8 Things I Think I Thought About Wawrinka, Nadal, The GOAT Debate And The Australian Open
by Sean Randall | January 29th, 2014

After a few days to digest Stan Wawrinka’s mind-bending Australian Open win – did he really do it? – here are some quick thoughts wrapping up our first Grand Slam of the season.

1. Stan Is The Man
I have to admit, I’m still in shock that Stan is a Grand Slam champion. Those words, they don’t fit together quite right.

Back in 2009 Juan Martin Del Potro – the only other player to breakthrough the Big Four’s 7-year hammerlock – was at least on the radar when he won the US Open. There was some pedigree there, some expectation after remarkable run that summer.

But Wawrinka? His title came totally out of left field, unless Chennai is somehow a precursor. Like Marion Bartoli. Like Francesca Schiavone and Li Na at the 2011 French Open. And for the men, maybe not since Gaston Gaudio ten years ago in Paris has there been a surprise like this.

That said, it’s a welcome one. Things needed a good shakeup at the top of the tennis rankings and we sure got it. And it might just signal a bigger shift, one that first began at Wimbledon last year.

As for Stan, it probably will end up being his lone Slam win. With Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, etc., for all of Stan’s prowess he’s still not better than them on a consistent basis. But he’ll have many chances to prove me wrong as he did in Melbourne where he played some magical tennis.

With an improved serve and forehand plus that nasty laser of a backhand, he flat-out beat the best player by far at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic. Then outslugged Tomas Berdych before hanging on in the finale over Rafael Nadal.

Sure, Rafa was nursing an injury but you have to credit Wawrinka. He was dominating from the start, battled the nerves of the moment and pulled through. Much easier said than done!

And credit to Magnus Norman. In this celebrity coaching era, I called the former No. 2 ranked Swede under appreciated, but perhaps no more after leading his guy to a second win over Nadal in Grand Slam. And he’s finally helped Wawrinka get it right between the ears.

The margins at the top of tennis are so small and usually it comes down to the mental side. Stan’s win is proof of that.

Now ranked No. 3 and as the No. 1 Swiss (by far over Roger Federer), the question is where does the #Stanimal go from here?

I don’t expect much from him the rest of this winter or at the two US Masters events in March, but during the clay season I think we’ll continue to see him be a force. And I’d love to see him play Rafa on the clay especially in Paris.

Hats off to you Stan. Well done and welcome to your new life as a Grand Slam champion!

2. Rafa’s Back
For the third time in his last four trips to the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal left Melbourne with an injury. In 2010 it was a knee. In 2011 it was a leg. And now it’s a back.

Thankfully, it doesn’t sound too serious, however back injuries do tend to linger and eventually become more serious with age. But the stigma is there: You can point to injuries in many of Nadal’s recent Grand Slam losses. And that’s just not good. Nobody wants to hear it but it’s an unfortunate fact and one that you can tell haunts Nadal – credit to him that he didn’t retire in the final, however you could see him fighting the decision.

All in all, though, after what he went through at this time last year with the knee, it’s still a heck of a comeback story for Rafa. However, what a chance…

3. The Great GOAT Debate
I really felt that if Nadal had won a second Career Grand Slam at the Australian Open becoming the only player in the Open Era to do so, that would have cemented his move (for now) ahead of Federer on the GOAT rankings. That’s my opinion, I stand by it.

Nadal will now have to wait another full year to have that opportunity again. He’ll be 28 then. He’ll likely have some more injuries. And he’ll never have someone like Wawrinka across the net in the final, a man he was 12-0 against winning all 26 sets.

Of course Rafa still can get to 17 but this miss at history has to be on his mind and on Uncle Toni’s. As I said, what a chance.

4. Li Na & Serena
Even after her Australian Open title, Li Na still doesn’t get a lot of publicity here in the U.S. First, it’s tennis. Second, she’s Li Na. But she’s really a breath of fresh air who deserves a bigger spotlight. And I think she could become the next new No. 1.

Sure, Li turns 32 next month but it’s a young 32. Serena’s also 32 but a much older 32. Serena played her first US Open all the way back in 1997. Li played her first Australian Open in 2005. That’s a big gap.

And with Serena’s body slowly breaking down (she also left Melbourne with a back injury), Victoria Azarenka losing her sharpness and shape, maybe this Chinese woman can make a run at the top during the French.

The game, the attitude and above all the fun are there. How can you not root for her?

5. Is There A Roger Federer Rebirth?
What do we read into Roger Federer’s run to semis? First, he desperately needed some big name Grand Slam wins and he got them. Forgetting the Nadal loss (about the only thing you can do if you are Roger), beating JW Tsonga and then Andy Murray should be a massive boon for his confidence. Murray was probably not at his best but that’s a match Roger loses six months ago in straight sets.

At 32 he’s not getting back to No. 1. But he’ll be much higher than his current No. 8.

I think the bigger racquet helps and we can clearly see some of the Edberg influence with his more aggressive measures. And with the back now healthy again (he’ll even play Davis Cup this weekend), I actually expect Federer to contend at the bigger events from here, and while a second French Open title (and second Career Slam) is a pipe dream, if Wimbledon started tomorrow you’d have to put Federer among the 3-4 favorites to win there. Who would have thought that after he meekly lost to Tommy Robredo at the US Open?

6. Novak & Boris
I can’t shake that awfully awful serve-and-volley effort from Djokovic on matchpoint to Wawrinka out of my mind. And I can’t help but wonder if Boris had anything to do with it.

He probably didn’t call for it, but still…

I also can’t see this relationship between the two lasting much longer. If Djokovic fails again to win Indian Wells or Miami, two events he’ll be favored at and has won before, I’m not sure how the German Wunderkind even makes it to the clay season as Novak’s coach.

After such a strong finish to 2013 – a 24-match win streak, titles, Davis Cup – Djokovic’s bid for a fourth straight Australian Open blew up prematurely to Wawrinka, a man he had beaten 14 straight times. It has to be an absolutely crushing loss for the Novak and the camp.

And at 26 Djokovic is in the prime of his career. He can’t afford these kind of setbacks and I have to think Becker is the fall guy if the results don’t drastically take a turn for the better.

7. Grigor And Genie
The two new must-haves on the men’s and women’s tours are Grigor Dimitrov and Genie Bouchard. After years of hype, Dimitrov finally lived up to the billing.

He’s got the shots and at the Australian Open he showed some drive and moxie. While his rival and third round victim Milos Raonic continues to languish, you can see the hunger and the fire in Dimitrov who had a very, very real chance at upsetting Nadal in the fourth round.

Once he gets stronger – and he will at just 22 – and tougher, it’s not unlikely that he’ll be a multiple Slam winner on day. After all, in four years someone has to be, right?

As for Bouchard, the WTA’s new pin-up girl made her big breakthrough reaching the semifinals. A la Sloane Stephens from last year, this teen really didn’t beat anyone of note, but despite her age, the pressure and the stage, she didn’t just win those matches, she took them. And that’s saying a lot for a 19-year-old playing in her first Australian Open.

Is she the next Maria Sharapova or a future No. 1? I doubt it. I’d rate Sloane and others (Madison Keys, Simona Halep) well ahead of her in terms of overall potential, but it’s nice to have a another new face on the WTA.

And hey, since Grigor’s making the rounds on the WTA (first dating Serena, now Maria), could we see a future love match between the Bulgarian and Genie?

8. Aussie Tone Setter
I said at the start of the year that as January went so would the rest of the season. Well, if that’s the case then we are in for one wild ride in 2014.

After his loss, my runaway pick for No. 1 Novak Djokovic is a question mark again. Rafael Nadal is fighting a back, blisters and we are almost past-due for a knee injury or two. Stan Wawrinka is on top of the world and well ahead of his legendary countryman Roger Federer who at 32 seems to have found the Fountain of Youth.

Murray still needs another month. David Ferrer can still fight, but his weight class is dropping. Tomas Berdych still doesn’t seem to have any type of “want” to win Slams. JW Tsonga? Meh. And Juan Martin Del Potro… Oh no Delpo.

The young guys like Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and the Aussie 2Ks, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are starting to make their mark.

And that’s how we begin 2014. So buckle up. This could be fun.

Also Check Out:
Pete Sampras On GOAT Debate: Federer’s The Greatest, But Nadal’s Now In The Conversation
Rafael Nadal Beats Federer For 22nd Time, Talks About GOAT Debate
Fedal Wars: Nadal Well Ahead Of Federer In Masters Titles, But Does It Matter In The GOAT Discussion?
Roger v Rafa Fandom: The Fedal Wars Rage On
Team GOAT? Bryans Set Doubles Record With 62nd Career Title

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95 Comments for 8 Things I Think I Thought About Wawrinka, Nadal, The GOAT Debate And The Australian Open

Jack Lewis Says:

“As for Stan, it probably will end up being his lone Slam win.”
That is just lovely, if we went with “probably” he would have zero slams at this stage, there is no reason to write him off right now. You can be sure that the likes of Murray and Djokovic can be guaranteed in their prime to disappoint with inconsistent results leaving the door open.

“The Great GOAT Debate” Lots of errors in the second and third paragraph.

steve-o Says:

Stan is indeed the man. Strange to think that only fifteen years ago Switzerland had no male Grand Slam winners, now it has two!

I feel calling anyone a “one-Slam wonder” is a bit unfair. It’s hard to win even one Grand Slam. For many players the highlight of their career is a Grand Slam quarterfinal, so winning one is incredible.

After winning, he suggested he didn’t really have a goal to be #1 at the moment, he wasn’t sure what he would do next. I think it will be hard for him to maintain a consistently high level of performance, but I’m sure he’ll keep fighting to improve.

Brando Says:

Great write up Sean. Have to disagree with the Boris reference: NO WAY would Novak fire him Wimby. It’s crazy to think of sacking him after one mere event. I stated my doubts about Boris Pre AO- I stand by them still. But I have no doubt he’ll have a fair run with Novak. He has to. He’s too expensive, high profile to hire and fire within months. It would look very, very bad for Novak if he did that. Would signal to the tour he’s not happy and stable- exactly the last thing he wants to signal. Long story short: far, far too early to say anything about Boris IMHO.

SG1 Says:

I don’t know whether or not Stan will win another slam. I don’t know if Rafa, Novak or Murray will ever win another slam. There just aren’t any guarantees out there. I do believe that Stan has the game to be a multiple slam winner. Whether he wins another one or not, I think is up to him. I sure hope he does. I like his game and his attitude. At 28, there isn’t a ton of time left but maybe, just maybe, he’s a late bloomer.

Kimberly Says:

Great write up. An enjoyable read for sure

skeezer Says:

You’re obviously a talented writer. Great stuff and was an enjoyable read to start the Tennis of 2014. Thanks.

skeezer Says:

I think the more we have guys win Slams like Delpo and Stan the more fun it will be. Its like nothing is a gaurantee with the top 4, which imo is a good thing. Grigor seems like the only really young guy that could break through.

Okiegal Says:

How is it Boris Becker’ s fault that Stan played lights out tennis and beat Novak?? I think for the writer to bring this up in the article is a little premature at this time……just one tournament under Boris. He also lost the USO, not the fault of the coaches……good play by the opponent. These tight matches could go either way, a great shot can change the whole complexion of a match in a matter of seconds. To even suggest the loss could be Beckers fault…..not!!

courbon Says:

Nice article.

@ skeezer: I don’t remember you talking like this when Fed was winning everything.But now? For me is fun when Novak and Rafa are winning!!No suprisess!!! You hypocrite…

…just joking, mate!

