Originally Posted by Relinquis
not sure i agree with the premise that azarenka has less variety than sloane, anyway...
with more variety, you have more strategic and tactical options. this is important as your opponent will adapt to your style. just having an additional well-developed stroke gives you a lot of strategic options.
e.g. having a low, almost skidding, slice backhand is a great complement to otherwise top-spiny ground-strokes.
How does this work?
So, let's say you can have a grinding baseline game that focuses on topspin ground strokes. It all works well until you come across a player than can handle your high kicking shots as he is quite tall and is consistent enough to hang with you in rallies. Having the variety of a functional slice backhand gives you:
- the ability to disrupt your opponent's rhythm in rallies. Junkballing high (topspin) and low (slice).
- a deep and safe defensive shot if you are pressured.
- an approach shot.
Used at the right times, this could be enough to make your baseline game less predictable and force some errors from your opponent. All for the price of one stroke. What if you had a drop shot too?
This is a good point. I'll add that being a master of one particular thing can hurt when that particular thing plays right into the strength of your opponent.
For example, I've had loads of doubles partners who love the wide serve from the deuce side and can't hit a kicker (or sometimes even flat) down the middle to save their lives. Whenever they face someone with a big forehand return, they struggle to hold serve because their favorite serve goes right into the wheel house. But when I serve against those same opponents, I have enough variety to find their weaknesses and I usually hold serve much more easily.
I don't have to be able to hit 17 different types of serve at any given point in a 3-set match. But, if I have different options to choose from at the beginning of a match that allow me to find a weakness, then once I find the weakness I can start using a couple types of serves for the rest of the match, hitting them better and better as the match goes on. It might be a combination of kick serves to the backhand with a sneaky wide slice thrown in from time to time. It could be flat serves at the forehand mixed with slice to the body. It could be as simple as slice to anywhere in the service box used over and over. (I won a singles match a few years ago using nothing but slice serves; the guy just couldn't handle them for some reason.)