FEDEX RELIABILITY ZONE
FedEx Reliability Zone: Djokovic's Hard-Court Dominance
Current Hard-Court Records
by James Buddell|
As the dust settles on another memorable US Open, we take an in-depth look at the best hard-court players of the past 52 weeks, using the FedEx ATP Reliability Index, with exclusive analysis from former ATP World Tour players.
Over the past 12 months, Novak Djokovic has dominated virtually every hard-court tournament he has entered, compiling a remarkable 57-6 (.905) record and seven titles. In 2011, he has a near perfect 40-1 (.975) mark.
Stan Smith, the 1971 US Open champion, and former World No. 3 Brian Gottfried both agree that Serbia's Davis Cup win, which was played on an indoor hard-court, in December 2010 was crucial to building Djokovic's confidence.
"Djokovic has improved for several reasons and I think that they all lead to more confidence," said Smith. "His serve was very erratic last year and it has improved dramatically." Gottfried adds, "He has cut down on his mistakes, improved his serve and learnt how to play every shot better. He has grown in maturity and strength, and I think he will further improve."
Smith, who won 13 hard court titles during his career, also thinks Djokovic's gluten-free diet has helped how sizzling form this season. "[His] diet certainly could be a big factor," the American says. "Just thinking that it helps is enough to build your confidence.
"The culmination of wins over the tops guys has built his confidence and so he feels that he can raise his game at critical moments against anyone. That is key for a top player to be considered the favourite by the other top players."
By contrast, Djokovic's rivals - Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer - have been forced to raise their games to keep pace with the Serbian. Federer is .852 on hard courts over the past 52 weeks. Nadal is .796.
Former World No. 4 Gene Mayer insists, "Federer is just not as dominant or as confident as he was in the past, while Nadal has been run down physically in losing to Djokovic and playing so many matches."
Gottfried reckons, "Losing to Djokovic in six straight finals has affected Nadal's confidence. Whenever he steps onto the court, he knows he has to do something differently in order to break the losing streak. One victory over Djokovic could make all the difference and he'll become the player to beat once again." Smith says, "For the first time in three years, Nadal is questioning his game against Djokovic and his confidence level is down. Despite this, he is such a great competitor that he has the ability to compete and win even when not playing his best."
Now aged 30, Federer is looking more susceptible to losses, but Smith and Gottfried still believe the Swiss superstar can add to his 16 Grand Slam championships.
"Roger has played a sensible schedule his whole career, so there is no reason why he cannot win more major titles," says Gottfried. "For sure, two years ago, players were looking at Federer differently. He has lost some of his aura and is now more beatable."
Smith adds, "Federer seems to be rolling pretty well and it is just a question of him bringing out his best game against the top couple guys to finish the tournament victorious."
Earlier this year, Mardy Fish became the U.S. No. 1 for the first time. By winning the Atlanta Tennis Championships and finishing runner-up at the Farmers Classic and Rogers Cup, Fish clinched the Olympus US Open Series. He has compiled a 29-12 match record on hard courts over the past nine months.
Mayer says, "Fish's career is a real tribute to hard work and training." Smith admits, "Mardy has had a fantastic run the past two years and has proven to himself he belongs among the top players."
Smith, Gottfried and Mayer believe, even at 29 years of age, Fish can improve.
"He knows the formula now and he has to keep motivated to keep working hard and looking to keep improving in small ways," says Smith. "He has gained tremendous confidence, which will enable him to win tough matches in future."
Florida resident Gottfried thinks, "I feel that Fish can still improve. Thirty years of age is seen as a magical number amongst the media, when form drops and other interests such as family and business interests take precedence. But that isn't always true.
"You still practice the same way, you may fitness train differently, but it is always down to a player's motivation after years on tour. I am sure that if Roddick, who has led American tennis for so many years, can stay focused he can get back in the Top 10."
Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Fish are joined in the Top 10 list of this hard-court leaders over the past 12 months by Robin Soderling (.787), Gael Monfils (.756), Andy Murray (.732), Milos Raonic (.720), David Ferrer (.717) and Viktor Troicki (.680).
Soderling, Monfils and Ferrer, considered strong clay-court players, have worked hard to improve their armoury on hard courts. Mayer insists, "Clay courters have learned to play on hard. The same is not true in reverse."
As the courts have slowed down, Smith says, "Players are even sliding more on hard courts, which is unusual. There are so many good players now, that every round poses a tough match-up."
January: Fifth Set Career Records
February: 52-Week Clay-Court Records
March: Current ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Records
April: Career Clay-Court Records
June: Career Grass-Court Records
July: Career Hard-Court Records
August: Career Tie-Break Records
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