The Problem with Pure Power Play

Power. We all know how intoxicating it is to feel yourself producing it, both on the tennis court and outside the tennis court. We have all been there. That massive ace serve down the line, complemented by a thorough and thunderous 'phucking' of the ball which endures much longer after the ball leaves the racket. That crosscourt forehand which whizzed in the air so fast it actually seemed like a thunderbolt striking across. This proneness to intoxication is especially acute in beginners or intermediates, given that speed is the most tangible and measurable quality in the game, and people naturally tend to focus on any metric of improvement that they can measure. To be fair, power is a good quality, but those who focus particularly on it tend to neglect the other pars of the game equally, if not more, important as power. This tendency could also be seen on the professional level - the most notable example being Roddick. Read on to see how the path of his career was crafted along such a tendency.

His earliest professional years were his best years

This is a very subjective opinion, for the statistics if scoured would not be able to support this view, but we believe that Roddick's best years were from 2003 to 2005. The exception was the year 2009. To be fair, statistics does prove it insofar as his Wimbledon finals appearances are concerned, but that is not the criteria we used in coming up with that assumption. We watched the highlights of the matches he played during that period, and were taken away not only by the raw power of his shots, but more importantly how devastating those shots were to his opponent. One example of such a match would be the 2003 US Open final, when he swept aside Ferrero in straight sets. His gameplay was best then during those days, when his power was most unbearable. They were also his most consistent years - the only losses he endured then that could be counted as upsets were the ones at the 2004 and 2005 US Opens (we do not count the French Open because its slow courts are naturally the graveyard of Roddick).

Problems with a flagging consistency in form

The next few years after 2005 saw Roddick dropping his form, suffering exits at a rate that does not match the caliber of someone like him. Notable upsets were his loss in the third round of the 2006 Wimbledon championships to Andy Murray and his quarterfinal loss to Gasquet at the 2007 Wimbledon championships. Our analysis is that age does make huge difference when it comes in determining the level of performance one brings to the court, especially for a player who relies heavily on power - a most volatile tennis asset indeed. Compounding that was what seemed to be a relatively more inefficient footwork method of his that we believe was causally linked to his much better-than-average power.

2009

The above-mentioned problems of Roddick were ameliorated to a significant degree in 2009, with the hiring of a new coach (Larry Stefanki - as seen in the picture). Larry Stefanki was the reason behind Andy Roddick's switch of gears during that tennis year. A significant trade-off which Rodedick had never done before was put in place - his movement was drastically lighter and more efficient, but there was less deliberate focus on the execution of powerful shots. One major problem of Roddick before then had been his tendency to focus so much on one shot he neglects the others to a degree fatal in the professional game.This was done away with, to what can be called spectacular results. He reached the semifinals once again at the Australian Open, but more impressively the finals of Wimbledon after 3 years of absence, both losing to Federer. Unfortunately, such well-rounded play has failed to carry him to similar levels of success post 2009 Wimbledon, and this to us remains a huge mystery.. We would cover this in a later blog article. Until then, stay tuned!

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