To be a great WTA and ATP player the following is a “must have” …
1. Fitness. Well, Serena showed that with power and quick finishing shots, she can win even a Major without being in top physical shape. On the ATP, forget it! If you are not fit physically, you are done, gone.
2. A weapon or if at all possible, numerous weapons. The biggest weapon of all should be your “head.” Without a good “head” on your shoulders, there is no way to be successful-period! If you don’t have a big serve, you better have other weapons to fall back on, ala Radwanska. Great head, great variety on her ground strokes and touch, very average serve… Serena types can just “bomb” their serves and crush anything that comes back weak. By doing this they “intimidate.” Berdych, huge serves, huge groundies, average volley and below average head. Rafa, had a very average serve in 2009, changed a few things and now his serve is actually a serious weapon. His ground strokes …are as good as anybody’s out there. His “head” is arguably the best, at least on clay that is…Federer is very different from Rafa, incredibly talented and gifted athlete. He makes it all look so easy, although he works hard off and on the court. Great head but stoic in his approach now, he will not “re-invent” anything..ala Rafa. He has the most majors! Djokovic is an aggressive counter puncher. Fantastic athlete, great drive and at times an average head, but somehow gets himself out of “tight situations” because he “believes” he can, and then does it…remember the two semi-finals at the US Open against Roger! Amazing turn-around! Murray is also a type of Djokovic but nowhere near the “head” (yet) of a Djokovic. Murray has a huge serve, big ground strokes but still lacks that “bit” of belief we know he is striving for and he is slowly but surely catching up. Then there is my favorite – David Ferrer, my height of 5 foot 8 inches. Great serve for his height, great footwork to help counter the biggest hitters off the baseline, but most of all, a heart like a lion, never-say-die attitude no matter how dire his situation is, and a “head” like very few on the ATP Tour. Ferrer had beaten Del Potro three times this year! If I could bottle his “head” I will be happy to give it away to all my students..for free!
So, in closing, weapons come in all shapes, sizes and forms….better collect as many as you can, develop as many as you can and hope the other guy is less fit than you! Oh, and keep your “head”… the most neglected part in junior tennis period….Good luck!
Johan Kriek won the Australian Open in 1981 and 1982. He currently operates his own Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina.