Djokovic and the art of controlling tennis balls (part 1)

Novak Djokovic is considered to be the best tennis player in the present, thanks to reflexes, judgment and concentration during the critical moment.

Returning is a flashy weapon in tennis. ATP players usually serve the ball with a speed of about 190 km / h, ie 53 m / s. Tennis courts are nearly 24m long, which means players usually only have half a second to pay. A good return player who knows how to judge the ball and moves flexibly to return the ball in the court.

According to Infosys statistics, Djokovic wins the highest percentage of winning a return in a field (up to 52%). That is, every time he returns the ball into the field, he stands in front of a 52% chance of winning that point. Dominic Thiem said if he didn’t serve the ball very well against Djokovic, he would have to hit the ball with him.

From 2018 up to now, Djokovic’s one-serve return rate has reached 33.5%, just below Rafael Nadal with 34.7%. Serbian game break rate won up to 31.2%, just behind Diego Schwartzman (31.8%) and Nadal (34.9%). On average, every three games the opponent serves, Djokovic wins the break.

The delivery method has changed in the last few decades. The core is in the preparation posture, when the contemporary player stands wide-legged and lowers the focus. The modern posture helps the players store more energy, while also reacting faster to the ball. This posture requires the player to develop the leg muscles, under pressure from a low center of gravity. Today’s tennis is increasingly focused on fitness, the players benefit greatly from that posture.

The difference between Djokovic and other players lies in his ability to judge when he jumps. The 33-year-old not only dances on the spot, but jumps to the sides, depending on how he judges the ball. Djokovic learns statistics to study the tendency of a player to serve in a specific time, from the way the ball is tossed and the movement of the pitcher. He looked at the position of his opponent’s hips and shoulders, then guessed what they would do.