Has net skill gotten worse gen to gen?

SinneGOAT

Hall of Fame
Some here talk about the next gen being awful at net and the classic players before 2000 were so much more skilled at volleying. Watching traditional grinding players like De Minaur, Schwartzmann or Medvedev go to net is a once in a blue moon moment in a match. What changed from then to now, and could things ever reverse, where grinding just becomes so unbearably long that tennis overcorrects and returns to serve and volley and more net play? Would you enjoy a return of these tactics being mainstream? Or is net play not dead and the next gen just needs to find their inner Boris?
 

tonylg

Legend
Demon has always had decent net skills, just was more aggressive v Tsitsipas than RBA. Lleyton was constantly in his ear to back himself .. and it paid off.

Medvedev tries to sneak in on serve occassionally when his opponent stands riculously far back. That's a case of poor skills being enough simply because of stupidly negative ROS position.

The fact is that poly, slow courts, high bounces and slow balls have made it possible to win everywhere using the one, defensive baseline botting strategy. Hence, players who possess strong net games just aren't making it through at any level.
 

BTURNER

Legend
Some here talk about the next gen being awful at net and the classic players before 2000 were so much more skilled at volleying. Watching traditional grinding players like De Minaur, Schwartzmann or Medvedev go to net is a once in a blue moon moment in a match. What changed from then to now, and could things ever reverse, where grinding just becomes so unbearably long that tennis overcorrects and returns to serve and volley and more net play? Would you enjoy a return of these tactics being mainstream? Or is net play not dead and the next gen just needs to find their inner Boris?
What is missing isn't the skill involved, its the instincts for when to go, and what to cover and a real feel for how to defend at the net position. These guys are in real trouble if they are forced to hit two or more volleys because they lack a strategic sense up there.
 

Firstservingman

Talk Tennis Guru
nextgenners suck so bad it has to be said

boring one dimensional games, terrible attitudes, social media cringe, awful record against fossilerer and the other oldass top guys for little good reason

tripping over and falling into winning one or two things when someone is sick or absent is about all they've done. they don't make tennis players like they used to
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
Tennis evolved... that's it...
Same as humans evolved, left caves... etc...
You mean tennis has regressed. Serving and volleying and playing the net have been the hallmarks of tennis since its inception. It's vanished only in the last 20 years. The next gen isn't talented enough to venture forward to end points quickly. That is not evolution, it's the antithesis of that.
 

MeatTornado

G.O.A.T.
You mean tennis has regressed. Serving and volleying and playing the net have been the hallmarks of tennis since its inception. It's vanished only in the last 20 years. The next gen isn't talented enough to venture forward to end points quickly. That is not evolution, it's the antithesis of that.
Well, as unsuccessful as they've been so far, there's also no denying that they're better in other aspects of the game than players from 20 years ago too.

So overall it's not really an evolution or regression. It's just changed.
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
Or is net play not dead and the next gen just needs to find their inner Boris?
Shapovalov actually comes to net and has greatly improved in his volleying. He's still below average, but 10 times better at net than any other under-30 year old player. I'd rather see a player come in and fail than stand back and bore everyone to death with endless ball bashing.
 

beard

Hall of Fame
You mean tennis has regressed. Serving and volleying and playing the net have been the hallmarks of tennis since its inception. It's vanished only in the last 20 years. The next gen isn't talented enough to venture forward to end points quickly. That is not evolution, it's the antithesis of that.
That's your opinion, sorry...
But tennis authorities, which want to earn more money, give people what majority want, not minority (which can be loud)...

This serve and volley story is classical "old times were better" one... But in reality times get better... Most people don't want serve fests (tb fests), net rushing... All retired players say we are in most exciting tennis period ever...
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
Even 4.5+ rec tennis has changed since poly strings at least on slow hard courts and clay. You can’t make a living at the net anymore as it’s too easy to hit angled passing shots where you don’t even get to touch the ball if you are a net player. In doubles, we always rushed the net when I was younger and my generation knows how to volley because it was a big part of our game before poly. Now, we play 1-back or even 2-back in doubles if an opponent has a 100+ mph serve which also has become more common after poly because you can serve harder with more spin to land it in the box. If a baseliner has enough time to set up and hit passes or dipping topspin shots, it has just become very difficult to win many points at the net.

So, it is not surprising that the trend is similar in pro tennis. Players don’t practice serve-and-volley tennis anymore because it doesn’t work as well as it used to. So, their net skills are not as good as they don’t get to use it as much. Instead of focusing on what has been lost, why not appreciate what has been gained. The amount of baseline winners that are hit on serve+1 and serve+2 points has replaced volleys these days. If a player has time to set up at the baseline, they crack winners all the time in a way that never used to happen before poly. Let’s appreciate the heights to which the power baseline game has ascended instead of bemoaning what has been lost due to technology changes.

