Andy's latest Column - The Australian
Column taken from The Australian (23/1/13)
RAFA in the midfield. Jo-Wilfried up front. Kei Nishikori flying down the right wing. David Ferrer getting up and down the pitch. And Serena as the ultimate substitute. That’d be my five-a-side dream football team!
Now I know it might sound a little unusual to be talking about football when I’ve a grand slam quarter-final coming up later today in Melbourne, but you might remember from my column on the weekend that I’d asked fans to send in some quirky questions. I just didn’t realise how quirky some would be – but thanks for sending them in.
One of the questions that interested me was the one about my dream team and which players ranked inside the top 20 I’d have on my side.
Rafa is an obvious choice, he’s a big Real Madrid fan. One of his uncles was a famous player in Spain and it is pretty clear Rafa would have been good as well had he chosen football instead of tennis, it might have made it a bit easier for a few of us to win a few more grand slams too!
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is not bad either. You can imagine he would be pretty hard to man up on, he’s so tall and powerful. Nishikori is a surprisingly good player and unsurprisingly Ferrer has a really good engine and that is important in five-a-side football. He would definitely work hard for the team. As for the substitute, I was asked which woman I would bring off the bench to replace me. It was a pretty simple answer. Serena. She is an awesome athlete and physically the strongest player.
Another good question was one about whether I try to disguise my game plan or tactics when I’m practicing against some of the other guys. The fan in question used the examples of Don Budge, an American player who used to hide a little bit when training, and Muhammad Ali. I have watched a lot of Ali’s fights, and the thing that was weird with his famous ‘rope a dope’ strategy he used against George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle is that his corner said they had no idea that he was going to do it. They said he hadn’t been doing it in training, so after the first couple of rounds they were shouting out to him to get off the ropes, asking him what he was doing. He claims that was his game plan but I don’t know whether he had been training for it or not because his corner didn’t seem to think it was the best way to go about it.
In one of my earlier columns, I wrote that I’d been practicing a bit with Ricardas Berankis since arriving in Australia for the Brisbane International, so it was a bit of a shock to draw him in the third round here. The truth is that you disguise things in your game a little bit when you’re hitting balls with the best.
Since I have been on the tour, I have practiced with Roger only twice, maybe, and it would be about four years since I’ve done so. Rafa I practice with a lot and Novak I have practiced with a fair bit but you obviously don’t want to give too much away and before slams, now that I have played those guys a lot, you don’t want them to get a feel for the ball you are hitting or certain shots you have been working on.
Even sometimes you can overhear certain things in practice, you know what your coach is saying to you and you probably don’t want them to know that. I’ll try and answer a few more questions in the next column.
Now to my opponent Jeremy Chardy. We’re about the same age, so we used to play against each other a lot in practice. He has obviously been playing really well for the past year or so and some of you may know that he actually beat me in Cincinnati last August, it was my only loss between winning the gold in London and the US Open. The thing is, that match aside, I’ve always played well against Jeremy and I hope I do so again today. I’ll have to be on my game but I feel like my best tennis is not too far away.