A 2014 ATP shot guide: Part 4 (Footwork and Overall Defensive Skills) - UBITENNIS
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A 2014 ATP shot guide: Part 4 (Footwork and Overall Defensive Skills)

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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 footwork and the overall defensive skills of the players.

Click here for Part 1: (Serve and Forehand)

Click here for Part 2: (Return of Serve, Backhand and Slice Backhand)

Click here for part 3: (Volleys and Passing Shots)

Footwork

This has always been a very important aspect of the game, but lately it has become even more relevant considering that tennis has become more physical and the courts slower. Good footwork allows a player to move rapidly on the court with the least effort possible, but it also gives the player balance at the moment of impact with the ball which translates in more options for that shot. Reaching the ball in time and well balanced allows players to transform defence into attack and to move as fast as possible once the ball is returned.

http://youtu.be/wCGTd1_qP9g

1) Novak Djokovic: Footwork and coordination are the aspects of the game where Nole’s body gives him a competitive advantage over the rest of the field. Djokovic reaches every corner of the tennis court with ease and he is rarely out of balance. The Serb has great control over his body shown by the ease he has in sliding on hard courts as if they were clay courts.

2) Rafael Nadal: the Majorcan has outstanding footwork which comes through mainly when he is defending or when he runs around the ball to hit his left-handed forehand from the right. Without rapid and coordinated footwork Nadal would not be able to explode the inside-out forehand which is his major offensive weapon.

3) Roger Federer: because the Swiss hardly ever plays on defence his footwork is often overlooked, but if you are lucky enough to see him live you notice how he effortlessly glides along the baseline. Federer plays tennis with his feet close to the baseline and to do so he has to be quick with his feet to find the perfect place to let his shots rip. Without this skill Federer would not be able to play with his feet on the baseline.

Kei Nishikori by Art Seitz

Kei Nishikori by Art Seitz

4) Kei Nishikori: also the Japanese player needs footwork to play his game. Nishikori stands close to the baseline and quick feet are necessary to get to the ball in time and well coordinated to hit the ball just off the bounce.

5) Andy Murray: the Brit has excellent footwork, but unlike the others on this list, he doesn’t seem to take advantage of this aspect of the game as much as the other four players. Murray is effective when playing at the back and at the net because of his quick and well placed feet that always keep him balanced for his ground strokes. This season Murray hasn’t moved as well as the previous years and it showed.

Overall Defensive Skills

Defence has become the way to play in the ATP Tour over the last decade or two. New materials and slower courts have made attacking more difficult whilst forcing the opponent to attempt one more winner seems to be the way to achieve success on the men’s circuit. 20 or 30 years ago there were baseline defenders, baseline attackers and serve and volley players, now the latter have all but disappeared and the defenders are the majority.

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1) Novak Djokovic: for this category there are two players that stand out from the pack, they are Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The Serb is the master of defence and he sits above the Spaniard on the list as his defensive skills work well on all surfaces. On hard-courts and grass he is the best defender on tour, on clay he is second behind Rafa. To make a winner against Nole a player must take some ridiculous risks, otherwise the ball is likely to come back and more often than not it isn’t simply a defensive lob, but it’s a dangerous ball that can cause problems.

2) Rafael Nadal: the nine times Roland Garros champion is second on the list, but on clay he is the best. Nadal has learned how to slide on clay to great effect, on other surfaces he isn’t as sharp. The defensive skills of the Spaniard are impressive just like the Serb’s, but unlike the world number one, Nadal isn’t as good at transforming defence into attack.

3) David Ferrer: the player from Valencia built his impressive career on defending and waiting for the opponent to make a mistake. Ferrer is one of the fittest players on tour and to win a rally against him a player must play perfectly, aiming for the lines otherwise Ferru will hunt the ball down and it will come back across the net. With time Ferrer has been very good in improving his attacking game, but his success is based on chasing balls at the back of the court.

Andy Murray by Art Seitz

Andy Murray by Art Seitz

4) Andy Murray: this is a skill at which the Scot excels, but it has also been a limit. Murray is very good at defending, he is capable of running down the best of shots to return the ball, but it has also been a a limit. The Brit has the offensive skills to take control of rallies and matches, but he often sits back to defend waiting for the opponent to make a mistake. Defending is a skill Murray is good at, but too often this strength turns into a weakness as it stops him from taking the game by the scruff of the neck.

5) Gilles Simon: the French player is one of the most annoying players to face on tour if you are an offensive player. Simon has to play defensively because he lacks the punch to try and reach success through winners. His ability to move rapidly combined with his ability to read opponents shots early make him a very difficult player to break down, especially because he is a master at the art of counter punching.

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Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman

The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.

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Diego Schwartzman (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired. 

 

The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona. 

Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori. 

“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”

The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas. 

Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33. 

“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said. 
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”

The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match. 

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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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