Saturday, August 8, 2009

The 5 Most Beautiful Shots in Men's Tennis

Albert Camus once said "Beauty is unbearable. It drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time."

I don't think he was thinking of Roger Federer's overhead smash when he said it, but there is no doubt about the fact that Federer's smash, and the other four shots featured in this piece, do provide tennis fans with a glimpse of an eternity that we'd like to prolong.

It would be even better if we could imitate it, but that is highly unlikely.

While style points don't count on the scoreboard, they do play on the heart strings. Tennis is a brutally competitive sport, and the mental aspects of it are nothing short of grueling. Yet at the sports very essence there is always a prevailing grace. It is what draws us to the sport, and it is what we marvel at when we watch, either on television or in person.

Every professional has beautiful game. Go to a grand-slam during the first week and walk around the practice courts — it's hard to find a player who doesn't blow your mind with the amazing power and grace with which he hits the ball. But there are some who quite clearly have had their strokes sculpted by a higher power.

These are the ones whose strokes who are worthy of the top 5.

1. Roger Federer's half-volleys - Is there anything cooler than the world's best player casually flicking away a 100 mph laser as his opponents stands on the other side of the net looking more like a statue or robot than a tennis player? Man, Federer can make the greatest players of his generation look like buffoons, can't he?

2. Rafael Nadal's inside-out forehand - This shot is a revolution unto itself. The way that Nadal has made the forehand a total body experience, putting every ounce of his energy into the shot, is just unbelievable. With the vicious spin that Nadal manages to put on the ball, he is able to clear the net easily and also bring the ball down before it gets to the baseline, enabling him to create and employ near impossible angles that can leave even the most enthused opponent disillusioned.

3. Andy Murray's serve - There are many elements to a good tennis serve, and Murray has them all. His rhythm and tempo are musical, and his body is synced up so perfectly to his toss, with his back leg sliding toward the front just in time to join it in a powerful thrust up and over the ball and into the court. His knee bend and back arch are pronounced, and the circle and snap of his racquet arm and wrist put the finishing touches on what is becoming one of the most lethal serves in all of tennis.

4. The Roger Federer Overhead Smash - Ah, yes, there is nothing more beautiful than pure genius summoned instinctively from the soul. Federer hits this shot so beautifully, and so accurately — he doesn't just blast away like most guys, instead he picks his spot and hits with side spin to make it even more effective — that it belongs in a museum rather than on a tennis court.

5. Roger Federer's one-handed backhand - I feel bad for the rest of the players, but when it comes to beauty and elegance on the tennis court, nobody can compete with the Swiss maestro. This shot has been questioned by many who feel it is inadequate when it comes to dealing with the high bounce that comes from his nemesis Rafa Nadal's ground strokes. This may be true, but it doesn't change the fact that Federer's backhand is head and shoulders above the rest in the field. The way he whips his wrist as he comes over the ball with tremendous speed and lift, and the gorgeous pose that he ends up in after the follow through are pure poetry.

When it comes to beauty, I do realize that it's in the eye of the beholder. No two shots are alike and they are all pretty amazing. Drop me a line and tell me what your top 5 are.


Anonymous said...

Murray's serve??? Really??

The Fan Child said...

I guess it's too late to take it back, but I know I should -