Nick Bollettieri: Why is Novak Djokovic such a special player? - UBITENNIS
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Nick Bollettieri: Why is Novak Djokovic such a special player?

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TENNIS NICK BOLLETTIERI – Exclusively for Ubitennis Nick Bollettieri explains why the World Number One Novak Djokovic is such a special player, from his ground strokes to his diet.

As I travel the world representing the IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis Program, I am often asked who, in my opinion, is the best tennis player ever in the history of tennis. In this article I will not answer this question but will go on the line to describe who I believe is the most perfect tennis machine, similar to the F-18 Navy Fighter Jet.

Let me start out by saying there is never anything that is absolutely perfect. However, as I go back in time (60 years) and think about all of the players I’ve had the privilege of watching, I believe Novak’s overall game, including the mental and physical parts, may be as perfect as I’ve seen. I will explain why.

Forehand

His grip is a perfect semi western, and not an extreme western, which gives him the option to execute:

  • Drives (flat forehand)
  • Spin ( topspin) Angles
  • Swinging volleys

His swing pattern is very compact with excellent balance throughout the entire swing, including loading up on the back leg and then shifting his weight forward. He utilizes his non-hitting hand to balance his body and also as a pointing hand to the target area.

Backhand

His grip is made up of a strong eastern forehand for the top hand and a weak eastern (some would say continental) for the bottom hand. His bottom hand steadies the racquet enabling his upper hand (left hand) to do all of the work for the following shots:

  • Drive
  • Cross courts and down the lines with depth and spin
  • Fantastic disguise lobs
  • Angle spin shots
  • Deceptively good slices

Touch

Novak also has some of the very best drop shots and touch shots from both his forehand and backhand sides. He can also hit slices from both his forehand and backhand sides.

Serve

Novak’s serve is very effective. While he has good power, he also executes all variations of the serve. He can deliver well placed slices to both boxes, kick serves wide to the ad side, and can hit very offensive first serves. His service motion has excellent timing and balance plus a full use of his lower body. He lets the racquet head accelerate with the serving arm fully expended.

Overhead

Novak’s overhead is as good as it gets. His balance and form are superb as are his movement to any position to hit the overhead.

Swinging Volley

Novak’s swinging volley is as good as it gets from both sides.

Volley

Many people don’t realize it but Novak is an excellent volleyer. He is very comfortable at the net and can hit all variations of the volley. His footwork and balance are excellent. He has a very simple shoulder turn with very little backswing and redirects the ball with the opponent’s power.

Movement

Yes, Novak has great speed and can move in any direction but what makes him extraordinary is the balance and flexibility he exhibits from all positions on the court, even in incredibly awkward positions.

Stances

Novak can hit from all stances including the open, semi open, neutral, and even the closed stances. No matter what stance he hits from on his groundstrokes, at the same time he hits the ball he starts his RECOVERY MOVEMENT. By doing this he can reach the next ball a split second quicker and most of the time can control play, and even put his opponent into a defensive position, from a defensive position.

Return of Serve

Novak can return serve from any return position but most of the time he prefers to stand very close to the baseline and redirect the return using the speed of the serve. This position gets the return back very quickly immediately putting the server on the defensive. At times he will alter his position on the return causing the server to adjust his serving tactic resulting in a fault.

Sixth Sense

Novak’s anticipation is so good it makes you wonder if he has a sixth sense about where his opponent is directing the ball. He also has excellent vision. His eyes pick up the ball the split fraction of a second it leaves the opponent’s racquet like Andre Agassi. Only a few athletes in any sport can react and anticipate the way Novak is able to. His ability to know where the ball will be hit and ability to react so quickly is a gift from the Man Above.

Yes, I fully understand coaches tell their students if you hit the ball here, expect the ball to be returned there. Players like Novak, Nadal, and Federer, however, seem to have abilities that a coach cannot teach, when it comes to anticipation and split second reaction to the ball.

Physical and Nutrition

For several years players, coaches, and fans thought Novak didn’t train sufficiently because got tired so quickly and would react by trying to slow down play and attempting low percentage shots to end points quickly. How it happened I do not know, but after evaluations by medical experts, he discovered he had a problem with gluten which was causing him to have physical limitations while competing in physically demanding matches. A change then took place with his diet and he experienced much greater stamina and strength as a result. Now he can compete for many hours at the highest physical levels, and has in fact won some of the longest and most grueling matches played on the ATP Tour.

Personality

Novak has an engaging, fun loving, thoughtful, and honest personality that is very appealing and great for the game. He can entertain (I especially like his dance moves and imitations of other players) and thrill the audience. The fans know they are in for a show every time he steps onto the court. The Djokovic family has done a lot for tennis in Serbia. I was fortunate to be hosted by the family in Serbia during their ATP tournament as their guest. Their entire family was a delight for me to be with. I’ve also had the chance to work with Novak’s youngest brother, Djodje, on several occasions at IMG Academy – Bollettieri Tennis Program.

The Future

Novak has new responsibilities including a new wife and a new child. It will be very interesting to see how Novak handles these new pressures. My opinion is that he will be a fabulous father and will always be at or near the top of the game for the rest of his career. Oh yes, the newest addition to his coaching team, a former student of mine, Boris Becker, adds important tips here and there but never saying too much. You don’t want to change a champion. You look for the little things that can help and coaches know how to do that. Novak, the ATP Tour and tennis fans throughout the world hope you play for many years to come. Visit us at www.imgacademy.com.

 

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Nick Bollettieri: Go For Every Ball

Nick Bollettieri: What Makes Them Special


IMG Bollettieri Academy logo 2For Information on the Bollettieri Academy in Italy Contact Fiorella Bonfanti

Tel: +39 348 035 7450;

email: fbsports57@gmail.com

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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