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Second Serve - A Tennis Now Blog

Second Serve


Greetings, once again.

One thing I forgot to mention in my last post was the infamous London fog, which hid the city when I flew in. I didn't realize how bad it was until this morning.

My hotel is about a 15 minute walk from the O2 Arena, which is close enough to have the horizon dominated by the gargantuan structure.

But this morning, the only thing I could see was a thick white haze.

Now you might be thinking “Sure James, but surely you've seen fog before.” But it was bad enough that Tennis Now photographer Andy Kentla and I walked past the arena, which is enormous by the way, before I realized we missed our turn.

Fortunately, we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there before any of the matches started.

The day at the tournament started with watching Roger Federer practice in the O2 Arena's stadium court.

An aside about the stadium: it feels like a perfect tennis venue. No matter where you are, you will have a great view of the court. During a match, the place has a surreal energy to it that's hard to describe, and the overhead lighting works to draw your complete attention to the match.

In fact, the whole setup makes the match even more interesting because the court feels like a stage in a modern Victorian theater. Any person who cares about the sport should consider visiting the tournament, because it's something that needs to be experience.

Back to Federer, for being such a serious competitor, Roger looks as if he isn't taking his practices seriously because he is so relaxed.

He'll shank backhands into the net, attempt audacious between the leg shots on what seem like routine balls, and move at a generally leisurely pace.

But it's obvious he's working on the small bits of technique that make a good shot great, and he's having a good time while he does it.

It's certainly a stark contrast to Rafael Nadal, as he pulverized every shot in his practice session before his match against Mardy Fish.

Speaking of the Spaniard, he seemed less than happy about how he was serving as, from a distance, looked as if he was grousing to his uncle and coach, Toni.

Despite his apparent moodiness, he still exchanged a friendly handshake with Fish before signing autographs for some fans.

Earlier in the day, Novak Djokovic hit the practice court located close to the sponsor centre. The court itself is unusual because it really looks like it doesn't belong there, as it's just down a very widely used alleyway that is flanked by coffee shops and fine restaurants.

The advantage is that it's a great place to hang out if you like watching the players practice, and Djokovic did a good job of entertaining them.

He and practice partner Nicolas Almagro (and their respective camps) played a fairly lengthy soccer match on half of the court, with the goals being a pair of chairs on either end.

Between the two, Almagro displayed an impressive amount of ball control and flair. He also scored the first goal. Meanwhile, Djokovic showed a real knack for tackling and defending.

It was obvious the fans and the players had a good time at it,and it made me think about a different era in tennis when the game's top players would have nothing to do with each other.

But here in London, sights like the one I described are fairly common and they're good to see because they do the sport oodles of good.

Later in the afternoon, Roger Federer defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in three sets. Both men visited the Media Centre's press room, which has a considerable number of chairs as well as a considerably creaky floor.

Even if the floor is creaky, the set up for the media is incredible. I got the full experience earlier today when I went into the media dining room and was given about 35 pounds of pasta and bread. There's also a permanent supply of coffee and tea available, which is quite nice (and necessary).

With all that said, stay tuned to Tennis Now (and this blog!) to see more practice photos and videos.

Sometime later in the week, I'll talk about all the diversions that can be found at the O2 Arena, and Tennis Now will continue bringing you coverage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Until then, enjoy the tennis.