Showing posts with label inspirations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label inspirations. Show all posts

Remembering serve & volley

In the early and mid 90s, there were a lot of big servers on the ATP tour - Sampras, Becker, Ivanisevic, Krajicek and others, who took advantage of their overhead power by closing out points early at the net. And there were also strategic, graceful, and athletic movers like Edberg and Rafter who knew how to work the court and their opponents.

While I didn't enjoy watching 5 sets of 1-2 stroke "rallies" at Wimbledon, it was fun seeing well executed serve & volley tennis, and different style of play match-ups like Becker and Agassi.

Today, the only serve & volley you see is in doubles, and you have the exceptional singles player taking advantage of a faster surface. Ironically, one of the only players with gracious serve & volley game left is a Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez, and Spaniards are usually known for their baseline power. So what happened?

There were a few developments over the past decade that made serve & volley less successful. As a result of the big servers in the 90s, the game was slowed down in most places - for example by using slower balls or creating more friction on the surface. This happened even in places like Wimbledon, where grass court tennis today almost looks like conventional hard court tennis. A lot of people say that return skills improved as well, and that Luxilons and other poly strings made returns more effective. And then there are just less serve & volley idols like Edberg and Rafter around, so it's also less likely to see followers.

Does all this mean that it's not worth trying to become a good serve- & volleyer? I don't think so:
  • First of all, if you play any doubles, you might know that you still win doubles at the net.
  • Second, adding more diverse skills to your game gets you closer to becoming a truly complete player, which many strive for. Why hit the same few strokes and be stuck in the same game for 40 years or so?
  • And last but not least, it might help you win matches too. Maybe coming in whenever you can is the right strategy against your opponent. Or you could throw them off every once in a while with a serve & volley play, like Federer and Haas have started doing lately. That's a good play to disrupt return rhythm.
I compiled a few of my sample videos for inspiration below. Notice for example how the slippery surface and the opponent in some of the clips pretty much demand serve & volley play! Watch best in fullscreen and high quality setting, and let me know if you have any questions or comments:

Send him an angle

This rallye is a good example of increasingly putting pressure on the opponent, opening up the court, and then closing out the point with an angled cross-court volley:

The 2009 "banana" shot

Probably one of the most memorable shots in one of the most memorable matches in recent tennis history - Nadal's banana forehand in his 5 setter against Verdasco at the 2009 US Open.  Boris used to circle down the line passing shots in a similar way, but this one seems to have some extra curve on it:

Federer and Blake having a good time

In addition to the Borg/Federer vs. McEnroe/Blake doubles, James and Roger put on a good show. Pretty good quality YouTube clip with highlights below, so enjoy:

A great piece of tennis history

Boris Becker had an unbelievable winter in 1996, which led to 2 of the best matches I have ever seen. Both within a couple of months, both against Sampras, both "at home" in Germany, and both tight 5 setters at a remarkably high level. The first was the ATP Tour Final in Hannover, and the second one the Masters Cup in München. I found highlights of the München match on YouTube - enjoy!

If you find the 1996 ATP Finals somewhere, please let me know!