Not to take her defensive skills to another level, although I think that she used to defend better when she worked with Byrnes. I was talking about taking her aggressive game to another lever. Her fh looks much better than it looked on USO last year, much better. But, what the fuck happened to her serve. It started during the clay season. I blame the vacations and the injuries for that.
She's not fast enough and it's not her tennis plan. I don't think that not being tennis smart enough is her issue. You can't be tennis smart for all playing styles. Look at defensive players when they try to be more aggressive, they also look clueless, can't finish the point. She definitely tries to be more consistent, but I don't think that her plan is to be "average". She just can't play as aggressive as she should for various reasons.
She needs a first serve.
No... they are going for an average route for her game. Its adding spin, its being more consistent, not pulling the trigger too early, its withstanding rallies.. things Ana has repeated ad nauseum she is working on. And that's how she has been playing... Everyone can see she is playing a new style for her.. very different than how she used to play. Ana herself sees it and says she is a different player now. Its the game of averages. To play that game, a player needs to have good anticipation, run well, absorb and redirect pace well, be utter consistent. The one player who I think is the master of the average game is Vika. You can be aggressive within the average game... Vika is.. but to be aggressive within this game you need those assets I mentioned. Otherwise you will just look passive.. like Ana has looked so many times. She isn't choosing to be passive, but playing this game without being fast enough or smart enough or have spin enough or absorb and redirect pace well enough, will make Ana look passive, because she just won't have means to be aggressive.. and then when she starts being passive, she starts missing, which only makes her even more passive and more erractic.
What I meant by saying Ana will never be fast enough or tennis smart enough or hit with enough spin or handle high pace well enough is that you need to do at the very least one of those very well to have a weapon within the average game. And Ana won't ever be able to be top notch in any of those to make it a real weapon.. its just not in her. If Ana plays her natural game, the one in which she does have weapons, she wouldn't need much tennis smarts.
Against lesser opponents, the average game works ok.. leaves Ana less prone to bad losses.. and those opponents will give her a little extra time and space to hit her FH and look aggressive. But top players will not.. and then even if she tries to be aggressive at first, she will be robbed of space and time and will end up on the back foot and being passive/erractic.
I do think Ana attempted to hit her FH flatter at the USO.. which makes me hope that they are seeing how adding spin and trying consistency in rallies with the FH is not the way to go. Ana needs the flat FH so that can be a weapon and she needs to use it and attack with the FH at first opportunity, every time there is a chance. But that seems like an oasis in the middle of a desert.. Ana's FH has barely looked aggressive all year apart from this USO and perhaps IW. And still.. when you think about it, the first really good opponent Ana faced, which unfortunately was the best of all Serena, her FH costed her at least a few more games. Exactly because a top player barely allows her to hit it and robs her time on it.. so when she has the chance, its too erractic to actually work. Ana needed to be working to death on the flat FH, her best shot at a real big weapon.
And you said yourself.. look at how clueless pushers look when they try to be aggressive, stepping away from their natural games.. its the same for Ana.. look at how a naturally aggressive player looks clueless when trying to be too consistent.. she ends up being an erractic passive player.
Now the serve.. the serve is a big issue. And no.. apart from Indian Wells, Ana hasn't served well since Birmingham last year. It didn't start in the clay season.. If there is one shot that Nigel has made considerably and progressively worse, then that's the serve. When Ana was losing all those choking matches last year, it was not because of her serve.. she was serving ok really... it was because of her inexistant groundgame and ridiculously weak mentality. But now the serve is one of the biggest liabilities.. its just bad.. easy to read, not good placement, not hard enough, low 1st service percentage. I think Nigel is a good coach... but I don't understand what he is tinkering with on Ana's serve.. its just getting worse and worse.
So yes, Ana needs a first serve.. but still wont be enough to take the next level if her groundgame keeps following the average route.