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No fears or jeers

With Wimbledon in full swing Barry answers more of your questions

Barry Cowan Posted 23rd June 2010 view comments

Throughout Wimbledon Sky Sports tennis expert Barry Cowan will be on hand to answer your questions on all aspects of the Championship - from on-court duels to off-grass issues.

Perhaps you have a query about a particular player or coach, want to share a particular Wimbledon memory or simply want to get Barry's take on a wide matter in the men's or women's game.

Whatever your question Barry, a former British tennis player who memorably went shot-for-shot with 'Pistol' Pete Sampras at Wimbledon 2001, will do his best to answer it.

Talent in spades: teenager Robson must be allowed to develop at her own pace

Talent in spades: teenager Robson must be allowed to develop at her own pace

So don't delay; with the Championships in full swing you can send your question in right now for Barry's consideration.

Click here to email your question, send your question to skysportsclub@bskyb.com, with 'Barry Cowan' in the subject field, or fill out the feedback form below...

A TRUE CHAMPION

Do you think that Federer has the motivation to win Wimbledon or more grand slams? Apart from improving his head-to-head against Nadal and beating Nadal at Roland Garros, is there anything else left for him to achieve? Ramya Sriram

BARRY REPLIES: What surprised me most as Roger Federer flirted with a possible first-round defeat against Alejandro Falla, Ramya, was how tentative he was. Movement is usually one of Roger's biggest assets but he was struggling on Centre Court and his timing was off too. As a result his game got very tight and, unusually for him, he seemed to question himself and what shots he needed to go for. In his defence, Centre Court can be very slippery on the first day of the Championships purely because it gets so little use during the rest of the year.

But Federer showed what a true champion he is by battling back to win in five sets and silenced anybody who was questioning his motivation in the process. His hunger is still clearly 100 percent there and that amazes a lot of top players who have won Grand Slams. Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe both won their last Grand Slam titles in their mid-twenties but Federer, 29 in August, seems to maintain his desire even though his life changed irrevocably last year when he became the father to twins. He seems to relish the pressure that comes with being world No 1 and he'll definitely be aiming to regain that spot from Rafael Nadal. I haven't seen any cracks in Roger's personality in the last five or six years. Sure, he hasn't always played his best tennis but he's always remained extremely mentally strong whatever the sport has thrown at him.

SURFACE TENSION?

Hi Barry, it's not really a Wimbledon topic as such but would like to ask you a question about the Federer-Nadal rivalry? I know that Nadal has a big lead over Federer on the head-to-head but I feel this is a little misleading because when Federer was beating everyone for fun Nadal was no where to be seen on the hard courts whereas Federer has always been at the back end of the clay court tournaments, do you agree? Also if Federer at his best played Nadal at his best who do you think would win on grass, clay and hardcourt? cheers barry, from Tom Davies

BARRY REPLIES: I agree, Tom, the head-to-head statistics are indeed misleading. Roger is so consistent that he has always been there or thereabouts on most surfaces whereas Nadal has saved his best for clay court tennis and he and Bjorn Borg are head and shoulders above the rest on that surface. That is a little harsh on Roger because he is a fine clay-court player too and in any other era I'm convinced he would have won more than one French Open. I don't think there is any disgrace in having the record Federer does against Nadal on clay but I would always take him to win on a medium-to-fast court at the US Open. On a slower hard court the result would be more 50-50. Unfortunately, they've never played each other at the US Open which is a real shame because that's a match we'd all love to see.

SAY NO TO BOO BOYS

Hi Barry, we've seen Ricky Ponting booed in the cricket, England booed in the World Cup and England's Six Nations team booed at Twickenham. How badly would Andy Murray have to play to be booed by a centre court crowd? Can you ever see it happening and if it does what action should officials take and how do you think it would affect Andy's mentality? Do you think he is strong enough to cope with that type of criticism? Brian, Surbiton

BARRY REPLIES: One difference I'll point out straight away, Brian, is that Ricky Pointing was booed in England while representing Australia rather than by his own fans in his own country!

It must be very hard to take when you are booed by your own on home turf. To be honest, I would be really disappointed if the day ever came when a British crowd saw fit to boo a player full stop, regardless of nationality, on the centre court at Wimbledon. It would put a real dampener on proceedings, to put it lightly. Thankfully, I can't ever see it happening.

