Where do we go from here?

From Forty Deuce

Here's the thing about JJ losing to players significantly ranked lower than her. To me, it simply defies expectation. Her game is built on retrieving, counterpunching, and forcing players to go for too much and miss. But whatever Ricardo "European Tennis Genius" Sanchez did to her game over the off-season has completely thrown it out of whack. It's as though he tried to transform her into a player that she isn't/wasn't/won't be(?) comfortable being. An attacking retriever, a la Nole.

My sense of JJ's game and her success over the past few years was that it was totally "accidental". Like, she was just a retriever who ran around, dumping balls back, and then her opponent would miss out of frustration. And then next thing you know she won the match not in any spectacular way but simply because her opponents imploded. It was like "Well, I ran around for two hours and next thing you know, I won!" She didn't really have to think that much on the court. Just get the ball back and wait for the girl to miss. And it worked. She was able to beat 95% of the tour and she almost NEVER lost to anyone ranked significantly below her. She was that one player on the women's tour that you could count on to make the QFs easily, only to get beat by the players she was "supposed to lose to", like Ana, Serena, Venus, Dina, Lena, etc.

Because here's the thing about being an offensive attacking player (which is what most of the top girls are). You're going to lose to low ranked players. You're going to have those days where because you go for so much and hit with so little margin, you're just going to miss and lose.

But if JJ is losing to the likes of Kaia Kanepi, then there's something seriously wrong with her game. She shouldn't be going for so much that she consistently misses. I mean, the girl became #1 with no kill shot and no serve. She hobbled into the semifinals of AO 08 on one leg playing puffball retriever tennis. She made the semis of RG with one arm tied behind her back. Then she disappears for a few months, attests to working on her game and getting fitter, and now she's losing all the time. Not just losing tight three setters. But getting embarassed (bagels from Bartoli, breadsticks from Momo, and now straights to Kanepi).

The game that she is being asked to play is just not her style and I'm not sure she'll ever be used to it. She's just not used to missing shots. And when you're not used to it it starts to drain you and affect your confidence. Ana, Dina, Serena, they'll miss shots. But they shake it off when they know they played the right shot, went for it all, and missed. Ok, on to the next point. It's part of their mindset and psychology as an attacking player. But you can see it with JJ. She dumps balls into the net and everytime she looks absolutely befuddled as to how she missed that shot.

JJ's in a tough spot. On the one hand, if she plays a la JJ of 07 and 08, she'll consistently win and be in the top 5. But she'll never consistently beat the top girls at a Slam. Without being aggressive and taking it to them, there's no way. But if she adjusts her game and plays more of an attacking style as she has in 09, then sure, maybe (and it's a big maybe) she's added enough pop to her game that she can beat the top girls. But she's going to have to get used to losing these totally random matches against girls she should beat easily. And to be honest, I don't think that's part of her makeup. Trackback


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