In this ten part series, I am going to breakdown and dissect the strengths and weaknesses of each player in the top 10...
The series will include the following players...
1. Roger Federer (SUI)
2. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
3. Andy Murray (GBR)
4. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
5. David Ferrer (ESP)
6. Juan Martín Del Potro (ARG)
7. Tomáš Berdych (CZE)
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
9. Janko Tipsarević (SRB)
10. John Isner (USA)
Let's start off with the hot topic in tennis right now: first-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray—winner of the Olympic Gold Medal in London, and, of course, the US Open in Flushing Meadows.
1. Return of Serve—Murray has been coined as one of the all-time great returners in tennis history.
Murray's reactionary senses provide him with the ability to effectively respond against the biggest and most powerful servers in the game. Murray's length and dexterity give him the ability to reach out to a lot of balls that he wouldn't otherwise reach.
As such, Murray is extremely difficult to ace.
In addition, Murray's heterogeneous bag of returns allows him to provide his opponents with an influx of different looks on their first ball off the ground.
With all of this said, Murray's willingness to step inside the baseline and flatten out his returns holds his opponents accountable for balls that are weak and lack work, especially on the second serve.
2. Movement/Footwork—Despite his tall and lanky stature, Murray's movement and footwork are among the best in tennis.
Murray's ball retrieving capacity forces opponents into going for more than they normally would and more vitally, gives him one additional chance to win the point by making the other man play that one extra shot. Murray's movement provides him with precious time to set up and execute his shots with unmistakable clout.
This is particularly effective in running around his backhand to hit an inside-in or and inside-out forehand.
3. Variety—Murray's variety is really what, in my opinion, allowed him to take out Djokovic in the US Open final.
Considering the conditions, Murray really made it tough for Djokovic to find any type of rhythm in an environment where it was already hard enough to create pace and develop into any kind of meaningful patterns of play.
Murray's ability to vary height, direction, and pace on his groundstrokes provides him with an incredible propensity to make sure each shot his opponent sees throughout the duration of a rally is a different one.
4. Backhand—Andy Murray possesses one of the best two-handed backhands in tennis.
The stronger of his two wings, Murray's variety, directional cogency, and attacking prowess off the backhand side account for the greatness of his backhand.
The only caveat to all of this is that even though Murray is great up the line with his backhand, he seems unreasonably compelled not to use it as frequently as one would expect.
If Murray wants to remain British, as opposed to Scottish, the backhand up the line will have to become a staple of his game.
1. Mental game—Unequivocally speaking, Andy Murray's on-court mentality has been his Achilles' heel throughout his career.
Often seen yelling into his palm or performing various theatrics with his rackets, Murray's lows can be devastating. He is prone to navigate his vision towards his box in moments of struggle and uncertainty, as if the answer he is looking for has somehow escaped into the stands.
Admittedly, Murray has become a much calmer and peaceful entity on the court, but still needs much work to incline his mentality to the level of a Federer or Nadal.
2. Second Serve—Andy Murray can pack a ton of leverage and power behind his first serve.
Unfortunately, it doesn't always go in.
His second serve is, at times, very susceptible as he leaves it short in the box, lacking enough kick/spin to keep it out of his opponent's strikezone. Giving his second serve more kick and purposeful placement would do a ton of good for the man from Dunblane.
The reason Murray can partially get away with a relatively weak second serve is his defensive responsiveness and brilliant court coverage.
3. Strategical Imbalance—Andy Murray, in darker days, was adequately described as a "defensive baseliner."
Unwilling to coerce the action and content with backtracking miles behind the baseline, Murray was too defensive.
There was no way around it.
If you are looking for a case study to fit this particular assertion, look no further than Murray's stunning third round loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in the 2010 US Open. Murray found himself in the concession stand at certain points in the match, allowing Wawrinka to take advantage of how far back he was standing, and in turn, giving himself zero chance to be offensive.
In more recent times—the enlightened days for Murray—he has, under the guidance of Ivan Lendl, found himself adopting more aggressive, offense-driven postures and stances on the court.
This strategy has materialized itself wonderfully for Murray in the form of a Gold Medal and a US Open title.
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