The Evolution of the Game
There is one thing for certain, the game will continue to evolve and the tools used by the top players ten years from now will be different than the ones used today. Successful player development coaches have to coach for the future, and that requires a thorough understanding of the development of tennis.
Since I have been involved in tennis for 50 years, I will start my analysis there:
- Equipment: Wooden racquets, gut strings, cloth shoes, white balls
- Technique: Landing on the back leg when serving, Eastern and Continental grips, closed stances, flat or sliced shots, many one handed backhands.
- Tactics: Serve and Volley, consistent baseline play or a mixture of both.
- Physical Fitness: Mostly jogging and running drills, little or no weight training
- Equipment: Racquets of different materials, gut or nylon strings, yellow balls, Oversized and midsized racquets
- Technique: More topspin, more two handed backhands, Semi Western and Western grips appear.
- Tactics: Players either: serve and volley, hit high topspin consistently from baseline or play aggressively from the baseline. The big forehands starts to develop.
- Physical Fitness: Mostly jogging and running drills. Starting to use weight training
- Equipment: Midsize racquets of different materials, gut or nylon strings
- Technique: More open stances, less serve and volley, more aggressive players with big serves and big forehands, Western grips, emphasis on topspin, less slices backhands and finesse.
- Tactics: Different players succeeding in different surfaces. Four basic game styles: serve and volleyers, aggressive baseliners, complete players and counter punchers.
- Physical Fitness: More weight training, fitness started to be an important part of training.
- Equipment: Midsize racquets of different materials. Players using smaller grip size and lighter racquets. The polyester strings appear.
- Technique: The trend of big serves and big forehand continues, less Western grips and more Semi Western grips, less emphasis on topspin and more on driving through the ball, slice backhands make a comeback.
- Tactics: No serve and volley, and less and less counterpunchers, aggressive baseliners become the norm. Taking the ball early becomes essential. The slice backhand and the drop shot return!
- Physical Fitness: All aspects of fitness are emphasized
- Equipment: Midsize racquets of different materials. The polyester string becomes a trademark on the tour.
- Technique: The trend of big serves and big forehand continues. The resurgence of the one handed backhand and the move towards more complete players, who can use a variety of spins and feel comfortable at the net.
- Tactics: The serve plus one shot continues to be the predominant tactic. Developing serve and forehand weapons becomes essential. Having said that, a few players are starting to show more variety and more complete games.
- Physical Fitness: Players are becoming taller and more athletic. Fitness training becomes essential and acquires an even more predominant role. Djokovic introduces the importance of flexibility as a weapon.
As players become bigger and better athletes they will be able to cover the court more efficiently and will not be able to rely solely on power to win. Players will have a harder time hitting pass their opponent and a new breed of more “complete” players will emerge.
These players will feel comfortable everywhere on the court and will be able to adjust their games as necessary. This will mark a return to a more strategic play not seen since the 70’s, in which players will have to work harder and use a lot more tools to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses and create opportunities!
Only time will tell but one thing is for sure: Today’s skills will not suffice to succeed in the future, and coaching todays game is not enough to develop the future champions. Coach for the future!