Our guest tennis analyst, Evan Gadreau is a prolific writer. Here are some of his findings from the recent Djokovic matches. We call it Novak's stretch combo.
Let the chips fall where they may…
This piece will be small. I have bigger fish to fry at the moment. Four kids on vacation week rampaging around the house. Strangers kids running through my house too. Enough! I get it.
Novak played Musetti in the first round. I feel like this is going to be a broken record but I call this match a grip change match sponsored by hand feeds or too many crosscourt rallies in practice.
Novak would “tap” the center on return and shoot the next ball to one of the sides. He plays like a chameleon. Maybe he’ll hit the second shot back to the center, maybe he’ll hit the second shot to the corner. For the first 8 points of the match, Novak played what I call a “stretch combo”, when the point was actually played (there was a missed return and a double fault in there and a Musetti winner). Aside from the first point, Novak hit to box 1 on the first shot every time and mixed what he did with the second shot.
Do you think Musetti has major grip changes between the forehand and the backhand? Maybe. On points 9 and 10, Novak used two types of what I would call long combos. Point 9 he alternated his first 4 shots to alternate corners and then settled in to the forehand middle for 3 shots and then he went big to the backhand corner and missed the shot in the ally. Even though he lost the point, the cool thing is the “message” he is sending to Musetti (that Musetti isn’t getting because he’s focused on…Pasta Figioli? Or technique?).
You are right. He was thinking of The Chicken The Parma.
Musetti grip changes
The quick stretch combos are made easier because Musetti plays so far back in the court (Vesely played on top of the baseline).
*If you watch Musetti play, watch his hands after he serves (and not the ball being hit back over the net). He does have a western grip on the forehand. It’s as if it takes him an extra second to fumble with his grip, which makes it hard on returns also, which is why Novak is able to mix a few serve and volleys in there. Grip changing 101.
If your service patterns are done right, which Novak did during the match, you too can catch a buddy or an opponent on grip changes during sets and laugh while they swing their racket a few times after missing, thinking it has nothing to do with the change of direction on the locations. They just keep rehearsing that forehand swing.
Those are the club players that are easy to fool. See the dude rehearsing his forehand over and over as he goes to the AD corner. Throw him a backhand return. Dump city. Right into the net. He’s still focused on that forehand. Musetti is probably dangerous if you let him hit 3 or 4 of the same shot in a row. Duh. That was for me.
After those two long combos, you don’t see another one until seven games later. It’s hard to explain on paper and I don’t do pods, but this may seem like I shot the moon (Or I came from outer space), but to open game 10 he does a split combo to start the game.
First point, he hits 3 in a row to the Musetti backhand. Second point he does a “Hehe tricky combo”. 3 to the backhand, 1 to the forehand, then 3 back to the forehand. But he missed ball 8 to the AD corner. So many players focus on whether they win or lose the point, especially club players. Causing those emotions to boil. But if you focused on a gameplan, you would be less apt to get emotional. Again, that comment was for me, And maybe you.
Weird thought of the week
Weirdo thought of the week. I thought, what if Novak was in contact with a Neuro Doc and the Doc explained how the brain remembers stuff, like the memory of stepping in dog poop in your front yard. Dar, kidding.
But what if there was some correlation to memory and what young players can focus on. Just keep thinking about your technique, buddy, while I “play” with patterns and mess with your head.
Novak throws in a Ring around the Posey pattern too. 1 to the center, #2 to the left, #3 to the right, #4 to the left corner and #5 to the other corner.
In the next game, he aces Musetti with a second serve and on the next point he serves and volleys and drops the volley over the net for a winner. For Novak, this must be like taking candy from a baby. Remember. It’s not just the mixing of combos. It’s why and when and where. If tennis was simple, everyone would be good.
Fun fact. Did you know that college tennis players hold the highest GPA out of all the sports at the bigger schools.
At the rinky dink colleges, unfortunately, it’s a roll of the dice. Anyway.
Novak vs Vesely
Skip to the match with Vesely. Why? I’m not going to lie to you. I didn’t watch the Novak vs Hatchimals (Khachanov) match.
Dude, Vesely reminded me of the jolly green giant. When I watched him moving around the court, I thought he was wearing tiny grey slippers. Then I looked him up and he’s 6’6”. Makes sense. Completely.
When I watched this match. I wondered how much fight Novak had. I also thought, maybe he wanted to get a jump over to America.
Novak, on his first service game, plays a strategy I call Deuces. He plays a stretch combos during the deuce points, but gets quick points on the Ads, similar strategy during some of the Musetti match, kind of. During the first return game, on point four, he plays a load combo and I made a note, “Searching.” I thought, maybe he’s searching for a pattern that will work. Sometimes, it’s funny.
Funny when you see a pro over-think his strategy or undervalue the opponent. Vesely was ranked 123 on tour prior to this tourney. Rule of thumb on big guys is generally make them move. It can be a volatile strategy, but when life gives you lemons, you…..
It’s not that simple though. Vesely did well on the long combos. Novak did ok on the short points, but made a good amount of unforced errors also. Was it because the big guy wasn’t going to play 10 feet behind the baseline? I remember playing at Van Der Meer Academy as a kid and one day Pat had some of us move up on the baseline during groundstroke points to show us how to take time away from your opponent. And how you could move back, after a while and give them more time.
I was fascinated by this. It was simple. And the opponents had no clue they were being rushed. Why?
Who let the dogs out?
They were focused on the thing that doesn’t get spoken about. Lord Voldemort (Technique). To be honest, I feel like 6 in one, half a dozen in the other. I felt Djokovic wanted to win, but wasn’t concerned if he lost. Not having played tournament matches, I feel he got his quota in and is off to America to win at Indian Wells or Miami. And for sure he will be working on taking speed away from himself.
Credit to Vesely. He made the points quick and quirky when he could. Another weird thought. If I were pro, I would be like Brooks Koepka on the PGA tour. Just showing up for Majors and a few minors before them and working on patterns at the other tourneys…(if money wasn’t an issue of course).
If money was an issue, I’d have to rob banks. Get arrested. Get tattoos. Get a Harley Davidson after I got out of jail and then join a Biker gang. No more tennis. I’m going to leave you with this last important mention.
“Who let the Dogs out…who, who, who ,who who.” Why? It’s the song my 7 year old is singing while she’s waiting for her Eggo pancakes to warm up.