By Evan Valeri
“Beauty will save the world.”
Written in Japanese and adorning the left arm of current ATP number nine ranked player Janko Tipsarevic, this is just one of many tattoos that make Tipsarevic stand out from the crowd. His tattoos along with the sporty Oakley glasses he wears make Janko an unforgettable figure in tennis. Separating himself from the traditional gentlemen’s sport stereotype of tennis, he brings a modern day Andre Agassi rebel type figure to the game. This tennis rebel is out to prove to opponents and fans that he is more than just another player doing what he can to stand out. Janko is on a mission to beat the best in the world, and after finishing in the ATP top ten the previous two seasons, he has cemented himself at the top of the game.
Janko Tipsarevic has earned himself a reputation as one of the hardest working players in the game over the 2012 season. Having changed his diet, losing weight, and adding muscle, he has made sure he can play with the same amount of energy deep in the fifth as he did the first point of the match. Janko is ready to go the distance with anyone. He is fast, but has made strides learning how to move more efficiently around the court. Tipsarevic controls his emotions on court as well as anyone. He uses positive energy to pump himself up, not allowing negative thoughts or energy to impact his play. Combine his hard work, positive attitude, and newfound drive to compete and emerge victorious every time he enters a stadium for battle, and you have a new gladiator at the top of men’s tennis.
The world number ninth ranked player likes to stalk the baseline and play a unique hybrid aggressive/counterpunching baseliner style of game. He will often change the direction of the ball when opponents are not expecting it. Tipsarevic has the ability to flatten the ball out from both sides and likes backpedaling around balls to the backhand wing, striking inside out forehands. You won’t see as many winners fly off Janko’s racquet as other players but he won’t litter the stat sheet with unforced errors either. He often wins points by running opponents ragged until he forces an error from them or they cough up a short ball he is able to capitalize on. While the 5’11” Serb doesn’t benefit from being able to bomb aces past opponents several times a game, he mixes his serve up well. His arsenal includes a bending slice, hard flat ball, pinpoint placement, and a kick serve. He gives opponents a different look by sliding closer to the sideline on the ad side to deliver his kick, which pulls returners out wide and opens up the court so he can hit aggressive forehands. Tipsarevic has a complete game with the necessary tools to continue his rise up the rankings.
If Janko is to start defeating the big four on a regular basis he needs to improve his defensive abilities. The game has become more about defense rather than offense. This can be attributed to slower court surfaces and the improved fitness of players, which gives them the ability to run down winner after winner, point after point for hours. During a press conference after losing to Novak Djokovic at the 2012 ATP World Tour Finals Roger Federer said, “What he does well – even in defense he stays somewhat offensive. That, I think, is what separates him from the rest a little bit.” Now don’t get me wrong, Janko Tipsarevic plays great defense, but what separates the top four from him is their ability to quickly transition from defense to offense. Within three shots you can see Novak, Rafa, Andy, and Roger on the full stretch slicing a ball from ten feet behind the baseline to stepping inside the court and cracking a winner.
Tipsarevic has the quickness around the court needed to retrieve many balls but at the pinnacle of the game you need to be able to hit defensive shots that are hard for opponents to capitalize on. Watching Janko play Federer during the ATP World Tour Finals last November, Federer always appeared to be one shot ahead. Janko would hit an offensive shot just to have Fed pull him into the net with a short ball and pounce on Tipsarevic’s approach passing him before he even knew what happened. His improved fitness and new understanding of playing defensive tennis could bring increased success in 2013.
Tipsarevic plays his best tennis when he is dictating play and moving opponents side to side. This higher risk type of tennis is hard to play for an entire match against the top players in the world. By improving his defensive abilities and learning to capitalize on transitioning from defense to offense, he will feel less pressure to play perfect tennis every point. With that weight lifted off his shoulders; Janko will make deep runs in the majors more often, improve his ranking, and more regularly defeat the big four. Janko Tipsarevic isn’t a rebel without a cause, but more a rebel with a cause to be the best in the world. With the drive he possesses Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, and Murray better watch their backs.