A 2014 WTA shot guide: Part 2 (Return, Backhand and Slices) - UBITENNIS
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A 2014 WTA shot guide: Part 2 (Return, Backhand and Slices)

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TENNIS WTA SHOT GUIDE – It is offseason time, so Ubitennis is having a look at the past year and rating the WTA players for their abilities in each of the fundamentals of tennis.

 

Season is officially over now. Fed Cup has been won, the Finals have given their verdict and the ranking has finally been decided.

Yes, 2014 is over for tennis fans, but in a little more than a month, the next season will start and, as usual, every player will be immediately tested for all the hard work they will have put in these weeks away from international competitions.

But before this will happen, we thought it would be interesting to redact a guide to the best ground strokes and fundamentals that shone during the past season, as to set a standard for the next one and check who will improve or decline in each section.

  • Return of serve

In order to balance last week’s article, when we named the best five servers on tour, it seems about right that this week we will open with the best five girls on return and you could possibly be surprised by some of the names.

1) Simona Halep

The world number three tops this category thanks to her great anticipation skills. It is very hard to ace her and her fast and short swings allow her to return powerful serves as well as slower ones with the same precision. During the year she won 47.1% of the games on return, finishing second behind another player listed later on here. Her ability to be incisive on return even against big serves and on every surface is putting her on top of this category.

2) Agnieszka Radwanska

The Pole comes second in our rating of returners because she is not the kind of players that will hit tons of winners from the first shot, but she can open up the court well and close within a couple of shots. Her percentage of points won returning both the first and second serves are top 5 on the tour, thanks to her variety of solutions.

3) Maria Sharapova

There must be a certain fear running into everyone’s veins when they are about to serve a second serve and they see the wide shoulders of the Russian champion far inside the baseline, ready to kill whatever ball is about to arrive. Her numbers are not as impressive as the ones of the rest of the names of this list, because her attacking attitude often leads to errors, but it’s a risk worth taking, especially as it keeps her opponents fearing every return she hits.

Maria Sharapova4) Monica Niculescu

If she had not had to serve, she would have won a lot more than she has. The world number 46 tops the WTA rankings for points won returning first serves and the most breaks taken (48.5%, basically she breaks once every two games on return!), is ranked fourth for break points conversion and sixth on second serve return points won. Why have we not put her first? Well, she finds it hard to keep these stats up while facing top 10 players, but this does not mean she is not among the best five returners.

5) Sara Errani

For the Italian, whatever has been said for the Romanian is true as well, but her numbers have not been as impressive in 2014. But for such a short girl, whose serve is hampered by a genetic shoulder problem, it would not be possible to be close to the top girls over and over again if her return skills were not as good as they are.

  • Backhand

It is a two-handed job only, or almost. In the women’s tour the single handed backhand is as rare as a Siberian tiger, but that does not diminish the quality of this shot in the tour.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqVeN6xyZfw

1) Serena Williams: with this one I swear she will not top any other ranking. But can any girl constantly win a duel of backhands with the world number one? Highly doubt so.

2) Simona Halep: the Romanian sensation, the girl the rose from a career of anonymity to world number two in the space of a year. She may be short, but her ball is heavy and accurate when it needs to be, a stiletto that passes you as you least expect it.

Caroline Wozniacki, Eastbourne 2014 by Giulio Gasparin

Caroline Wozniacki, Eastbourne 2014 by Giulio Gasparin

3) Caroline Wozniacki: the former world number one means business again after the notorious split with her (now former) fiancé. No other shot than her beloved backhand can better represent her newly improved game, especially down the line, it gives very little chances to her opponents.

4) Maria Sharapova: the Russian’s best shot is probably not the most beautiful of this ranking, but it definitely is as dangerous. It is the most powerful and penetrating of the tour, only its consistency is preventing it from being higher on the list.

5) Flavia Pennetta/ Jelena Jankovic: two veterans, two stunning backhands. Both players could paint the down the line even during their sleep. Both girls score probably the highest marks in terms of beauty of the shot, but the viewer should not believe it is only pretty, their opponents know it.

Honourable mention: Carla Suarez Navarro. The Spaniard is the last standing vessel of aggressive and effective one handed backhands.

  • Slices

Who said women do not possess variety? If you are a fan of tricks and unusual shots, these are the girls to follow.

1) Agnieszka Radwanska: from behind-the-back volleys to chip and charge, from hidden dropshots to crafty backspins, there is a reason why they call her the magician.

2) Monica Niculescu: a name that is probably not very familiar to many non-die-hard fans, but the Romanian is an experience every tennis lover should have once. She plays a double-handed forehand sometimes, but it is very rare, she prefers to slice it and with many variations in length, height and speed. It is a nightmare to play against, ask Safarova.

Roberta Vinci at the WTA Luxemburg by Ike Leus 2

Roberta Vinci at the WTA Luxemburg by Ike Leus

3) Roberta Vinci: the Italian did not have the best season this year, after falling short of her top 10 chase. However, her sliced backhand remains one of the most remarkable and hardest to read and deal with.

4) Petra Kvitova: the name you would not expect on this list. However, the Wimbledon champion has got quite an effective alternative to her flat backhand and she can cause almost as many problems with it.

5) Magdalena Rybarikova: rumour has the Slovak being one of the worst sparring partners on tour, she prefers to hit all sorts of fun/awkward/strange shots rather than drilling. It clearly reflects on how unpredictable and yet effective her slices are.

Honourable mention:Timea Bacsinszky. One has to put her name up on this list. The reason why she is not top 5 is because she is quite inconsistent and has played too little against top players, but she showed all her skills against Sharapova this year. Another Swiss is worth a call, Romina Oprandi. She has definitely got the softest hands on tour, even more than Radwnaska, however, her injuries and physical problems are often preventing her to show all of her talent.

