Tramlines: Young guns cracking up?

Eurosport - Mon, 29 Mar 15:33:00 2010

Only two players have looked like dethroning Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the top of the world of tennis: Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Britain's Andy Murray.

Novak Djokovic (L) and Andy Murray (R) - 0

Both have had their stellar moments. First came Djokovic, winning the 2008 Australian Open before claiming the big events for fun; later that same year Murray came to the fore, establishing a winning record over Roger Federer then in 2009 picking up a generous handful of titles.

Yet both have run into a brick wall in the last month or two.

Since making the Australian Open final in Melbourne, Murray has struggled for fitness and confidence, pulling out of several events and not going beyond a quarter-final.

"You know, it's not been great since Australia," said the Scot after crashing out of the Miami Masters to American Mardy Fish.

"It's purely down to me, what goes on inside my head. No one else can, you know, make that better or change it, you know. You need to do that yourself.

"It doesn't matter how well you practice. You know, you need to be tough in the matches. I need to get better, you know, mentally, because since Australia where I was great in all of the matches, I've been poor."

Djokovic sounds similarly downbeat. The Serbian promised a resurgence after beating an admittedly weak-looking field in Dubai, but has since struggled and, like Murray, has made early exits both in Indian Wells and Miami.

He also seems to believe that the cause is mental.

"I don't feel great on the court, and everybody could see that," he said after losing to Olivier Rochus.

"Sometimes you feel great on the court. You can win against anybody. Sometimes you don't feel confident. It's a mental game definitely."

Whatever the cause, it's at times like these that the achievements of Roger Federer really come into focus; not just his victories, or his uncanny physical fitness, but his consistently flawless mental strength.

Will Murray and Djokovic get back to where they were? Who knows, but for the sake of the game let's hope so.

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Tennis has always appeared to be a pretty clean sport. The recent revelations over drug use by Andre Agassi, Richard Gasquet and even Martina Hingis suggested that any usage in the game was limited to the sort of recreational substances that might be found among any given group of well-paid 20- or 30-somethings.

Wayne Odesnik's drug ban turns all that on its head. Here's a player who faces a ban for trafficking Human Growth Hormone - yet he has never once failed a test.

It's difficult to believe that Odesnik would have been carrying the drug just for the sake of it, yet had he not been stopped with it at customs he might still be merrily playing away on Tour.

It's a situation that highlights two things: first, HGH is clearly so difficult to detect that many top athletes really have been "using it with impunity", as the head of the World Anti-Doping Authority claimed last week.

And secondly, tennis very likely isn't the clean-cut sport that many have long assumed it to be.

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TWEETS OF THE WEEK

Winner: "Remember, success does not come to you itself, you are going to it... The more you believe in yourself, work hard, surround yourself with good people, the more efficient and faster you will achieve the desired." - British doubles specialist Jamie Murray has obviously been at the self-help books, which we'd normally use as an excuse to pour scorn on him. But the fact that he came out with his hackneyed phrases after a top week for his Fantasy Football team instead makes him a master of satire.

Honourable mention: "Sometimes, tennis just isn't that important." - Murray's fellow Brit Anne Keothavong has obviously also been delving into the philosophy section at the library. But appears not to have got any further than looking at the covers.

Wooden spoon: "Omg I have to eat some pasta" - Tramlines is no expert on txtsp3k or whatever it's called, but surely the news that Venus Williams is having some pasta for tea falls some way short of the minimum revelation standard required to bring out the OMGs?

A-BOG v A-BOG: WHO WILL BE THE LAST A-BOG STANDING?

Britain's A-Bog (AKA Alex Bogdanovic) and America's A-Bog (AKA Alex Bogomolov) failed to even appear in qualifying at the Miami Masters.

A-Bog (UK) decided instead to play in the Challenger tournament in Jersey, where he was seeded second... but the patchy Brit lost his opening match to the gorgeously-named American journeyman Ryler DeHeart.

Such a pathetic showing means a clear win for A-Bog (USA), who storms into a 5-3 lead.

RANKINGS/THIS WEEK

We're halfway through a fortnight-long tournament so there's no rankings or preview today; but Djokovic and Andy Murray will slip back after their early exits.

Murray beat Djokovic in the Miami final last year so both will lose hefty points; Nadal - who lost in the quarter-finals in 2009 - is now all but certain to overtake the Scot and close right up with the Djoker in the race for second spot.

WTA Miami:

Tuesday 6.10pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521)

Wednesday 6.10pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521)

Thursday 6.10pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521)

Saturday 5.30pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521)

Tramlines / Eurosport

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