Many years ago I was watching a boxing bout on TV. During the fight the commentator made the statement “In boxing the jab is everything, from the jab comes everything”.
It seems that in boxing the jab does many things and the fighter who can dominate with the jab has an enormous advantage. The jab establishes distance, allowing one fighter to control the space between himself and his opponent. The boxing jab is also used as a first step from which other punches follow. A jab can be followed by a hook, an upper-cut or another jab. What the commentator also said that day was that the fighter who dominates with the jab will control the fight.
I began to wonder what the tennis equivalent was to the boxing jab. I believe the crosscourt is the tennis “Jab”. The crosscourt is used as a way to set up the point. Whenever the crosscourt is strong enough it will create the first step to attack. A wide crosscourt can force a short half court return from the opponent which can be attacked. A player dominating with the crosscourt on either side will often force their opponent to change down the line, which is a low percentage option. The crosscourt is also used as the best form of defense, often neutralizing the point almost immediately.
One of the main problems both Nadal and Federer have with the Djokovic game is the strength of his crosscourt forehand and backhand. Until they can both find an answer to the Djokovic crosscourt dominance they will both struggle to gain any advantage in the groundstroke exchanges.
Work to develop your tennis “Jab” and you will see an immediate improvement in your results.