I don't understand how Berdych has stayed so fit. I mean, Ancic and Soderling had their careers ruined by mono, and Tsonga and Del Potro have missed heaps of tennis due to injuries.
True, from this generation Berdych has undoubtedly been the luckiest as far as health is concerned, he hardly had any problems. Unfortunately he's also the most unstable/weakest mentally of the bunch so he couldn't take full advantage of it. Had someone like Tsonga been so lucky avoiding injuries as Tomas, he'd probably have a Slam to his name by now: hell, he's arguably done better than Berdych so far despite losing basically all his early development years to injuries and only joining the tour full time at 23yo.
I’m not sure why so many people are emphasizing firepower as though that should define every player. Mario Ancic is one of those fabled creatures called an all-court player, the elusive ones the media have obsessed over since Federer’s rise. That’s what made him so good.
No, he doesn’t hit the ball as hard as any of the guys he’s being compared to, but neither did he have their limitations. He didn’t have an entire left side to protect like Tsonga, he didn’t have (severe) issues going forward like the equally big-swinging Soderling, and he wasn’t as streaky or aimless as Berdych.
Ancic had a strong serve, outstanding hands at net, a solid return, good athleticism, and capable groundies on either side. It was that all-court prowess, and subsequently his adaptability in a point, that made him quite formidable.
And for all the talk about his relative lack of firepower, he could hit through the ball pretty well. I remember him holding up in forehand exchanges with Fed even in that straight sets loss in ’06. And as it’s been mentioned, that’s the type of thing that can sometimes be improved with physical maturity, which his sickness really impaired.
Per the topic question, I would place him about on par with Berdych and Tsonga, but below Soderling. He would have undoubtedly remained a dangerous player at Wimbledon if his career could be played out properly.
Great analysis as always. I think even on this slowed down grass, he'd be a potential Wimbledon champion at his peak; when he lost that close 2004 semi with Roddick, I thought one day he'd be back to the SF and win, in hindsight it's a shame he lost that one. Although odds are he'd have lost the final to Federer, a guy with his grasscourt game deserved at least one final at Wimbledon.
As for the volleying discussion, Ancic is clearly ahead of Tsonga imo. He had arguably the best volleys on tour, check the video on the OP to see a true volley masterclass.