Mr. Larvey Says:

I don’t see that Dojker missing the easy volley on the match point is BB’s fault. The tacktic was right, but the execution horrible.

skeezer Says:

Lol ;)

@Mr. Larvey,
Totally agree. It was actually a great idea, but bad execution. He was late on his volley…..further out in front and would have been an easy putaway.

Eric Says:

I don’t understand how Wawa winning is THAT much more shocking than JMDP. Did you watch his last two hardcourt slam runs? That said, he certainly doesn’t — didn’t? — carry himself like a slam champion.

Eric Says:

Also, Stan’s not _that_ far ahead of Roger — 1400 points is a lot, but a lot can change.

What’s MUCH more interesting is how, even now, the top 2 are a billion miles ahead of the rest of the field. Rafa is almost FOUR thousand points ahead of Novak, who is almost FIVE thousand ahead of Stan. But from there on down the next six players are tightly packed into that 1400 point span — and then another it’s another 1300 point just down from Fed to Gasquet.

In other words, the ranking system is segmenting out the distinct bands of players much more accurately than usual: we have the top two further ahead of the field than ever, and for once, the serious, predictably “in it,” Masters and Slams challengers are all in a real group at 3-8, with another large gulf before the guys who’ve turned out to be jokers recently – Gasquet, Tsonga, Isner, whoever…

Okiegal Says:

As long as anyone other than Rafa is winning the slams there will be some happy campers in the realm of tennis. I personally don’t think there is anybody below the top 4 or 5 that can git r done IMO…….but we will see!! Fed is lower in the rankings now, but I would not count him out at Wimby, however.

Hippy Chic Says:

I dont know where Stan goes from here,hes proved he has what it takes to beat the top players Rafa,Novak,Andy etc,although hes 28 years old and thats pretty unusual for a player to win their 1st GS,what he needs to do now is back this up quickly,and also make a statement on another surface this year so to prove this wasnt a one of or fluke,as things will only get harder as theres other young players coming through now,time will tell if hes reached his peak all too late?

Hippy Chic Says:

About Rafa he just seems cursed at the AO,however as long as he keeps putting himself in contention then theres always the chance he can win another,i would give him another couple of tries at best though,i would think he stands a better chance of winning more HC GS at the USO as of now,i believe its more likely that he will surpass Pete rather than Roger in terms of winning GS,i dont really believe Rafa was ever obsessed with GOATHOOD anyway the way that many think he is,i think his only goal was to be the best he could be.

El_Flaco Says:

Don’t forget that Djokovic serve and volleyed at 30 all against Nadal in the Wimby final when he was serving for the match and made a backhand volley that was not as easy to hit a winner on as it looked. He also charged the net on match point which surprised Nadal and resulted in a wild miss at a backhand passing shot.

El_Flaco Says:

Just an FYI that historically Stan has been a better player on clay.

Robin Says:

Stan, left field? Don’t think so. Won the Chennai Open leading up to the AO. He seems more focused and confident than in previous years. Don’t right him off just yet!

metan Says:

Sean.πŸ‘. β™₯re : Rafa

jean kirshenbaum Says:

What is that nonse about li possibly becoming #1- at 32 and with half the points of Serena?!!
Last time I read your junk.

Joel Says:

7. What? Please don’t speculate on their personal lives. Keep it on court.

Margot Says:

@EF @8.20am
Comms always sat it’s much easier to hit a backhand volley. Dunno if Kimberly/Ben/Skeeze or other regular, club players would agree.

Ben Pronin Says:

I find it easier to hit reflex backhand volleys but the sitters should be easier on the forehand side… although, yeah, I probably miss way more on the forehand.

Margot Says:

Cheers Ben. Wonder why that’s so.

skeezer Says:

BH volley is easier(oh), technically. BH gets your shoulder into the ball, providing stability whereas the FH volley the shoulder is following…easier to hit the ball late by mistake. The right grip for volleying is paramount and as usual keep your contact point way in front, knees bent as needed…time your volley with a step in front, if u can. In Nole’s case…he ran through the ball and as a result just hit it late. It happens.

Margot..think of Fencing, That is the ideal atitude for a good volleyer, the volley game you keep everything in front of you like a sword fight, Very little backswing….the power is generated from your body moving in or your opponets power…

Sean Randall Says:

High forehand volley definitely among the toughest volleys to hit. Backhand volley much easier shot, less can go wrong. (I know from experience!)

Ahfi Says:

Sean, to start with, let’s not make too many predictions because they usually don’t go our way. I remember when Murray started to do very well, there were all kinds of suggestions that subsequent slams were going to be shared between only Murray and Joko, with Rafa capturing only the French (if he was lucky). It took quite a while from that prediction before Murray won anything. I remember replying to one of those posts, stating that the fact that Fed wasn’t doing too well then, didn’t mean the rest of the tennis players were dead. People tend to forget the rest of the players in this equation, especially the ones that are just trying to make a name for themselves by dispatching one of the top 8 in the first round.

Regarding Wawrinka, you may not have watched him the past two years. This win was NO ‘out-of-left-field’ win. He had been getting closer and closer especially against Joko. If anybody was lucky to have won a slam, it was Delpo, at the time that he won it. Didn’t Fed have match point and then went crazy because of a bad call or something and then lost his concentration after that? I watched that match and if I remember correctly, it was only in the last few moments that Delpo (and all of us watching) realized that he (Delpo) could actually win. And he did win. Prior to this slam win, Delpo was playing very well that year (and possibly the year before), but defeating Fed wasn’t really in the thinking yet.

Ahfi Says:

Err… the only prediction I am venturing to make is Joko getting back to number one. Last year, Rafa shot to number one very quickly because he had very few points to defend (since he didn’t play much in 2012 and also missed the AO in 2013). The rest of this year is going to be a different story. Can you imagine if Dmitrov defeated Nadal in the first week at the French Open i.e. if they meet in the first week? Basically, I am saying it is going to be ‘easy’ for Joko to get back to number one by the end of the year.

