Finesse vs. Power: Is Today's Tennis One-Dimensional?
The U.S. Open is starting in a few weeks, and most of the top players on the men's and women's circuit have been warming up for the year's last Grand Slam. At the Roger's Cup, held in Toronto for men, and Cincinnati for women, the players are trying to perfect their games and go into the U.S. Open with excellent form.
All the players, at any tournament, will try their best to bring their games to the highest level, by playing deft drop shots, delicate volleys, deep, powerful groundstrokes, sizzling serves, and arching lobs. But nowadays, do we actually see those deft drop shots, or those delicate volleys? Without a doubt, power dominates the field today.
On the men's side, there is Rafael Nadal, Robin Soderling, Tomas Berdych, and Novak Djokovic. The women's tour has Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Samantha Stosur, Kim Clijsters, Li Na, and Maria Sharapova. All of these players are on top of the tennis world, but can anyone really play as good a drop shot as Martina Hingis, or for that matter, Roger Federer?
But for every few aggressive baseliners, there is a court-smart player, working the court, and not necessarily having just touch. Think of Federer, Andy Murray, Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Agniezka Radwanska, and Justine Henin. These players have the finesse, and judging by their world rankings, they beat other players often. So do you have to have just power to prevail on the pro tour?
Aggression does not always pay off. How many unforced errors is it possible to make? When the player goes too much on the depth when getting a short ball, he often loses the point. Why couldn't have the player chosen a wiser and more crafty approach? Instead of hitting what most players would expect, try a forehand drop shot that pops just over the net, leaving the opponent flat-footed. Or why go for a deep stroke that is called long, when the opponent was certain to have netted on the next stroke? Just waiting for the error would have been better in that rally.
Which brings us to the ruler of the women's tennis kingdom in the late '90s, none other than Martina Hingis. Every single opponent was bamboozled by her drop shots, lobs (Remember that drop shot followed by a lob play?), anticipation, and court craft. "The Ultimate Counter-puncher" is what they called her. While it is rare to find a player as talented as Martina Hingis was, a drop shot here and there, a serve-and-volley service game a few times, and the occasional touch volley, will all help to prevent the competitor from finding any rhythm in the match.
Although waiting for the error is not recommended all the time, with today's players developed for power baselining, running laterally, having some finesse in the bag is a great idea. How many players are willing to hit a drop-shot when down a set, break, and break-point? Hitting the drop shot would catch a player off-guard, and who knows, maybe the player would come back to win the match.
Of course, the ideal player has an all-around game—hitting aces, earning winners, volleying, lobbing, and drop-shotting, like a Roger Federer or Justine Henin. But wouldn't it do good for the fans and even players (Roger Federer-Michael Llodra, anyone?) to have a change of style and always have that extra shot in the pocket?
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