Fantasy Tennis:'s tennis experts design the perfect player for 2011 - Sports Illustrated

Fantasy Tennis: Building the Ideal Player for 2011

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But what if you were trying to build the best player for 2011, based on today's players and current form?

We asked's tennis experts to design a player for the unique challenges of today's game. The one ground rule: you could only pick one attribute from a given player. The process was a series of difficult choices -- Serena for mental toughness or forehand? Where to play the Federer card? -- but the result presents a revealing look at the state of tennis entering the 2011 season.

First, their picks for the men's tour:

Serve: Ivo KarlovicBasic geometry: There's no substituting a delivery from FAA-jurisdiction.

Return game: Andy MurrayCompact strokes and uncanny anticipation.

Forehand: Juan Martin del Potro(Wrist willing.) Nothing flashy, not a lot of spin. Just pure power.

Backhand: Novak Djokovic For sheer precision; over Stan Wawrinka for aesthetics; Tomas Berdych for power and Marat Safin for old times sake.

Net Play: Bob BryanYes, in part because we're saving Federer for later. But still ...

Fitness: David Ferrer He's been to cool down after runs by ... jogging.

Footwork: Roger FedererWe'll play our Federer card here. So smooth and efficient.

Mental Toughness: Rafael NadalNot even close. One stat among many: His record in slam finals? 9-2.

Serve: Andy RoddickAndy's predictable but overpowering.

Return game: Andy MurrayThe counterpuncher's main punch, without it he wouldn't be in the top five.

Forehand: Juan Martin del PotroWhen he's on, no one can handle Delpo's sledgehammer.

Backhand: Richard GasquetRichard is the one-stroke wonder of the men's game.

Net Play: Mardy FishThe game's dying art, so Fish wins by default.

Fitness: Roger Federer The foundation of all of Fed's wonderful play.

Footwork: Novak DjokovicWould put Fed here, too, but at his best Djokovic floats like a dancer.

Mental Toughness: Rafael NadalWithout it, he wouldn't be half the player he is.

Serve: Andy RoddickHe has the reputation, and consistently delivers in the clutch.

Return game: Andy MurrayMagical hands; if only he attacked the way he defends.

Forehand: Robin SoderlingRides this shot straight up to the penthouse.

Backhand: Rafael Nadal His two-hander on the run, or the retreat, is one of the most amazing sights in sports.

Net Play: Michael LlodraOne of the few serve-and-volleyers left, and he's coldly efficient up there.

Fitness: Nikolay Davydenko Can't stand watching him, but the man can run all day.

Footwork: Roger FedererThe man is a living textbook.

Mental Toughness: John IsnerFrom the NCAA championships to the Wimbledon marathon against Mahut, he thrives on will power.

Serve: John IsnerBig John gets free points at will. If only all the Slams were on hardcourts.

Return game: Andy MurrayGreat hand-eye coordination and a gutsy returner.

Forehand: Fernando GonzalezSince we've picked Federer and Nadal elsewhere, we go Gonzo here.

Backhand: Novak Djokovic The backhand is the Joker's biggest weapon.

Net Play: Bob BryanThe doubles specialist's quick hands is why he's famous worldwide.

Fitness: Nikolay Davydenko Would be happy to play every tournament.

Footwork: Roger FedererThe most efficient mover in men's history.

Mental Toughness: Rafael NadalLegendary steel when it matters most.

Serve: Ivo KarlovicEven at 31, I'll give Dr. Ivo's 6-foot-10 frame the edge over the younger Isner.

Return game: Andy MurrayPeerless anticipation. No one combines offense, defense and accuracy on the return better.

Forehand: Roger FedererDavid Foster Wallace famously called Federer's forehand "a great liquid whip."

Backhand: Novak Djokovic The two-fisted backhand is Nole's signature stroke -- and with good reason.

Net Play: Mardy FishWe saw just how effective Fish's volleying could be in 2010, when he finally was fit enough to get into position for them consistently.

Fitness: Nikolay Davydenko Not exactly a crowd-pleaser, but no one questions his endurance. "He plays like PlayStation: he runs to everywhere," Del Potro remarked in 2009.

Footwork: David FerrerArguably the best in the business on clay and top flight on anything else.

Mental Toughness: Rafael NadalAlways confident and never beats himself. Ingenious control of match pace.

Serve: Rafael NadalWould you like a side of speed to go with that topspin? No? Too bad -- no point for you!

Return game: Novak DjokovicTalk about hitting against the wall; dude can retrieve anything from just about any position.

Forehand: Robin SoderlingListen close, and you'll hear a sonic boom about 10 seconds after contact.

Backhand: Richard Gasquet It's as if he's saying "ta-da!" after every stroke; the only thing it's missing is jazz hands.

Net Play: Michael LlodraNot only kisses his volleys, but hugs ballgirls when he crashes into them.

