By James Crabtree
In Chinese culture, Yin and Yang symbolizes the two contrasting values in nature. Yin portrays the negative whilst yang stands for the positive. It can be used to signify opposite ends of a cycle, seasons of the year, or differing matters on a scale of energy or material.
This is also true on the tennis court, in many aspects. Firstly the court is in perfect balance, then you have the different styles, pace and subtleties each player possesses.
But what about the beauty displayed within the technique?
Some players exude unimaginable beauty when they play. Their strokes appear effortless, their movement fluid. They imbue an ambience of calm and serenity that can usually only be found by someone who does yoga in the morning, tai chi in the afternoon, survives on lentils and becomes a master at the finer intricacies of the game, as taught by Mr. Miyagi.
The Dancers = Yin
You probably have in mind someone from a land-locked country that borders Germany, Austria, Italy, France and Liechtenstein. Now it must be said this is only rumour, but the guy we are all thinking about used to be referred to as Roger-san.
There are, of course, a few other guys on tour who can make the game they play look like a dance. Grigor Dimitrov’s technique is pretty much a carbon copy of Roger-san. Richard Gasquet’s backhand has an arrogant and beautiful flair that can only be French. Good ol’ Radek Stepanek can acutely place volleys like he’s from a different era… hang on he is.
Whilst some players embody a beautiful ballet others in contrast lumber around the court like a drunken college student taking the floor yelling “I love this song!” So what players display technique that does not flow like water? Okay that may sound a bit harsh, rather let’s just call them the kings of unorthodox.
The Kings of Unorthodox = Yang
Now Florian Mayer of Germany is a truly fine player. Nonetheless if I had never seen the guy and he showed up at my local club I would say I could take him. His timing looks like it is horribly off, his serve un-co-or-dinated and don’t even get me started on that loopy, loopy forehand. Hang on a second; he has a caree- high ranking of eighteen so maybe there is something to it.
The teenage marvel and slice backhand king known as Bernard Tomic plays with the tenacity of a man having a stroll round the park. He hits his serve as if he has something else on his mind and literally hangs around the baseline for his groundstrokes, before suddenly smacking one.
And what about Alexandr Dolgopolov who plays like a whippet on ecstasy? His live or die forehand winds up and rips like a sporting version of Russian roulette. Before every serve, he lines up then goes through the motion in extreme fast forward like he has a bus to catch.
Of course having a beautiful technique doesn’t always translate into victories. Some players employ a happy medium. Tenacity seems to be the major ingredient so often displayed by the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Then there are the matters within the brain that cannot be measured or even understood no matter what ancient symbolism you use.