From the 2010 Wimbledon men's singles championships to the 2015 French Open men's singles championships, Djokovic has been in every single semi-final but one. What has allowed the (at least to us, as his style pales massively in comparison to the likes of Federer and Nadal) apparently ordinarily playing Djokovic to attain so consistently such a high level of performance. We the Rovo team believe there are four key reasons for such dominance.
Djokovic is probably the most flexible ATP player on the tour. While watching matches of his, you would often see him stretching for balls (quite some of them being hit back as winners) to an extent no other more normal player could attain. So good is he at this that quite a lot of times, he would not bother himself with getting himself in fully proper position but instead stretch out for the ball, which is not a technically correct tennis move if one wants to go by the book. This has given him what can be considered a phenomenal reach that we clearly see surpasses that if the other one who is also known for his exceptional reach and stretching abilities - Roger Federer (though to be fair, Federer's stronger ability to anticipate the shots makes up for such).
There is a wonderful saying by Sun Zi in his manual The Art of War which is very applicable defense in tennis: that one loses not because of the strength of the enemy per se, but because of the mistakes one makes. Similarly, a defense playing style could only be upheld to successful effect if the defender does not make any slips. The cornerstone of a successful defense tennis playing style is the fitness of a player, which puts such slips at bay. The longer the player can endure while not losing strength, both during individual points and across matches, the less holes would be poked in his defense. That being said, Djokovic has incredible fitness. Djokovic is clearly fitter than either Murray or Nadal (not to talk about Federer) during the individual points. Not only is he able to take on long rallies with them without seemingly losing his strength as the shot count increases, he looks the least exhausted (in fact he does not look exhausted at all most of the time) amongst the three after the typical brutal 20+ shot rally!
In today's game when the tennis courts are slower and the rallies longer, having exceptional movement is especially important for exceeding performance. It is no coincidence that the best tennis players are also the best movers. Think the big Four - who moves better than them. Perhaps Ferrer, but the gains he could potentially generate from his movement being very exceptional on its own, are tragically precluded by his height. The other crucial quality complementing Djokovic's fitness to make him the best defender of the game today (at least that is what we believe), is his flawless movement. Although lacking the graces of Federer's steps, Djokovic usually gets to where he wants to get, in time. He has the explosiveness of Monfils but lacks his heavy-weightedness. Such quality has no doubt come not only from an intensive strength training program (which no doubt involved mainly HIIT), but a natural athleticism hardly surpassable by anyone else.
My junior coach once said a good 8 years ago that the most important shot in the tennis game in the serve. It is the shot that makes or breaks the player in the match. It is not for nothing that qualified tennis commentators pay so much attention to the first serve percentages in tennis match analyses. A tennis serve does not necessarily have to lead to an non-return to break the player. A weak return as a result of a punishing serve can put the server in a position to finish the point or hit a series of finishing points. As mentioned before in a previous article, each tennis shot within a point does not produce value for itself, but also affects the effect of the next shot and the shot after the next. Djokovic is the best returner in the game. His ability to put the point back in play most of the time no matter how good the serve, has put players who traditionally depend a lot on the typical effectiveness of their first serves in trouble etc. Federer. For the point of comparison, I always bring to mention the differences between the 2015 Wimbledon Murray-Federer semi-final and the 2015 Wimbledon Djokovic-Federer final in this regard. Murray's short returns of Federer's serves have given Federer not too hard a time in winning the match. The final presented a very different situation, with Federer's previously excellent service looking mediocre at best when put to test against Djokovic!
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