Fitness: Roger Federer That wet patch you see on his shirtfront isn't sweat. It's condensation.

Footwork: Andy MurrayFew are as graceful on the move. The trick is getting him to do it.

Mental Toughness: Andy RoddickWhen his mind is vaulted, he's a tough opponent to crack.

Next,'s experts craft their ideal women's player.

Serve: Venus WilliamsStill clocking, especially when it matters.

Return game: Vera ZvonarevaA key to her late-career surge.

Forehand: Ana IvanovicWhen she's getting it in the court -- which fortunately has occurred lately -- it's as good as any this side of Serena (whom we're saving).

Backhand: Justine Henin We're still suckers for beauty.

Net Play: Samantha StosurSuch an agile athlete. Just wish she'd get there more often.

Fitness: Francesca Schiavone Even at her age, she'll win matches simply by being in superior shape.

Footwork: Kim ClijstersAlways a terrific mover -- and childbirth did nothing to impede her locomotion.

Mental Toughness: Serena WilliamsNot even close.

Serve: Serena WilliamsSerena's accurate and overpowering.

Return game: Caroline WozniackiThe counterpuncher's main punch, without it she wouldn't be in the top five.

Forehand: Samantha StosurSamantha's stinger gets the job done.

Backhand: Venus WilliamsHenin's would be here normally, but her head is her best weapon.

Net Play: Francesca SchiavoneFrancesca's is a marvel of skill, whimsy and imagination.

Fitness: Kim ClijstersClijsters, still, looks like she can run forever.

Footwork: Jelena JankovicAt her best Jankovic floats like a dancer.

Mental Toughness: Justine HeninWithout it, she wouldn't be half the player she is.

Serve: Serena WilliamsStronger, more accurate and more intimidating than anyone else's on tour.

Return game: Venus WilliamsStill one of the tour's best athletes, and it shows here.

Forehand: Samantha StosurGets the max out of that chiseled right arm.

Backhand: Justine HeninHer lingering elbow injury is disturbing, but nobody disputes that form.

Net Play: Francesca SchiavoneSo elegant and creative, so far removed from baseline tedium.

Fitness: Caroline Wozniacki There's a reason she played more often, at the elite level, than anyone else on tour.

Footwork: Kim ClijstersAlways set to deliver a bullet, from either side.

Mental Toughness: Maria SharapovaBig-time fighter in a field of sheep.

Serve: Venus WilliamsSister Serena has one of the best serves of all time but Venus can still crank it up when healthy.

Return game: Victoria AzarenkaBelrussian has great instincts and keeps getting better.

Forehand: Kim ClijstersMomma's forehand is one of the most powerful in history.

Backhand: Justine HeninHer one-hander is the Kandinsky of the sport.

Net Play: Francesca SchiavoneFlamboyant Italian has McEnroe-like skills at net.

Fitness: Samantha StosurGet ready for the gun show: This Aussie is chiseled.

Footwork: Caroline WozniackiThe Dane is beautiful to watch on the run.

Mental Toughness: Serena WilliamsThe toughest player in tennis, male of female.

Serve: Venus WilliamsSerena has grown more consistent, but Vee still has fastest serve in history.

Return game: Victoria AzarenkaAbility to retreive every ball seems immunte to mental frailties that crop up in other facets.

Forehand: Samantha StosurWhich way to the gun show? Credit coach David Taylor for harnessing the latent talent in Sam's pythons.

Backhand: Kim ClijstersHenin's is sublime, but I worry about her elbow; Clijsters' two-handed version is a hammer.

Net Play: Francesca SchiavoneHer charmed 2010 season was a triumph for tennis aesthetes; creative, stylish net play that belongs in the Uffizi.

Fitness: Caroline WozniackiNo one played more matches on tour in 2009 and '10. That's not an accident.

Footwork: Justine HeninSuperlative balance, court coverage, tactics and ability to shift from defense to offense seamlessly.

Mental Toughness: Serena WilliamsThe Everest of the women's tour.

Serve: Serena WilliamsIt isn't just the WTA's most powerful and accurate, but it's also the most consistent.

Return game: Jelena JankovicGood luck passing this 5-foot-9 condor -- especially when she's doing splits.

Forehand: Venus WilliamsEven more incredible than her Plasticman range is her Hulk-like force.

Backhand: Francesca SchiavoneAs Italian gesticulations go, this is my favorite.

Net Play: Cara BlackIf her touch with Liesel Huber were as soft as it is inside the service line, maybe they'd still be partners?

Fitness: Justine Henin Now that Dementieva's gone, she takes the pound-for-pound crown.

Footwork: Maria SharapovaIt ain't the prettiest, but it rarely fails to get her in position to lash that massive forehand.

Mental Toughness: Kim ClijstersFor as much as Mommy Dearest seems to have on her mind, it never impedes her game.