If the question - 'Who has the best return of serve on the ATP Tour today?' - is asked of the tennis fraternity, the unanimous answer will be Novak Djokovic. In fact, the Serb is so strong in this aspect that many even believe he is the best returner in the history of the sport.
But former World No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov believes Andre Agassi and himself were at par with the best returners of today’s generation - the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
In a recent Twitter conversation with renowned coach Brad Gilbert, Kafelnikov spoke about the speed of the new courts and then proceeded to question a fan if they thought Agassi and he (Kafelnikov) were inferior returners than Novak Djokovic and the rest of the Big 4.
For Kafelnikov, his return of serve was at par with Novak Djokovic’s
The relatively quick surface at Flushing Meadows for the ongoing Western & Southern Open has seen big servers like John Isner and Reilly Opelka go deep in the draw. That reminded Yevgeny Kafelnikov of the glory days of serve and volley, and he asked Brad Gilbert if such a tactic could be employed more frequently now.
Gilbert replied that it would be almost impossible to replicate the success achieved by Stefan Edberg and his ilk. According to the American, the constant use of serve & volley in today's times would adversely affect the body.
A fan then chipped in and implied that a player of Edberg’s style would find it tough to make the top 10 in the current era - presumably because of the quality of returners in the modern game. But Kafelnikov took exception to that, and reminded the fan about Agassi and his return of serve - which he believes would compare favorably with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer
“Do you really think that Agassi or myself returning serve worst than Federer Djokovich Nadal or Murray?” the Russian questioned.
Ardent fans would be aware that Novak Djokovic is not a returner in the mold of Agassi or Kafelnikov. He doesn't take as many risks as the American did, nor does he repeatedly chip the ball to the feet of the opponent like Kafelnikov. But the Serb's return game is arguably more well-rounded than both of those players, which can be seen in his success against all types of servers on tour.
There are a lot of factors that make Novak Djokovic the world-class returner he is today. His flexibility for one allows him to reach even the widest of serves with ease, which has given him a lot of success against Roger Federer in particular. Moreover, Djokovic's balance and core strength allow him to strike the ball with power even while on the stretch; players often find themselves handcuffed with his deep returns that land just inside the baseline.
Twitter users might be wondering whether Yevgeny Kafelnikov took all these aspects into consideration before comparing the returns of Djokovic and Agassi.Published 27 Aug 2020, 03:17 IST