11 Jul 2017

Geller staying in touch with reality and his dream

News Article

By Clive White

Photo: Susan MullaneAxel Geller (ARG)

WIMBLEDON: When Axel Geller won the warm-up event for junior Wimbledon at Roehampton last week a well known Argentine newspaper ran a story about him. Most 18-year-olds would have lapped it up but not Geller. He is more grounded than most and acknowledged the fact that he hasn’t won anything yet.

So the social networks that were bombarding him with goodwill messages from home were shut down and the boy from Buenos Aires focused on the here and now which on Tuesday was his second-round match against Danny Thomas, an American who had pushed him hard at Roehampton.  

“I woke up really, really tired and I was scared,” said the strapping young six-footer. So imagine his delight when he won his match 61 60 in just 33 minutes, the quickest match of the tournament to date. “Hopefully I can keep up the physical part – that’s what worries me the most right now. I’m tall but I’m not strong, I need to get stronger.”

Geller is living the dream, even if it is the junior version of it. Winning Wimbledon as a professional is all he has ever thought about since he was six when he would don all white tennis gear and pretend he was playing at the All England Club. “I love the tradition and everything,” he said.

Now he is actually here at the most famous tennis club in the world, playing in all white and doing very nicely thank you.

Actually, his fairy godmother has been granting his wishes left, right and centre of late because he has also got to hit with his favourite player, Juan Martin Del Potro.

“I practised with him before coming here twice – very nice,” he said. “I feel like it’s routine for him but for us to keep up with him it’s so demanding physically I was hitting, I remember, crosscourt forehands with him. His forehand is huge, he didn’t miss. I got so tired, my legs became so sore after 20 minutes, but the level was really, really high.

“I felt like I can play with him but physically he is so much more used to that level of play. That’s the difference between good pros and good juniors. I don’t think I could play a tournament of five-set matches yet.

“I like Delpo I think his game style is very similar to mine,” Geller said. “I try to copy him. Also, when he was younger, he used to have a very solid backhand just like I have but not that big of a forehand, that’s what I’ve been told. When I was about 12 or 13 my forehand wasn’t very big but now it’s becoming bigger so I’m trying to copy him and the way he moves to hit more forehands.”

Tennis was Geller’s choice but his parents were keen that he took up any sport because they thought that by doing so he would learn how to deal with defeat which would help him mature more quickly as an individual. He has been very happy to learn from his mistakes.

In April he decided to play in a challenger tournament in Sarasota and in the second round he was soundly beaten by Stefan Kozlov, whose professional career is already under way.

“He showed me how really good players play,” Geller said. “Clay is my worst surface by far and he showed me how pros can take advantage of things like that. Even though I’m from Argentina I prefer faster courts.”

Born on April Fool’s Day he may have been but Geller wisely he arrived in England early for this event and luckily got plenty of time on the grass courts at Raynes Park through a teammate whose father is friendly with a member of the All England Club.

Blake Ellis, a young Australian who is in the same half of the draw as Geller, is a bit of a throwback: he is a serve-and-volley player. The difference is that he an Australian serve-and-volley player who had never played on grass before he came to Wimbledon, which sounds like a contradiction in terms.

It’s hardly surprising that he is a protégé of Wayne Arthurs, who was one of the last true serve-and-volley players to grace the Tour. But the art we thought was dead is enjoying a bit of a revival of late for which Ellis credits Mischa Zverev, the German.

“Coming forward suits my style of play,” said the tall, lean 18-year-old. “I’ve been trying to implement that and volleyed reasonably well. The plan is to come into the net as much as I can. Misha Zverev has shown you can play like that and be competitive.”

Ellis’s second-round match against Alan Fernando Rubio Fierros, of Mexico, was halted by the rain on Tuesday with the Aussie leading 63 55.

The stats revealed a striking contrast in styles. Ellis’s serve-and-volley points won on first and second serve in the tournament are running at 60 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively. Rubio Fierros 6 per cent and 0 per cent.