BEST BACKHANDS: One-handed goes to Justine Henin-Hardenne, and two-handed goes to Sebastian Grosjean. Both of these players rarely miss when hitting this shot, AND it is definitely their weapon of choice. Early preparation and absolute confidence give them the decided edge when they are able to execute this shot in an offensive position. Defensively, this shot gets them back in the point, instead of creating an offensive shot for their opponent.
BEST FOREHANDS: Serena Williams, and Andre Agassi. I just love their forehands! Both players disguise their forehands so well on the run, which requires an incredible amount of practice and talent to execute consistently. Their open stance forehands enable them to do virtually anything when they receive a short ball. Without a doubt, they TERMINATE the point whenever they can with this shot.
BEST SERVES: Pete Sampras and ? I know, I know. Pete Sampras is old, about to retire, etc...BUT, he`s never had a serious injury to his serving arm, and RARELY lost his serve over the years. He definitely has the most refined mechanics in tennis. Pete has mastered spin, power, and placement like no other in tennis history. The result has been the most Grand Slams in history; his serve has A LOT to do with that. Now, why the ? for the ladies side? Well, besides the two dominant players, the Williams sisters, (even they have very inconsistent serves from time to time), I haven`t really seen an OUTSTANDING female server. Lindsay Davenport can be dominating, but can also be very inconsistent. Chanda Rubin, who doesn`t get much press, has a terrific serve, but I wouldn`t say it`s dominating.
BEST VOLLEYS: This is a dying art on the tour. Since TV coverage of men`s and women`s tennis never features doubles, we are deprived of some incredible points that are played with reflexes that are simply awesome. Recently, I had a chance to watch (albeit briefly) Leander Paes, a former #1 doubles player from India (and one of the best doubles players of all time) play with Martina Navratilova, who at 46 captured yet another Slam. They are both superior volleyers. If you watch either one, notice how simple and early their preparation is, enabling them to do anything they want with the volley. Both have incredible touch, power, and disguise.
BEST ALL-COURT PLAYER: Andre Agassi (Lleyton Hewitt right with him), and Serena Williams. There`s a simple reason they`re #1. They can simply do it all. If they are required to grind, they`ll grind you into the ground. If they are faced with scrambling laterally or vertically, it is almost a sure bet that they`ll not only retrieve, but do something with the ball. There simply isn`t a shot that they`re uncomfortable with, and they are masters of setting themselves up for the "kill" shot.
BEST MENTAL GAME PLAN: Andre Agassi and Serena Williams. Their physical preparation gives them a decided edge into each match. On top of that, they are incredibly "in the zone" when they play. Note Agassi between points. When he is straightening out his strings, he is focusing on his game plan, relaxing, listening to his heart beat, etc...anything to eliminate all distractions. When a ball boy was out of position, he stopped, directed the ball boy, and began. This small detail could have distracted him during point play! When S. Williams is resting during changeovers, she pulls out her notes, which may say anything from, "keep attacking her forehand and second serve", to "don`t let the crowd distract you." Having notes (or a game plan written) is a great way to eliminate distractions.
This is obviously not a complete list, but it is my hope that you`ll pay attention to your favorite player and emulate their strengths by becoming a student of what they do best on and off the court!
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|Sheri Ann Richerson|