Michael Says:

Predictions always go awry. We need to be conscious about it. Where will Wawrinka go from here is difficult to tell ? But, the confidence that he has gathered from this victory beating Novak and Rafa should take him places according to me. I am sure he will become a major contender in Grand slams provided he shows the consistency he displayed at the Australian Open. I agree with Sean that a duel between Wawarinka and Rafa at Rolland Garros would be very interesting to watch considering that Stan consider the clay courts as his forte of strength. So, there is a churning happening at the top and it is good for the Sport. As regards Rafa, who can write him off ? He always has the capability to bounce back strong and with clay season approaching, he might once again dominate the tour and probably seeking his 9th Rolland Garros win which if he attains would be incredible. But certainly I would say it would not be easy this time considering that he has Novak and Wawarinka on the way. Coming to Roger, he produced his magical Tennis against Tsonga and a jaded Andy and looked to me that he discovered his lost form but he couldn’t repeat that against his Nemesis Rafa predictably. However, a semi final at a Major is sure to boost his sapping confidence levels and he might have a better 2014. That leaves us with Andy and Del Potro. The former is yet to recover fully from the back surgery while the later is nursing a wrist injury. If they recover, they are surely going to become competitive. All in all, interesting days ahead for Tennis.

courbon Says:

Nice post Michael…

metan Says:

Michael, your post is always nice. Pleased to read. I file them up.. πŸ˜„πŸ˜
Would you like to tell me how long a player who suffered wrist injury will be back on tour …in this case just light injuries. Thanks! I love delpo on tour.

skeezer Says:

Ahhh, from talking technical to fan boy cheerleader talk. Tennis X has evolved me guesses, hey Ben and Sean? Well, although short lived, thought we all may have a discussion about Tennis technique and strategy, not about players based upon favoritism.
The time is such that we all wear Cheerleading skirts and have pom poms, and derive our posts based on hoogle search terms and tweets, and Facebook. Is that all the tennis fan gets there knowledge from?


courbon Says:

@ Ahfi: I think you should distinguish between ending year as number one ( ATP race to London ) and defending points ( ATP rankings ).Because of lots of points rafa has to defend ( but not Wimbledon! ), Novak maybe pass him at some point.But to finish year at number one ( remember, all points gets recalculated after ATP Finals ), Novak has to win more tournaments then Rafa.Easier said then done, specially that I see them both being in top form right now.(at this moment Rafa has 1450 and Novak 510 points

metan Says:

Tennis X has evolved only you still stuck in the box like your idol. Which magic both of you needed most? ‘.πŸ˜„πŸ˜

skeezer Says:

What box? And who here is stuck?
Do you play the game or just watch from the couch and get your knowledge from google about Tennis like so many others?
There are fans, and there are Tennis fans. You can only gain certain knowledge of the game of you actually play. If you watch, no matter what anyone says, you are disconnected in a way, you’re only knowledge then comes from Google and the ATP site, Tweet and Facebook. This alone does not quantify “knowledge of the game”.

Tennis knowledge isn’t attained from social media alone. Yet
many here, try to claim authority by using it. But yet, its not from there knowledge, but from someone else. But they try to own it.
Try to play the game, enjoy it, embrace it. You’ll get a better understanding of it.

skeezer Says:

Not at you per se…just a conversation to all ;)

metan Says:

@skeezer. I play the game twice a week and have a coach and i do enjoy the game. Box is your attitude. Go figure out how you write about Rafa and for Roger when he is facing him on the court It has been almost a decade. Please re.read all your all post…..

Steve 27 Says:

what is this nonsense that Rafa has to defend much more than Djokovic?. The difference between both in points was aproximately only 750 points, the equivalent of s Gold Medal. The player who gain more points at the end of the year is the player of the season and the deserved number 1. Casual fans like Ahfi it seems doesnt know the difference and confused with something that is simple if they knew a little more regulation.

Okiegal Says:

Are there any tennis players on TX that’s ever played professional tennis?? Just curious.

Okiegal Says:

I don’t think anyone could have “true knowledge” of the game unless they have played professional tennis on tour. That’s why I asked the question if there were any ex-professional tennis players posting here……legit question.

Margot Says:

Thanks for that detailed explanation and Sean too Really interesting. :)

metan Says:

@skeezer. Some you said is true but don’t be jealous over those who has so many knowledge about tennis but never hold a racquet . It brings new dimension on tennis world. IMO.πŸ˜’πŸ˜„πŸ˜’πŸ˜„πŸ˜’πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜

Hippy Chic Says:

Michael in what way is Rafa been written off,he still contested the final didnt he,he won Doha didnt he,just saying??

Hippy Chic Says:

Skeezer/Metan im 46 years old,with my busy life and work life,and wouldnt have the time or energy to go out and play tennis too,i do appreciate that many on this forum play the game and have better knowledge of the game than i do,my knowledge of the game is pretty basic,im just your average armchair fan,and what i do find out alot of the time is from Googol etc,however i do like to think of myself as a fan of tennis as a whole and not some cheerleader fanatic which i find sad when im put on that type of pedestal.

Hippy Chic Says:

Michael just wondering as hes basically done it all on clay what does he have left to prove,anthing is gravy now surely,win or lose??

MMT Says:

I don’t want to harp on one point, because there were a lot of points in the match, but I think Djokovic’s choice to serve and volley down match point illustrates the problem taking short cuts in coaching, because it’s all well and good to tell a player tactically he needs to come forward and finish points off early, but what good does that do you if your technique doesn’t allow you to do it when the pressure is on.

