A 2014 ATP shot guide: Part 5 (aggression, toughness and completeness with no excellence) - UBITENNIS
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A 2014 ATP shot guide: Part 5 (aggression, toughness and completeness with no excellence)

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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. In this last article for this series we will examine the aggression on court, the mental toughness and the category of completeness with no excellence

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)

Click here for Part 4: (Footwork and Overall Defensive Skills)

Aggressiveness on Court

This category is about the search for winners. It isn’t about violence or about how much power a player can transmit to the ball when looking for a winner. It is about the attitude on court and how often does the player look to end the rallies at the first opportunity.

http://youtu.be/KqTPzrAGEAA

1) Tomas Berdych: the Czech is constantly looking to let his excellent ground strokes loose. His forehand and backhand are some of the best shots around. Berdych generally like to control rallies as his defensive skills are not the best, but with such clean, precise and powerful groundstrokes why should he defend?

2) Milos Raonic: such a tall man has no other option but to be aggressive on court. At 196cm tall, Raonic is aggressive with both serves and when the ball does come back over the net he is almost certainly going to look for the winner, preferably with the forehand. Even when defending the Canadian tries to avoid long rallies and will let his arm loose as soon as an opportunity arises.

Feliciano Lopez at Eastbourne by Giulio Gasparin

Feliciano Lopez at Eastbourne by Giulio Gasparin

3) Feliciano Lopez: the difference between him and the other four in this category is that his aggression does not express itself in terms of power, but in terms of net approaches and volleys. Lopez is a former serve & volley player who has toned down his tendency to go to the net to try and be more competitive and looking at the results it’s mission accomplished. The Spaniard will take any half opportunity to get to the net and end the points with a volley or a smash.

4) Fernando Verdasco: the left hander has in his forehand his weapon of choice and he isn’t shy in using it. Give him half an opportunity and he will go for the winner, but it’s also been a limit for him as he might sometimes think twice before falling into traps set by his opponents.

Jerzy Janowicz

Jerzy Janowicz

5) Jerzy Janowicz: considering the bad results he has had this season I probably should not have included him, but when talking about aggression I just couldn’t bring myself to let him out. He is possibly the most aggressive player on tour, but it’s also the Pole’s limit as he does not have a plan B. Every part of his game is aggressive, from his posture to his celebrations. If only he would learn to control his instincts applying a bit of patience he would be up there amongst the top players and and not in 43rd.

Mental Toughness

This category is self explanatory and there are many players to select from. With modern tennis being defensive, staying in the match and never giving up is paramount for the pros.

1) Rafael Nadal: with the Spaniard the match is never over until the last point is over and done with. Nadal seems to absolutely reject the concept of defeat to the point where a victory seems to give him more relief to have avoided a loss rather than joy for the win. Nadal rarely switch off in a match even at 0-6, 0-5, 0-40 and his opponents have often paid the price.

2) Novak Djokovic: the Serb wasn’t as tough in his earlier years, but over the last 3 or 4 years this has changed as the nearly six hour final in Melbourne shows. Unlike Nadal, he will have the odd pause during a match and during the season, but just like the Majorcan he is never beaten until the last point is played.

David Ferrer by Ike Leus

David Ferrer by Ike Leus

3) David Ferrer: his toughness comes from humility. Ferrer knows that he has to fight for every victory as he has done throughout his career. When he enters an arena he is fully aware that he will have to run for miles and miles and he won’t stop until the match is done and dusted. I suspect that he runs also after the matches are over…

4) Roger Federer: the Swiss has a different mental toughness than the other in this list, his is more applied to the career than a single match. Too often he has been considered on his way out, yet he is still number 2 in the world and playing some exquisite tennis. For example, very few believed that he could recapture the number one spot after he vacated it in 2010, yet in 2012 he was back on the throne and he came close this season. In a single match Federer isn’t the toughest of the lot, but over a season or a career he is.

