A 2014 ATP shot guide: Part 2 (Return of Serve, Backhand and Slice Backhand) - UBITENNIS
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A 2014 ATP shot guide: Part 2 (Return of Serve, Backhand and Slice Backhand)

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TENNIS ATP SHOT GUIDE – With Novak Djokovic winning the ATP Finals and Switzerland clinching their first Davis Cup the men’s season is over for 2014. Before the new season starts, at Ubitennis.com we decided to look back and select the best shots and other fundamentals of the 2014 season.

With Novak Djokovic winning the ATP Finals and Switzerland clinching their first Davis Cup the men’s season is over for 2014. For the start of the 2015 season tennis fans will have to wait a bit more than a month as the players first rest and then they train for the new year.

Before the new season starts, at Ubitennis.com we decided to look back and select the best shots and other fundamentals of the 2014 season. We will look at the serve, forehand, backhand, slice, volleys, passing shots, footwork, mental toughness, overall aggressiveness, overall defence and all good but no excellence. This week we will examine the backhand, the slice backhand and the return of serve

Click here for Part 1: (Serve and Forehand)

Return of Serve

1) Novak Djokovic: the world number one has cat like reflexes and he also seems to be able to read the opponents serve. Combine those qualities with his shot making qualities and you get the best returner on tour. In 2014 he has won 33% of 1st serve returns, 58% of 2nd serve returns and in the entire season he has won 33% of return games (287 out of 862).

2) Rafael Nadal: the Majorcan has an excellent return. Unlike Djokovic, most of his returns are not winners, but they enable Nadal to take control of the following rally. Stats wise he has performed even better than Djokovic, 35% of 1st serve points won, 56% of 2nd serve points won and 35% of return games won, but the Spaniard missed the entire summer swing on hard courts and most of the indoor season, which are favourable to servers unlike clay.

3) Andy Murray: this has not been an easy season for the British player, but one aspect of Murray’s game that hasn’t suffered too much from the back operation is the return of serve. The 2013 Wimbledon Champion has struggled with his serve, but he has been able to recover thanks to his excellent returning skills. In the year Murray has won 33% of 1st serve return points, 55% of 2nd serve return points and he has won 32% of return games played (303 out of 951 games).

Kei Nishikori by Art Seitz

Kei Nishikori by Art Seitz

4) Kei Nishikori: the US Open finalist is one of the best returners on tour and he has to be to compensate for his weakness on serve. Nishikori is capable of producing winners on return even with his feet close or on to the base line. He continuously tries to anticipate the shot, a tactic that pays off especially when returning the second serve. On 1st serve returns he 15th on the ATP Match Facts list with 30% of points won whilst on the 2nd serve returns he is 6th with 53%. Nishikori has won 28% of return games played in 2014 (232 out of 842).

5) David Ferrer: hard working David is in this list in 5th place because of the stats more than technique or overall quality of his return. Ferrer does not have a deadly return of serve and he does not get too many winners when facing a serve, but he gets breaks. In 2014 he is 2nd in the ATP Match Fact list of 1st serve returns (34%), 3rd with his 2nd serve return (56%) and he has broken serve 309 times out of 941 return games (33%) placing him third on the list behind Nadal and Djokovic.

Backhand

1) Novak Djokovic: the World Number One has the best backhand around. As an offensive weapon it isn’t as deadly as Wawrinka’s backhand, but unlike the Swiss, Djokovic can also defend effectively on his left side. The Serb can play any type of backhand, including a one-handed slice, and he can defend and attack equally with this shot. He is also more consistent on his left side than his right.

WAWRINKA_GREAT_BACKHAND_SCOREBOARD_WIMB2014_ART_SEITZ2) Stan Wawrinka: as an offensive weapon and as far as style goes, the Swiss has the best backhand on tour. The angles and the speed that he is able to find with his backhand have been unmatched this year on tour. The only reason why I can’t consider his backhand the best around is that Wawrinka struggles when defending with his backhand and he lacks the variety of shots that Djokovic can produce.