Djokovic has been working on coming forward more for a year now, and while he’s made improvements in that element of his game, one can hardly argue that he volleys particularly well. In fact, of the so-called “big four”, his net game is probably teh weakest. So, if your his coach, and you tell him tactically that he needs to come forward, which is always a good idea, you must first start out with getting his technique to the point that he can do it under duress.

This is where I think it’s a terrible idea to shack up to a coach who has NO record of analyzing and teaching technique. IN fact, when I read that part of what drew Djokovic to Becker was the mental aspect, my alarms went through the roof. In my opinion, nothing helps a players mental strengh less than focusing on mental strength. You’re much better off focusing on technique.

So there are no short cuts in coaching – you can’t get a player to do something that makes sense tactically if you don’t give him the tools to pull it off technically, and I haven’t really seen any particular improvements in Djokovic’s technique, just more of a willingness to come forward.

But that’s only half the battle, and frankly it should really be the second half, not the first.

Michael Says:

Courbon/Metan – Thanks !!!

Metan – Recovery depends on the seriousness of the ailment. I hope the wrist injury is not serious for Del Potro who is convalsceing. But in my opinion, he has to reduce his fire power a little bit if he is to sustain longevity.

Alison – Ofcourse there is nothing left for Rafa to prove on Clay Courts. He is the Greatest of all Time and his records speak for themselves. But he is not satisfied with what he has achieved and probably yearning for more. Where he is likely to end particularly in Rolland Garros and Montecarlo, one can only guess !?

Giles Says:

I do t think any player rests on his laurels. Look at Princess Federer, he has 17 GS’s and a whole bunch of records some of which will perhaps never be broken and yet he is out there striving for more at the grand old age of 32 going on 33.They all want more. So to my mind saying “But he is not satisfied with what he has achieved and probably yearning for more” is a bit stupid as he is a competitor of the highest order loves tennis. He often says “tennis is my life”.So, Rafa will be out there competing as long as his body responds. Hopefully it will be for a very long time.
Vamos Rafa!
Stay Healthy!

Margot Says:

Have got another “technical” question to ask. Are JMDP’s repeated wrist injuries to do with his technique or is it just a side effect from the tough nature of the sport these days?
Am thinking as an example, of Sharapova’s old serve technique here, when she had to have surgery and thus change her serving motion.
Clearly Monfils brings his injuries on himself but Tomic needing a hip op at a really young age, just

Okiegal Says:


I too have wondered about DelPo’ s wrist problem. Don’t know about mechanics, but I think it’s because he hits so hard, imo harder than anyone on the tour. I think he is killing his wrist. I remember Shanghai. He beat Rafa pretty bad. That’s the first time I had seen Rafa truly stunned and also the time Tsonga beat him at Melbourne. Rafa was laughing and talking to the umpire at Shanghai like what’s it gonna take to beat this guy! So when Jaun is at his best he’s a force to be reckoned with. I really like the gentle giant too. Hope to see him get healthy.

Ahfi Says:

Hello to the couple of people who misunderstood my post about Rafa/Joko having to defend or not to defend points.

Please read AGAIN what I said. All I said was in 2013, it was easy for Rafa to jump to number one since he did not have that many points to defend from 2012. Are you with me? We are now in 2014. In 2012 Rafa did not play for half of the year after his very early exit at Wimbledon. Hence, he did not have too many points to defend in 2013. He added a lot of points in 2013 so he shot to number one very quickly. Last year he missed Australian Open so again this year, he added all these points despite losing in the final. But, for the rest of the year, things are going to get more competitive because he has to defend his remaining points. Of course, Joko also has to defend his points since he played the whole of last year. Basically, I was just wondering with competition from Dimitrov and ‘newly heralded’ Stan, and with Nadal’s ‘back pain’ will he be able to defend all these points from last year (unlike the way things went in 2012/2013)? That’s all. I am no Joko supporter but, from my observation, I think he still has the strength to get going!!

Michael Says:


You have mistaken my comment and twisted it out of context.

courbon Says:

@ Ahfi: Hi there.I understood you well but maybe you did not understand my post? I does not matter, I think you maybe right but only if one assumes that Novak will play better then Rafa this year.I don know what to think about Novak right now…

Margot Says:

Presumably if he changes his technique he’ll lose some power? I saw him lose at the WTF. It was very noticeable, probably partly because of the huge grunting that accompanies a huge shot, that his forehand was not firing -no grunting! A friend who plays golf told me when he hits a big shot, he grunts!
BTW Andy was in the operating theatre for over 3 hours!

Okiegal Says:

Thanks Margot, for the info on Andy’s surgery, that’s along time to be out. I was wondering showing it took.

Okiegal Says:

^^^^^ should be HOW LONG IT TOOK

metan Says:

Alison, that’s exactly, I was telling skeezer . He doesn’t need to be little to posters like you. Who has their own reason why they don’t run like a bunny on the court. I understand what he misses on this forum. I too miss that. Look at his post Jan. 30 @3.33pm. It was cool and packed. It showed that he plays tennis. And I love his comments honestly. So please don’t be sad. I never thought you and others like that. Shall we be happy joly together playing or just watching tennis????. 😜😍β™₯β™₯β™₯β™₯

Hippy Chic Says:

Metan i have always got on alright with Skeezer too,i think as long as your fair to his favorites he will be fair to ours,and i dont think he was belittling people like me anyway,im not sad i was just putting my point across,as i say i love Rafa/Andy but i love the game more than anyone particular player,and as i also say my knowledge is basic,im just an average armchair fan,who just loves the game of tennis.

