Often when watching the top players in the game you find yourself saying, “How did he just do that?”. Despite the gulf in skill between the worlds best players and us mere mortals there are still many nuanced aspects of their game that we should aspire to emulate. Check out some unique skills from the top 5 men’s players in the world and how you may be able tom implement, even slightly, into your own game.
#1 Andy Murray – Lob
Long known as a defensive mastermind, the tour’s top ranked player’s game has evolved into a more complete one. Despite his more balanced approach these days, Murray still possesses the game’s best lob. Though a lob such as Murray’s often requires an innate touch, countless hours of practice from various spots on the point from both sides coupled with the experience to know the perfect moment to use it, are required for his lob successes. When practicing lobs try and place it as close to the baseline as possible while still achieving the necessary height. Aim small, miss small.
#2 Novak Djokovic – Flexibility
While Novak Djokovic is a genetic freak, he also puts in the hours stretching and foam rolling to allow himself find impossible angles on the court. His fitness regime that propelled him to years of dominance is legendary but his flexibility is an underrated weapon. In a 2013 article with the New York TImes, American Journeyman Bobby Reynolds summed up Djokovic’s flexibility as “You feel the window so much smaller to hit through. The flexibility is something I’ve never seen. He’s doing splits”. Especially for beginner children, stretching early on in life is a often overlooked but it can be the key to athletic longevity and success as they get older.
#3 Stan Wawrinka – Mental Toughness
If you are going to be a top 10 player in the world you have to have ample amounts mental fortitude and no player exemplifies this more than Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka wasn’t always the top 5 mainstay he is today (prior to his three grand Slam titles he was 0-20 against #1 ranked players) and much of his current ranking is down to a new mental approach. In an interview with Tennis.com Wawrinka was quoted as saying “most important is to know yourself. For me a mix between some conversation, some trust from my team and also a lot of practice … on the tennis court.” It was widely reported that prior to last years US Open final in which he beat Novak Djokovic, that he had a nervous breakdown but his interview below, right before the match, showed that he was able to reign in the moment and ultimately come out on top.
#4 Roger Federer – Footwork
Where to begin with the GOAT. For a player that just about has it all, you would be smart to study his game as a whole but what truly makes Federer the player he is is his flawless footwork. On his underrated serve, his exceptional net play, or his lateral quickness at the baseline it all comes back to Federer’s footwork. There are ways to try and replicate his movements on the court but his exceptional athleticism and balance are tough to teach. While Federer has dealt with injuries and changed his game over the years the staple of his game that will always proved stability, even for intermediate or beginner players, is reliable footwork.
#5 Kei Nishikori – Small but Powerful
In many sports, including tennis, size can be a massive advantage. Lack of height however, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to compromise when it comes to gaining the upper hand. At 5’10” Kei NIshikori is of average height but he hits the ball, especially his backhand, with the power of much stronger and taller player. Much like another diminutive great, Andre Agassi, Nishikori takes balls early with unfailing consistency. Because he so adept at this technique, it gives his opponents less time to react to each of his ground strokes, especially his backhand. As demonstrated below, his ability to take the the ball either slightly before or at it’s peak with a compact stroke allows to create much more power than the average player.