FEDEX ATP PERFORMANCE ZONE
FedEx ATP Performance Zone: Hard Court Heavyweights
by Josh Meiseles|
Ahead of the start of the Emirates Airline US Open Series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the best 52-week hard-court records using the FedEx ATP Reliability Index.
Success on any surface is predicated on a solid foundation, including sound footwork and dynamic balance.
Tennis is a game of efficient movement and no other aspect is impacted more than a player's anticipation and timing. Competitors with a strong lower body core and stable equilibrium are better equipped to manage all challenges, particularly on hard courts.
On hard courts, short, quick lateral movements are the norm and, as Hall of Fame coach Nick Bollettieri says, no one is better at navigating a concrete battlefield than Novak Djokovic.
"He has a solid semi-western grip, his backhand is superb and he's improved his physical condition," Bollettieri told ATPWorldTour.com. "His movement is excellent and he anticipates well. You can improve your movement through anticipation. That is, seeing the flight of the ball and the face of the racquet of the other person, which helps you get into position."
The World No. 1 takes the ball early and changes direction better than anyone in the modern game, as if he's conducting an orchestra from the baseline. "Djokovic swings a very compact backhand and uses the top hand very efficiently," Bollettieri added. "He also plays laterally very well. What makes him such a good hard court player is quick preparation, an excellent foundation and improved physical conditioning."
With 34 tour-level titles and 366 match wins on the surface, Djokovic is a revered force on hard courts. Moreover, the Serb's .826 hard court win percentage puts him in third place on the all-time list in the FedEx ATP Win-Loss Index, slightly behind Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl.
Bollettieri is quick to point out that World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has significantly turned the tables on hard courts. The Spaniard sits second in the 52-week FedEx ATP Win-Loss Index (as of 17 July) with a 47-7 (.870) record on the surface. Djokovic, by virtue of his BNP Paribas Open and Sony Open Tennis triumphs in March, leads with a 49-5 (.907) mark.
Nadal enjoyed a sensational hard-court run last year. He won his first 26 matches since returning from a seven-month absence due to a left knee injury. In that span, he won a trio of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in Indian Wells, Montreal and Cincinnati, as well as his second US Open crown. Nadal's clay-court prowess is well-documented, but it's the adjustments to his game that have enabled him to contend on hard courts that has Bollettieri impressed.
"He's improved his serve, he's flattened out his forehands and he stands closer to the baseline," said the New York native. "Even though he hits the heavy spin, he moves in closer and he can flatten it out. He also comes to the net and he's a good basic volleyer. What makes him so good against one-handed players on hard courts is his cross-court forehand as a lefty. It penetrates and runs."
In general, Bollettieri identified four core elements of a good hard court player: swing pattern, grips, racquet head speed and early backswing, and a strong lower body foundation. "Fitness, swing, tempo and grips will determine how strong a player is on any surface."