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

5) Kei Nishikori: the Japanese player is extremely disciplined and concentrated on court clinging to every game and every point to try and bring home a win. His record in deciding sets (3rd or 5th) is very good in 2014 with 21 wins and just 3 defeats (69-19 in his career) that came by the hand of Hewitt and Nadal in Australia at the beginning of the year and in the Masters semifinal against Djokovic.

All good, but no excellence

Having no outstanding shot with which to end rallies isn’t necessarily a negative characteristic for a player. Solid players that have no real weakness are difficult to face as the opponent can only focus on using his weapons and not on the weaknesses on the other side of the net. Not every player is gifted with heigh for a big serve or an arm capable of producing stunning forehand after another, some have to focus on being complete players choosing the correct shot in each situation.

1) David Goffin: the Belgian has blossomed this season winning the “comeback of the year” award. Goffin isn’t very powerful or tall so cannot boss his opponents on court, but he knows how to hit each shot, from the serve to the volleys, and he is very quick with his legs and his mind. The Belgian wins by making the right choices when it matters most.

Roberto Bautista Agut

Roberto Bautista Agut

2) Roberto Bautista Agut: the winner of the “Most Improved” player of the year award went from 59th to 14th in the rankings during the last 12 months. He managed this improvement by maintaining a good level in all aspects of the game and by adapting tactically to different opponents and surfaces winning 2 titles, on grass at s-Hertogenbosch and on clay in Stuttgart. Hard work and a tennis brain are his weapons.

3) Tommy Robredo: this Spanish player does actually have a weapon of choice, his forehand, but he does not rely solely on this shot to win matches. Robredo is a complete player with a fine tactical mind and he does not have real weaknesses that the opponents can take advantage of. To beat Robredo an opponent must either out-smart or over power him and the former is easier to achieve.

Gilles Simon

Gilles Simon

4) Gilles Simon: the Frenchman’s best shot depends on where his opponent puts the ball. Simon is the best example of counter-puncher on tour. He is solid on both sides, capable of defending until the right time to try and take over. Breaking down Simon with power isn’t a good idea as he is a master in using the opponents power to his advantage. His lack of power is the reason he has to play like this, but his overall solidity makes it a good tactic for him to employ.

5) Leonardo Mayer: like the others on this list, the Argentine is a prime example of hard worker, and all the effort he has put in over the years have paid off in this season that saw him win his first title, Hamburg on clay, as well as allowing him to reach his best ranking of 25th in September. His forehand comes close to being his weapon, but it’s not quite good enough to be classified that way.

ATP

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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Matteo Berrettini Looks To Draw Inspiration From Jannik Sinner

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner ahead of his comeback to the ATP tour.

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(@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner as Berrettini is continuing his recovery from his injury.

The former Wimbledon finalist has had a horrible run of injuries which has seen the Italian fall down the rankings as he is now at 124 in the world.

After suffering a horrible injury at the US Open during his match with Arthur Rinderknech, Berrettini was looking to make his return at the Australian Open as he was set to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening round.

However just before the match, Berrettini withdrew as he decided to delay his comeback to the tour as he will aim to return to the court as soon as possible.

If Berrettini needed any inspiration then Jannik Sinner’s triumph at the Australian Open could be that much needed spark as the Italian beat Novak Djokovic on his way to capturing a first Grand Slam title.

Speaking an interview Berrettini explained that he is still not 100% and admits he is looking to draw inspiration from Sinner’s form, “I’m better, but I’m not yet 100%,” Berrettini was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

“The goal is to play the whole season, and without these setbacks which are destroying my body and my head. Sinner did a miracle. I will also use this energy for my tennis. I was happy with what Jannik said.

“We have a good relationship, which has strengthened in recent months. We are different but similar. We are pursuing the same dream.”

Berrettini will hope Sinner’s success will have a positive influence on his recovery and quicken his return to the tour as the former world number six aims for a successful return to the tour.

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