• Chris Wilkinson

The ultimate tennis player

Chris Wilkinson July 20, 2011
Rafael Nadal puts a huge amount of spin on his forehands © Getty Images

Watching the Wimbledon final earlier this month, it struck me that if you combined Rafael Nadal's forehand with Novak Djokovic's backhand, you might just have the complete player. That got me thinking: if you added Andy Murray's returning ability and David Ferrer's stamina - you might just have tennis' answer to a dream team.

Forehand - Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal has the most destructive forehand in the game. The amount of spin he generates, combined with the pace he puts on the ball is so difficult for an opponent to deal with. It kicks up so high and for players with a two-handed backhand his cross-court forehand causes real problems. Nadal's forehand is one of his main weapons, and one of the reasons he is so successful against Roger Federer.

Backhand - Novak Djokovic
No player looks more comfortable playing a backhand than new world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. He looks so balanced on the ball and is able to chop and change the direction at will - it is very difficult to read and his backhand down the line is lethal. One of the main reasons Djokovic's backhand is so effective is because he takes it so early, which is so effective against Nadal as it rushes the Spaniard who likes to have time when unleashing his big forehand.

Serve - Ivo Karlovic
All the top players' serves are strong, and of course Andy Roddick holds the world record for the fastest recorded serve, but if I could have anyone's serve it would be Ivo Karlovic. He may only be ranked No. 127 in the world, but at 6'10" he is one of the tallest players on the ATP Tour and has a big serve to match. It's a shame he hasn't got the shots to back up his serve, when you can hit as many aces as he does it doesn't really matter. His opponents will do well to get the return in, and even then if Karlovic is serving well, all game plans go out of the window.

Battling the cold, wind, fatigue or even injury, Rafael Nadal will always give it everything

Return - Andy Murray
Andy Murray reads the game better than anyone else on tour. He alters where he stands to receive which often makes his opponent change their tactic. For many players, just being able to get the ball back into the court is an achievement, but Murray is able to use his return to turn defence into attack. With his passing shots, even if his opponent rushes to the net, he is always in control.

Volley - Roger Federer
Roger Federer is so good with his hands and so loose that he can pick up a volley with ease. He improved that area of his game when he started working with Paul Annacone last year, and I believe he should use the volley more. He didn't come into the net that often at Wimbledon, but it is quite hard to do these days - the courts are slower, the balls are slower and when your opponent puts so much top spin on the ball it does limit your opportunities to rush into the net. It would be interesting to see a match where a player started to employ a serve-volley approach to see how a baseliner would cope with it.

Drop shot - Andy Murray
When Murray gets it right, his drop shot is sublime - he can really make his opponent look foolish. He is sometimes tempted to overdo it a little bit, but it just shows he is one of the most technically gifted players, and even if the player manages to chase the ball down, Murray's superb passing shot is almost guaranteed to wrap up the point. He used the drop shot to great effect at the French Open - when he was suffering with an ankle injury, it was the ideal way to make his opponent do all the running and a lot of players are uncomfortable coming forwards.

Guts - Rafael Nadal
When he is on top of his game, Nadal is unbeatable, but what is scary for his opponents is that even when he is not at his best, he is still so tough to beat. He grinds out so many matches when he is not playing well, and that ability to find a way to win regardless is the sign of a great player. Battling the cold, wind, fatigue or even injury, Nadal will give it everything to win.

Novak Djokovic's speed and mobility has improved so much in the last 12 months © Getty Images

Athleticism - Novak Djokovic
The winner of this category was not even in the running last year. Djokovic's movement around the court has improved so much - and it is largely thanks to his new gluten-free diet. The way he flings himself about the court is unbelievable - he can get to shots that other players wouldn't even think about attempting. He has beaten Nadal five times this year, and the reason for that is because he is faster and more mobile and able to get Nadal's winners back in court - and that is why he is the new world No. 1.

Stamina - David Ferrer
It would be easy to choose Nadal because the man is a machine, but instead I have chosen his fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. Like a lot of clay courters he is prepared to play the smaller tournaments and he is a player who shows just what you can achieve with a bit of hard work. When he is scurrying around on the court he just looks like he could keep going all day. He may not have the raw talent of some of his rivals, but what he lacks in physicality he makes up for in stamina and sheer determination to keep fighting.

Mentality - Rafael Nadal
No-one is better than Nadal at seeing the positive in everything. He is supremely talented, but his attitude is what has seen him claim 10 grand slam titles. Every point, every game, every match matters - no matter what event or what surface. He is rarely negative, even in defeat, and is a great ambassador for the sport. A lot of this stems from his upbringing - as a youngster his uncle Toni used to make him train on the worst courts to establish a little bit of humility - if he can play in those conditions, he can play anywhere.

Personality - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga wears his heart on his sleeve and I love his sheer enthusiasm and energy. His gung-ho brand of tennis is exciting to watch, and he loves playing to the crowd. He really endeared himself to the fans at Wimbledon with the way he threw himself around in the semi-final against Djokovic, and he showed real courage to battle back from two sets down to beat Federer. His celebration sums it up - the way he takes centre stage and points to his back - he is a real character and great fun to watch.

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1

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Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.