Ahfi Says:

@Courbon, you are partially right in the sense that I am assuming Joko will play better than Nadal this year. I can already see the signs. In the past (or long ago?) Joko would retire mid matches etc. with all kinds of excuses. But once people got on his case, he found a way to get extremely fit and started winning without the drama. As much as I am not his fan, one of the changes that I have noticed is that he tries to get the job done. When he has a ‘bad’ loss, he tries hard to come back the next time. My opinion of Rafa (who am I, anyway?), is that he tries to turn a bad loss into some kind of sympathy story and that distracts him from moving on. But who knows, maybe, this time around, after that boo, he will do things differently. ‘Uncle Toni’ has already stated that the ‘back problem’ was a small thing and it’s already gone (even though Rafa was folding over on the court as if the end was near and then played well in the 3rd and 4th set. What do I know? Never held a tennis racket!!

courbon Says:

@ Ahfi: I hope you are right because I’m long time Novaks fan.I just don’t know what to make it out this AO loss…Is it just a blip and continuing decline?I know it sounds ridiculous to call somebody in decline on 28 match winning streak but he has not won last 7 Grand Slams.He is at the top with Nadal, and you always think he will win this one, but he doesn’t…so he leaves me worried! ( like he cares about me!)We will se, I think you are right that he looks right now but I don’t wont to get to excited.
By the way, which tennis player you like to watch and support?

Okiegal Says:

I’m wondering how strong of a champion Stan really is. He lost that third set and I keep asking myself how??

Hippy Chic Says:

Ahfi/Courbon Novak was unbeaten at the AO since 2010,all runs come to an end eventually no matter how good a player is on a particular surface,or at a particular GS,its the law of averages,i said before the AO i wouldnt be surprised if Novak were to lose out this year,and you know what i wouldnt be surprised if Rafa were to lose at the FO this year either,i mean i hope not but nothing lasts forever,maybe Novak will get the title back next year?maybe he will have a stellar year still and win the remaining 3 GS?who knows nobody saw Stan winning the AO so anything is possible?

Okiegal Says:


Yes, Chic the law of average is a real bummer!! I fear for our guy this year! At some point, the streak will end, but oh my, what a streak!! His record at the FO is hard to wrap my head around….eight, WOW!!

courbon Says:

@ Hippy Chic: You are absolutely right! Nothing to ad, just like you said.

Hippy Chic Says:

Okiegal exactly we have to look at it that way,what a streak,and its doubtful that it will ever be surpassed,its all gravy for Rafa on clay and at the FO,win or lose he has nothing left to prove there anymore..

Okiegal Says:


He really doesn’t. He’s got that clay thing down pat!

Ahfi Says:

@Courbon, you asked which player I like to watch and support. Before I tell you that, let me also say, I’ve gotten to that stage where what I want to watch is very very good tennis. For example, I don’t particularly care for Sharapova nor Jankovic but when those two are playing well, I like to watch them compete with other top players. With the guys, I like to watch, say, the top ten plus these upcoming ones who seem to be seriously challenging the top people. My favorite person, though, is, who else, but Roger. I do NOT care whether Roger is #100, I will still admire him. For me, its all about consistency (in terms of supporting somebody). Yes, Roger has not played too well the past couple of years but people forget he won Wimbledon in 2012 and won the Olympic Silver. At the Olympics, had Delpotro not taken everything, and I mean everything out of Federer in the semis, the final would have been a different story. Federer simply had nothing left after the semis with Delpo. I just read an article that said today, Feb. 2, marks the 10th anniversary of Fed first becoming number 1. He is still in the top 10. Talk about consistency. Also, but for the past couple of years, or maybe, 3 years, Fed had reached the semis of every grand slam. He has had barely any injuries, especially during matches. He does not retire during matches. This is the person I admire. I don’t care what his ranking is. But like I said, I like to watch any good tennis match.

courbon Says:

@ Ahfi: Alright, so you are first and outmost tennis fan who supports Roger.
Delpo is energy drainer-he done same to Novak in Wimbledon and US Open…
Speak to you soon.

MMT Says:

Margo and Oki: I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at del Potro’s mechanics on his forehand before and after the injury, but I beleive his current wrist injury is on the other hand, so they are not directly related.

The only difference between the fundamentals of del Potro’s technique on the forehand and most of the top ATP players is that he does bring the racquet head a little higher on the take back (although no further back than anyone else) and his finish is considerably further out in front of him, even though the racquet head does essentially finish across his chest.

It is possible that these differences put more stress on his wrist to control his racquet head throughout the stroke on the forehand, but I’d have to look at before and after slow-mo’s to get a sense of if there’s been any changes to take that into account.

There are two types of two-handed backhands – one is essentially a left handed forehand, and one is a right-handed backhand with support from the other hand. del Potro’s is definitely in the left handed forehand category, but I have noticed that he has a little more dip of the racquet head as his brings it foreward than say Djokovic and Nadal, and this may contribute to additional stress on that wrist.

I would also suggest that his court positioning forces that slight variation in his backhand production, and such a player that tall who plays that far behind the baseline essentially has to drop the racquet head to make standard contact with the ball. You can see del Potro reaching and dipping more on the backhand than some of his contemporaries, and that could result in additional stress on that wrist as well.

Techniques can (and in fact always do) change over time, so there’s no reason why, if it is an issue of stroke production, he cannot change it and still be effective, however, these kinds of changes do tend to take time, and cost players results as they adjust their game to the new strokes.

How much of an effect such changes would have on him is, of course, an open question.

