Our current theme across Academy training is 'Tough to beat', and in this we are paying particular attention to developing the second serve and our ability to play smart defence, not so much the desperate dark-gray 'make one more ball and hope your opponent misses' defence, but a lighter shade of grey defence that explores using the loopier down the line ball to the opponent's backhand (for right handers) as a form of neutralising. Being 'tough to beat' relies on a mentality of being comfortable with the ball in play, being 'honest' in your shot-making, especially when changing directions.Simon Barnes wrote of the Times on Monday of Alastair Cook: 'After eight hours and 25 minutes of play, he was still there and had scored 168 runs at the end of the fourth day. (This referring to England's recent test match against India) And scarcely a single one of those runs sticks in the mind as anything special. What was special was the totality, the concept, the delivery.',
For me, this defines what we have worked on these last few weeks. Competing for every ball, playing each one with a specific purpose, tough and smart in defence, comfortable with the ball in play, honest. But the real key is coming through a match and taking delight in the fact, that as you look back over it, you can't remember a single stunning stroke but know that you have come away as a better 'player of the game' rather than a 'hitter of the ball'.
No better 'player of the game', no-one tougher to beat than the current world number 1.