“Don’t Know How He Does It”: Alexander Zverev Puzzled by Unrivalled Novak Djokovic’s Return Prowess

Published 03/04/2021, 10:30 AM EST
Tennis – ATP Cup – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 5, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Germany’s Alexander Zverev after their group stage match REUTERS/Jaimi Joy


World No.1 Novak Djokovic recently won his 18th Grand Slam at the Australian Open 2021. And his peers can do little else than applaud the way the Serb has played. There are a few characteristics of his game that his rivals adore. One of them is his ability to deliver fierce returns and according to Alexander Zverev, Djokovic is the best returner on the ATP tour.

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In an expert video call panel of Alexander Zverev, Bianca Andreescu, Marin Cilic, and Diego Schwartzman, everybody weighed in their picks for the best returner on the tour. And World No.7 picked Novak Djokovic and explained the dilemma that he faces when Djokovic returns the serve.

“I’m going with Novak because I played him a few times, I can serve to 230 to 235, right on the spot, and for some reason, he puts the racquet there,” Zverev said.

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Novak Djokovic with Germany’s Alexander Zverev after winning his quarter-final match. REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Furthermore, Zverev is speechless about how Djokovic reaches the accurate balls, which are flying at 160 mph. And what baffles Zverev more is that the return arrives faster than the service.

“I don’t know how he does it, I don’t know if he reads it. I don’t know if he knows where I’m serving, I don’t know if he can read my mind, but the return comes back faster than my serve every single time. It’s incredible. It’s unbelievable.”

Who did Bianca Andreescu, Marin Cilic, and Diego Schwartzman pick?

US Open 2019 champ Bianca Andreescu also sided with Zverev and named Djokovic. Other US Open champ Marin Cilic picked Diego Schwartzman. And Schwartzman himself had first picked Djokovic before changing it to Andy Murray.

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Apart from Novak Djokovic, who has been the top returners of serve?

For the last three years, the ATP tour has seen three great returners, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Diego Schwartzman.

Nadal and Djokovic have been the best returners for a decade, but the surprise package is Schwartzman. Despite his shorter height, he is neck and neck with Nadal and Djokovic. He is especially brilliant in smashing his opponents’ second serves and taking return games. In the short 2020, it was hard to separate Nadal, Djokovic, and Schwartzman.

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Bhavishya Mittal

972 articles

Bhavishya Mittal is a tennis author for EssentiallySports, who is currently pursuing his Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Manipal University. A former sports editor for The Manipal Journal, Bhavishya has also worked for The New Indian Express. He has a keen eye for many sports but he is a particularly ardent follower of tennis, with a zest to create riveting articles on the ever-evolving sport.

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