Alcaraz v Sinner—Sinner v Medvedev—wide forehands
Loved those clips of the sinner out wide forehands! You make your points very understandable.
Sinner does have an elite return of serve as you say. And he can afford to be patient vs Med as Med can truly only hurt him with his serve. No player to me has the effortless pop/injection of pace off the forehand like Sinner, best in that regard since Federer. And his backhand is top notch. Totality of both wings, no player can take away time like Sinner. It was interesting to me to watch the contrast in forehand technique Sinner and Alcaraz. Alcaraz has the Federer, Nadal, Tsitsipas. Rune etc straight arm pull to contact technique. Sinner has the next gen bent arm/side arm throw technique of Sock, Kyrgios, Berrenttini, Fognini, etc.
Something the Alcaraz match left me wondering about: second serves that bounce low
Carlos got killed on his second serve and I wonder if that's because his serving repertoire lacks a shot that keeps the ball low. Since he started in on summer hardcourt in NA, his kick has felt a little less potent. Not sure if that's the speed of the courts or the lack of bounce, but getting the ball up and away seems his preferred approach. Without that clay/Indian Wells bounce, he doesn't seem to be able to transition to slice serves that stay beneath the returner's hips.
However, I did notice that he seems to have backed off the desire to hit bombs on every first serve. I think his ideal range is 115-120 with more accuracy and better spots. Still, I think he could neutralize Sinner's return better if he could slide more low into the body.
Loved this. Great to see the FH breakdown. At the time watching it, it actually felt like Alcaraz couldn't find a comfortable way to approach Jannik's FH, because 1) he was losing the ad court trade and 2) when he was going there, he was either leaving himself vulnerable to that FH cross on the run or FH in behind, and led to a loss of control. So, maybe I have the wrong read on it but it felt like that, as well as some shorter depths into the FH when Alcaraz had sunk deeper in the ad trade, contributed to the flurry of errors going that way.
Whereas from Jannik's end, I thought he did an increasingly stellar job of exploiting Alcaraz's FH on the run. He started off going for quite direct, cross court aggression, but that didn't really work. When he instead started to go for precision over power, using his ad court superiority with shots like the short-angle inside-out, which Alcaraz can struggle to wrap around the ball to force Jannik's BH to change direction, he was able to expose the FH space and loop it up to an uncomfortable contact point with great margin. Notably, the execution of it didn't need to be perfect, like Alcaraz maybe felt his had to be in the flipped scenario, because he was only able to hit cross court on the run, rather than threatening the space in behind like Jannik did. On top of that, with the way Jannik was taking the follow-up FHs on the rise worked so well to take away time from Alcaraz, not least because the bigger space created + loopier setup shot forced Alcaraz further backwards.
One observation and one question:
Observation: to my eyes, Sinner takes the ball very, very early. The only other person on that level of course, is Djokovic, if he wants too. But Sinner taking the ball early seems to be a habit. As you pointed out before, Alcaraz's forehand has some technical flaws, so when Sinner rushes him he is more error prone.
Question: Did Sinner do something differently to improve his first serve? He changed back to pinpoint, but I feel that his serves got faster in China. Just a few weeks after the USO? Is Darren Cahill THIS good?
Finally, Sinner figures things out alone on court. He also doesn't use social media that much. He keeps his head down and works hard. He is old school.
In comparison, Alcaraz is the new generation kid. Using social media and all. His coach also directs so much more on court. I feel that JCF needs to let the kid go a bit and figure things out himself. The training wheels need to come off for greater long term development.
Hi Hugh. As always, great analysis.
Few things top off my head that I'd love your opinion on:
1) Relentless agression is definitely the way against Alcaraz. He may have a bit of a solution now against Sinner by being more patient, but he still has issues executing it. 2nd was full of moments where Alcaraz was too stubborn in agression.
2) Sinner seems better to me from the D to D corner than Alcaraz. While I would take Alcaraz's ferrys wheel any day over Sinner's merry go-round when it comes to overall consistency, the fact he moves so well from end range and his FH takes less time to set-up makes it less shaky in my opinion.
However I think you're right he could make it better by employing less open - stance FH. He was tidier against Medvedev but I think the blue print is still on timing rather than recovery.
3) Point 2 brings me to point 3 : I had no doubt Sinner could beat Alcaraz, but was getting worried for his matchup against Alcaraz just because he used to play just likes Medvedev loves and at some point he would break from the back, especially from his FH (which isn't the case for Carlos as his bread and butter FH doesn't break much often).
But he did. He employed the S&V well and created variations that allowed him to turn the match around. The thing is : can he do so *consistently*. The key stat for me was Sinner putting 68% first serve in (and his margin was in the 0-4 shots as Gil Gross mentioned). That's something he almost never does and hurt him. Is his new motion from Toronto finally the good iteration and tradeoff of consistency and damage? Maybe.
He also, as you said, kept his FH very tidy and today the longer exchanges were even but that I kinda doubt he can now do it every time they play given his technique.
4) Tennis Insights highlighted the backhand cross court (A to A or B to C) as a winning play of 17 to 4!! for Jannik against Alcaraz (that includes winners, forced erros and unforced errors and shots that gain an advantage). I don't know how reliable it is, but while I know Sinner's backhand is better, it struck me.
Sinner gets the inside line more frequently, has a great drop that generates a devil spin, but still, Alcaraz's BH isn't Felix's or Rublev's. It held up in the cross against Novak at Wimbledon which to me is a testimony. He doesnt quite get the inside line often but is closer to a 180° than a 90°, and has that locked wrist feature. Impressive. I think Alcaraz's range when pulled wide is a little smaller than Sinner's, also.
Medvedev in Vienna right now again playing Sinner, appears to be trying hold the baseline a little better and dictate. Change of strategy after the loss here? Great players adapt...