Novak Djokovic has proven himself to be a top 5 ATP competitor for quite some time, but with Nadal reigning at the number 1 spot on the tour, this leaves many fans and commentators to wonder if Djokovic can once again take hold of the top spot on tour.
While it might be a stretch in the short term for Novak to overtake Nadal in the #1 rankings, it is not a stretch to say that Novak has the game to tackle the top echelons of the game once again.
Although Novak recently got ousted in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Australian Open, we must not be quick to make judgments about his potential in 2014.
In fact, Novak Djokovic might have the potential to become the number 1 reigning champion before the close of 2014 if he executes his game and strategy to perfection.
More importantly, Novak already has the game required to be able to hang in with the big boys on tour. Now, it is a matter if he can put all of the pieces of the puzzle together to play subliminal tennis in 2014.
Here’s what players at all other levels of tennis can take away from Novak’s exceptional game:
The Benefits of Being an All Court Player
Novak Djokovic is part of a new breed of professional tennis players that has no noticeable weaknesses in any part of their game. In fact, analysts would be hard pressed to identify any glaring weaknesses in Novak’s game.
In today’s game of tennis, pro players are now learning to hit more aggressive shots from behind the baseline with heavy topspin. In the past, players were relatively weak from the baseline because they played points revolving around a serve and volley style of play.
Today’s modern ATP & WTA professionals are actually equally as strong in the baseline as in their net game. In fact, the best players like Novak combine a versatile all court game that is a mix between offence and defense.
In any given point in tennis, the balance between offense and defense may shift several times – and players in today’s game must learn to adapt to changing situations constantly while playing a match.
A Master of Offense and Defense
Novak is one such player, because he not only has the foot speed and agility, but he also has great defensive shots to recover from bad situations during a point.
Quite often, we see Novak stretched out wide – only to quickly recover by utilizing a spectacular lunging forehand or backhand shot and still be able to hit a deep aggressive shot in return. This attribute allows Novak to turn a potentially losing situation and then regaining it back into his favor.
In addition, Novak combines a great offensive game with penetrating shots that are able to put opponents in dire situations during a point.
With such a great combination of offense and defensive shots, Novak’s game is versatile enough to cause severe damage at the top ranks of professional tennis.
As a former junior player training with a professional coach, I was told that playing a match against a professional tennis player is a kin to playing the equivalent of three tennis players on the tennis court. This is essentially how well professional players cover the court in terms of their foot speed and their shot anticipation.
Consistent & Penetrating Groundstrokes
Novak’s groundstrokes are rock solid and in any given match, he is prepared to duel it out in a three or five setter. One point to note is that Novak doesn’t try to out hit his opponents, but rather he waits for the right opportunity to capitalize on.
An example would be a typical crosscourt rally. Novak keeps hitting cross court however many times it takes until he receives the ball he wants – then he changes direction. In essence, he waits until he receives a shot where he can change his neutral situation into an offensive situation before pulling the trigger and going down the line.
Most club players make the mistake of trying to go for too much too soon in terms of their shots. They often believe that they can fire a cannon on every single shot, which causes their number of unforced errors to skyrocket. This is essentially why pushers and hackers are so successful at the club level.
Novak doesn’t try to do anything fancy from behind the baseline, rather he prefers to put himself into more of an ideal situation before going for the lines.
Learning from Novak Djokovic’s Versatility on the Court
One major takeaway from Novak’s game is clearly the fact that he has no notable weaknesses. The lesson for the club player is to constantly be striving to improve on weaknesses to solidify problem areas in their games.
Clearly, to be successful in today’s game – players at all levels must learn to develop more solid groundstrokes from behind the baseline.
The next takeaway from Novak’s game is the mindset of positivity. The top players in tennis have learned that in order to achieve better results, they must maintain a positive mindset regardless of whether they are winning or losing. Negative emotions will only serve to hinder one’s game and must be avoided at all costs.
Finally, players at all other levels of the game can learn from Novak’s thirst for constant improvement. Top players realize that in order to stay at the top, they must constantly be refining their game to keep themselves one step ahead of their opponent.
Remember to always be striving to make small progress every time you enter the practice court, so that once you enter a real match – you are prepared for the challenge ahead.
This article was written by Coach Ed of Optimumtennis.net