Thread: Tennis: 2013 Australian Open
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01-21-2013, 03:56 PM
Deficient Mode
Dril Maher
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Within the context of the game of tennis today, those five players have very diverse games. Lopez fits in the category of the serve reliant player who is underwhelming from the back of the court but rushes the net quite a bit (he came to the net as much as Stepanek in their match last week). Almagro and Verdasco can be loosely considered offensive baseliners, but their games are still obviously quite different (right-handed vs. left-handed, one-handed backhand vs. two, Almagro having a far better serve). Ferrer is more of a grinder than either of those guys; he usually hits the ball deep consistently in relatively safe patterns looking to slowly dictate play with his forehand. He is a much better returner than either of them, arguably the best on tour. And Nadal - what can you say - he has the most unique style of play on tour. Maybe it's just another case of me looking at the minutiae more than you.

For me, that kind of thinking you call "national" is rather disseminated by broadcasters than in the academies where players actually develop. I know from too much experience that John McEnroe - bewilderingly esteemed by the average American as a tennis luminary - will talk about nothing else tactically. If someone is playing a superior player, he should abandon his game and rush the net recklessly. Roddick should have gone to the net more against Federer; Federer should have gone to the net more against Nadal; and so on. This kind of thinking is entrenched in the mind of the average American tennis fan and is spread by other commentators too.

The fact is though, the game has changed, and upsetting superior players is rarely done through just "coming to the net more." I'm not saying Raonic shouldn't come to the net; just that in this age of tennis he - and everyone else - needs to vary his approach shots and take smart chances. It may bother you that he piles up errors from the baseline instead of from the net, but he knows that he has to work the point to his advantage before he can come to the net, otherwise he's committing suicide. He certainly wouldn't continue to be 60% up there if he didn't. Look at the two minibreaks Fed took from Raonic in the second tiebreaker - both were easy passing shots.

Like I said earlier, this emphasis on net approaches is more of a popular ideology than an institutional one. The most influential American coaches - guys like Landsdorp and Bollettieri - produce more offensive baseliners (Nishikori, Haas, Agassi, Sharapova, Davenport, etc.) than any other kind of player.

For me personally, Haas is/was just about the model offensive tennis player. He had all the tools - big, deep, and consistent shots off both wings, a good serve, tremendous touch both with his drop shots and his volleys - and the tactics to use these tools to bring the point to an end either by forcing an error or hitting a winner.

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