G’day from Monte Carlo,
What a match that was! 👍👍
Congratulations to Dominic Thiem who defeated Novak Djokovic 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3 in 2:29. It was a battle royale, and then some!!! It’s important to note that Novak served at 3-3, 40-15 in the 3rd set and had a lot of momentum. That’s tough to see in the final score.
I sat down low on the side of the court for the match, which offered a tremendous view of the high-quality action. I have basically walked straight off the court to my computer, as I want to share some thoughts on the match while they are so fresh in my mind. So here we go…
Sitting on the side of the court lets you clearly examine depth. Most of the time, especially with a TV view from behind the court, it’s direction that stands out the most to us. Not so much for me today. Both Dominic and Novak hit soooo many deep balls in the match. Too often we put so much emphasis on the ball in the air – where the focus is power and spin. A slightly slower ball that lands deep is just as lethal as a scorching forehand that lands in the middle of the court. Spin and power are the elements that you use to gain depth. Depth is the end game.
2. WORK HARD WHEN THE BALL IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COURT
Recreational players (like you!) hit their shots, watch where it goes, wait to figure out where it is coming back, and THEN move to the ball. That’s not how it works for Dominic and Novak. They hit the ball, and then start pumping their feet with repeated split steps. They keep the revs up. They keep the rpm’s at a high level as the ball is traveling away from them. That way they are already in motion when the ball starts to come back, speeding up their movement to their next shot. You work hard when the ball is on your side of the court. These guys work harder when the ball is on the other side.
3. ATTACK THE FOREHAND WIDE
Most rallies in tennis go through the Ad court to the opponent’s backhand. As I explain in The 25 Golden Rules of Singles Strategy, the forehand is the sword, and the backhand is the shield. Forehands are hit harder than backhands and account for more winners basically two to one. This concept is the same for you as it is for Dominic and Novak. In many, many points, you want to attack the backhand to break it down or weaken it. If you get a chance to finish, it’s to the vacant forehand side. More winners in tennis are actually hit to the forehand wing – not the backhand.
4. RETURN TO THE FOREHAND
Common sense would dictate that you want to return more balls to the comparatively weaker backhand wing. But not always. The reason is that you can typically rush a forehand more because it has a bigger backswing, and there is no better time to rush a groundstroke than right after a serve. There is a big difference hitting a forehand following a forehand than a forehand right after a serve. Court position is different. Time is different. The mentality is different. So next time you play a match, consider returning serve right down the middle of the court to rush the opponent’s forehand backswing and force an error. It was a major factor for Dominic and Novak this afternoon.
5. GET INSIDE THE OPPONENT’S HEAD
There is the physical match with all the running around and hitting, and then there is the mental match to get inside the opponent’s head and figure out what they are plotting – what are they going to do next. Between the points is a time to understand the favorite patterns of the opponent, and then work out ways to shut them down. As I watched Dominic and Novak between the points, you could just see the wheels turning in their head. Where is he going to serve next? What’s the score? What is he expecting? Should I be more defensive or offensive right now? Is this a time for a primary pattern which I love to run all the time, or a secondary pattern such as a high heavy ball, or a drop shot? Don’t tune out between the points! Dominic and Novak were constantly running through their checklists to try and gain an advantage for the next point.
Cheers from Monte Carlo. I hope this helps your own game!