If hindsight is a wonderful thing, having a perspective on how our game is changing is never more relevant than today. We are seemingly on the cusp of a generational change as our major stars get closer to retirement. It is therefore interesting to think about what makes our game tick.
Confidence and experience.
This can be a doubled edge sword. As dominant as Martina Navratilova was in her prime, the older and more experienced she became, the harder it became to get the results she was looking for. It was purely a confidence issue.
On the other hand, Andy Murray showed at the end of 2016 that confidence can make you invincible. In that final 6-week period I’m sure that Novak Djokovic increasingly knew it. Andy had to win every match, all six events including the end of season finals at the O2 to become end of season number one and world number one. By the time they played the final match, the pressure must have been overwhelming. The power of confidence at work.
Longevity and endurance.
It’s long been the case that players either need to reinvent themselves or have so much variety they are difficult to second guess. Players watch each other like hawks and examine the playbacks. You cannot remain exactly the same and expect the same results year after year. Other areas of change include better equipment, understanding the human body, training regimes, recovery, diet, sleep. The smartest players manage all these and their schedules wisely.
Strength and fitness.
This is the biggest change in last 20 years. There are just no free matches any more. Yes, this has been around for a while, but add to this strength plus the ability to run seemly forever. Increasing you can add the willingness to go big on 1st and 2nd serves, go big on ground shots and going closer to the lines. Amazing then that 3 or 4 men plus a handful of ladies have had the success they’ve had.
The power of the mind cannot be underestimated. A strong mind and ability plus the power to think clearly. Every player seeks to bottle it, but every match, every day is different. It’s what makes tennis interesting to watch and to play.
Will tennis continue to evolve?
It is going on all the time. Players are having to be more supple. Playing shots on the full run and full stretch. Playing shots without looking. Drop shots and extreme angles are becoming more important as a way of making the game more dynamic. Constant changes of direction to increase the miles on the clock of their opponents. Even close quarter top spin lobs have a role to play.
Crowds and commentators love to groan at imperfections, but when it all comes together it’s an absolute joy to watch. Even the players get excited. You gotta love it, it’s why we keep going back to the well.
What’s next? You just need to keep watching.