3) Kei Nishikori: this season the Japanese player had a fantastic year reaching his first finals in a Slam and a Master 1000 as well as qualifying for the ATP Finals. A large part of his success comes down to his backhand, particularly when played down-the-line. Playing with his feet firmly on the baseline, Nishikori is able to take control or end rallies with his backhand and he can pass effectively as well when attacked.

4) Andy Murray: even if the Scot has struggled to find his best form this year, we have seen glimpses of his formidable backhand, particularly after the US Open. It remains his most solid shot that he rarely makes mistakes with. He can play it top spin, slice, whilst defending or attacking, even when he reverts to playing a couple of meters behind the base line.

5) Ernests Gulbis: there were many candidates for this fifth spot, from Kohlschreiber to Federer, but I opted for the Latvian who had an excellent season. Gulbis has found a way to improve his forehand with the “unlikely” left arm movement, but his shot of choice remains the backhand. With his double-handed left side shot the Latvian has won many of his points, only his serve has been more prolific.

Slice backhand

1) Roger Federer: the Swiss’ backhand can be considered his weakness, but when he is able, and willing, to play the slice it is a different story. When he is defending this shot allows Federer to gain some time and and when attacking he can surprise his opponents with drop-shots or with long gliding shots that give him the time to get to the net comfortably. As he is able to mask this shot, his opponents are always unsure whether to sprint forwards for the short ball or hang back for the “chip & charge” movement.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

2) Andy Murray: the 2013 Wimbledon Champion has an excellent two-handed backhand and an amazing one-handed slice. Murray uses this shot to defend and to vary the rhythm of the rallies to good effect. Probably only Federer uses the slice more productively on tour.

3) Novak Djokovic: like all two-handed backhand players, also the world number one does not hit this shot very often, but when he does it is to great effect. Djokovic is, probably, the best defender on tour and when he is chasing down the ball on his left side he often uses the back-spin to gain some time and keep the ball in play. He uses this shot also to make some drop-shots that are difficult to read for the opponent and often hardly bounce.

Grigor Dimitrov by Fabrizio Maccani

Grigor Dimitrov by Fabrizio Maccani

4) Grigor Dimitrov: not to insist on the misplaced nickname of “baby Fed”, but it is true that the one-handed backhand of the Bulgarian has a lot of similarities with Federer’s backhand. It isn’t as effective as the Swiss’ shot, but the slice has been a saviour for him to get out trouble on several occasions this year.

5) Alexandr Dolgopolov: the Ukrainian is easily the most unpredictable player on tour to the point the often he does not even know what he is going to do next. A lot of his “madness” is enabled by the ease with which he spins the ball with his backhand. What makes this shot so difficult to handle for his opponents is the amount of side-spin that Dolgopolov is able to give the ball.

ATP

Roland Garros 2024: Rafael Nadal Faces Alexander Zverev In Blockbuster Opening Round

Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev will meet at Roland Garros in the first round with Andy Murray taking on Stan Wawrinka in the opening round.

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Rafael Nadal has been drawn against Rome champion Alexander Zverev in the opening round of Roland Garros.

The 14-time Roland Garros champion will most likely be making his last appearance at the event where he has such a great history at.

It’s been a mixed clay court season for Nadal who built gradual momentum in Madrid but suffered an early exit in Rome to Hubert Hurkacz.

Now the Spaniard has been drawn to take on the champion of Rome, Alexander Zverev, in the opening round.

The match is a repeat of the 2022 semi-final where Zverev broke his ankle losing almost a year of his career.

This contest headlines the second quarter of the draw which also features Karen Khachanov, Holger Rune and Daniil Medvedev.

In the other quarter of the top half of the draw, defending champion Novak Djokovic will begin his Roland Garros campaign against Pierre-Hughes Herbert.

There is also a potential third round clash with either Gael Monfils or Lorenzo Musetti for Djokovic, who is currently in Geneva gaining extra match practice ahead of the second Grand Slam of the season.

The Serb could have a repeat of last year’s final in the quarter-finals with Casper Ruud as the Norwegian begins his campaign against Jakub Mensik.

In the bottom half of the draw Jannik Sinner plays his first tournament since suffering a hip injury in Rome as he takes on Christopher Eubanks in the opening round.

