Bill Tilden's words on serve-and-volley and baseliner styles of play

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by sp00q, Apr 14, 2009.


Is serve and volley dead?

Poll closed May 5, 2009.
  1. Yes, serve-and-volley is dead and never coming back

    2 vote(s)
  2. No, serve-and-volley is still alive and will return

    16 vote(s)
  3. I dunno a thing about tennis, I just enter TT to troll

    0 vote(s)
  1. sp00q

    sp00q Rookie

    Apr 7, 2008
    For those of you who would enjoy: excerpts from Chapter XI of Bill Tilden's book "The Art of Lawn Tennis". Big Bill's words on serve-and-volley and baseliner styles of play. It helps getting a better view on early tennis development. I bolded the sections I believe to be the most relevant.

    "The old saying, 'Three generations from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves,' may well be parodied to 'Three decades from ground strokes to ground strokes.' The game of tennis is one great circle that never quite closes. Progress will not allow a complete return to the old style. Yet the style, without the method of thirty years ago, is coming back in vogue. It is a polished, decorated version of the old type game. It is expanded and developed. History tells us that the civilization of the old Greeks and Romans held many so-called modern luxuries, but not the methods of acquiring them we have to-day. Just so with tennis; for the ground stroke game was the style of the past, just as it will be the style of the future; but the modern method of making ground strokes is a very different thing from the one used by the old-time stars.


    The true type of English tennis, from which American tennis has sprung, was the baseline driving game. It is still the same. Well-executed drives, hit leisurely and gracefully from the base-line, appealed to the temperament of the English people. They developed this style to a perfection well-nigh invincible to cope with from the same position. The English gave the tennis world its traditions, its Dohertys, and its Smiths.


    Naturally new countries, with different customs, would not develop along the same lines as England. America, Australia, and South Africa took the English style, and began their tennis career on the baseline game. Each of these has since had a distinct yet similar growth--a variance to the original style. American tennis followed the English baseline style through a period that developed Dr. Dwight, R. D. Sears, Henry Slocum, and other stars. Tennis, during this time, was gaining a firm hold among the boys and young men who found the deep-driving game devoid of the excitement they desired. Americans always enjoy experiments, so the rising players tried coming to the net at any reasonable opening. Gradually this plan became popular, until Dwight Davis and Holcombe Ward surprised the tennis world with their new service, now the American twist, and used it as an opening gun in a net attack.

    M'Loughlin was the turning-point in American tennis. He made a lasting impression on the game that can never be erased. His personality gained him a following and fame, both in America and England, that have seldom been equalled in the sporting world.

    M'Loughlin was the disciple of speed. Cyclonic, dynamic energy, embodied in a fiery-headed boy, transformed tennis to a game of brawn as well as brains. [...] M'Loughlin was a unique tennis player. His whole game was built up on service and overhead. His ground strokes were very faulty. By his personal popularity M'Loughlin dwarfed the importance of ground strokes, and unduly emphasized the importance of service. M'Loughlin gave us speed, dash, and verve in our tennis. It remained for R. N. Williams and W. M. Johnston to restore the balance of the modern game by solving the riddle of the Californian's service. Brookes and Wilding led the way by first meeting the ball as it came off the ground.


    To-day we are still in the period of service and net attack, with the cycle closing toward the ground-stroke game. Yet the circle will never close, for the net game is the final word in attack, and only attack will succeed. The evolution means that the ground stroke is again established as the only modern defence against the net player.

    Modern tennis should be an attacking service, not necessarily epoch-making, as was M'Loughlin's, but powerfully offensive, with the main portion of the play from the baseline in sparring for openings to advance to the net. Once the opening is made the advance should follow quickly, and the point ended by a decisive kill. That is the modern American game."
  2. drakulie

    drakulie Talk Tennis Guru

    May 3, 2004
    FT. Lauderdale, Florida
    Nice post. Thanks for sharing.
  3. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

    Mar 5, 2007
    NJ, USA
    Tilden sure knew his stuff when it came to tennis. I also always admired the fact that he could and would tweak his game every so often if he felt something wasn't working for him.
  4. NotSoSuper

    NotSoSuper Rookie

    Mar 26, 2009
    wow thanks for the info
  5. egn

    egn Hall of Fame

    Dec 15, 2008
    Tilden knows his history and this is a great analysis of the game of tennis as a whole and today. I think he is right, serve and volley will probably make a comeback.
  6. sp00q

    sp00q Rookie

    Apr 7, 2008
    I would recommend this read to everyone who loves tennis, especially that you can find the free e-book. 'The Art of Lawn Tennis' was written in 1920, by the way. :)
  7. thejoe

    thejoe Hall of Fame

    Dec 9, 2008
    I downloaded the E-Book a while back. Haven't read it all yet, but I certainly will.
  8. timnz

    timnz Legend

    Oct 17, 2008
    Wonder what he thought of Pancho Gonzales & Jack Kramer?

    Tilden was still active in tennis right until the early 1950's. He actually played Pancho Gonzales.

    Since the book you quoted was published in 1920.... I wonder what he would have thought of the serve and volley game taken to the next level ie the Kramer and Gonzales games?
  9. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

    Aug 12, 2007
    Who was the American S&V player that lost to fed at Miami? Taylor Dent; he's seems very committed to S&V.!?

    Do you consider Tsonga an S&V player?
  10. Rabbit

    Rabbit G.O.A.T.

    Feb 11, 2004
    It must have been the early-50s as in 51/52 because Tilden died in 53 at the age of 60. You sure he played Gonzalez? Tilden would have been 57 in 1950....
  11. pc1

    pc1 G.O.A.T.

    Jul 18, 2008
    Space/Time continuum alternative reality
    I think Tilden did play Gonzalez. I recall reading a match result in Joe McCauley's book.
  12. Carlo Giovanni Colussi

    Carlo Giovanni Colussi Semi-Pro

    May 13, 2008
    McCauley extracted that result from Gonzales' autobiography written with Cy Rice, "Man with a racket". It is around the page 100 (I haven't my book to hand) where Gonzales wrote that he beat Tilden, 59 years old, 6-1 6-2 in a US tour in 1952 (with Frank Parker and the good Irish player of the late 20's-early 30's, George Lyttelton-Rogers (or Lyttleton-Rogers, unfortunately his spelling changes in every source). Unfortunately this is apparently the only result available from this tour (as if it hadn't existed ??)
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2009
  13. thor's hammer

    thor's hammer Semi-Pro

    Apr 10, 2006
    Where did you download the e-book? I've always wanted to get a copy of "Match Play and the Spin of the Ball", but haven't been able to find it. Maybe there's an e-book version available through the same source.

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