I just found this article. It focuses more on the Williams sisters but I think it could apply to Andy as well.
I don't agree with some of the points he makes but it's relevant to our discussion and we can use it as a springboard.
With no Plan B, big hitters vulnerable
By Doug Smith, special for USA TODAY
NEW YORK — Venus and Serena Williams, once considered the dynamic duo of women's tennis, limp into the U.S. Open this week with sagging confidence, suspect games and the rankings of also-rans.
Neither has played with the consistent brilliance of the early 2000s that gave them a fear-factor edge, especially against early round opponents. Those foes are now more confident of notching the big upset when facing either sister.
If the sisters survive the early rounds, the fitter and tour-toughened top-ranked pros ought to be poised to shove them aside.
What's behind the sisters' dramatic decline?
Outside interests and injuries, which led to extended absences, have dulled their skills, sabotaged their timing and gnawed at their confidence.
Whenever the sisters' power games slipped out of sync this year, they produced unforced errors by the bushel and finished out of the winner's circle at most events. No. 11-ranked Serena won her lone title (Miami) in eight events played this year; No. 12 Venus took two titles (Charleston and Warsaw) in 10 events.
Venus missed six months, and Serena was sidelined for eight months.
Referring to the side effects normally associated with long layoffs, former pro Zina Garrison, U.S. Federation Cup coach, says, "You have to realize you're not where you left off and neither are the people that you left (on tour). They're moving on. They're getting more experience. The game is moving on. You have to do things a little bit differently than you did to get to where you were."
Besides the obvious rustiness, the sisters' year-in-decline spotlighted a more serious flaw in their games: They had no plan B or C to call upon when their power games (Plan A) malfunctioned. Of course, none was needed a few years ago when each spent time at No. 1 and routinely finished among the top 10.
An analysis of the Williams sisters' games pinpoints the problem.
Their basic strategy is unchanged and simple: always from the baseline, pound the ball deep into the corners. And then pound it some more.
Seldom do they exploit their offensive-laced weaponry by varying the tempo, i.e. following a blistering forehand crosscourt with a change of pace down-the-line backhand or mixing under-spins and slices with their usual laser-like groundstrokes.
When they struggle for consistency with their baseline game, rarely do they consider altering opponents' rhythm by, for example, forcing hardcore baseliners to the net to hit an occasional backhand or forehand volley.
Their tactics are limited — drop shots, offensive lobs and shots that require punching volleys at the net rarely are used. Apparently, no one has taught them the value of blocking, rather than taking full swings at 100 mph serves.
Both would have committed far fewer unforced errors this year had they used half swings to block returns of serves, instead of expending additional energy and a few more seconds to cock and then uncork full body swings. Stat sheets likely suggest that in the sisters' losses this year, they committed dozens of unforced errors.
What's behind the sisters' lack of court strategy and tactics? Two things stand out.
•Like many top pros of the past 20 years, they were groomed and nurtured in this era of tennis academies, where youngsters seemingly spend their entire childhoods hitting forehands and two-fisted backhands at the baseline. Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati rose to No. 1 playing mostly from the baseline. Steffi Graf, the only top player to hit heavy slice with a one-handed backhand, won 22 Grand Slam titles playing from the baseline.
Graf's husband, Andre Agassi, has picked up eight Grand Slam titles with his backcourt game.
•Players no longer need to construct points, i.e., maneuver opponents into off-balance positions to hit weak or short balls or maneuver themselves closer to the net for put-away volleys. With today's high-tech rackets, they routinely can hit winners from the baseline. So why bother with the game's nuances or try to become a complete player? If you win $1 million for capturing the U.S. Open, who will care that you never left the baseline?
Some experts say tennis has lost its appeal partly because of the absence of contrasting styles.
Fans loved to watch the serve-and-volley styles of Rod Laver, Boris Becker and Pete Sampras when they clashed with baseliners such as Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg or Agassi.
The Martina Navratilova-Evert rivalry always drew big numbers — in the stands, and in TV ratings. Sportswriters and fans were, at times, annoyed by John McEnroe's antics, but mesmerized by his magician's touch — especially when pitted against Ivan Lendl's automaton-like consistency from the baseline.
Rivalries to match Navratilova vs. Evert, or Sampras vs. Agassi, have yet to emerge as charismatic serve-and-volleyers have become extinct.
Switzerland's Roger Federer, Australian Open and Wimbledon champion, appears to be the lone gifted serve-and-volleyer on the men's tour. In his straight-sets win over Albert Costa on Monday, Federer was successful 30 of the 39 times he approached the net. All-time great Navratilova, now 47, is practically the only serve-and-volleyer on the women's tour.
Still, the purses get larger and the tennis academies continue to stress the ground game. One wonders just how great gifted athletes such as Graf, Venus and Serena could have been had someone forced them to show competency at the net, or how great Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, Russia's 17-year-old rising star, might be if she were to develop a net game.
Neither the Williams sisters nor any of the game's top baseliners is likely to change her style. One thing is certain: participants in the 2004 U.S. Open women's final won't dally at the net — until, of course, the handshake that follows match point.
Find this article at: