4 out of the 8 quarter finalists in this years US Open have something in common that is uncommon in this modern tennis era of aggressive attrition. They all possess a single handed backhand , and no not one of them was Roger Federer. Robredo, Youzhny, Wawrinka and Gasquet brought out the yesteryear nostalgia of the matchup between the one handed serve and volleyer versus the aggressive baseliner – Sampras v/s Agassi, Mcenroe v/s Borg, Becker v/s Lendl and numerous others. Yeah, ok the current lot cannot serve and volley, which is definitely a lost art.
The matches then were fairly even with the one-handers holding a distinct edge. For a long time now ever since Federer stopped winning consistently , the double handers rule the roost. The general athletic abilities, the great racquets, the slower courts have meant the double handed backhand has become defacto. The backhands have to be as powerful as the forehand and there no room for a chink in the armour. Nadal, Djokovic, Murray all are equally powerful on both wings. Even Federer has been constantly troubled by Nadal’s pacy forehands high on his backhand side.
Youzhny and Robredo have already fallen by the wayside , so it was good to see the extremely talented Richard Gasquet come through against the great retriever David Ferrer. It is inconceivable that he had an 1-8 record against Ferrer because in terms of gifts there is not even a comparison. Apart from great top spin strokes, Gasquet has possibly the best backhand in the world – A supremely elegant, versatile, powerful and consistent single handed backhand. Yes even better than Federer’s. He is capable at the net and is a shotmaker with exceptional creativity. After so many years in the wilderness, it was good to see someone earmarked for greatness at least show some glimpses of his abilities. Will he be able to beat Nadal? With a 0-10 record, the odds are stacked against it but stranger things have happened. Most probably Nadal will destroy him in straight sets but my wishes are with the man with a backhand to die for.
S Wawrinka has lived in the shadows of the great Federer and apart from a few good victories really never has threatened to break through to the top tier. He outclassed Murray in the quarters with some brilliant hitting. He has a great all round game and has been playing some unbelievable tennis. Again with a smooth backhand that can stand upto the barrage from the heavy hitters, Wawrinka is easy on the eyes. As I post this he and Novak are locked at one set a piece. Most likely it will be the World No 1 (Djokovic v/s Nadal) World No 2 but I hope Wawrinka and Ricahrd pull it out , it will be one to savour for the single handed backhand’s sake!