Steb's version: Player's games dissected - last update: Berdych
Forehand - Best in the game. Superb variety in terms of spin. Can hit with massive power and also with massive spin which allows him to find tremendous angles as well. A feature of his forehand is the footwork, which is clearly evident when he dances around the backhand to hit an off-forehand. The forehand on the run has suffered this year, as he is clearly a step slower whether it is due to illness or natural aging. The heavy spin and fast racquet head speed mean that his margin for error when striking the ball is pretty low. Has the propensity to frame them out of the stadium when out of form. When in form, his forehand is a master class.
Backhand - A strange one. At its weakest when used as a topspin rally shot. Often drops it short without much penetration. Unlike the truly great backhands, he doesn’t really have the ability to hit powerful flat down the line backhands. Depends heavily on the surface, he seems to hit his backhand much better at Wimbledon and the US where the bounce is lower. His backhand is quite a weakness on clay, and doesn't seem that great at the Australian. Sometimes attempts to hit the topspin backhand when a slice would have been more appropriate. However, his backhand absolutely excels when it comes to passing shots. His backhand is best when he has a small backswing. Can block it down the line, and roll it cross court. His backhand slice is clearly the best in the game. Can use it for offense and defense with equal efficiency. The slice makes his backhand difficult to attack, and gives players like Berdych and Davydenko fits. Extremely effective when used to neutralize the opponent’s off forehand.
Return of serve - Short backswing and devastating results on the forehand. Excels at blocking the ball back deep with underspin and getting himself into the rally. Often criticized for slicing the backhand too much on the second serve, allowing himself to be on the back foot for the start of the point. The topspin backhand return is inconsistent and often not deep enough. Does favour the off backhand return on the deuce court.
Netplay - Wonderfully elegant. Immaculate technique and awareness at net. No surprise that he operated as a serve and volleyer in his early days. Unlike most of the tour, refrains from overusing the drop volley. Knows when to come in (except against Nadal) and rarely fails to get into a good volleying position to cut down the angles. His excellent slice is very useful as an approach shot, and could be used more often. Overhead is solid and safe. Sometimes guilty of hitting it on the full, where letting it bounce may have been a higher percentage play.
Defense – In his prime he was a supreme mover. In 2008 he has lost a step but by no means a slouch. Effortlessly glides across the court with long strides which allows him to cover a lot of court very quickly. Has the ability to slice the ball back on both wings and his half volleys from the baseline are almost as potent as Agassi’s were in his prime.
Serve – Great accuracy and power on the first serve. Can hit anyone serve equally as well and usually has a high first serve percentage. Sampras like confidence in the second serve with enough bite and variation to keep it from being consistently attacked. Has increased the ace count in 2008 to offset his lack of form in other parts of his game.
Mental Strength – Has certainly lost his “invincible” aura in the last year. Can lose confidence and give away a set with a slew of unforced errors. His clutch play on the serve is still great. His mental scars against Nadal are deeper than the Atlantic Ocean. However, apart from Nadal, he has the mental edge over the rest of the tour and rarely panics.
Forehand – Absolutely awful technique. Doesn’t handle pace well and almost always frames when hitting the ball slightly further away from his body than normal. As a rally shot it lacks depth and has too much spin, making it sit up into the slot for his opponents. The fact that he usually plays it from a metre behind the baseline most of the time doesn't help. Surprisingly his best forehand is when he flattens it out and goes for maximum power which forces him to hit through the ball. Can pull off stunning winners when doing this, but nowhere near consistently enough for it to be a weapon.
Backhand – His signature shot. Erection inducing for fans. His early backswing and preparation is a great lesson for beginners learning how to hit a backhand. Can hit down the line and crosscourt equally well, and unlike the forehand, can handle the pace of offensive shots. Consistently generates winners from unlikely positions and the backhand passing shot rarely misses. Surprisingly lacking a good slice, its mediocre at best. Doesn’t really use it as an offensive shot.
Return of serve – Competent without being spectacular. Likes to stand way behind the baseline even on second serves which restricts his attacking ability. Struggles with the wide serve on the deuce court as he gives his opponent the angle by standing back. It also exposes his weak outstretched forehand. The backhand return is potent but doesn’t attack with it often enough considering how adept he is at the shot. Handles the body serve well on the backhand.
Netplay – Better than most. Has good technique and natural volleying ability. Moves forward into the court very well and can hit the backhand and forehand volleys competently with little swing and a firm wrist. Possesses soft hands which allows him to execute difficult drop volleys off hard and low passing shots.
Defense – his anticipation and court coverage are very good. The fact that he plays from far back gives him more time to retrieve shots, but also makes him vulnerable to angle and drop shots. Has good shot making ability on the full run where going for a winner is required to win the point.
Serve – Not fantastic but does okay considering his height. Not the best technique and probably doesn’t get as much weight transfer as the better servers. Tends to double fault on critical points.
Mental strength – An aspect of his game, along with the forehand, which keeps him from being a consistent slam performer. Has the tendency to get down on himself after squandering leads and start going for ridiculous shots which ultimately go in about 10% of the time. His relatively poor results at RG shows he doesn't like the pressure. Not known for his fighting qualities. Examples this year include his losses to Murray at Wimbledon where he didn’t handle the crowd well, and against Haas at the USO where he virtually gave away the fifth set after losing a 2 sets to 1 lead.
