Our prolific guest contributor, coach and tennis analyst, Evan Gaudreau is back with “Felix and Andrey” – a tennis short story about a recent meeting between two pro players.
The story features the two viewpoints of Felix Auger-Aliassime and Andrey Rublev and their recent matches. The format is slightly different to make reading it more entertaining. You have to give it to Evan for being creative around his analysis! If you like this type of content and want to find more information about strategy and how to win tennis matches – let me know in the comments below. I will also feature more of that type of content on my YouTube channel and podcast. / Jonas
Felix sat in the chair, staring out the hotel window. A boat floated far away in the distance, alone in the North Sea. Staying in The Hague, Netherlands, reminds him of Monaco. The tiny beach. The people walking by. The…
He turned his head.
“Were you listening?”
“Mon Dieu. Pay attention.”
“Tabarnak,” Felix said.
“Felix? You need to understand this for the next time you play Andrey.”
He took a deep breath.
“You have to be careful with your combos into the Ad corner. Beware of the position he’s in..”
“Did you see him slam the ball against the back after I broke in the second set…twice?” Felix laughed.
Guillaume looked at Frederic with concern.
The bigger picture
Guillaume stood up and walked across the room. Frederic sat down. “Listen, you are playing well, but you need to focus on the bigger picture. We’re almost there. But, if you don’t pay attention, it’s going to slip by.” He put his hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eyes. “Do you hear me?”
“You served well. We got him down the T on some big ones, but listen…”
Felix was in his head, dreaming.
First Title. Money.
“We can talk about this later,” Frederic said. “Let’s enjoy!”
He raised his glass, and all three threw down a drink in celebration.
“You stopped moving your feet in the second set,” Fernando said aggressively.
“I was moving my feet!” Andrey yelled.
“You weren’t! You were turning too quick to the ball because your feet were late, so your body had to turn too quick on those forehand errors.”
Fernando slammed his fist on the table.
“We had him. We should have won that much if you moved your feet better.”
“The courts were fast.”
“Bullshit!” He slammed his fist again.
“I don’t care about the damn courts,” Fernando said. “I care about winning! YOU. NEED. TO. WIN. THOSE. MATCHES!”
The anger was building inside. Andrey thought about breaking something. But there was nothing to break in the room.
Well, there was but it would have made a huge mess and the last time he punched the wall, his hand had hurt so much afterwards, he thought it was broken.
One week later…
The Le Petit Nice Passedat hotel was nice. But, choosing to stay at Les Bords De Mer seemed perfect. On the water. Away from distractions. Quiet.
“We need to change a few things,” Guillaume said. “Let’s open up the match with attacking with the wide serves and see where that goes…but be careful when Andrey’s forehand gets hot.”
“Should we start with the same patterns from Rotterdam?” Felix suggested.
Frederic walked over.
“Felix. Let’s start with the wides at the beginning and see as the match goes on if adjustments will need to be made. I’ll do a quick series of claps if we need to make adjustments.”
“Also, during baseline patterns, let’s work in some quick combos. On the Ad side let’s return middle, and work off the center. Mix up where shot #2 goes. You can push him into the backhand corner and then later, hit the center of the court on the return and then tap one to the forehand side.”
“And then over to the backhand?”
Frederic looked at Guillaume with satisfaction.
“Once you establish that pattern, sneak a return or two to the corner on a big point to throw him off.”
“The Notterdam courts were faster, lets also mix in a couple mid combos to the backhand corner, when you’re up in the game. And…”
“Watch out for the backhand down the line?”
Over at the Intercontinental
Over at the InterContinental Marseille, Fernando clapped his hands quickly and began shadow boxing. He began breathing out after every air punch.
“We got this,” he said and stopped punching. “Let’s try not to go three sets this time. Let’s win in straights.”
He threw a few more punches.
You never knew which Fernando showed up. Today seemed like a good day.
He grabbed a tennis ball and threw it at Andrey. Andrey dodged it.
“Come on man. Relax.”
“I can’t.” He began jumping up and down.
“Yeah, I know, bring it down a notch.”
“But I can’t.” He grabbed another ball and threw it at Andrey, playfully.
Andrey caught it and pulled back his arm.
“That’s it….Come on!” he said as he bounced around like a kangaroo. “You got nothing, Dude. You can’t hit the old guy cuz the old guy's too fast for you.”
Don’t tempt me, Andrey thought.
Fernando started punching the air again as Andrey put the ball on the table.
Andrey Rublev d Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 7-6
“The wide patterns worked well, Felix. We just need to adjust when to switch the first ball back to the forehand corner.”
“Maybe I could have followed a few into the net also.”
“Yes. That too.”
“I was a little worried about his passes,” Felix said.
“Yes, I understand,” Frederic said patiently. “Remember to keep your mind on the future. This will pay dividends down the road. Remember the ultimate goal is the Majors.”
“We’re getting better. This is just a bump in the road. The game plans are working and it’s just small adjustment.”
He held up his index finger and his thumb.
“A little adjustment,” he said again. “Tiny. Small like a pebble. You see, I can barely fit a paper between my fingers, it’s so small.”
A few seconds went by.
“Some of those longer combos were great also. I know you lost the points, but this was good. You are learning so much. Just think back to last summer and think of today. So much better. You couldn’t even do the combo training last summer,” he said and smiled.
They both smiled.
“I think I could have mixed in a serve and volley a few times.”
They both looked away and thought about winning their first Major later this year, but it wasn’t spoken.
One thought popped into my head while watching the final in Marseille. Yes, game points are important. But what is a game point? 40-0? 40-15? 40-30? Or can it be 30-15? Think about it.
You’re playing a match and your game points are so easy in the first set, yet in the second set they are so panicky because your opponent isn’t giving away as much and you are caught off guard. Should you be more focused at 15-all? Or 30-15?
Is that where the “game point” actually is? I think so.
It’s easy to fall asleep in the match. And before you know it the match has slipped away and you can’t figure out why.
Have you had a match slip away and not realized why?