When you look up “boss” in the dictionary, this is the picture that shows up
I’ve been running a 10 part segment “A Beginner’s Guide to Tactics” designed to open up a deeper discussion on strategy and tactics in the modern game, and is a window into how I attempt to analyze what I see. I decided what better way to illustrate this than eat what I’m serving. Here’s a breakdown of the Munich final.
Tommy Haas beat Philip Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6(3) to take the Munich title, losing one set in his four matches at the tournament. Haas put together a complete performance to down Ivan Dodig in the semifinal and backed it up once again to take the title. Haas’ excellent movement, depth and honest variety have him looking a formidable all court player heading into Roland Garros. Here’s how he went about his business in the final.
1. Pick a Player – Tommy Haas
2. Attacking Wing
Tommy wasn’t necessarily looking to breakdown a wing of Kohlschreiber as they both match up quite well to each other with single handed backhands. This strategy is less common on clay. Tommy’s backhand was targeted by Kohlschreiber later into the second set, where he looked more comfortable and patient. Haas was sometimes pushed out wide in these scenarios and forced to loop his backhand back in short, which Kohls attacked brilliantly.
3. Unforced Errors
Boneheaded errors were almost entirely vacant in Haas’ game – he was playing that well. Patterns of unforced errors didn’t show themselves (also a bit less common on clay).
Tommy and Kohls are both good moving, one handed backhand righties. The backhand was the battle ground, and an interesting one. Haas struggled when pushed wide to the backhand, as noted above. However, in points he was controlling, particularly on his serve, he did an excellent job of ripping the backhand or even running around to the cross court and keeping it to Kohls’ backhand.
Haas’ pattern of play is incredibly aggressive, but never in search for incredible out right winners, which worked wonderfully with his fantastic movement. In other words, Haas is looking to push the ball left to right with consistency but without line painting winners. He doesn’t go down the line with the backhand often, but that was fine against Kohlschreiber, as it usually meant he was returned with an attackable ball off of Kohls’ backhand. Haas also did an incredible job of varying his play slightly. He used the slice a bit more in the second set (similarly to how he played Dodig in the semifinals) which would cause a more traditional grinding clay point. The odd, well placed drop shot kept Kohlschreiber even more honest, and largely led to Haas controlling rallies.
One cannot simply play aggressive tennis without some raw tools behind their shots, and Haas had that. Haas is cranking the ball at the moment, and was looking to pound the forehand on anything that sat up well for him. He did this particularly well earlier in the first set. Again, running around the forehand worked because he was able to hit it with enough pace to keep Kohls well on the run.
Haas gets top marks for depth, once again. Consistent depth is so key to playing attacking tennis on clay. If you don’t have it, it can allow an opponent back into a rally too easily due to the speed of the courts. Haas was even winning points simply by hammering it so deep at Kohls that he was handcuffed and had no response. As noted, the ball wasn’t sailing and causing needless unforced errors, so he was able to confidently keep the ball deep.
Largely covered, but one handed backhands can be a real pain on clay. When the ball flies up, it leaves the player forced to float a backhand in short, or attempt to slice. If it isn’t high enough, a floating backhand is the only option and Haas was caught having to do this several times. This is nothing new, but a definite exploitable part of his game for future opponents. He mixed in slices wonderfully and backed them up appropriately by patiently slicing until he was afforded a ball he could do something with. It was also done enough that it didn’t become too predictable for Kohls.
Not much to say here. Lovely, warm day that probably sped things up and definitely played to Tommy’s hand.
Tommy’s placement of his serve was incredible. Just like Nadal slices his left serve out wide on the ad court (serving to his right) Haas did the same with his righty serve, slicing out on the deuce court (serving to his left). Kohls was forced into reaching for a lot of forehands that came weakly back and Haas very rarely lost a point in which he got a good wide serve out to the deuce court.
His ad court serving was less predictable, but typically down the T. This usually looked like Haas’ better serve, regardless of his opponent, but kept things a bit closer. Kohls largely chopped it back centrally, sometimes to effect. Haas did an excellent job of doing something with his opponents return, particularly with a forehand to the ad court (much like Nadal does, but opposite due to handedness). Haas wasn’t interested in wasting time or getting involved in centrally located, grinding rallies and used his first shot after the serve wonderfully.
Haas isn’t a terrible returner, but as can be expected, his one handed backhand was often exposed, particularly on the ad court. That said, he had some fantastic forehand returns and could create a bit off of some second serves. Not great, not bad.