Forehand – Adequate shot at best. Lacks the consistent power of really good forehands and error prone at times. Is guilty of dropping the ball short and resorting to junk balls which puts him on the back foot especially on clay where his lack of power is exposed even more. When on song, can be a an effective shot (as seen against Nadal at the USO). Has the ability to dictate play but this at times can increase the error count substantially. A liability against the very top echelon of players, needs to improve this shot to challenge Federer/Nadal/Djokovic in peak form.
Backhand – One of the better double handed backhands in the modern game. Its main strength is its versatility. Likes to use the whole court by employing short angles, drop shots and slices. Hits the off backhand very well, especially on the back foot versus big off forehands which often leaves his opponents spectating. Perhaps lacks the extra power that the likes of Nalbandian and Safin possess. Has a relatively good slice but not at the level of Federer or Haas whose slices have more bite off the court and lower net clearance. Would do well to further develop this shot and integrate it into his game more.
Return of serve – Has started standing closer to the baseline and attacking second serves this year. Has a short backswing particularly on the backhand and can catch the server off guard with his off backhand return on the deuce court. Gets a higher percentage of serves back into to play than most players.
Netplay – Along with Gasquet, the best volleyer among the new generation players (which isn’t actually saying much). Knows when to come in and has good technique with minimal back swing. His agility lets him close into a good net position, cutting down the angles and letting him volley before the shots drop too low. His volleys usually have a lot of action and shoot off the court after bouncing. Sometimes guilty of overusing the drop volley particularly off low slices.
Defense – Doesn’t have explosive speed like a Blake but his anticipation allows him to quickly move into the right positions. Knows how to play the slice shots on both wings when topspin isn’t an option. Very good at making his opponent hit the extra shot to win the point. His topspin lob especially on the backhand wreaks havoc for any incoming volleyer who closes too quickly.
Serve – The first serve is solid but doesn’t get that many aces. Favours the serve down the T on big points. Has been seen at times to roll first serves into court just to start the point. Second serve is still a liability and very attackable. Needs to take more risks and hit it closer to the lines.
Mental strength – The most improved aspect of his game in 08 and the grand slam results have come thick and fast. Has found the ability to grind out wins even when not playing well and his fighting qualities were on show at his home slam. Obviously has the belief now which is one of the most
important aspects of a would be grand slam champion.
Forehand – Very solid shot in general but lacks the absolute reliability and consistency of his backhand. Very much a confidence shot, when on song can consistently dictate play with it. Works better as a counter punching shot where he can use the opponent’s pace. Often uses it to set up his signature down the line backhand (eg.Vs Roddick USO 08). Under pressure the errors can flow off this wing, and lacks the awesome finishing power of a Blake or Gonzalez.
Backhand – One of the most reliable backhands on the tour. Consistently generates enough pace and depth to keep his opponents from attacking it. Lacks the variety of Murray but makes it for it with a better backhand down the line. One of the best aspects of his game is the incredible balance, especially on the backhand, which allows him to produce unlikely shots on the full stretch. This is particularly effective against off forehand approach shots. Even on the backhand, lacks the awesome finishing power of a Nalbandian or Safin. The slice is nothing to write home about. Has little bite and only uses it when forced. Should improve this shot to add another dimension to his counter-punching game style.
Return of serve – Another strength of his game. Knows how to handle big first serves on both side, using a short backswing to block the ball back deep and occasionally produce the outright winner. Likes to stand on the baseline on second serves and take them early, rarely troubled by kick or body serves. Gets enough big serves back to make player’s like Roddick shit their pants.
Netplay – A lot of room for improvement here. Forehand volley is downright bad and the backhand volley is mediocre at best. Clearly not a natural at net like Murray and Gasquet but can pull the occasional great volley off. Seems to favour the harder low volleys as it stops him from swinging as much. Pretty clueless on the half volley, often caught when deciding between hitting it on the full or letting it bounce. Overhead is solid and reliable.
Defense – Moves very well and as mentioned before, has tremendous balance which helps him on the full stretch. This offsets his mediocre slice as the extra balance allows him to hit a topspin shot more often than normal players. As a counter-puncher, plays his strokes very well on the back foot and has the ability to switch a defensive position into an offensive one. Likes to slide on the hard court like a try hard Clijsters and probably only does it for the theatrics.
Serve – Serves well and has good accuracy and power on the first serve. Usually starts off serving well and drops off slightly as the match progresses. Like a lot of players, goes to the big serve down the T on important points. The second serve is solid and usually has enough variation and depth to keep it from being attacked.
Mental Strength – What can we say here. Drama queen of the highest order and acts between points 24/7. His chances of winning the Oscar are substantially improved when he starts losing. Often grimaces like an atomic bomb exploded in his ball sack for no apparent reason and looks like he is having an asthma attack after every long point. His fighting spirit is immense and his impressive run of retirements from losing positions solidifies this notion. Must be a fan of basketball as he often copies their way of using timeouts. Concentrates on being the crowd favourite but fails miserably and this affects his play.
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