The Last Word – Dec. 10, 2013

The Spanish player of the year for 2013, as selected by the Spanish Tennis Writers’ Association (APT) is …

(Drum roll, please …)

Tommy Robredo.

Yes, Tommy Robredo.

The criteria for this award seems to be as follows: the winner must display excellence not only on the tennis court, but “exceptional human qualities” off the court as well.

There’s no doubt Robredo, who also won in 2006 and 2009, had a terrific year – he returned from tennis Nowheresville to get Robrero and Ferrerback into the top 20, won two titles and, most notably, came back from two sets to none down to win in five at the French Open – three straight times.

He also upset Roger Federer at the U.S. Open.

But … umm … Rafael Nadal? David Ferrer? Not only did these two guys excel on the tennis court (and Nadal’s comeback has to be considered even more impressive, if these things can be at all quantified), they’re also both known as guys with a solid set of “exceptional human qualities”.

We can only presume that the ability of the winner to actually be present at the awards, for photo ops and such, factored in. Or they simply want to spread it around. Or that the winner must live in the Barcelona area, where the awards ceremony took place. Or that they don’t consider Mallorca part of Spain. Or that they figured Nadal won enough hardware this year. Or something.

Also honoured were Sergi Bruguera, Pablo Carreña-Busta (most improved) and Carla Suárez Navaro (who got a “special award” we can only interpret to mean the “girls’ award).

 

Team Raonic’s ace in the hole

There were a few rumours floating around, after Ricardo Piatti’s sudden departure (during the World Tour finals) as coach of Richard Gasquet, that he would be joining forces with Milos Raonic.

There was some logic to that, given his relationship between Raonic’s coach, Ivan Ljubicic.

The rumours were never confirmed. But you’d have to think it’s likely Piatti isn’t an entirely uninvolved bystander.

Here are a couple of photos posted on Twitter last week, by Raonic’s physical trainer and his video analyst.

There’s Piatti.

TeamRaonic2

TeamRaonic

Even if it’s on an unofficial basis, that’s an awfully keen and experienced tennis mind to add to the conversation. The thing that’s most to be admired about Raonic is his ambition; he is surrounding himself with very good people, and he will leave no “I” undotted or “T” uncrossed in his quest for excellence.

 

Wild-card time

Julia GoergesThe ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand has announced its first two wild cards.

They are Julia Goerges (already Down Under training in Melbourne) and Andrea Hlavackova.

Among those already confirmed are Ana Ivanovic, Laura Robson and Venus Williams.

The tournament runs Dec. 30 – Jan. 4.

 

 

New Russian Fed Cup captain

Anastasia Myskina@VladasLasitskas reports on Twitter that Anastasia Myskina, who has long been a coach on the Russian Fed Cup team, will be the captain for the country’s first 2014 tie against Australia.

As well, Igor Kunitsyn, recently retired, is now a coach for the Davis Cup team.

There seems to be a lot of movement, and perhaps a little drama, in Russian tennis of late. For many years, both squads were run with an iron fist by Shamil Tarpischev.

Meanwhile, down in Argentina …

Juan Martin del Potro continues his pre-season preparations.

He also continues testing new racquets.

Here’s a Dec. 10 photo (courtesy of Andy Eidman).

DelporacquetsDec10

Does it not seem to anyone that for a guy who’s committed to making a racquet change, he seems to be spending a whole lot of time with his old standby Pro Staffs?

Just thinking out loud.

And … across the world in Dubai

Some video footage of Roger Federer practicing – with what certainly looks like the bigger Wilson stick.

 

Spadea ain’t afraid a ya

Vince SpadeaSpadea shirt

 

 

What is former ATP Tour pro Vince Spadea up to these days?

He has turned clothing designer for a company called Nu Sportswear. His first collection can be found here.

We’re a little unsure about this one on the right, though.

The one-handed backhand still lives

The Australian Open wild-card playoff, livestreamed by Tennis Australia on YouTube Tuesday, is a fun little preview of the main event.

And it allows you to get a glimpse of players you might never otherwise see.

One of them played Tuesday – a 16-year-old named Akiri Santillan.

He won the first two sets against the infinitely more experienced Matt Reid, dropped the next two, and rolled in the fifth.

The biggest thing we noticed about him was his posture – not great, slumping shoulders. We were instantly reminded of another young kid:

Raonic-Santillan

Beyond the fact that at a similar age, Raonic also worked hard to calm his hothead tendencies, that’s where the similarity ends, though. Two completely different players.

As most regular readers know, we make it a habit not to put “can’t miss prospect” or “future star” labels on young kids. They have enough pressure as it is and, in the end, they’ll either make it or they won’t. There are just too many variables in that game to predict it with any degree of accuracy.

We will say that this kid has a lot worth liking – beginning with his one-handed backhand. It’s pretty sweet.

As well, Santillan wasn’t afraid of coming to the net, or hitting drop shots. That completeness is nice to see at that age – especially when compared to a similarly-aged junior on the girls’ side who played Tuesday, also considered a good prospect, who had none of those things.

This young lady (and, we’ll grant you, she looked SO nervous on this occasion) had a poor service motion, a dodgy second serve, average footwork (likely caused in part by the occasion and an opponent who overmatched her), and nothing beyond a forehand and a backhand.

Which begs the question we ask over and over: how come they seem to teach boy tennis players to have all the shots, yet the girls nearly always seem to be SO limited when they’re juniors (and rarely expand their arsenal as pros?)

Girls can volley too. They can slice. They can dropshot and – most important of all – they are quite able to serve. It’s an ongoing mystery.

Wednesday’s AO playoff livestream begins Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET here. You can watch it here.

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