To be continued next week, who will be the best 5 at the net?

ATP

Rudolf Molleker knocks out two-time champion Leonardo Mayer in Hamburg

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German 18-year-old Next Gen player Rudolf Molleker knocked out 2014 and 2017 Hamburg champion Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 after 1 hour and 39 minutes at the Hamburg European Open.

 

Molleker beat Mayer in 2017 in the Hamburg qualifying round, but Mayer got a spot in the main draw as a lucky loser and went on to win the title.

Molleker fended off all three break points in two consecutive games of the first set, before saving two set points in the tie-break. He sealed the second set with a single break.

The German teenager saved two break points in the seventh game with two service games with two service winners and one more chance in the ninth game to set up a tie-break. Mayer took the lead twice at 6-5 and 8-7, but Molleker saved both chances with two winners and sealed the tie-break on the 18th point after a double fault from Mayer.

Molleker earned an early break at the start of the second set and held his service games in the next games before sealing the win with a service winner at 5-4 to secure his spot in the round of 16.

Marton Fucsovics cruised past Phillip Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-0 dropping just 16 points on serve. Fucsovics got an early break in the fourth game to clinch the opening set 6-3. The Hungarian player broke three times in a one-sided second set and sealed the win with a service winner.

Andrey Rublev, who lost in the second round at Wimbledon and Umag, edged this year’s Munich and Houston champion Christian Garin 6-4 7-6 (7-5) after 1 hour and 39 minutes to score his second win over the Chilean player this year. Rublev broke three times to seal the opening set 6-4. The Russian player got the break back at 4-5 in the second set to set up a tie-break, which he sealed 7-5.

Jeremy Chardy came back from losing the first set to beat Jeremy Chardy 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-3 after 2 hours and 34 minutes. Paire fended off a set point at 4-5 in the opening set to clinch the tie-break 7-4. Paire got a late break in the second set, but Chardy won two games at 5-5 to force the match to the third set. Chardy went up a double break to seal the third set 6-3.

Martin Klizan converted all five break points to cruise past Daniel Altmaier 6-2 6-2.

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Alex De Minaur Learning Patience After Two Month Injury Lay-Off

Alex De Minaur is ready to be patient as he looks to build some momentum in Atlanta this week.

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Alex De Minaur (@TennisAustralia - Twitter)

Alex De Minaur is learning the art of patience after missing less than two months of action earlier this year. 

 

The Australian had a rough start to the 2019 as he was forced to fight off a groin injury despite winning the Sydney title in January.

Then he had a couple of months off before once again struggling on his return at Indian Wells where he lost in his opening round.

But these setbacks haven’t stopped the 20 year-old from being patient as he looks to make his mark in the US hard court swing,“I feel like I’m doing all the right things, putting myself out there,” De Minaur told atptour.com.

“If it doesn’t happen this week, next week or the week after, I’m going to keep doing the same things. I’m going to do all the right things, be mentally strong, physically strong and I’m playing good tennis, so I think it’s just a matter of time.”

After Indian Wells, De Minaur spent a few weeks in his home in Alicante, Spain as he looked to regain match sharpness.

It was a period that proved challenging for the talented Aussie as he loves to compete, “I’m not used to being at home for that long and, I mean, us tennis players, we need to go out there and compete, at least me,” De Minaur explained.

I’m a very competitive person, and it was tough for me. I had my outlets. I was playing golf a lot. But still, I needed to get back on court. 

“Obviously seeing people go ahead of you and guys are playing these tournaments and seeing the results they were doing and me not being able to actually even be able to be out there and competing, that was very tough.”

Despite losing five of his seven ATP tour matches since returning properly in Estoril, De Minaur is determined to get back to the level that saw him rise to world number 24.

The Next Gen Star thinks it’s a confidence thing and is not easy to regain after an injury, “[It’s] just confidence. Playing matches, playing the big points right,” he explained.

“It’s something that you take for granted when things are going well. But when you have to stop and try to get back into it, it’s tough. Now I’m just keen to go out there and compete and play some good tennis.”

De Minaur continues his comeback surge this week when he competes in Atlanta, where he will face Bradley Klahn or Marius Copil in his first match.

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Nicolas Jarry Aims To Follow In Family Footsteps After Reaching Bastad Final

Nicolas Jarry looks to join his grandfather in winning an ATP title as he reaches the Bastad final.

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Nicolas Jarry (@FOXSport_Chile - Twitter)

Nicolas Jarry will look to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps tomorrow when he takes on Juan Ignacio Londero in the Bastad final. 

 

The Chilean was in fine form today as he beat another Chilean in Federico Delbonis in the semi-finals today, 6-3 6-2 in 64 minutes.

It is Jarry’s third ATP final and his second of the season following his final in Geneva, where he wasted two championship points to lose to Alexander Zverev.

Should the 23 year-old be triumphant on Sunday, he will join his grandfather as an ATP titlist after Jaime Fillol Sr. won six tour titles and finished a high of number 14 in the rankings in 1974.

Next up for Jarry is Cordoba champion Juan Ignacio Londero, who cruised past 2016 Swedish Open champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets.

The 6-3 6-4 victory included the Argentinian winning 73% of his first service points as he dominated the Spaniard in the 1 hour and 21 minute win.

It will be the second final of the season for Londero, who has enjoyed thriving on the clay in 2019 which has helped him reach a career high ranking of 58 in the world in June.

A good sign for Londero, was that en route to winning his lone title in 2019 in Cordoba, he beat Jarry in their only previous ATP World Tour meeting.

Both men will look to cap off an excellent week tomorrow as the final is scheduled for 2pm local time.

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