Starting in the States, how many British players played in a US Open Grand Slam tennis final last weekend? The answer is 5. Everyone knows about the new queen of tennis ER, but there was double victory for Joe Salisbury who won both the men’s and mixed doubles, Jamie Murray was a defeated finalist in the men’s doubles and it was a calendar grand slam for wheelchair legends Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett who won their eighth grand slam men’s doubles title in a row. British tennis is on a high and tennis clubs around the country will no doubt see a rise in memberships as a result.
Reflecting on Emma Raducanu’s win for a moment, one of the most interesting comments for me was how she often talked about taking it one point at a time. There is a lot behind being able to make a winning shot, but that is the focus of Raducanu’s game. Can I hit this one ball to place it where my opponent can’t return it, or is likely to make a mistake, or such that the return will give me a better chance to make a winning shot?
Being able to do that requires a level skill of hitting a ball, as well as the required level of fitness, of strength and on-court decision making. It also needs good nutrition, relaxation, sleep and the most difficult one, the ability to shut out every other conscious thought that might get in the way of making the shot. Like ‘I might win a Grand Slam here, am I really that good a player, what will that mean to me, to my life, my family, my friends, the media, my bank balance, how are people going to treat me..’ and on it goes.
But, as Martina Navratilova said, watching her last week was like watching someone who had been there, seen that, won the trophies. Not some novice who was doing all this for the first time.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, there have been 14 different winners of the last 19 women’s Grand Slam finals. Of those, 8 have won once and then not won another one, yet. So before we label Raducanu as the next big thing, bear in mind that in women’s tennis at the moment there are an awful lot of next big things and Raducanu has yet to defeat any player in the world’s top 10. But bring them on!
The crowded Champions League fixtures this week brought to mind my time working at Eurosport and presenting the sports news. Monday and Friday was, and still is a slow day in sport. Saturday and Sunday are busy. And in Champions League weeks, Tuesday and Wednesday were very quiet until around 10.40pm when suddenly it was extreme pressure. We would be two journalists watching four matches at the same time.
One would do a European football roundup for 11pm then have half an hour to add quotes and reactions, and the other would be doing match reports for 11.30pm. If you watch one match, it is easy to knock out a timely and accurate match report in ten minutes. Two matches took more concentration. Three matches was do-able but we were painting by numbers. Four was almost impossible to do anything but the main points. A week with the big teams meeting as they did this week was exciting for us viewers, but maximum stress in the news rooms. I loved those weeks.
And so to Mallorca where my latest favourite sport, deep water soloing, witnessed a tragic event this week as two American climbers lost their lives climbing on the coast between Portocolom and Cala d’Or, believed to be around Cala sa Nau. Mallorca is a haven for this kind of climbing, where you climb on cliffs of generally around 5-10m in height, and when you fall, you fall into water. September is the perfect time.
Five years ago, a group of Masters swimmers came to our pool in Colonia Sant Jordi after a week of deep water soloing and after hearing their stories I asked if they would take me out. I nipped off to Decathlon to buy some climbing shoes and was hooked before we started the first climb. My ten-year-old son and I joined the local climbing club and he and I still go out on the easier climbs at Cala Santanyi. Our sincere condolences go to the climbers and their family and friends.