Growing up I was hooked on Tennis from watching guys like Borg , McEnroe and Connors play , but it was mainly Borg who influenced me to practice for hours at a time on my brick garage wall , some days I would hit for up to 3 hours . It was by chance that my Grandpa gave my sister the Bjorn Borg book , his life story and I read it almost as much as i played , it inspired me , I was devastated when he retired at age 26. I was looking for a player to look up to after Borg called it quits and it didn't take long for me to get over Borg's retirement as his younger Countryman Mats Wilander burst onto the scene at age 17 , winning the French Open in 1982. Mats was a Borg 'clone' but I loved the fact that he volleyed more than Borg , his ground strokes were however just as sharp and his on court attitude just as intense , to me Mats was my idol and my inspiration to play . I loved the way both he and Borg were prepared to stay out on court for as long as it took to wear their opponent down , physically and mentally , their biggest weapon apart from their passing shots , their minds.
If you compare guys like Borg and Wilander to today's best , Djokovic and Nadal , their differences are huge , the two Swedes relied on spin and patience whereas today's best rely on power and consistency . If you throw Connors and McEnroe into the mix you will note the difference in net attacks , Mac in particular , but Connors got to the net whenever he could , despite not being renowned for having a great volley .
If Novak had Mac's volleying expertise and stayed injury free I would think that he would be unbeatable for the next 5 years , such is his ability to hit an outstanding approach shot . I believe that in the years to come Djokovic will improve his volleying technique as his body will want to finish the rallies a lot earlier than he does at the moment . Jimmy Connors hit such flat approach shots with precise accuracy that he was quite often given easy volleys to put away , yet if you watch highlights of him from all those years ago his volleying technique was rather sound without being 'text book'.
Borg rarely volleyed but like Djokovic and Nadal when he did come to the net it was usually behind a great approach which made his put away shot a lot simpler , Mats was different again. He was a player who didn't own a big shot yet he picked his moments to come in , his volleying was at times brilliant , a fact proven by his Wimbledon Doubles Title .So what does all this mean ? It all adds up to a guy who I haven't even mentioned up to this point , Roger Federer , a player who had the 'complete' game , no weaknesses and an ability to finish a point almost at will . All of the other players mentioned had strengths and weaknesses and given their time again I am sure would've worked harder on their weaker shots.
I make a point when I teach the game that no session goes by without a net play or approach shot routine , the two things that can stop you from sitting on the baseline all day , as you get older you certainly appreciate the ability to slice , approach well and have a solid volley to end a rally . Tennis is a game that unless you lack common sense you will only get smarter at , keep fit , the best is ahead of you.....