What are your New Year’s Resolutions for tennis?
If you’re a player, you likely want to improve your technique or tactics or both. If you’re a coach, it could be to advance your understanding of technique and tactics, and especially the critical connection between these two cornerstones of the game. I recently wrote an instructional article—“The Missing Link: The Connection Between Technique and Tactics”—in which I posited six axioms about the connections that players and coaches should think about.
We all would like to see our favorite players display sounder technique and smarter tactics so they’ll win more. So here is what I propose for the New Year’s Resolutions of some elite players.
TAYLOR FRITZ enjoyed a career year in 2022, when he won his first Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells, upsetting Rafael Nadal, and reaching the semis in his debut at the ATP Finals, again ousting Nadal, to finish at No. 9. The former world junior No. 1 has the offense—especially with his huge serve and improved forehand—to beat anyone on a given day. But the Big Three and the likely Next Great Player, Carlos Alcaraz, all boast terrific defense.
Fritz’s defense must improve a lot for him to reach a major final. His practice sessions should feature extremely difficult defensive drills, such as sprinting from a meter or more from outside one sideline to a meter or more from outside the other sideline to hit a wide variety of shots. How well Taylor can neutralize powerful shots on the dead run and how often he can turn defense into offense will determine his fate this decade.
Similarly, JESSICA PEGULA, another late-blooming American, rose to a career-high No. 3. Rock-solid in almost every stroke department and a tenacious high-percentage performer, Pegula must add more power and spin to her vulnerable second serve. Even more important, she needs to increase her running speed and agility to reach the booming shots of Sabalenka, Badosa, Kvitova, Osaka, and other power hitters, and also to come closer to the speed and defensive skills of Gauff and Swiatek.
Besides doing the aforementioned drills, Jessica might want to read Chapter 43 in “The Fein Points of Tennis” titled “Everything You Need to Know About Speed in Tennis,” in which Satoshi Ochi, the USTA head strength and conditioning coach, expertly analyzes this topic in depth and detail.
In 2021, ANDREY RUBLEV confessed he had no idea of what the right tactics are on clay. When I heard that admission from the 23-year-old ranked in the top 10, I went Johnny Mac and exclaimed, “You can NOT be serious, Andrey!” In truth, the wiry Russian has almost no tactics on any surface. Most of the time, he’s an aimless slugger.
Andrey’s 2023 Resolution should be to add some variety to his one-dimensional game. In practice sessions, he should sprint to the net behind deep, accurate approach shots, experiment with drop shots, and even change pace and spins on his groundies. McEnroe also smartly pointed out, “The worst thing you can be in sports is being predictable.” And right now, Rublev is very predictable.
When DANIIL MEDVEDEV won the 2021 US Open and reached the 2022 Australian final, he looked like he could win several more majors this decade. Alas, the 6’6” Russian slumped badly after that, losing his last eight matches against top-10 opponents.
Simons Cambers, the respected tennis journalist wrote: “Also bizarre, given the fact that Medvedev had established himself as a rock in deciding sets across the previous two seasons, was the fact that Medvedev went 4-11 in deciding sets. Medvedev had won 23 of his 32 deciding sets across 2020 and 2021. Whether we chalk it up to bad luck or a crisis of confidence—or both—Medvedev’s mission is clear in 2023: play better in the clutch moments and good things will happen.”
Daniil’s slump has nothing to do with luck. His two-prong New Year’s Resolution for all practice drills and sets should be to stand on or inside the baseline—instead of 3 to 10 feet behind it—and to attack more effectively from there. Second, he must improve his volley technique to capitalize on his advantageous positioning. Like his compatriot Rublev, he needs more variety and less predictability.
Here are more New Year’s Resolutions, I hope to see in 2023.
MAXIME CRESSY, the only full-time serve-volleyer, chips and charges to attack second serves much more often and also doesn’t serve and volley on occasion—both tactics designed to keep foes off-balance.
Every pro player resolves to spend five minutes in every practice session trying trick shots because they could master them sooner than they think and even use them in tournament matches.
In yet another tribute to the sport of tennis, world No. 1 IGA SWIATEK was named 2022 European Sportsperson of the Year as voted by 20 European international news agencies. Tennis received this honor for the second year in a row, as it went to Novak Djokovic in 2021.
Here is the entire top 10:
- Iga Swiatek (tennis)
- Armand Duplantis (athletics)
- Max Verstappen (Formula 1)
- Carlos Alcaraz (tennis)
- Rafael Nadal (tennis)
- Kylian Mbappe (football)
- Johannes Thingnes Boe (biathlon)
- Therese Johaug (cross-country skiing)
- David Popovici (swimming)
- Jonas Vingegaard (cycling)
Happy New Year,