By Luke Jensen, French Open Doubles Champion
This year has been unpredictable, to say the least. Let’s recap: Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia and couldn’t defend his title, while Rafael Nadal — recovering from COVID — won his 21st major to make him the GOAT (by the numbers). Then the French Open rolls around and Nadal gets revenge on Djokovic from the 2021 defeat and pulled down major number 22! Let’s cross the English Channel to Wimbledon where Djokovic won his 21st major, pulling away from Roger Federer who remains at 20 major wins.
This is going to be a real race to career exhaustion with Federer aiming to come back at full strength in 2023. I did love the emerging talent of Nick Kyrgios shining through at Wimbledon. I’m a huge fan of the “K Man.” At Wimbledon he showed some of the greatest tennis tactics and shot making in the game. I love that he does his “Nick thang” and isn’t going to go along with the establishment. I’ve watched him over his career spend a great deal of time with kids and fans at events. Nick is a kid at heart and he plays by his own rules. He makes the game fun and extremely insightful to watch.
On the WTA side, a new major champion was crowned at Wimbledon. Elena Rybakina brought her power game for two weeks and came through as champion. In my last column, I wrote about my work with WTA player Colleen “CoCo” Vanderweghe. It has been such a wonderful experience. We put in some really good work and solid results over the eight weeks leading up to and through the French Open and Wimbledon. To be honest, it was tough on the players that the ATP/WTA Tours stripped points from Wimbledon, but the event is the biggest in the tennis universe, so players play no matter what.
Our approach for the eight weeks was to constantly improve on offense. CoCo is coming off various injuries, so fine-tuning her offense with various drills that produce winners from anywhere on the court was our focus. Wimbledon was the last event of this European schedule and she’s peaking at the right time. Going from red clay to grass was an easy transition for her timing and power. CoCo had to qualify and ended up playing the #17 seed in the main draw on court #11, a field court with loads of distractions because the fans are so close to the action. Doing all the scouting on the #17 seed revealed another power player with a huge serve and powerful ground strokes. I knew it was going to be a firefight of two players looking to rip the ball at every opportunity.
Everything CoCo had been working on was ready to go on game day. She had a wonderful warm up on the Wimbledon practice courts. In the fitness room, there was an energetic mix of players, some just finishing matches and others doing various warmup exercises. Serena Williams, Djokovic, Simona Halep and others were all in the gym about to go on. The underlying intensity was palpable. Come match-time, CoCo knew she had to serve huge and rip returns. The #17 seed plays in streaks and gets nervous. I advised her to take control of the points early and keep her opponent on the run.
Charting matches allows me to really dig into the analytics to gain a raw perspective on where a match is won (or lost). Winners and aces were being fired over and over. CoCo had eight aces with one double-fault. The #17 seed hit 12 aces with five double-faults. There were many big shots and screaming winners. CoCo had nine break point opportunities but converted zero! She faced only one break point at 6-7(2), 5-5 and lost it.
That #17 seed was Elena Rybakina who ended up winning Wimbledon. It was such an extraordinary experience being part of such a high-level match that unfortunately was on the wrong end of a championship run. Now, it’s up to me to take the lessons learned from everything CoCo is doing and work to improve future results. The driving force behind all success is learning from everything!