Okiegal Says:


Thanks, for your take on DelPo. I feel sorry for him. He is an amazing talent. I’m thinking back to his USO win……….he beat the best that tournament and does not seem like he has looked the same since. He will play great matches and then his wrist acts up. Wasn’t aware that it was the other one. Thanks for the info. I do like the gentle giant and his play in USO that year was amazing…..it’s a shame that the wrist plagues him.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Great write up.
1. No one knows if Stan has more Slams to come, but I think we can agree on one thing: we will all be penciling in Stan vs Big Four matches as blockbusters, and he WILL give us those. That’s great for tennis, and terrible for the Big Four.
2. Rafa is a huge favourite for the French. Suggesting Stan is a contender, I can’t buy it. The physicality it takes to beat Rafa on clay is another thing altogether, and only one player currently has shown he can do it. However, we are getting to the point where Rafa’s been back almost a year– you do start to wonder when his next forced time out ail come.
4. Someobody has to get Serena’s leftovers. It could as easily by Li as Azarenka or Sharapovoa.
5. Federer can only hope he doesn’t land in Rafa’s path. Ever. So he enters every tournament with that huge odds-based event in his way. When we see the draw (anywhere), we can talk about him as a dark horse. Maybe he gets Stan or Novak instead. He’s got a shot.
6. No way. Novak is one of the most patient guys on tour. Look how long he’s stayed with one coach, despite his ‘breakthrough’ being delayed year after year, stuck at 3, never following up his lone Slam. Think how long he stuck with experiments on his serve and racquet when they appeared to be failing. Boris will have some leeway.
7. Yep. Genie and Grigor are for real. Milos, I’m starting to have my doubts. On the other hand, I think the Posicle could take over Milos sticky maple syrup covered seat in the top 10.

Margot Says:

U r a star! Thanks for such a detailed response. In fact I’d noticed how “far out” his forehand is.
I also read he’d said that his left wrist was so painful he couldn’t pick up a racquet, which suggests an acute injury he could’ve picked up anywhere/anytime.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

MMT, I always enjoyer your technical write-ups (and thanks to Skeeze, Sean and Brando for more of that discussion) but I think you’re way off on your contact of tactics here.
Going forward is NOT always a great thing. That hasn’t been true in over ten years. Even the best volleyers in the game today, such as Fed and Rafa, come to the net a FRACTION as often as Edberg or Sampras did. Coming to the net is for most players, a matter of the right opportunity, or a surprise ploy. A very few, like Fed, can construct points to bring themselves to the net.
The players aren’t suicidally choosing to stay at the baseline out of religious beliefs. They are at the baseline because these days that’s where matches are won. For the vast majority of the tour, net play is like a good wedge shot: you need it in your arsenal, but that’s not the shot that wins you tournaments. (I think, what the hell do I know about golf?)

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Sorry, I meant context of tactics

courbon Says:

@ Tennis vagabond: I like your post at 1:25.pretty much agree with everything ( thasts why I probably like it…Oh, vanity, vanity).
I think Vasek P. maybe turn tables this year.

pigoonse Says:

Enjoyed the Sean Randall write-up overall.

Nadal has amazing powers of recovery. The question is – how long will it take? He only needed hours for his bleeding blister to heal enough to be fit against Federer. He has set himself up well post AO – very economical. He now has the points buffer to skip South America and Acapulco and avoid the pressure of being the AO winner going into March when he has a slew of points to defend. How badly does he want to stay ATP #1?

Wawrinka’s serve and backhand was on a new level. Which took me by a little surprise when I watched him beat Robredo in style. (But that was Robredo)

Can’t wait for a Stanovak rematch!

pigoonse Says:

Until now, Grigor Dimitrov was WAY overhyped and over-rated. Now Grigor is just overhyped. The kid appears physical stronger. Still, he gives the feeling that he could flame out at any time. del Potro gives the same feeling – for different reasons than Dimitrov.

Brando Says:

@Tennis Vegabond:

Great to see you back. Stick around as your posts are great to read as ever.

MMT Says:

TennisVagabond: I agree it is more difficult to come forward today than it was before the balls got fluffier, the courts got slower, and the strings got looser – fair enough. I’m certainly not suggesting serve and volley is necessarily a viable method of playing for the modern athletes given those conditions.

But tennis still a game of applying or absorbing pressure, and in my opinion the advantage will always go to he who 1) does one or the other the best and 2) mitigates the need to do one of those better, by maximizing their skills in the other.

That means that although modern players are primarily playing from the baseline, and movement and defense is a premium skill to have, the ones who seek opportunities to come forward when they have the chance, or have the capacity to overcome defenses with flat power, will always be the best.

Even Nadal, who might be viewed as a paragon of defensive tennis, jumps on short balls, adjusts his court positioning against players who conceded the forecourt, and is in my opinion, an excellent volleyer. Does this mean that he should serve and volley down match point?

Probably not a good idea.

But if he’s up a break point, and his opponent dumps in a weak second serve, he may do himself a few favors by belting it and approaching. And Djokovic has to recognize that as hard and consistently as he hits the ball off both wings, he will still have trouble against Murray and Nadal precisely because there is a limit to how much pressure he can apply before HE starts making errors.

To that end, he would do well to apply pressure with less risk by coming to net when he has the chance. This would force his opponents to adjusting their court positioning (in order to defend or prevent him for coming to net) which will open the court for his groundstrokes. And shorter points, is always good for fitness and longevity.

But all of that is tactical, as you pointed out. At the end of the day, if he lacks the deep skills to come to net, then it won’t work. Furthermore, you don’t have to serve and volley to come to net – one of the advantages of the lighter faster balls of the past was the ability to play effective, but low risk, approach shots. Deep but slow that stayed down and forced players to half-volley or retreat on passing shots – and as I’m sure you’re aware, that is a VERY hard thing to do.

Today, there is so much topspin in the game, that most players lack effective flat deep shots that serve much better when approaching the net, than your standard 4 feet over the net topsin shots which sit up and are just begging for a pass. Slice approaches only work if you’re already in the forecourt, because a slice from anywhere less than 2-3 feet inside the baseline has to be perfectly placed, and that’s hard to do if the ball and court is slow. That’s why coming to net has ALWAYS been difficult on clay courts.

But THAT’S where coaches comes in – not pumping fists and thumping chests and all this other histrionics which does NOTHING to help their players. They need to earn their money and develop the tools in practice, and so their guys can then use them in matches. What Djokovic may be missing from Becker, which he definitely got from his previous coach, Martin Vajda, is the technical coaching to develop a very specific skill set that would be required to effectively employ those tactics.

