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Building The Perfect Tennis Player

Building The Perfect Tennis Player
The perfect player doesn’t exist, but some have come close! With the retirement of Roger and Serena this Summer, tennis will feel the loss of two of its greatest ever players for a very long time. So we decided to have a little fun this month and build our own greatest player shot by shot!

Some of our TopspinPro team members have chosen, shot by shot, who their favorite tennis players are. We then selected an overall winner for each section. Let us know in the comments below who your perfect build would be!

Forehand

It's so hard to pick from all of the amazing forehands past and present across the ATP and WTA but one stands out to me the most. Not only as an incredible weapon, but as a thing of absolute beauty. I could watch Roger Feder forehand videos all day long! It doesn’t matter whether he’s hitting a crosscourt, inside out, short ball, return of serve, it always looks fluid, loose and effortless!

TopspinPro Team Choices:

Zoë: Roger Federer
Brian: Roger Federer
Doug: Roger Federer
Olivia: Rafa Nadal
Phil: Rod Laver
Rob: Rafa Nadal
Abi: Goran Ivanisevic

Winner : Roger Federer

Here's a fun video from the ATP showing some of the fastest forehands ever on the ATP Tour:

Backhand

Backhand is a tough one to choose because of the single and double handed divide. But we decided to lump them together and pick one overall best backhand!

TopspinPro Team Choices:

Zoë: Novak Djokovic
Brian: David Nalbandian
Doug: Denis Shapovalov
Olivia: Roger Federer
Phil: Jimmy Connors
Rob: Justine Henin
Abi: Goran Ivanisevic

Winner : Novak Djokovic

Serve

The serve is not all about power, it's also about building and setting up the point. Then there's the first and second serve too! Many players have a huge first serve that's often unreturnable but, if they have to put in a second serve they are in trouble. For me Pete Sampras, with Roger as a close second had the ultimate effective first and second serve combo. We are tied in team choices between Nick and John so the winner again is the one with the most titles to their name!

TopspinPro Team Choices:

Zoë: Pete Sampras
Brian: John Isner
Doug: Nick Kyrgios
Olivia: Nick Kyrgios
Phil: Sam Stosur
Rob: John Isner
Abi: Goran Ivanisevic

Winner : John Isner

If you want to watch John Isner's 113 aces from his record breaking match against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon you can see them here:

Volley

I chose Tim Henman because of his incredible hands at the net. His serve and volley across every surface was unbelievable. He is also one of the greatest players to have never won a Grand Slam! Martina Navratilova is the winner with the most titles to her name!

TopspinPro Team Choices:

Zoë: Tim Henman
Brian: Stefan Edberg
Doug: Martina Navratilova
Olivia: Gael Monfils
Phil: John McEnroe
Rob: Pat Rafter
Abi: Goran Ivanisevic

Winner : Martina Navratilova 

Return

Many incredible returners have graced the game including Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Leyton Hewitt, Andy Murray and Djokovic. But Novak's incredible flexibility and foot speed allow him to get seemingly impossible returns back. That's why he's been chosen so many times by our team!

TopspinPro Team Choices:

Zoë: Novak Djokovic
Brian: Novak Djokovic
Doug: Novak Djokovic
Olivia: Novak Djokovic
Phil: Andre Agassi
Rob: Novak Djokovic
Abi: Goran Ivanisevic

Winner : Novak Djokovic

Slice

The slice is used by most tennis players as a defensive shot or a way to change up the tempo. For those with an exceptionally strong slice it can also be used as a weapon! Steffi Graff had a penetrating backhand slice. Roger Federer, Andy Murray, John McEnroe also had slice weapons. Jim Courier famously said "Ash Barty has the best slice backhand of all time'. Who will you choose?

