Making the “Almost-Bionic” Tennis Man…Without Federer, Nadal or Djokovic

Solomon RyanCorrespondent IIJuly 28, 2011

Making the “Almost-Bionic” Tennis Man…Without Federer, Nadal or Djokovic

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    We often speculate about what our future would hold if only we had a few more athletic skills in our arsenal.

    We admire someone’s perfect backhand and ask: How does he do that so effortlessly? We wonder how any human can produce such a fast serve.

    There are lots of tennis players who have a single strength, but few who can draw on multiple super-skills.

    Below I have created the best all around tennis player today using single attributes from the men’s tour.

    Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were excluded from the exercise because it would be too easy (and boring) to create a super star using those three.

    I have noted where each of the top three men’s players would be used if they were included in the list of possibilities. No player contributes more than one talent, although there are duplicates among the honorable mentions.

Serve: Ivo Karlovic (Honorable Mention: Andy Roddick and John Isner)

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    Imagine trying to return a serve from a guy who is 6’10”. Stop imagining, because it’s a reality for some players. Karlovic even looks like a mean guy.

    He has kind of gone off the beaten track, but people still don’t want to play him. They know that most the time they will have to play a tiebreak.

    Even the best returners have trouble beating him—just ask Lleyton Hewitt.

Most Entertaining to Watch: Gael Monfils

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    What’s not to like about Monfils? He has a great name, he’s athletic and he’s funny.

    Every time I have watched a Monfils match, there is at least one shot I know no one else on the tour—except Monfils—can pull off. It is often hard to believe how fast he gets to the ball.

Best Sportsmanship: Mikhail Youzhny

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    After every match, Youzhny salutes the crowd to thank them. Youzhny may look terrifying, but he is a stand-up kind of guy.

    He never complains and it is rare to see him lose his cool on the court.

Highest Endurance: Stanislas Wawrinka (Honorable Mention: David Ferrer)

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    I've never seen him get tired. His game may be sinking, but he is still in tremendous shape.

Best Build: Michael Russell (Honorable Mention: David Ferrer)

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    That sums up everything that is good in Russell. His 110 world ranking reflects his record, however.

    Russell provides proof that strength alone does not help much in professional tennis.

Backhand: Richard Gasquet (Honorable Mention: Andy Murray)

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    There is no question that Novak Djokovic has the best backhand.

    However, Gasquet has one of the most beautiful backhands the sport has ever seen.

    It is one handed, which can be a weakness because opponents hit the ball with so much top spin. But Gasquet hits his backhand with enough force that it is an effective weapon—and difficult to return.

Forehand: Fernando Gonzalez (Honorable Mention: Juan Martin Del Potro)

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    Gonzalez' forehand is probably even better than Federer’s. If Gonzalez had an average backhand and a decent serve, he might have had a chance at winning a grand slam.

    That’s how good his forehand is.

    It is fun to watch him play. He stands mostly on the backhand side just, waiting for an opponent to make a mistake.

    And when that mistake happens, the reliable forehand never misses.

    Honorable Mention #2: Robin Soderling

Net Game: Ivan Ljubicic

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    Ljubicic is one of the few players left in today’s game who mixes in a serve and volley here and there.

    At age 32, he is still performing at a high level (ranked 32), and his volleys are still as clean as ever.

Hard Court: Juan Martin Del Potro

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    Del Potro will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. He hits some of the hardest groundstrokes in the game and moves tremendously well for a big man (6’6”).

    At only 22 years old, he has time to improve his game even more.

    What he did to Nadal in 2009 at the US Open was something no had ever seen before. He practically made Nadal his puppet, pushing him around wherever he chose.

    If he can stay healthy, Del Potro can be an elite player.

Grass: Andy Roddick (Honorable Mention: Tomas Berdych...Roger Federer Is Best)

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    If it weren’t for a guy named Roger Federer, Roddick could have had a lot more grand slams under his belt—especially at Wimbledon.

    His fast paced serve and ground strokes fit the grass perfectly. It looks like Roddick has given up his hopes of winning another grand slam, and I agree with his assessment.

    There is too much talent out there.

Clay: Nicolas Almagro (Best by Far: Rafael Nadal)

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    You wouldn’t know it because Almagro has been a top 25 player for ages, but he has recently made it to number 10.

    He has great groundstrokes and knows how to use the clay to his advantage. The weakest part of his game is his serve. On clay, returners can’t take advantage of a bad serve as much as on other surfaces.

Mental Toughness: David Ferrer

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    At 5’9” (generously), David Ferrer should not have much of a chance of being in the top 100—let alone the top 10.

    His rank of No. 6 in the world is remarkable, although Ferrer has probably been told this his entire life. He has refused to give up.

    With his tremendous will to compete, Ferrer is the player I most respect.

Speed: Fernando Verdasco (Honorable Mention: Gael Monfils)

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    Verdasco can cover the court tremendously well. He can get to some balls that seem impossible to reach.

Best Personality: Marcos Baghdatis (Honorable Mention: James Blake)

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    You can never count Baghdatis out of a match because he can create some of the craziest shots in tennis.

    When that happens, he and the fans get into the match, making it more enjoyable for everyone.

    I have never seen Baghdatis not smile. He is a joker on and off the court.

Most Athletic: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Honorable Mention: Gael Monfils)

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    Tsonga’s athleticism is off the charts.

    At his height and weight, he shouldn’t move as well as he does on the court. It’s unreal.

Return of Serve: Gilles Simon (Honorable Mention: Andy Murray, Robin Soderling)

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    The best counter-puncher and serve returner, Simon can challenge the best of the best.

    What he lacks is consistency. He is too much of a veteran to start saying he can change, because unfortunately, he can’t. One of the most talented players in tennis is pretty much done.

Overall Groundstrokes: Andy Murray

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    Murray has the talent, but does he have the mental game? It is an enigma why Murray hasn’t won a grand slam yet. He is outclassed on groundstrokes only by Djokovic and Nadal.

    If Murray can improve his mental toughness, don’t be surprised if he wins a couple of grand slams.