Sinner could face Cameron Norrie in the third round with the Brit taking on Pavel Kotov in his opening round before playing the winner of the battle of the Grand Slam champions between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

Murray and Wawrinka will clash for the fourth time at Roland Garros with Wawrinka leading their head-to-head 2-1 in Paris.

This section also includes in-form players such as Hubert Hurkacz, Alejandro Tabilo and Rome finalist Nicolas Jarry.

Finally Carlos Alcaraz will begin his Roland Garros campaign against a qualifier before potentially playing Jack Draper in the second round.

Another exciting clash awaits Alcaraz in the third round in the form of Sebastian Korda with Andrey Rublev or Stefanos Tsitsipas being potential quarter-final opponents.

This is the full draw with Roland Garros beginning on Sunday.

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Alexander Zverev Secures Return To Top Four After Winning Italian Open

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Alexander Zverev has clinched his first Masters title since 2021 after downing Nicolas Jarry in straight sets at the Italian Open.

The world No.5 surged to a 6-4,7-5, victory at the Faro Italico to become the 10th player in the Open Era to win the Rome trophy on multiple occasions. He also won the tournament in 2017. Zverev’s latest win was aided by an impressive service display from the 27-year-old who also hit 15 winners against eight unforced errors. He is now 22-1 against players ranked outside the top five at the tournament with his only loss being to Matteo Berrettini five years ago.

“It means a lot. Winning my first (Masters) title and winning my first after my injury in Rome. Rome is a very special place for me,” the new champion said afterwards. 
“I said at the beginning of the week if Rome is the place of firsts for me I’m extremely happy about it. It’s a very special week.” 

Playing in his first Masters 1000 final since 2022, Zverev produced a serving masterclass throughout the opening set with the German winning 20 out of 21 points. In contrast, Jarry experienced more difficult but valiantly fought back with the Chilean saving two straight break points at 4-4. Eventually, the third seed sealed the opener two games later with the help of some costly shots coming from across the court. A deep shot towards the baseline was unsuccessfully returned by Jarry, handing Zverev a set point which he converted.

Continuing to pile the pressure on in the second set, Zverev had a double chance to break for a 3-1 lead but failed to capitalise on that opportunity. The opportunities continued to come and go. Back-to-back double faults from Jarry at 4-5 handed Zverev two championship points but once again he failed to take advantage. Eventually, he sealed victory two games later with the help of a forehand shot that Jarry returned out. Prompting Zverev to raise his hands in delight before later paying tribute to his rival. 

“He’s playing huge. You can see that by the opponents he beat and how he beat them,” he said of Jarry. 
“I told him if he continues playing like that he is going to have many more chances. I’m happy to be the winner.”

As a result of his Rome triumph, Zverev has secured a top-four seeding for the French Open. On Monday he will rise in the PIF ATP rankings to No.4 which will be his highest position since August 2022. During that same year, he sustained a serious ankle injury which sidelined him for months. 

“The focus is on Paris, that’s for sure. but let me enjoy this one for a day or so and then I will have my full focus on Paris,” said Zverev.

Zverev has now won six Masters 1000 titles which places him in joint-ninth on the all-time list along with Daniil Medvedev. 

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Novak Djokovic Accepts Geneva Wildcard Ahead Of Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic has accepted a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 event in Geneva as he looks to improve his form ahead of Roland Garros.

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Novak Djokovic has shockingly accepted a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 event in Geneva.

The world number one hasn’t had the best season so far having yet to reach a final at any of his events this season.

There was hope for Djokovic that his fortunes would change on clay and the Serb started his clay court season by reaching the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo before losing to Casper Ruud.

However Djokovic’s clay court hopes were dashed in Rome as he lost in the third round to in-form Chilean Alejandro Tabilo.

This has meant that Djokovic risks being undercooked for the second Grand Slam of the season at Roland Garros.

Therefore the Serb has had no option but to take a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 in Geneva.

Djokovic will join Casper Ruud, Andy Murray, Denis Shapovalov and Taylor Fritz in next week’s event.

Next week’s appearance will be the first appearance in Geneva in Djokovic who will be the top seed in Switzerland.

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