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Reactions From Djokovic-Wawrinka: How Tennis Has Changed

Jeffrey Sakakibara |
January 22, 2013 | 7:31 a.m. PST

Staff Writer

The game of tennis Is evolving. (Mawie/Creative Commons)
The game of tennis Is evolving. (Mawie/Creative Commons)

Tennis used to be about serves and volleys. Tennis used to be described as elegant.

My, how times have changed. 

As I stared in awe of the baseline rallies between Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic, one thought crept into my mind. Tennis is amazing. With the emergence of polyester strings and graphite rackets, tennis has changed from a game of deft and touch into a game of power and aggression. But what is important to remember is that touch has not been lost.

The intricate drop volleys, the sudden drop shots, the short angle winners. New technology has created shots that used to require desperate attempts to keep the ball in bounds. Players have added so many shots to their repertoire that tennis is more artistic now than it ever was.

Roger Federer’s tennis style is often described as artistic, because the amount of creativity in the point resembles the way an artist chooses a specific color from a palette. Federer has every shot in the book, and has even created some of his own. The short angle, one-handed flick has become an important shot in his arsenal, and the backhand is no longer a liability like previously believed. 

But every generation succeeds the other by adding more chapters to the long, illustrious book of tennis.

Novak Djokovic exemplifies that notion.  There is elegance in aggression. A Yin and Yang of some sort. He’s added the stretch backhand down the line as the new shot in the game, as men and women alike are now learning to adopt the shot. But these shots can be made possible only through new discoveries. The baseline wars that were once described as dull and excessive are now the face of the game today. But there was nothing dull about the match against Wawrinka. 

Both players mixed in so many angles with so many speeds that every point was modern.

Players can’t just stick with the same pattern every time anymore. That’s precisely why the all-around style is becoming so dominant today. Players like Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have all perfected unique styles of play to incorporate into one creative masterpiece. Tennis is now about reinventing and adapting to play. And one thing that Wawrinka lacked was a change in his game plan. Wawrinka was determined and willing to beat Djokovic from the baseline, but perhaps he forgot that he was facing one of the greatest baseliners of all time. No doubt in anybody’s mind that this was the best performance from Wawrinka by far, but if he kept giving Djokovic different looks, he might have come out the winner. 

So to the critics who think tennis is going in the wrong direction...you are dangerously wrong. Tennis just needs to be looked at from a different angle now. It’s not how fast a point is ended or how much the net is utilized anymore. It’s about the unlimited potential that players hold with the baseline wars. So next time you see Djokovic play a match, don’t look at how many winners he’s constantly blasting, but rather how different each shot is in order to create that finishing shot. 


Reach Staff Writer Jeffrey Sakakibara via email or follow Jeffrey on Twitter.



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