Struff effort recalls Soderling

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May 08, 2023, 02:36

Only Djokovic and Soderling have defeated Rafa at the French. Soderling, a tall man, did it by taking Rafa’s big spin at the top of the bounce and whipping hard, flat shots into the corners. Struff did that today and added serve and volley for good measure. It still wasn’t enough against Alcaraz.

But Struff could have won the match if his first serve percentage was in the mid sixties… in crucial games he missed most of his first serves.

So a style which troubles the young Spaniard is slowly emerging. Struff and especially Sinner have got a workable plan. Admittedly it requires some big hitting and a willingness to take the net….but there are players who are capable.

What doesn’t work against Alcaraz is caution. Mid court balls are turned into drop shot fodder, mid pace balls are punished, yielding the iniative  is fatal. Medvedev’s embarrassing loss to the kid in a final a few weeks back was a classic example of how passivity doesn’t work.

Players have to take risks against this kid….make it about whether they can hit winners, rather than outlasting Alcaraz in base line rallies. Strong first serving is essential.

Sinner has done that this Spring. Other players and coaches will adopt these tactics. The commentators today made the point Alcatraz is the most complete young player we have seen, a great accomplishment. But that also means there are fewer obvious things for him to improve.

How much better can the youngster get, some I guess. But more tactically than technically. We may already have seen close to peak Alcatraz, and we may already have the seen the style that will increasingly be adopted against him.

May 08, 2023, 07:17


I must agree with you about Struff.   He was a Lucky Loser in the qualification round in Madrid that resulted in him playing in the final.  A hard-hitting player  that improved his ranking from 65 before the tournament to 27 as the new official ranking released today is concerned.

The question remains - is Struff like Soderling a one-time tournament player that was fading out like Karatsev was after Melbourne in 2021?   Remember Karatsev was also a lucky loser in the Aussie Open and went through to the semi-final against Djokovic that year.    I think Karatsev was down to 121 ranked player in the world when he played Struff in the semi in Madrid and is now back to being the 52 ranked player in the world.

Alcaraz type of game is different from the norm - which developed over the last few years.   The younger players became more hard-hitting than the norm used to be.    Alcaraz do play forearm hard hitting and add to that a variety of drop volleys and high-bouncing spin balls that often cause poor return shots.    Both Rune and Sinner is trying the same approach as Alcaraz - but is not as effective as  he is in the way they  play.  

If Alcaraz play in Rome he will regain the number 1 ranking and be so ranked in the Roland Garros tournament.   That may make life more difficult for Djokovic than if he was still the number 1 ranked player in the world and Alcaraz is the bookmakers favorite to win in Paris.   The actual draw confirming participation in Rome is today and the  seeded players will only start playing in Round 2 on Friday and Saturday.     So another 14 days of hard work in store for player this week,   


May 08, 2023, 13:27

Good points Mike. Paris is going to be interesting without the certain dominance of Nadal. New rivalries are emerging….Sinner vs Alcaraz being the most compelling. Or perhaps Rune (the bad guy) vs Alcaraz (the good guy).

Hopefully the improvement in court coverage Alcaraz is leading, will also lead to more volleying and unlike Struff, players will learn how to really volley with a firm wrist, taking the ball out in front of them.

If all this happens the volley, the drop shot and the top spin lob can all play a much greater roll and tennis will be more fun.

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