks, and I want to be in top shape.
For the rest of this evening, the plan is to relax at our house and take in some cricket.
Check back tomorrow for a look at my final preparations before my first round match.
January 16, 2016
The first big test of the 2016 season is right ahead – the Australian Open. Without even a moment’s rest from my defeat to Jack Sock in Auckland, I contacted my wife Kelsey to schedule flight bookings to get us both to Melbourne as soon as possible.
Following a quick treatment session, I headed straight to the airport in Auckland, still processing the defeat at the ASB Classic. It was a bumpy start to the tennis year.
After a strenuous training block in the off-season, I began my 2016 campaign with an injury. For the last three weeks, my energies have been focused almost entirely on fixing my knee so that I’m able to perform to my full potential at the year’s first Slam.
With this in mind, I put the Auckland quarterfinal loss behind me. The fact that I was pain-free throughout the match meant more to me than winning or losing. It means I’ll be in fighting shape for the big dance that lies ahead from next week Tuesday.
Arriving late in Melbourne, we crashed for the night at a hotel. The next morning, Kelsey and I moved into the house, which we will be renting for the duration of the tournament. During longer events, such as the majors, I prefer to stay in a home setting where I can settle in for the two-week event.
After dropping off our bags at our temporary home, it was time to get down to business. We headed straight to Melbourne Park. As we arrived, I was instantly taken aback by the numerous changes and improvements to the facility since last January. The Australian Open prides itself on being the ‘Player’s Slam’ and organisers constantly make improvements to enhance the player and fan experience.
After a two-hour session on court, I came away feeling excited and ready for the challenges that lie ahead in Melbourne. Make sure to check back into my Australian Open Diary, as I share my experiences, insight and reflections over the coming days.