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ATP Tennis Tsitsipas

No 6. Stefanos Tsitsipas

Built on his break out 2018 season by winning three titles including the prestigious and highly coveted ATP finals. What an amazing feat to win the Next-gen finals in 2018 and then win the full tour finals one year later. He pulled off some incredible wins and completed at least one victory over each of the top 3. Stefanos also competed in probably the highest quality match of the year losing to Stanimal at Roland Garros in 5 tight sets. This match may have caused his mid-year slump around Wimbledon such was the effect the loss had on him.

At 21 years of age, he has many significant years ahead of him on tour. I wouldn’t expect anything less in 2020. The Greek warrior is a mysterious character and evokes different responses when I talk to other fans about him. Words for my take on him are: vitality, athletic, strong, complex

Vitality: He’s got a spring in his step. Walks the court like he is walking on air when he is playing well. Is very active on social and seems to love life, which may be down to a near-death experience he had while swimming in 2015.

Athletic: At 193 cm (6′ 4″) with broad shoulders and immaculate posture, he has the ideal modern players physique and knows how to move it extraordinarily well.

Strong: Mentally tough. Tsisipas can take setbacks in his stride. Sometimes spits the dummy, but he’s a top player because he moves on quickly.

Complex: Must be the Greek philosopher heritage. He can be thoughtful, exciting and confusing all at the same time in some of his social media and interviews.

Likes: I like his attacking all-court game. Excellent hand skills at the net and I enjoy his inclination to come to forward. With that kind of mindset, you have to have a superb overhead, and he does. Prepared to take risks, but always with situational awareness. He is a smart player.

Dislikes: I think he is guilty of sometimes oversharing on social and can seem dramatic. Not a big deal, some fans probably enjoy that. I’m not thrilled when he beats Federer.

Areas for improvement: His serve while good, looks like it could do with a few tweaks to minimize the chance of 1, breaking down under pressure and 2, putting stress on his shoulder. His homework is to go check out Fed’s serve over the break on YouTube. As his dad has said in interviews “he is a good boy” so I’m sure he will do his homework 🙂

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ATP Medvedev Tennis

No 5. Daniil Medvedev

Bear, as he is affectionately known, had one heck of a year in 2019. At the age of 23 the lanky 198cm (6′ 6″) Russian had a breakout year winning four titles. Two of these were Masters 1000s with victories in Cincinnati and Shanghai.

It was an ultra-consistent season for him, and at his age, he should continue to evolve as a top-flight player. My only concern for 2020 is that he has a lot of points to defend so he will have no margin for any let down after such an active 2019.

Although I have watched him play quite a bit in 2019, I do not know a lot about him, but let’s dive in and see how I read him. Thoughts are: cunning, risk-taker, measured, relentless.

Cunning: Meant positively. Like a fox or a chess player in his case (he likes chess) he thinks his way through the drawn-out points and can pull off a deceptive drop shot or hard-hit winner when it appeared he was struggling. Has deceptively good speed as Djokovic will attest after repeatedly failing to drop shot him this year.

Risk-taker: His general stock approach seems to be Djokovic like with consistent groundstrokes and depth. However, unlike Djoker, he will occasionally throw caution to the wind with a blasting winner out of nowhere or booming second service ace.

Measured: The bear has excellent rhythm, and no rally seems too long for him.

Relentless: Like a diesel engine, goes all day, and his endurance and ability to give repeat effort is outstanding.

My likes and dislikes:

Likes: Does most things well. Bear has beaten Djokovic and gotten under his skin a few times. The way he casually throws his serve toss then crushes it. Bombing second serves at Djoker in Cincinnati was a highlight.

Dislikes: Not a lot. The length of time it can take for him to win a match is a slight peeve against my time sometimes. When he wound up the New York crowd and threw in the middle finger, seemed a bit silly, but he did rectify that.

Areas for improvement: He does do most things well if not always attractively, so he could benefit with a little homework over the offseason watching Federer YouTube vids to gain some style points.

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ATP Sport Tennis

No 4. Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem
2019 was an impressive year for the Austrian

Five titles, including his first Masters 1000, ensured the Austrian powerhouse had his best season ever. Thiem has been a building force for a few years, but this year with his new coach Nicolas Massu took the next step. In another lifetime this would have taken him to number 1, but with arguably the three best still playing well, 4th was the highest-ranking available for mere mortals. He was unfortunate to be ill at the US Open where I thought he could have won it. The way that tournament evolved, I think he would have beaten Nadal.

Having just turned 26, Thiem is now in his prime and still possesses more room for improvement. We should see him competing for top billing next year.

Giving my opinion on Dominic is easy. Here is why: power, resolve, mature, impressive. He ticks a lot of boxes for me.

Power: Hits it hard on both sides. His backhand is a Stanimalesque (a word I just made up) sledgehammer, and his forehand is fearsome.

Resolve: He has developed a steely edge to his game now. He can handle adversity and fight back and not get down on himself. This improvement has seen him able to fight back more often, which is a crucial ingredient if you are going to maintain a high ranking. A great example is his come back from a set down at Indian Wells against a flowing Fed.

