serves—change of direction—dynamic flip
Great write up on it. I would think Novak has only this next year to win more Majors, but who knows? Now the Big 3 have basically told 2 generations of players they will never be as good as they are. Fed was the gold standard of performance at age 36. Now it is clearly Novak.
Thanks for your analysis Mr. Clarke, I regularly look forward to your posts and tweets. Have you considered a YouTube channel?
A couple of questions regarding Djokovic that I would like to pose:
1. How would you classify his physical fitness/movement (speed, agility, flexibility, stamina, etc.) at this current stage of his career (in general and compared to his younger self) and how long do you think he can keep being competitive at the very top for?
2. Other than "the eye test" are there any analytics that one can refer to when it comes to player physicality? Seeing as how we are now given a variety of different stats by the ATP after matches, I would think there could be some metrics that could be used to analyze player's bodies over time.
After Novak wins like this you can expect the usual types of comments from the Tennis world that Novak is moving like a 26 year old, that he can play and win into his 40s, win 30+ grand slams.... but those sound like flimsy exaggerations to me, which is why the analytics question comes to mind to see if there are more reliable and exact ways to measure some of this kind of stuff.
Great analysis as always. One small point of debate though : haven't you been a *little* negative with the baby gen technique deterioration? This piece, while as informative as always, felt a little pessimistic. This season ended on a high note for Novak on a surface where I think he is his best version : his serve goes bonkers, and rallies are shortened as he has got faster way to exploit small cracks, that get a little closer to flaws (indoors help timing but they also help Novak's offense). I think on more common surfaces those cracks are harder to find, unlike Zverev's FH, Tsitsipas's BH, Felix's everything etc
I'm gonna go player by player as a way to write it down somewhere going into next season:
Sinner's rally FH, as you mentioned, was the weakest link on court and I think the weakest in the 6 Babygen's groundstrokes. Altough it goes out quick which helps when on defense/sliding, it's got those variables that hinder his consistency even from pretty easy positions. Completely agree with you, and it was exploited at SW19 too.
Sinner's BH ticks two less control-oriented boxes with the absence of locked wrist follow through and less smooth full turn with that dynamic flip, but a full turn nonetheless which helps getting the inside. I think it is worth mentioning that Sinner's BH is still damn consistent.
While Alcaraz doesnt get a full take back, it's still closer to a 180 than a De Minaur kind of turn, and he has the locked wrist follow through on some ones. Overall less consistent than Sinner's, but better at redirecting (I just see so much BDTL from him if you go 52-weeks)
His FH, while exploitable if you rush it because of the inverted start, is a bigger beast than Sinner's. It felt bad on those quick courts, but he definitely is a ferris wheel with upright head and extended wrist, as you mentioned after Miami, which makes it better than Sinner's imo. And we've seen him adapt his footwork at Wimbledon to run better into it.
In the end, Rune is this sub's and mine favorite's when it comes to next gen technique. While he doesn't tick the locked wrist follow through, his full turn is the smoothest of the 3/closer to Djokovic/Zverev.
His FH is also in the modern mold and ticks all the boxes you want without the inverted start. There is that chink with the left hand but I think the fact we've only seen flashes of his brillance this season is more due to him being raw physically and tactically (plus dealing the wrong way with a pack of injuries) than anything technique related.
Now that this message is over I realize it's not even a real question so I can understand if you leave it behind.
Thanks for that year of analysis anyway. It was extremely insightful and upped my tennis knowledge I believe.
Before it seemed like the backhands of Sinner and Zverev were considered to be close to on par with Djokovic's. Would that be inaccurate, and if so, are there any that you would consider to be even close to the Serb's?