In this article I wanted to discuss some players who I feel rely on this aspect as an essential part of their game. I’m aware there are many more players on tour that are also extremely talented at this but I have chosen these 3 players.
1 - Nick Kyrgios (Australia)
Nick Kyrgios is known for his incredible talents on court. His shot making on drop shots, drop volleys and overall ‘hotshots’ are the same of the best you will ever see. I believe there are two main reasons why Nick is one of the best players on tour for his ‘feel’ on court.
1: Disguise. The way he sets up for ‘finishing’ shots in this case. He manages to disguise himself like he is going to hit the biggest forehand in the world by bending his knees and jumping in the air like Gael Monfils… to then simply take his racquet back slightly and hit the perfect dropshot while he’s in mid-air. In my opinion, disguising a dropshot like this is actually harder than just hitting the dropshot normally. This disguise creates a psychological advantage in rallies against his opponents; they don’t know where to position themselves in defensive positions. You can attempt to anticipate a dropshot or move your feet backwards, but it becomes a guessing game, not a tactful one.
2: His ability to hit these shots on big points and key moments in the match. We saw this so many times in Australia earlier this year against Tsitsipas and Nadal especially. You will find 99% of players are able to hit dropshots completely fine, but only 1% are able to do it on these game/break/set points and Nick is in that 1%. He is so good at getting himself out of trouble in certain situations with these amazing shots and although it may not work all the time you still find it causes much more uncertainty for his opponents regardless.
2 - Alexander Bublik (Kazakhstan)
Alexander Bublik has a similar playing style and attitude to his friend Nick Krygios. Being only 22 yrs old, Alex is already ranked 51 in the world and shown he can compete at the highest level on all surfaces. Watching Alex you will notice a lot of flair, variety, ‘interesting’ shot selection and many entertaining points. He loves to make shots he shouldn’t go for or win rallies he shouldn’t be able to win. Although it can seem crazy at times, this part of Alex’ game is actually essential for him to get this boost in his ranking. Alex is extremely athletic and has an all court game for someone who is 6ft 6 tall, he doesn’t rely on a ‘big serve’ or a ‘big forehand’ to win his matches on tour.
I would say he is a mix of Nick Krygios and Stefanos Tsitsipas on court. Alex is the sort of player you do not want to see in a grand slam draw in the first round, he gives you little rhythm and it can seem like he is not even trying. The question for Alex moving forward is if he can play this sort of entertaining tennis on a consistent basis.
He seems to play more relaxed this way and is capable of winning matches on his terms so it will be very interesting to see how/if he adapts his game moving forward. I would highly recommend you watch him play!
3 - Pierre-Hugues Herbert (France)
Herbert is a four time doubles grand slam champion (winning all four majors) and had a career high singles ranking of 36 in 2019. He is one of the most successful players I have seen that has been able to play both singles and doubles at the highest level. Although Pierre uses many aspects of his doubles game on the singles court, he is also aware of differentiating between the two formats. He is skilled at having marathon singles matches with long rallies on clay, but then the next day serve/volleying in a fast doubles match. This constant change in strategy, psychology and footwork is not easy to do.
Herbert had four top 15 singles wins last year; Thiem, Nishikori, Coric and Medvedev at Roland Garros. Higher ranked players don’t like playing him and it’s because his tactics on the day can be so varied, but also so precise. As mentioned earlier, Pierre can interchange between any game style depending on the opponent, situation and scoreline. Predominantly, his serve/volleying has had good effect, especially on the faster hard court and grass court surfaces. He has had good results at Masters 1000 events and grass events (Halle and Wimbledon). Pierre has the ability to hit heavy topspin from the back of the court and then instantly flatten out a shorter ball to rush to net. His volleying attributes are immense; he has phenomenal reaction speed but also very smart/safe placement of where his first volley goes. For players who want to play like Pierre, you should definitely watch him play as much as you can and learn what he does on court. He’s a great example of a player who has shown you can succeed in both singles and doubles (and how doubles can improve your singles game).
Other notable mentions:
-Roger Federer (obviously) but I left him out due to being discussed yesterday.
-Dan Evans: I want to talk about Dan in another article so have left him out in this one.
-Adrian Mannarino, Andreas Seppi, Dustin Brown and Benoit Paire.