Of course, it’s easy from the cheap seats, but I’m still convinced it’s the way forward in the game.

MMT Says:

BTW – in case you’re wondering: a tell-tale sign of a two-handed backhand that is essentially a weak-handed forehand is if the leading arm is straight or bent on the take back.

As a general rule, a bent arm is essentially a one-handed backhand with a little help from the trailing arm (think Safin and Agassi). The bent arm allows it to straighten at the point of contact and thus generates more racquet head speed – this is the best a two-handed backhand can do to generate racquet head speed because there is still some resistence from the trailing arm that prevents a free-flowing, full-blooded pace generating shot like the best one-handed backhands.

When the leading arm is straight on the take back, it cannot generate much power, and the focus is thus primarily on racquet head stability and using the pace coming in. Thus the only power must come from the trailing arm, making it a “weak-handed” forehand, however this is also limited (by the leading arm) preventing a full-blooded, pace generating shot.

The advantage of the one handed backhand is that, when executed properly, it generates more pace than a two-handed backhand – this is why so many smaller players, whom you would assume would be better off with a two-handed backhand play the one-hander (Bjorn Phau, Gaston Gaudio, Olivier Rochus, Dudi Sela, Justine Henin, Frankie Schiavone, Alberta Brianti). If they want to generate the most power on that wing, they HAVE to learn to let go of the other arm and let the racquet head flow through the point of contact.

The down side is that they lose racquet head stability, so there is a premium on footwork, court positioning and technique, and when they can’t put all three together (which is harder to do than with a 2-handed backhand) they go to the slice, which is why so many 1-handed backhanders player the slice so often.

I have played both, and I can tell you I’ve never hit it as hard with two as I have with one, and I always used a bent-arm take-back even with the two hander. It’s just not possible to generate the racquet same flow and racquet head speed with that other arm on the racquet.

Ben Pronin Says:

MMT, great stuff, but I’m just having a hard time imaging Safin hitting any harder than he did on his backhand side.

Margot Says:

Again, so interesting. I’d assumed duh, that two handers generated more power and that’s why they were preferred.
More control then, or even more variety?

skeezer Says:


Great stuff. To add the Single hander typically has a contact point further in front than the 2 hander. A small advantage of a 2 hander is you can have a later contact point and still generate some zing…but they’ll never have the slice like the one hander can produce.

Ben Pronin Says:

This article adds some good stuff to this discussion, too:

MMT Says:

Yeah, Ben, Safin really belted it on the backhand – Agassi too.

And Margot, the two handed backhand is preferred by younger players who want to be more competitive earlier without the strength to compensate for a poor technique on the one-hander. With a two-hander, you can makes technique issues with the strength of the second hand. In my opinion, money in the game has made it hard for players to be patient in their technical development.

And skeezer, you’re right, there are very few two-handed backhanders with aesthetically appealing slices…come to think of it, Wawrinka and Almagro’s slices are pretty ugly. I think Federer, Gasquet and Dimitrov are the creme of the crop on slice backhands.

MMT Says:

I can’t believe I forgot Tommy Haas’s slice – it’s outstanding too. Topspin backhand is pretty good too, BTW.

metan Says:

MMT & TV you both deserve to get β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜….awesome. posts. This kind of comments should come often on TX.
Thank you!!!

skeezer Says:

Good catch on Tommy. Also some fans forget all those his injuries plagued his career. If not for those? Coulda, woulda shoulda….

Margot Says:

You’ve now got me wondering if Andy had a two hander b4 he went to Barcelona, or whether it was specifically taught there, Can find that for myself of course.
Why is Fed’s bh so vulnerable to Rafa, whereas Dimitrov’s, when I last saw them play, didn’t seem to be? Does the fact D is taller than F, make the difference, which I’ve read somewhere?

Hippy Chic Says:

Metan exactly i couldnt agree more about posters like MMT,Tennis Vagabond,Michael and Grendel some of the few posters that are so balanced and unbiased its difficult to tell who they are actually fans of unless they tell you?and i agree also great posts from both,nice discussion on this thread proper tennis discusion,some of it im out of my depth with,so im just happy to sit back and read,there should be more of this.

MMT Says:

Margot, I have a post on my blog about Federer backhand problem with Nadal. To summarize – taller 1-handers help, but court positioning helps Dimitrov (he plays further behind the baseline, thereby hitting more often closer to his waist than his shoulder) but Federer’s biggest problem is that in the balance between spin and pace, Federer’s relies more on spin, and because of his court positioning, he has to take the backhand higher (shoulder height), which makes it harder for him to achieve the proper balance.

He could move further behind the baseline, but then he’d have to defend better. He could step in and take it on the rise, but there still he has a problem with spin vs pace, and that’s not optimal court positioning for his forehand.

His only real alternative is to re-engineer his backhand to hit through the ball more than he does, more like Almagro and Wawrinka do, but that’s a tall order for a 32 year old all-time great like him.

James Blake’s backhand was not nearly as aesthetic as Federer’s, BTW, but it was MUCH more effective against Nadal, precisely because he use less spin AND took it on the rise – especially the backhand return. Of course Blake had 10 other disadvantages to Nadal that eventually had him lose more often than he beat him, but in the beginning, Nadal had a lot of trouble with Blake.

MMT Says:

Margot: I don’t know about Andy Murray, but this article below (although I don’t speak portuguese) seems to suggest that he switched from 1 hand to 2 on the backhand. Now, I’ve seen video of him as a kid (about 9, 10, 11 years old) and he had a 2 handed backhand then, so I don’t know when he would have switched, but he did say that growing up he idolized Pete Sampras and you would think that with him hitting a 1 handed backhand, he’d be inclined to do the same, but who knows.


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