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)



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.


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.


Alexander Zverev Deserves More Respect According To Boris Becker

According to Boris Becker, Alexander Zverev deserves more respect from tennis journalists.



Alexander Zverev (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Boris Becker has claimed that Alexander Zverev deserves more respect despite Zverev failing to live up to his potential at Grand Slams.


Zverev has only reached one Grand Slam final in his career despite being a regular inside the world’s top ten as well as performing at regular ATP events.

This season Zverev played a limited schedule after recovering from an ankle injury but still managed to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.

However most critics have been loud when judging Zverev’s career as it was looking likely that he would be a regular Grand Slam champion.

The German has failed to live up to expectations but former Grand Slam champion Boris Becker believes Zverev deserves more respect.

Speaking to Eurosport Becker also said that Zverev’s father being the coach is a more than successful approach when it comes to the former US Open finalist’s career, “In my opinion, he doesn’t get enough respect from the tennis experts internationally,” Becker explained.

“They’re all talking about the young three or four, but don’t give Zverev, Medvedev or Rublev enough respect. He’s playing with his fist in his pocket a little bit, wants everyone show that he is not a thing of the past, but that his best time is yet to come.

“Surely his father knows best what is good for his son, but if you look into the box at the competition, you can also see changes.”

Becker has followed Zverev for most of his career so knows that the best is yet to come from the German.

Alexander Zverev will look to prove himself next season when he starts his 2024 season when he represents Germany at the United Cup.

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Juan Carlos Ferrero Analyses Key Areas For Carlos Alcaraz’s Development

Juan Carlos Ferrero has outlined the next steps in Carlos Alcaraz’s development.



(@tennisnewsbrazil - Twitter)

Carlos Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero has analysed the key areas for the Spaniard’s development heading into the 2024 season.


The former world number one’s season has come to an end after a successful year which saw him win the Wimbledon title as well as winning two Masters 1000 titles.

Alcaraz capped off an incredible season by reaching the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.

However there is a long way for the Spaniard to go if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with Novak Djokovic.

Speaking to Marca Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero spoke about the Spaniard’s development and said that Alcaraz is too emotional, “Be more regular in games, not open doors. Sometimes there are mistakes and it is something that we have to improve a lot,” Ferrero commented.

“Although it is true that he opens doors, he always competes well and at the highest level. He knows it, the other day he already said that Novak doesn’t give you one. He has to improve his decision making and he will achieve that with experience. Carlos is very emotional and that sometimes helps him and other times not so much.”

It’s clear Alcaraz’s high-quality is there but to consistently do it against Djokovic is another task altogether as the Spaniard looks to go from strength-to strength next season.

One area that is clearly a priority for Alcaraz is physical conditioning especially considering what happened against Djokovic at Roland Garros earlier in the season.

Ferrero said that will be a clear focus heading into 2024 but couldn’t guarantee that Alcaraz will play a tournament before the Australian Open, “Because of the year and the fatigue he has been in, what he needs is rest and disconnecting for 8-10 days with his friends,” Ferrero stated.

“From there, the thinking must go back to working really hard, strong and well to start very strongly in Australia. One can never be sure of that. Sometimes you play a tournament and it doesn’t go well, you left home too early. There are many ways of thinking.

“This year we haven’t played Australia and he finishes number two. That means there is no urgency to play a tournament early. Carlos is a player who enters competition quickly, you don’t usually see him without rhythm.

“Although it is true that he becomes more dangerous from the round of 16, from the quarter-finals. I am confident that the two exhibition matches and the training sessions will help us play a good tournament.”

Alcaraz will be looking to play the Australian Open which starts on the 15th of January after the Spaniard missed last year’s tournament due to a leg injury.

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Australian Open Chief Confident Nadal Will Play But Kyrgios’ Participation Uncertain



Nadal RG 2022 by Night (foto @RolandGarros)

The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is ‘certain’ that Rafael Nadal will play at the Grand Slam even though the Spaniard has yet to outline his comeback plans. 


Craig Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday he hopes to receive some clarity over Nadal’s intentions in the next couple of weeks but is confident he will play. However, the tennis official had previously claimed in October that the former world No.1 had already committed to play in the event before his team denied that statement.  

Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that retirement next year is a possibility.

“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” the Reuters News Agency quoted Tiley as saying. 
“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.
“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”

Earlier this month Nadal confirmed that he intends to return to the Tour but admits that he will continue to experience a degree of pain. Although he has yet to give any information about which tournament he will begin his comeback at. The 2024 season begins during the first week of January.

“I’m well, training, and happy. I’m at a good stage of my life,” atptour.com quoted Nadal as telling reporters in Barcelona.
“Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.’

Will Kyrgios play?

Another player Tiley is eager to welcome back is home player and former Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios who has only played one Tour-level match this season due to injury. He underwent knee surgery in January and then tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer. As a result, the Australian currently doesn’t have an ATP ranking due to his inactivity. 

“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of Kyrgios.
“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …” 

Kyrgios recently worked as an analyst for the Tennis Channel during this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and gave a brief update on his ongoing recovery during a segment. 

“After last year, I had such a great year, and I’m so hungry to get back out there,” the 2022 Wimbledon finalist commented.
“So I’m doing everything I can to get back out there. Obviously, you know how injuries are every day, just doing the rehab, doing the gym work.”

The Australian Open will begin on Sunday 14th January. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka are the defending champions. 

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