Tennis is a sport of endurance, nerves, of power, but it is undoubtedly also a sport in which technical gestures can make a difference: history is full of champions who, on the precision of their lines, on the cut of their backhands or on The effectiveness of their net descents have built an entire career.
And among all the shots in which the class of a tennis player can emerge, undoubtedly the lob – that is the lob – is one of the most spectacular: it neutralizes the threat of an opponent ready on the net, presupposes excellent domination of strength, requires promptness of spirit and good aim.
The shot was invented even in 1878 by the Englishman Frank Hadow, who used it to win the second edition of the Wimbledon tournament, beating in the final the winner of the previous edition Spencer Gore, who instead had invented the net game.
Since then the coup has had a lot of interpreters, on which it would take too long to dwell here, also due to the lack, at times, of visual aids; instead, let’s retrace together some recent and memorable examples of tennis lob.
1. Fabrice Santoro, the Magician
Against Vince Spadea in the Semifinal of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport (2008)
There are tennis players who, beyond the successes, they manage to collect in their career, have spectacularity in their blood: they may not be able to be continuous enough to aspire to a Grand Slam tournament or to enter the top ten of the ATP ranking, but nevertheless they manage to leave a very strong memory among fans.
One of these is certainly the French Fabrice Santoro, the only tennis player in history to participate in Grand Slam tournaments in four different decades (he started in 1989 and retired in 2010) and a player whom Andre Agassi, one who he understood the show well, he said: “To see Fabrice play the price of the ticket has not yet been established.”
Born in Tahiti, he achieved the most important successes of his career mainly thanks to the doubles, winning two Australian Opens paired with Michaël Llodra, while in the singles in Grand Slam tournaments he never went beyond the quarter-finals, which is always achieved in Australia.
The shot we chose comes from the 2008 edition of the ATP tournament in Newport, in which Santoro – then already thirty-five – was the keeper; in the semifinals, he faced Vince Spadea, a player more or less at his level who had already beaten the number 3 seed, Nicolas Mahut, and settled him in two sets (7-6, 6-1).
The lob perfectly lives up to his nickname, the magician, meaning “the magician”.
2. Rafa Nadal, the King of Clay
against Novak Djokovic in the final of the Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open in Madrid (2011)
No need to spend many words introducing Rafael Nadal: current number one in the world, the youngest player in the open era to have completed the Career Grand Slam, and the undisputed king of clay, given his eight titles. in nine seasons at Roland Garros.
If in the first years of his career the main rivalry was that with Roger Federer – the two alternated continuously for six seasons at the top of the ATP rankings – recently the new rivalry with Novak Djokovic has emerged, with whom indeed there is the greatest number. of clashes (39) in the history of contemporary tennis.
It was from a challenge with Djokovic that we chose the second lob of our five: we are in Madrid, at Nadal’s home also because it is played on clay; Nadal, on the contrary, is the first in the world ranking and consequently also the first seed of the tournament, while Djokovic starts in the second position.
The Spaniard arrives in the final after overcoming our old Baghdatis acquaintances, Llodra (whom we mentioned a few lines ago) and above all Federer in three sets in the semifinals; Djokovic, on the other hand, gets there by overtaking Ferrer in the quarterfinals and the surprising Brazilian Bellucci in the semifinals.
For the Serbian, it is the first final match in this tournament (after the very hard-fought 2009 semifinal against Nadal), while for the Spaniard it is the third consecutive final (and the fourth overall) with two titles already posted on the bulletin board. The match will be won by Djokovic, but Nadal’s shot that we present here is legendary.
3. Lleyton Hewitt, the Moth
against Radek Stepanek in the first round of the Shanghai Masters in Shanghai (2012)
Before the advent of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic, one of the hottest names in world tennis was the Australian Lleyton Hewitt, able, at a very young age, to reach the top of the ATP rankings and to put the Wimbledon and World Cup trophies on the board. US Open, thanks above all to its tenacious style of play and, as we wrote in the title, “signs”.
Despite having now passed the best phase of his career, Hewitt remains a respectable player and indeed in the lob, he has often managed to give his best, managing to place unexpected shots even after prolonged exchanges.
The lob that we present in the video below comes from a match perhaps not of the highest order – it was the first round of the Shanghai Masters in 2012 – but it comes against an honorable opponent like Radek Stepanek, another veteran in a downward parable.
After a long exchange Hewitt places a first lob neutralized by Stepanek, followed shortly after by a second attempt that instead hits the intersection of the lines. Hewitt, who arrived at the tournament with a Wild Card, would not have been able to overtake the Czech, however, losing 5-7 and 1-6.
In the remainder of the tournament, Stepanek would also take out seeded number 11, Richard Gasquet, and number 8, John Isner, before yielding to Andy Murray (later finalist but defeated by Djokovic) in the quarter-finals.
4. Andy Murray, the Englishman in History
against Roger Federer in the semifinal of the Australian Open (2013)
We have just talked about Andy Murray, who kicked Stepanek out of the Shanghai Masters in 2012, and we immediately take the opportunity to see one of his most beautiful and perhaps most famous lobs, placed against none other than Roger Federer.
We are at the Australian Open at the beginning of 2013. The previous year was the happiest season of the Scotsman’s career so far: he took home the first title in a Grand Slam tournament, beating in a hard-fought final, in New York, Novak Djokovic.
Then he came close to winning at Wimbledon, where he had expected a British win for decades but was stopped in the final by Federer; above all, he took the gold medal at the London Olympic Games, taking particularly tasty revenge against Federer.
The new year begins and as usual, the Australian tournament arrives: Murray reaches the semifinals with a relatively simple path, and there he meets the Swiss master again, who instead struggled in the quarters with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The match is very close and ends only in the fifth set, with Murray going to the final, where he will lose against Djokovic.
5. Roger Federer, the Teacher
against Benjamin Becker in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships (2014)
And we conclude, then, with the inevitable Swiss champion that we have already talked about extensively in our article.
The shot we have chosen is very recent since it was scored just last month in Dubai, in a tournament in which he took part as the fourth seed (after Djokovic, Del Potro, and Berdych), managing to overcome between the aforementioned Stepanek, the holder Djokovic in the semifinal and Berdych himself, at that moment number 6 in the world, in the decisive race, forfeiting his 78th career title.
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But we chose a sequence of the first round, fought against the German Benjamin Becker, an undoubtedly second-tier player who, however, is the protagonist of an exciting exchange with the Swiss champion, in which every time it seems that the decisive blow has already been put in. sign but instead the player on the defensive manages to unleash a shot that reverses the situation.
Becker, the same age as Federer, has won only one career title, the not very prestigious Ordinary Open, which takes place in Boscoducale – or, in the local name, in ‘s-Hertogenbosch – in the Netherlands every year in June on grass fields.