TopspinPro Team Choices:

Zoë: Ash Barty
Brian: Martina Navratilova
Doug: Ash Barty
Olivia: Roger Federer
Phil: Iga Swiatek
Rob: Ash Barty
Abi: Goran Ivanisevic

Winner : Ash Barty

Here's a video from Ash Barty explaining how she sets up for her slice:

Movement

It's a simple as it sounds. Having good movement is key to being a top player. You can have the best technique in the world but if you can't move to the ball well then it doesn't matter. The current fastest player on tour is Alex De Minaur, closly followed by Gael Monfils. But it's not always about all out speed, anticipation, weight transfer and balance are key too. For me I can't help but choose Roger. Seeing his feet dance around the court is like watching a ballerina perform!

TopspinPro Team Choices:

Zoë: Roger Federer
Brian: Coco Gauff
Doug: Gael Monfils
Olivia: Gael Monfils
Phil: Steffi Graff
Rob: Carlos Alcaraz
Abi: Goran Ivanisevic

Winner: Gael Monfils

Touch (including lobs)

Those players that have incredible touch take the game to another level of entertainment. Andy Murray not only has incredible control and feel for the ball (he has one of the best drop shots we have ever seen), he also has an almost unrivaled lob ability!

TopspinPro Team Choices:

Zoë: Andy Murray
Brian: Martina Hingis
Doug: Andy Murray
Olivia: Novak Djokovic
Phil: Nick Kyrgios
Rob: Roger Federer
Abi: Goran Ivanisevic

Winner : Andy Murray

Mental Toughness

Lastly, it doesn't matter how good all of the above skills are if you can't find the right amount of mental fortitude to carry you through a tough match. There have been many notoriously gritty players who have managed to find the win by just staying in it and not giving up. It's so hard to choose from all the past and present greats! Djokovic has to be one of the toughest competitors on the tour. I chose Rafa however for his all round toughness. He is not only a fighter on the court but is always gracious in defeat and has had to overcome a number of tough injuries to get back to the top. It also takes a certain amount of toughness to have never broken a racket on the tour! Now that is mental control for you!

TopspinPro Team Choices:

Zoë: Rafa Nadal
Brian: Rafa Nadal
Doug: Rafa Nadal
Olivia: Rafa Nadal
Phil: Bjorn Borg
Rob: Serena Williams
Abi: Goran Ivanisevic

Winner : Rafa Nadal

The Perfect Build

It's not easy to choose from all the talented players we have seen throughout the years in tennis. In case you hadn't noticed Abi's favorite player is Goran so it was a little easier for her! Here's the overall results of our perfect tennis player build:

Forehand - Roger Federer

Backhand - Novak Djokovic

Serve - John Isner

Volley - Tim Henman

Return - Novak Djokovic

Slice - Ash Barty

Movement - Roger Federer

Touch - Andy Murray

Who would you choose? Let us know in the comments below!

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2 responses to “Building The Perfect Tennis Player

  1. I actually feel like there’s a category missing. The ability to defend/counter attack is a huge part of tennis. I think that stands apart from movement. Monfils may have the most amazing movement, but no-one defends like Djokovic or turns defence into attack like him. Similarly, he may not have the best backhand or forehand of all time when you think about other players’ ability to attack and do damage with each respective shot (read wawrinka’s backhand, del potro or Federer’s forehand), but it’s inarguable that his capacity to move and stretch every sinew to reach a backhand and flick it or hammer it past his opponent is unparalled. To me federer is in the top five of all time in most categories (Forehand, volley, slice, serve) and at his peak, he could really get around the court too , so movement is an arguable fifth category. Djokovic by contrast would only really figure in return of serve, movement and mental strength but his entire game is based on out of this world defence and counter attacks which combine to squeeze the energy and mental strength out of his opponents. He is tennis’ anaconda and an all time great (and will likely end his career as the statistical GOAT) yet his game doesn’t necessarily stand up favourably to the shot by shot analysis that we might use to build the complete player.

    1. Hi Fred, great point! I feel like we should do a more in depth version and add more categories. Also separate out some categories like “touch” into lob, drop shot etc. Also serve into 1st and second, backhand into single and double! Return can also be split into 1st vs 2nd. Also perhaps add a trick shot category for fun!

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