Novak Djokovic is the most successful player on the men’s tour so far in 2011 (as of June 2011). Let’s have a look at his biography and analyze his game in detail!
Djokovic: Incredible movement and a phenomenal backhand!
Djokovic was born in 1987 in Belgrade, Serbia. He comes from a sports family. His parents were both avid skiers. He started playing Tennis at the early age of 4 and his talent was obvious early on. Two coaches have been instrumental in Djokovic?s development. Famous Serbian developmental coach Jelena Gencic discovered Novak at the age of 8.
At the age of 12 Novak started spending time at the famous Niki Pilic Tennis Academy in Munich Germany. Pilic has been an important figure in Djokovic’s development.
Novak Djokovic’s junior career was quite impressive. He finished 2001 as the European 14 and under champion and he also became the best 16 and under player in Europe two years later.
His professional career got off to a quick start when he instantly won his first ever professional tennis tournament in the futures category in 2003.
Since then Novak has become one of the best players in professional tennis. He spent many years as the number 3 player in the world behind Federer and Nadal. In 2008 he won his first major tournament at the Australian Open.
2011 has been the breakout year for Novak Djokovic!
He is playing the best Tennis of his life and did not loose a match until the French Open semifinal against Roger Federer. He won 43 matches in a row and with the Australian Open, Indian Wells, and Miami he has won three of the biggest tournaments so far this year.
His ranking has risen to number 2 in the world and he has a good chance of becoming number 1 in the world if he continues to play well this year! If he continues playing with this form he should have a chance at becoming number 1 in the world.
Let’s break down Dokovic’s game in detail!
Djokovic has had some ups and downs with his technique over the years. Overall he has solid strokes though!
Novak plays with a rather extreme grip on his forehand. His index knuckle is around bevel 4.5. This is a disadvantage when returning serve and can also make it difficult for him to flatten out the shot at times.
Nevertheless, Djokovic hits a solid forehand. His forehand is not as compact as his backhand though and therefore he can have some ups and downs with it. At times he hits it extremely well and at other times he can miss rather easy shots.
Like all the top pros, Novak swings his racket from high to low and finally high again!
He also has the important inside-out swing pattern in order to use his arm as a lever. His extreme grip results in a lot of upper body rotation, similar to the way Andy Roddick hits his forehand.
I believe that sometimes Novak rotates his upper body too much, resulting in unforced errors. Throughout the contact phase the upper body usually should stay relatively quiet in order to keep the racket on the right path towards the ball. When Novak rotates too violently, his shoulders continue rotating rapidly through the contact zone; often resulting in framed shots.
I actually see this tendency most often when he has easy shots on his forehand where he needs to generate a lot of pace!
In my opinion Novak Djokovic has the best backhand in the men’s game at the moment.
Djokovic Practicing – What An Incredible Backhand!
From a tactical standpoint, Djokovic has an unbelievable amount of options with this shot. He can go down the line, cross-court, or hit an angle from pretty much any situation on the court. Additionally, he almost never makes any unforced errors. His down the line backhand is most likely the best shot in his game!
The reason for this great backhand
is of course great technique!
His motion is short, compact and does not have any unnecessary movements in it at all. This is true economy of motion and shows you why it is so important to really work on your strokes!
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Novak’s backhand starts with great grips with both hands. He has a fluid unit turn with his upper body and gets the racket close to his body at the end of the backswing in order to swing inside-out. He keeps his head still throughout contact and lifts up with his entire body. All the body segements are working together beautifully, making great use of the kinetic chain!
If you try to copy someone’s two-handed backhand go ahead and try to copy the elements out of Novak’s swing!
Djokovic hits a solid slice. He can use it in defensive situations and on low balls comfortably. Like most players though he has a grip that opens up the racket face a bit too much in my opinion. As a result he hits downward quite a bit and his slice shots often float too much instead of going through the court more.
In the beginning of his career, Novak was not very comfortable at the net. He made a commitment though to improve his net game and now he can comfortably finish points at the net.