Mature: To be clear, he doesn’t have dickhead moments. He has his head screwed on right and seems a friendly, well mannered and respectful young man.

Impressive: All of the above makes him impressive on and off the court. He is a player for whom I make time to watch and follow closer than most.

My likes and dislikes:

Likes: The ripping backhand, kick- serve, newfound patience and willingness to use the cross-court slice (seems to have been a focus coming from Massu) to wait for the right ball to rip. That he is coming forward more to finish points at the net. That he goes for it often, but smart enough to leave some margin for error. When he beats Djokovic or Nadal.

Dislikes: When he beats Federer. When he plays too deep (does seem to be addressing this though).

Areas for improvement:  Volleys need work, and his backhand is technically not as sound as Stanimals but could get there. I recommend he spend more time on grass if he wants to do well at Wimbledon. Homework is to watch the Stan backhand and Federer volleys on YouTube. These two improvements would put less stress on his shoulder and allow him to finish points quicker. Long matches winning the hard way have been a problem in the past.

Categories
Sport Tennis

The ball was good

Accordingly, who am I to criticise professional tennis players? Of course, I’m no one, and I’ve never played professionally. I ask you to take my posts on players with a pinch of salt, mainly when I point out what I think they can improve on and what I don’t like about them. I do follow the game intently, play frequently and talk to plenty of other players and some professional coaches about the game. You have to also factor in the context of my comments concerning a player. Any tennis player who can make a living out of it has to have a lot of good qualities and abilities. Just qualifying for a futures tournament, for example, is an enormous accomplishment.

So, if I say, for instance, Steve Johnson has a weak backhand, then it is in comparison to his peers. It was better than most other players in the world and did not stop him from getting a consistently high ranking. There are also different facets to a backhand, for example. His slice backhand is actually excellent, but his topspin backhand is not and have you ever seen him hit one hard up the line for a winner?

Therefore the ball is good.

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Novak Sport Tennis

No 2. Novak Djokovic

Finishing at number 2 for 2019 is Novak Djokovic. Unbelievably, this by his standards seems a little disappointing. After being in the number 1 spot heading into the final phase of the season, he finished poorly at the ATP finals leaving the way for Rafa to take year-end number 1. Novak is far from my favourite player, however you can’t help but respect his incredible consistency on the court and his year in year out winning ways. This year was no different, and he was flawless in the final at AO to start the year. In the final against Rafa, he hit an impressive 34 winners and even more impressively only gave up nine unforced. It is impossible to see him slipping outside the top tier again next year. His final rank, like with Rafa, will depend on how much if at all, those below him improve.

When I think of the Djoker words that come to mind are a machine, boring, wall and nightmare. Interesting set of words, so let’s check them out.

Machine: By this I mean he churns out win after win with machine-like precision and is rarely tested in early rounds of a tournament (special mention to Philipp Kohlschreiber who achieved it). He is machine like also in the way he can seem to autopilot through matches against lower-ranked opponents with his proven game style which leads me to the next word.

Boring: Novak bores lower-ranked opponents to death like a Boa constrictor strangling its prey. His relentless depth of rally ball never lets the opponent breath and they often eventually error out of the point.

Wall: It must feel like playing a wall sometimes for opponents, such is the level of his defence. When he is not dull, he is defending and getting good shots back time after time. He’ll do this until he can get control of the rally again or his man over the net makes an error going for too much because they know it has to be red hot to get past him (Federer is sometimes guilty of this). Look at most of the players that beat him this year – they played light outs tennis.

Nightmare: Which is the combination of machine, boring and wall. Players would think what a nightmare he is to beat because he makes so few errors and gives you so little to attack. Not only that, he can do it for hours on end.

So, in summary, here are my likes, dislikes and areas for improvement:

Likes: He is plant-based. Incredible consistent length of rally ball (would be my number 2 desired asset after Federer’s serve) and return of serve. Best in the business on the stretch – think full stretch 2hbh up the line. The crazy flexible positions he gets into and can still make a great shot. His involvement with the Game Changer film. The time he called out a fan for being an idiot. Oh, and his Lacoste gear is usually very stylish.

Dislikes: When he goes full eye-popping ballistic and primal screams (although we tend not to see this as much anymore) — whining to his box when things are going against him (a huge pet peeve of mine with any player – Murray I’m looking at you 😊). The pitiful little grunt he has recently developed when struggling to stay in a point as if to say this is so unfair. The hair (petty I know) it makes him look like a Lego character to me. I agree with Nick Kyrgios regarding the boob wave (this is his celebration to the crowd after a win). I’m also not a fan of his style, which is to wait for an error from the opponent. If you think I’m harsh check out these top 5 reasons a lot of fans do not like Novak.

Areas for improvement: The overhead smash and any ball above his shoulders. His homework for the offseason is to watch Federer hit smashes on YouTube then go out with his coach Vajda and practice them. While on YouTube take in some Fed slices too, since his slice is quite average for an elite player. After doing that he needs to go and see a good hairstylist.

Finally, yes, he is a champion, just doesn’t come to mind quickly.