Posted: Monday January 3, 2011 12:55PM ; Updated: Tuesday January 4, 2011 2:10PM

Fantasy Tennis: Building the Ideal Player for 2011

What if you could build the perfect tennis specimen based on today's players? Our experts took a stab

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Three of SI.com's tennis experts chose the picturesque backhand of Serbia's Novak Djokovic for their "fantasy" player.
AP

The exercise of constructing the perfect tennis organism by cherry-picking assets from history's greatest players has been done for so long that most veteran fans can skip the thinking and rattle it off by heart: Sampras for serve, Agassi for return game, McEnroe for net play, etc.

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

We asked SI.com'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:

Jon Wertheim

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

Return game: Andy Murray
Compact 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 Bryan
Yes, 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 Federer
We'll play our Federer card here. So smooth and efficient.

Mental Toughness: Rafael Nadal
Not even close. One stat among many: His record in slam finals? 9-2.

S.L. Price

Serve: Andy Roddick
Andy's predictable but overpowering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Toughness: Rafael Nadal
Without it, he wouldn't be half the player he is.

Bruce Jenkins

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

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

Forehand: Robin Soderling
Rides 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 Llodra
One 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 Federer
The man is a living textbook.

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

Richard Deitsch

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

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

Forehand: Fernando Gonzalez
Since 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 Bryan
The doubles specialist's quick hands is why he's famous worldwide.

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

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

Mental Toughness: Rafael Nadal
Legendary steel when it matters most.

Bryan Armen Graham

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

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

Forehand: Roger Federer
David 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 Fish
We 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 Ferrer
Arguably the best in the business on clay and top flight on anything else.

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

Andrew Lawrence

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

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

Forehand: Robin Soderling
Listen 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 Llodra
Not 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 Murray
Few are as graceful on the move. The trick is getting him to do it.

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

 
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