Players are sensitive and always try but there can be a fine line between what appears to be not trying and trying too hard; when you freeze you don't react and subsequently it can appear to people that you aren't given 100 percent.

I imagine being booed would affect most players' game, including Murray, because it's important to feel that people are fully behind you. The crowd definitely has a part to play when it comes to lifting a player or a team. One of the few exceptions to that rule might be Lleyton Hewitt. I remember watching him win a Davis Cup tie on the clay in Brazil despite the attentions of a vociferous crowd. In that sense the Davis Cup is a different kettle of fish altogether.

STRING STRESSES

Barry - I wonder if you can help? Do you think that racquet manufacturers have too much influence these days on the style of tennis played? I'm more of a golf fan than a tennis fan and am well used to seeing manufacturers invent clubs and balls that allow golfers to hit the ball longer, further and with loads more control. That forces clubs to lengthen courses or bring in new rules to limit club development. It seems to me that lighter racquets with larger hitting areas and high-tension strings are enabling tennis players to power down big serves, giving their opponent little chance of hitting the ball let alone returning it. Naturally, this leads to a downturn in rallies and even fewer chances of getting to the net. Yours interested, Dave

BARRY REPLIES: While Rafael Nadal uses a racquet that is a lot lighter than normal, the likes of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and many other top players play with one that hasn't changed that much over the years. The biggest difference has instead come in string technology. Fifteen years ago the vast majority of hard-court and grass-court players would use strings made of natural gut. Now most use a mix of polyester string, which gives you more spin so you can hit the ball harder, and natural gut.

The polyester-element has enabled players to hit quality returns and passing shots from seemingly impossible positions, thereby making it much harder for their opponent to come forward. In addition, changes to tennis balls and the type of grass on the courts at Wimbledon has slowed the pace of games down. Take a look at a clip of the 1985 final between Boris Becker and Kevin Curren if you can; you'll notice the grass is worn out whereas these days you'll normally see good grass coverage on Centre Court come the end of the second week.

LAURA RAISES LEVEL

Barry, while it was great to see Laura Robson on Centre Court I was hugely disappointed to see so many empty seats in the stadium. That's what it looked like on TV, anyway. Why do you think that was? Personally I reckon it was right to give her a taste and the least people can do is support her! But do you think she should have been out there or was it too early. I guess she is only 16 after all. Sarah Burgess

BARRY REPLIES: Hi Sarah, I thought it was unfortunate for Laura but you can't blame the crowd for stretching their legs - they'd just sat through an absolute nail-biter between Roger Federer and Alejandro Falla that lasted for four hours or so, so it was only natural that they would have to go to the toilet or get some food. One possible way to avoid that situation is to delay the next match by 20 minutes but that doesn't seem fair to other players, particularly when you consider Novak Djokovic and Olivier Rochus finished their game under the roof at 10.58pm!

Overall, I thought Laura equipped herself very well against Jelena Jankovic. She does need to improve her strength and speed but more crucially she has to gain the belief that she can win games at the highest level; there is such a big difference between thinking you can win and believing you can. That will come hand-in-hand with experience.

I am not going to overboard about her performance because I don't think that would be fair on her but I will say she put in a very encouraging performance. Her career is enjoying a nice progression. Laura's is not a rapid rise up the rankings but, having hit with her a few times, it's clear she has a good serve and can hit the ball heavy from the back of the court.

People mustn't try to compare her with other 16-year-old players but allow her to develop along her own path. She has a great team around her and that's why I'm confident she will keep improving in the next 12 months.

Comments (1)

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Rhys Jaggar says...

I thought Robson had got a lot, lot better compared to last year. Her basic shots are all harder, more penetrating and she looks to be at her full height now, which is a good one for tennis, I would think. Not bad to play 2 close sets with the No. 4 seed on Centre Court aged 16, is it? I guess if she really wants to make it, she'll need to work hard on her anticipation and ability to reach her opponents' big shots. It was noticeable that her opponent didn't need to put chalk on the balls to hit clean winners. Plenty of time to work on that I guess......as well as closing out matches. She's clearly got what it takes when she's down, can she also close out matches ruthlessly when the chance presents itself?

Posted 12:30 23rd June 2010

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