The Shanghai Masters final assured me once again how it is vital to use your head when playing top tennis. In the nearest future smart play will become the trend and the most tactically skillful athletes as Gilles Simon, Roberto Bautista-Agut and Kei Nishikori will dominate on court.
All the three practice smart play. We omit an all-court genius Djokovic who boasts clear mind and strong will and want to speak about those guys whose main plus side is the understanding of the opponent’s strategy or his blind sides.
Most of the players in the top 50 or even top 100 can perform well the definite set of tools, for example, the serve and the forehand. Others are used to running around a ball on their backhand side in order to hit a forehand cross-court. Some players, Rafa Nadal for example, win points by throwing their competitor from side to side. So you see. The players drill the combinations which are more suitable for their tennis style.
But the guys mentioned above are poorly endowed by nature. They have neither big height, nor strong complexion. So, as Gilles Simon stressed in his interview, in order to achieve good results, they had to make something up. And fortunately they have keen mind to accomplish this.
The recent match between Simon and Lopes is a good example here. Simon just served to the Spaniard’s right side (the backhand for the lefty) and Lopes hit one ball after another out or to the net. Here we have to deviate from the main subject to say that the lefties are in advantage. The majority of players drill the shots to their opponent’s backhand (in case of the righty), but if you face the lefty you’ll get to his forehand side. We’ve already talked about it in another article. So the absolute majority of players can’t get the simple idea that when you play a lefty you have to hit to his right. Why don’t they do this???
How to play a lefty
There is a popular opinion that a lefty would kill his right-handed competitor by cross-courts exchange, where the righty usually performs backhand crosses. But from this position it’s very tough to hit backhand shots down the line, as this is one of the most difficult elements in today’s tennis. This argument poses the following question in my head: why not to develop a short-angle shot to make a secure reply? By doing this, you would reduce the tempo of the play and get the ball to your comfortable forehand. Most of the players can’t answer to this proposal. Maybe most of them have drilled this combination on their trainings and when on court they are sure that they would beat the opponent. As a result, most of the athletes are not ready to adjust their tennis plan to neutralize the left-handed opponent’s advantages. Only really smart players can do that. The only thing is that there are few of them in men’s tour…very few.
When you have to play the opponents who rely mainly on their power and strength such as Tsonga, Wawrinka or Gulbis, it’s quite a different story. It’s useless to apply powerful and sharp-angled shots against them. All you have to do is to return their serves and play efficient combinations to hit low balls. In this case whoever is on the other side of the court if he is of big height he’ll find it difficult to return low bouncing balls. Oddly enough, but the majority of players use power trying to prevail over these physically strong guys which is completely wrong.
There are a lot of such aspects, some of them are typical of one definite group of players (tennis of power, for instance), others are merely individual (Berdych psychological issues or poor backhand of Roger Federer). Almost every player has his own Achilles’ hill. The only exceptions are probably Djokovic and Nadal. All the rest have some drawbacks which have to be considered. But only a few take their time to analyze his opponent’s shortcomings.
The Shanghai Master final: Gilles Simon – Roger Federer
Simon showed brilliant tennis in the Shanghai final battle. We admired his smart play very much. He shot deep balls to the Swiss forehand and backhand. Roger couldn’t reply anything and had to defend all the time. But for his leg strain, the French male would win that Masters.
Also it’s worth recalling the model games of Nishikori against Stan Wawrinka in the USA or against Tsonga. The Japanese also keeps the leading record against Tomas Berdych, although the Czech is more physically given than the Japanese. The same can be said about Roberto Bautista. Although the Spaniard has nothing to boast of at the moment, we are sure that the things will change soon. As he can easily prevail over any representative of the American school.
Intelligent tennis of Tommy Robredo and Roger Federer
Have a look at Robredo’s tennis! It’s so well built! We respect him for his clear mind. The Spaniard spends no time and efforts to hit trifle and stupid strokes. When he gets in a difficult situation, he hits a half lob to the baseline or a slice to stop the attack and get back into a comfortable position. The decision is very simple, but most of the players, especially young guns, would hit a counterattacking shot in the same situation and make a mistake. Why? We have no answer.
Now give a thought to Roger Federer. He is known for his powerful tennis and exceptional shot making, but what is more important Roger possesses a very deep comprehension of his play. He “reads” any opponent he’s facing. And it’s all due to his play vision and his ability to stay one step ahead that made him an all-court genius. Neither his accurate and high speedy serve, nor his great forehand contributed to his domination. If you stay at least one step ahead of your opponent it means that you know for sure the point where the ball would bounce in a second. Moreover, Roger feels the play. There are some rare situations when a player misses a shot and played short. Such balls are very tricky as they give no chance for attack or for passing shot from it. The only possible way out is to hit it back to the opposite side of the court. Federer knows it well and so he approaches the net in order to get a passing shot and consequently wins a point. While the rest of the players would ignore such beneficial situations as they haven’t drilled them. And the decision is to be made in a split second. Roger sums up the situation in a glance. No one can do it better.
To sum it up, we want to say that some months before we believed that tennis would get more and more powerful with such athletes dominating as Jerzy Janowicz (booming serve and powerful shots from the back of the court). And such players have appeared on the horizon: Kokinakkis, Mate Delic, whose tennis prospects we’ve already outlined for you. The trick is that employing powerful tennis they need less time to start gaining good results than the all-court competitors, but nevertheless the future in tennis belongs to all-round players. Believe my word.
Of course, it’s not that easy to play correctly against all players in tour. No matter how smart you are, only spotless technique and solid serve can ensure you winning outcomes. Take Raonic vs Simon match in Tokyo. Gilles with his poor serve got one shootout after another.
And of course injuries issue. Kei Nishikori is already known being as fragile as the glass. Gilles Simon is also very prone to traumas. The reason is that their bodies lack the necessary degree of strength.
But as soon as they are fit, they become very hazardous! Take care!
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