Thursday, 8 December 2016

Big Names but Under-Performers in Tennis?

A lot of names in Tennis have been unable to break the code; The code refers to make their presence felt at the big events – The Slams and the Masters 1000 tournaments. We talk about a few players in this category:

#1. Tomas Berdych

The Czech Sensation Tomas Berdych is a giant who doesn’t go down quietly.  He is one of only three players (other two being Tsonga and Wawrinka) to beat all members of Big Four at Grand Slam stage. Winner of 2005 Paris Masters, Berdych has been a semi-finalist at all Grand Slams and a finalist at Wimbledon in 2010, where he beat defending champion Federer in the quarters and Novak Djokovic in the semis. The Czech also reached quarter-final at 2004 Olympics and semi-final at the World Tour Finals in 2011.

What has disturbed Berdych is his inability to play against big players on big occasions on a consistent basis. In 2010 Wimbledon final, he lost to Rafael Nadal. At the 2012 US Open, Berdych reached the semi-finals (beat Federer in quarters) but lost to Andy Murray. Berdych was beaten in the semi-final by the eventual champion Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open in 2014. He stunned Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals in Melbourne in 2015 but went on to lose to Andy Murray in the semis. Berdych’s 2016 Melbourne campaign ended with a straight-sets loss to Federer in the quarterfinal. He exited Paris after losing to Novak Djokovic in straight-sets in the quarter-final. One more semi-final for the Czech at Wimbledon, but again Murray proved too much for him. 

Berdych’s serve has remained under threat in all these losses. His second-serve, which has been his weakest link has been put under scrutiny and attacked on with heavy force. Berdych has the off-season to work on his game and also the mental aspect of his game.

#2. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is one heck of a tennis player. From his power-packed forehands and crisp backhands to his crowd-entertaining skills, the Frenchman is a complete package for a tennis fan to enjoy. He has also beaten each member of the Big Four at Grand Slams. Tsonga has been a semi-finalist at all slams except the US Open and a finalist in Melbourne in 2008. He was also a finalist at the World Tour Finals in 2011. 

Tsonga’s breakthrough Slam was the Australian Open in 2008, when he beat Rafael Nadal in the semis but lost to Novak Djokovic in the final in four sets. Tsonga won his first Masters title at the Paris Masters in 2008. In Melbourne in 2010, Tsonga beat Djokovic in a five-set quarterfinal but lost to Federer in the semis. At Wimbledon in 2011,in one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the sport, Tsonga beat Federer coming from two sets down in front of a capacity-packed centre court to reach the semi-final but lost to Djokovic in four sets. At the World Tour finals in the same year, he beat Nadal and Mardy Fish in the round-robin stage and later defeated Berdych to setup Federer final. But Federer outlasted him in a classic marathon match. 

In 2014 Rogers Cup, Tsonga beat Djokovic in the third round, Murray in the quarter-final and Federer in the final to claim his second Masters 1000 title. Tsonga reached semi-final at Roland Garros in 2015 but lost to eventual champion Wawrinka. At the All England Club in 2016, Tsonga lost to Murray in the quarterfinals in five sets. 

The underlying reason for Tsonga’s big-match inefficiency and lack of consistency is his backhand, which has failed big-time in these matches. His second-serve also has added to his concerns when it comes to such big matches.

#3. David Ferrer

34-year old Spaniard David Ferrer is in the twilight years of his career. One thing the Spaniard may not express, but would lament on his inability to win a Grand Slam ever. World No. 3 in 2013, Ferrer now stands at 21 in the men’s rankings. The Spaniard has reached semi-final multiple times at the Australian Open and US Open and also final of the French Open in 2013. He also reached final at the season-ending finale in 2007. 

Ferrer’s breakthrough season was 2007. Ferrer reached the US Open semis, beating David Nalbandian and Rafael Nadal in the process. Though he lost the semi-final to Novak Djokovic, he followed up with a title in Tokyo. At the season-ending finale, he beat Djokovic, Nadal and Gasquet in round-robin matches. Then he beat Andy Roddick in the semis but lost to Federer in the final. 

Ferrer landed his first Masters 1000 title in Paris in 2012, beating Tsonga, Llodra and Janowicz in the last 3 matches. Ferrer reached his first Grand Slam final at the French Open in 2013, but was completely over-powered by Nadal. Ferrer lost all his matches at the World Tour finals in 2013, but ended the year at No.3. Ferrer reached Cincinnati final in 2014, but lost in three sets to Federer. 2016 was also a disappointing year for the Spaniard as he lost in the quarter-final to Murray at the Australian Open, then lost to Berdych at the French Open, followed by a second-round loss to Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon. 

Ferrer’s game is enough strong to disturb an opponent, but not enough to outlast him. Ferrer’s serve – both first and second have been his weakest links. Inability to earn free points on serve and also playing defensive tennis at times leads to him being cornered.

All these players have failed to perform on big-time occasions but they still have off-seasons to improve their game and come better the next season.

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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