Monday, 1 October 2018




    Before the start of the U.S. Open just a couple of weeks back (slightly more than that ), most people thought that Serena Williams in women and Rafael Nadal in men tennis are likely to be the champions. Both duly won their respective crowns and so nothing untoward about that.
    But the difference lies in the quality of field through which each entered the finals and eventually won. If we look at men’s draw, the difference between players is not so glaring, with each capable of winning his match on his day. But the field for women draw is very weak at the moment and Serena Williams is taking full advantage of it in the last 2 to 3 years.
   Looking at the female players, Serena Williams is head and shoulders above the rest. It seems at times and it looked this way in the U.S.Open final, that she can defeat any female tennis player half asleep.
     In the final against Victoria Azarenka, she looked half asleep to me, was just making 60 to 70 % of her maximum effort and yet so easily defeated Victoria Azarenka that the final was much more one sided than  the score suggests. If she lost the second set it was because she fell  sleep while serving for the match. Half awake and she could have won the match in two boring sets.
    Truthfully the quality of tennis is not very high at the moment in women’s tennis, particularly when the matches involve Serena Williams, who has such lopsided and predictable wins in almost all her matches. Matches involving other females are more competitive and better matched.
    At the moment only Sabine Lisicki and Victoria Azarenka in their best form and best mental composure and with lots of luck and with Serena Williams at least half asleep in the match are capable of beating Serena Williams. Such is her dominance .
    Some female players in the past have also dominated so much, maybe more, but for a Steffi Graff there was Monica Seles, for a Martina Navratilova there was Chris Evert. We need something like that to make women tennis interesting again .The other way is if Serena Williams decides to hang her boots and start her coaching school and sit in the commentary box.
   But really she is not undefeatable. We need a female player against her who can hold her own serve. Another factor against Serena Williams is her weight, she is 7 to 8 kg too heavy, which gives her serve more bite and she hits anything within her reach a lot harder. But if her opponent can control the rally and start putting the balls on either side of the court and make Serena Williams run for 10 to 20 shots per rally, her weight can be her undoing and she can be easily defeated.

But if Serena holds her serve, the opponent is not able to hold her serve and does not make her run, she can hit the ball really hard and than there cannot be any return from the other side against such ferocious hitting as only Serena Williams can in today’s female tennis.
  Another very glaring point which differentiates her from other female players is her mental composure. Mentally she is as strong a female tennis player as there has been in female tennis. She is very focused, with immaculate concentration and a very cool head and most importantly she is enjoying her tennis. In comparison almost all other female players are mentally fragile, easily lose focus and concentration  and this is the reason that practically after 17 grand slam wins, she is undefeatable, almost!
   I think Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharpova, Sabine Lisicki  and Petra Kvitova are capable of competing with her at their best.
     On the other hand male tennis seems to be in good hands with lot more competition and even top players like Nadal, Djokovic and Federer have to earn their wins. It is no longer a given that top players will survive to the later stages of the tournament, such is the quality of male players and the strength of their games.
But,  on hard court, I think Stanislas Wawrinka is the most improved player. He has a excellent backhand which is the most versatile in men tennis, which can be a hit, a spin, a slide, a set up. He also has a very good forehand and a very good serve. But he needs to toughen up mentally further.
 Tomas Berdych is another player with a excellent game but who needs to toughen mentally if he hopes to win a grand slam in his career.
  Philip Kohlschreiber is another smart player, dangerous on any surface particularly faster grass. But he needs to increase his physical fitness and stamina so he can play throughout at same high level of tennis, which generally he displays in the opening two sets. He need to play at same levels for 4 to 5 sets.
    Richard Gasquet was another semifinalist who has the best backhand shot. He needs to improve his serve as well and understand that different players need different strategies to win.
   Roger Federer played his best tennis before he won the French open. After winning it, his mental desire and competitiveness has decreased 10 to 15 %. Such is the quality of male tennis draw that even this small dip from his lofty height is sufficient to his not winning too many grand slams after that famous French open win.
   Thus in male tennis Nadal and Djokovic are more likely to clash in finals than others, simply because of their supreme physical fitness, mental determination and composure. Even Roger Federer comes after these two as far as fierce determination to succeed and compete is concerned.
   Rafael Nadal spent 4 to 6 months in rehabilitation and lost 5 to 8 kg weight which has resulted in him being the best shape of his career. He is moving faster and can play 5 set matches and win them as well. This loss of weight has placed him in the same bracket as Novak Djokovic  as far as physical fitness is concerned, closely followed by Andy Murray.
     Rafael Nadal utilized the break to improve his serve further and has thus made himself a far better all round and all court player than he was before his break.

Another shot he has improved is the hook shot, in which he bends forward or the side, and hooks the ball far from him into play with the ball going back coming down over the net. This shot has taken the burden away from his knees and transferred them to his arms and shoulders and wrist.
Another shot he has mastered is the pivot shot in which he stands, put racket to ball and than transfers his weight to the racket and ball just pivoting his body to do so without too much backswing of the racket which saves reaction time and gives power to the shots as well.
   All these improvements in Rafael Nadal play and with Novak Djokovic not in his best form meant that Nadal won his 2nd US open championship easily but still the match was interesting to  watch with some excellent shots and rallies being played by both players.
        Male tennis seems to be in very good hands .

        May the female tennis also learn from them !

COPYRIGHT   Tanvir Nebuchadnezar


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