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.

 

Nick Bollettieri: Do not copy their strokes but learn how they play the game

Nick Bollettieri: The International Tennis Hall of Fame Experience

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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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Frances Tiafoe And Jack Sock Ready To Rain On Federer’s Parade At Laver Cup

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Frances Tiafoe describes his first match at this year’s Laver Cup as ‘iconic’ but he is determined to seal victory with doubles partner Jack Sock. 

 

Tiafoe, who reached the semi-finals of the US Open earlier this month, will feature in what will be the final match of Roger Federer’s illustrious career. The Swiss maestro has announced that the team competition will be the last event he will play before retiring from the sport at the age of 41. Federer will partner up with long-time rival Rafael Nadal in what promises to be an emotional encounter for all involved on Friday evening. 

“It’s going to be iconic to be part of that,” Tiafoe told reporters in London. “Both guys are absolute legends, and obviously Roger’s last dance. We are definitely just out there trying to get a win.”

Looking at the wider picture, Tiafoe knows a win in the doubles could prove vital in team World’s bid to win the Laver Cup for the first time in history. Whilst on paper his achievements are overshadowed by those he faces, his current form gives him the edge. Federer hasn’t played a match since Wimbledon last year due to a knee injury. Furthermore, Nadal is still trying to get back to his best shape following an abdominal injury and was beaten by Tiafoe at the US Open. 

“This is a special night. I just think me and Jack are just looking for a special night, come out there, have fun,” he continued. “The crowd is obviously going to be for them. You understand that kind of moment, and just go out there and do your part and just try to get a win. It’s going to be a special night tomorrow. I’m just happy I get the opportunity to do it with Jack.”

Sock, who has won three Grand Slam titles during his career, echoes Tiafoe’s desire to seal victory over the two tennis giants. 

“I’m just stoked to be a part of it with my guy Foe (Tiafoe),” he said. 
“We will go out and enjoy the moment, but not going to hold anything back. Sorry, Roger. Don’t want to spoil the night.”

Federer’s final match at The O2 Arena in London is set to take place in front of a sellout crowd. Following his retirement announcement, ticket sales for the three-day event have exploded. Ace Odds have reported a 4020% rise in demand for tickets with prices starting from £900. An extraordinary outcome considering the most expensive ticket for the Laver Cup was originally £510. 

The doubles match involving Federer, Nadal, Tiafoe and Sock is estimated to start around 20:20 BST on Friday. 

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