Friday, 21 October 2016

Tennis: Players and their Skills

We have discussed about the shots in Tennis and who play them best. Let’s review the skills and who possess them better.

Mental Fortitude

Novak Djokovic

When it comes to the big matches of big tournaments, mental strength is the factor which majorly decides the outcome of the match. The player who is mentally more prepared and ready to withstand the pressure comes out on top. In recent years, Djokovic has proved to be the player to possess this trait and preserve it so beautifully. The absence of this characteristic from his game saw him lose many Slam finals but a renewed Djokovic came up loaded with it, with the Wimbledon 2014 Final the first evidence of such transition of the Serb’s game. 2015 saw Djokovic reaching all Slam finals and winning each but Roland Garros, with a Win-Loss record of 82-6.

In 53 best-of-3 set matches, Djokovic was taken the distance 13 times, with the Serb toppling his opponent 11 times. Overall, Djokovic lost only 5 such matches. The whole 2015, Djokovic lost only 3 matches in straight sets, all to the same player, Federer.

2016 so far has seen Djokovic reaching 3 Slam finals and winning 2 of those, with his Win-Loss record standing at 58-6. A dip in his mental strength resulted in a 3rd round loss at Wimbledon and a first round-exit at the Rio Olympics. But he backed up the losses by a final showing at the US Open, losing to Wawrinka in a tense four-hour battle.

Other contenders: Andy Murray

Defensive Skills

Andy Murray

Andy Murray’s defense is second to none. Till the moment the Scot is returning a ball irrespective of the course of the rally or the position of hitting, he is never out of the point.2012 US Open, 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon finals were perfect examples of the Scot’s strong defensive game.

His first Slam final came at the US Open in 2008 when he beat Rafa Nadal in the semis but lost to Federer in straight sets in the final. The foundation for the Scot’s defensive game was laid and he reached more Slam finals, but lost them all until his first victory at 2013 Wimbledon. The final saw Murray absorb everything Djokovic threw at him and in this year’s final at the AELTC, Murray completely neutralized the baseline attack from the Canadian Milos Raonic and thrashed him in straight sets.

Murray’s defensive skills make up for many highlight reels and earn him hot-shot honors.

Other contenders: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal 

Offensive Skills

Roger Federer

No one plays faster than Roger Federer. Finishing a service game in a minute or so is no big task for Federer. With the majority of players today rallying from the baseline and waiting for their opponent to commit errors, Federer is among the few to play at their own will and change the course of the rally anytime by their chip-charge or serve and volley combinations.

The most recent example of such game play from Federer was his fourth round match with Belgium’s David Goffin at the Australian Open this year. With the fast surface in Melbourne helping his cause, Federer dismantled the resilient Goffin in an hour and 30 minutes only.

When content, Federer serves precise and shortens up the points, putting the pressure right back on his opponent, who feels like he’s been serving all the time and the mountain becomes steeper to climb.

Other contenders: Milos Raonic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Turning Defense into Offense

Novak Djokovic

Defending a point is another task but turning the tables on your opponent by turning the defense into attack is not everyone’s cup of tea. Djokovic is one of the best defenders in the sport but the best when changing from a risk-free style to a fearless game play. The foundation of this attribute of the current World No.1 is completely laid on his supreme backhand. The Serb defends so well with his backhand but the same shot helps him transition to attack anytime in the rally. 

Other contenders: Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori

Focus on Crucial Points

Roger Federer

Talk about focus and it’s impossible not to mention Roger Federer’s name. One will hardly ever see Federer double faulting on break points or other important points. Even Nadal and Murray are not spared when it comes to serving or rallying on crucial points. Novak Djokovic must be considered the best player in this category considering his exploits in the last two years. But even Djokovic loses his focus often on crucial points, though he mostly recovers from those.

Federer’s focus helps him to race away with a lead and keep the constant pressure on his opponent. In recent years, the best such evidence of maintenance of focus was his Semi-final match against Andy Murray at the 2015 Wimbledon Championships. Federer won the contest 7-5,7-5,6-4. What was more intriguing was Federer’s focus during the entire contest. The Swiss faced only one break point the entire match and only in the first game. Even with a 15 minute 10th game in the second set going Murray’s way and many set points taken away, Federer didn’t let up in the next game and the pressure was still on. Murray lost each set while serving to stay in it, indicating the pressure increasing with each game

Other contenders: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal

Brutal Baseline Attack

Stan Wawrinka

Stan Wawrinka, on his day can beat any guy and on any surface. He has proved it with his 3 Slam titles coming in the last 3 years. The Swiss is quite an unpredictable player, with inconsistency as his biggest enemy. But when it comes to the big matches, the Swiss unleashes the Stanimal inside him and blows off every opponent off court. 

Stan’s game is mainly built on his strong baseline game and a lethal backhand to topple his opponent. Stan is the only player to beat all members of Big Four at Grand Slams, including 3 victories over Djokovic with the most recent being the US Open final, where his baseline game proved too much for a baffled Djokovic.

Other contenders: Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic

Never-Say-Die Attitude

Rafael Nadal

In past couple of years, a slip in Nadal’s form has raised the retirement rumors but the determined Spaniard has been keeping them at bay with some inspired performances but inconsistency due to injuries and health concerns have led to questions being asked continuously. The Spaniard hasn’t won a Slam since his historic victory at 2014 French Open. Indeed, that was the last final appearance by the Spaniardat any major. But even with many upsets, there were some performances in between which indicated the return of a resurgent Nadal(though the effort was short-lived). Nadal ended 2015 on a high, reaching semis in Shanghai (lost to Tsonga), final in Basel (l. to Federer), quarter-final in Paris (l. to Wawrinka) and a semi-final showing at the World Tour Finals (l. to Djokovic).

Nadal, after a poor showing in Melbourne (lost in 1st round), reached semis in Buenos Aires, Rio and Indian Wells. After retiring in his second-round match in Miami (against Dzumhur), Nadal returned with a bang and won in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, which were his backyards for so long. Nadal was unsure of his participation in the Rio Olympics due to his injury concerns which led to his withdrawals from French Open and Wimbledon. Nadal participated and reached the semis but lost to Del Potro and then in the Bronze Medal Match to Japan’s Kei Nishikori. Ever since Nadal hasn’t performed consistently but his determination and Never-say-die attitude will help him climb even more heights in future. 

Other contenders: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer

Written by Mayank Sharma
A third year Engineering student at Delhi Technological University. An avid tennis fan and a die hard fan of Roger Federer. Loves writing articles on Tennis and developing Web pages.

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