Sunday, January 31, 2010

Skill Level and Modern Tennis

So I just finished watching Murray and Federer in the Australian Open final. I was struck by how darn much skill it takes to win the modern game of tennis. The guys move so well and strike the ball so well that winning a point is ridiculously difficult. The windows the players have to hit through are tiny and close quickly. If you don't have the skill and courage to rip a ball to a corner when that window opens, you cannot win.

Back in the old days, my day, there seemed to be more ways to win. You could simply wait for your opponent to miss. That can work today, but it won't work in the finals of the majors, I don't think. You could serve and volley. That tactic often produced return errors from your opponent, passing errors from your opponent, or relatively easy volley winners angled to the open court if played behind your opponent. You could also chip and charge. A well struck, deep sliced approach shot put the defender at enough of a disadvantage that the points often ended like the serve and volley points did. If you were quick enough, you could also succeed defending against the serve and volleyers and the chip and chargers. It was possible to get into position to hit dipping passing shots or lobs that neutralized the attacker.

Now it really only works to serve big, return big, move your opponent off the court a bit, and go big into the small openings you create. Those finishing shots struck from around or just inside the baseline against an opponent who moves well and rips the ball are just way tougher to execute than the old finishing volleys or overheads were.

It's truly amazing to see the game played so well.

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