He will most likely never be a natural net player but his volleys are solid these days!
Check out Novak Djokovic hitting some solid volleys in practice!
In this clip you can see really well that his racket moves forward through contact and not as much downward. This is very good and worth copying!
On both forehand and backhand volleys, Djokovic manages to keep the racket head relatively flat and stable through the contact zone.
His forehand volley is a bit more stable which I think is caused by his grips. To me it looks like he keeps the grip with the index knuckle on bevel 2.5 for both forehand and backhand volley. This gets the racket in great position for a forehand volley but opens it up a bit too much for backhand volleys.
Therefore, Novak Djokovic needs to adjust slightly with his wrist to get the racket head a bit more flat for his backhand volleys.
Novak has had some big ups and downs already with his serve throughout his career!
When he won his first major at the 2008 Australian Open he served extremely well. But in the years 2009 and 2010 he had some major problems with his serve. Recently he is serving a lot better again which is a big part of his success in 2011.
I believe that fluidity is the key aspect here in Novak’s serve!
When he served well his motion was very fluid without any kind of stop or hesitation.
Novak Djokovic serving in 2007 – A very fluid motion!
It is well-known that Djokovic tinkered with his serve in 2009 and 2010. Then coach Todd Martin was trying out a more abbreviated motion and that is probably when things got a bit complicated. Djokovic’s take-back started looking very strange and he lost some of his fluidity on the serve. Fortunately it seems like he has found it again in 2011!
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Novak Djokovic’s game plan is built around his strengths. He has great powerful groundstrokes and moves around the court extremely well.
His strategy of trying to dominate from the baseline makes a lot of sense for him!
Djokovic usually stands in pretty close to the baseline, giving him the best possible chance to dictate play!
One thing to keep in mind for his opponents is that a player with an exreme forehand grip like Djokovic, that stands this close to the baseline, can usually be put into trouble by hitting deep fast shots into that forehand wing. I have not seen many players take advantage of this though and it is of course difficult to do!
Similar to Federer and Nadal, Djokovic can play offense and defense extremely well. These guys know when to go for it and hit closer to the lines and when not to. Rarely will you see Djokovic miss balls in the net or wide which is a commonality among great players!
To me it seems like at times he could use his great backhand down the line a bit more. Also it would not hurt for him to follow up a few more balls to the net to shorten up points.
Overall his tactical approach to the game is solid!
It is often underestimated how fit these guys really are.
The way Novak Djokovic moves around, especially on hard-courts, is simply incredible!
Djokovic has a typical tennis player body. His legs are incredibly strong and muscular and his upper body is rather lean. He needs those strong legs for explosive movements around the court and yet his upper body is still very elastic so that he can coil and uncoil the right muscles extremely well!
Being in absolutely incredible shape is a requirement to be at the top of the game these days and Novak does extremely well in this category!
If Djokovic does have a slight weakness I would say it is the mental side of the game. Overall, I consider Djokovic a great fighter but he does have his weaknesses mentally when things are not going his way.
Especially in those important matches against Federer and Nadal, Djokovic has not shown the total competitive spirit often enough yet. You could see him getting down on himself, showing his negative emotions openly and not performing his best in crucial situations.
In 2011 things seem to have changed though and Djokovic has greater confidence in those important matches.
It will be interesting to see if this is a permanent improvement in his mental game!
Here is my ranking for the Djoker:
If I would coach Djokovic, my first move would be to work a little bit on his service motion. He needs to stay with the more fluid service motion that he has used recently and he could also try to not open up the racket face too early during the backswing.
Additionally, I would look at a lot of video of him when he is a bit shaky with the forehand and give him an idea of what causes that. (Overrotation/Opening Up Too Early in my opinion)
Last but not least I would try to convince him that there is no value in showing his negative emotions in crucial situations!
A few years ago Djokovic was famous for his imitations of other pro tennis players. I think they were really good and funny.
Check out Novak Djokovic imitating Sharapova and Nadal