Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Single Handed Backhander Watch: Mohammed Ghareeb

Allow me to ignore the top two seeds in Dubai for the moment and indulge in a frenzied celebration of the single handed backhand (a stroke I love so much, I've decided to turn spotting it into a series). We've had some very decent matches over the last couple of days providing yet more evidence of the frightening levels of depth in men's tennis. Here's my exhibit A, and B and C (and that's before I get on to Gasquet)....

Richard Gasquet

A commentator used the word 'gritty' in describing his performance today against Simone
Bolelli, and then immediately went on to observe how she never thought she'd be using that word in relation to Reeshard. Indeed.

It fits well with my earlier assertion that we are seeing a more resilient, headstrong
Reeshard this year. He seems at times almost less concerned with his standing in the game than coming through tough encounters (of which there have been quite a few this year).

He only just failed in a closely fought five set encounter against Gonzales in the Australian sun last month - but his attitudinal shift was evident even then. The heartening thing today is he made it through against
Bolelli in a tight three set match (two tie-breaks) which proved how far both men have come (see below re Bolelli).

The only thing I find a tad (
ok more than that) frustrating is his insistence on playing five metres behind the baseline. He also seems to be more than just a little affected by a sort of Counter-Punching Schizophrenia. You know, when players quite capable of taking the ball early and hitting through their opponents, suddenly start believing they are grinders. Andy Murray went through quite a bit of that pre Wimbledon last year.

Still, plenty to be hopeful of and look forward to me thinks.

Mohammed Ghareeb

He took Giles Simon to three sets yesterday and in doing so, displayed such natural ball striking ability (the pinnacle of which has to be the single handed backhand) and knack for knowing what the right shot is, that you were left wondering why he's ranked at such a lowly #469. He troubled Federer here three years ago after which Roger conceded: "[Ghareeb was] definitely the better player and I think only my experience helped me get through."
If that's what the standards like on the Futures tour, it really does underline the achievements of those who've broken through to the top of the game.

Flavio Cipolla

It was more his defensive backhand slice that caught my eye.
Djokovic was playing his usual aggressive firebrand baseline game, and Flavio seemed to be sucking it all up so effortlessly, I can't but imagine it got under Djoko's skin.

Simone Bolelli

This man has truly come on in leaps and bounds in a matter of months. That he didn't come through against Gasquet today ought not to be construed as any kind of shortcoming on his part. In fact, if anything he was the better player for large parts of the match, very much in keeping with his #36 ranking.

It's a far cry from his very questionable withdrawal against Andy Murray at Madrid last year, which seemed more like an effort at averting
embarrassment. And yes, he too has a quite exquisite single handed backhand.
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