Increasing the speed of surfaces will not bring S/V tennis back. Instead, guys will hit even more effective serves than they do today and just hit serve+1 winners from mid-court which will be a lot less risky than approaching the net. It will just get harder to break serve and many sets will end in tiebreakers. All sports are liable to change with technological advances and there is no going back.
 

BringBackWood

Professional
That's your opinion, sorry...
But tennis authorities, which want to earn more money, give people what majority want, not minority (which can be loud)...

This serve and volley story is classical "old times were better" one... But in reality times get better... Most people don't want serve fests (tb fests), net rushing... All retired players say we are in most exciting tennis period ever...
That is such hogwash. Firstly the eternal strawman of 'serve fests'. Have you watched matches from the 80's, where the players had contrasting styles, so that the viewer got to see all kinds of play?

The technology advances have distorted the game so much that it would be simply considered too difficult to row back, with all the colossal contracts, & the risk that it would not be favoured. Tennis authourities have no definite convinction if it would be preferred.

We have to ask though why the biggest crowd reactions are for the touch shots, the rare delicate volley, or the rallies which involve both back and forecourt? All things which were far more common in previous eras.

As for retired players, Tony Trabert is one who has said he doesn't watch much anymore owing to the lack of variety. Most of the others who have voiced the opposite opinion benefit financially, through punditry for example. Hardly an unbiased opinion.
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
If the money that tournaments make from spectators and TV contracts goes down, I’m sure that the tennis authorities will change the rules to ban poly strings. I don’t see them doing that and my guess is that they are making more money than ever before. Tennis might be less popular in the US than in the past, but it has become much more of a popular sport played outside of country clubs around the world. Fans younger than forty years old don’t even know of the days of net play and enjoy power baseline tennis with big serves and serve+1 winners instead of volley winners. Old fans can complain all they want, but tennis will not go back in the forseeable future.
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
Hence, players who possess strong net games just aren't making it through at any level.
To me it seems like the reason why players who possess strong volleys aren't making it through is either because they're poor at everything else (which may include complementary skills), or their net games aren't even that good to begin with.

The rest of the time, said players with decent to good net games have even better baseline games, so favouring to play behind the baseline is completely understandable.

I really can't think of any recent/current players whose net skills (and supplementary skills such as the serve or slice) are so strong that the only rational explanation left for their inability to break through was the nature of the sport right now.
 

BringBackWood

Professional
Even 4.5+ rec tennis has changed since poly strings at least on slow hard courts and clay. You can’t make a living at the net anymore as it’s too easy to hit angled passing shots where you don’t even get to touch the ball if you are a net player. In doubles, we always rushed the net when I was younger and my generation knows how to volley because it was a big part of our game before poly. Now, we play 1-back or even 2-back in doubles if an opponent has a 100+ mph serve which also has become more common after poly because you can serve harder with more spin to land it in the box. If a baseliner has enough time to set up and hit passes or dipping topspin shots, it has just become very difficult to win many points at the net.

So, it is not surprising that the trend is similar in pro tennis. Players don’t practice serve-and-volley tennis anymore because it doesn’t work as well as it used to. So, their net skills are not as good as they don’t get to use it as much. Instead of focusing on what has been lost, why not appreciate what has been gained. The amount of baseline winners that are hit on serve+1 and serve+2 points has replaced volleys these days. If a player has time to set up at the baseline, they crack winners all the time in a way that never used to happen before poly. Let’s appreciate the heights to which the power baseline game has ascended instead of bemoaning what has been lost due to technology changes.

Increasing the speed of surfaces will not bring S/V tennis back. Instead, guys will hit even more effective serves than they do today and just hit serve+1 winners from mid-court which will be a lot less risky than approaching the net. It will just get harder to break serve and many sets will end in tiebreakers. All sports are liable to change with technological advances and there is no going back.
I agree with you that poly is the death knell of the net rusher, and speeding up surfaces would not help matters. The ascension you refer to though is not an ascension is skill is it? It's just technology making players look better. Wouldn't it be 10x more awe-inducing if baseline play improved because of players' talent or skill at using the regulated equipment. Truly then we would have known that tennis 'evolved'.
 

beard

Hall of Fame
That is such hogwash. Firstly the eternal strawman of 'serve fests'. Have you watched matches from the 80's, where the players had contrasting styles, so that the viewer got to see all kinds of play?

The technology advances have distorted the game so much that it would be simply considered too difficult to row back, with all the colossal contracts, & the risk that it would not be favoured. Tennis authourities have no definite convinction if it would be preferred.

We have to ask though why the biggest crowd reactions are for the touch shots, the rare delicate volley, or the rallies which involve both back and forecourt? All things which were far more common in previous eras.

As for retired players, Tony Trabert is one who has said he doesn't watch much anymore owing to the lack of variety. Most of the others who have voiced the opposite opinion benefit financially, through punditry for example. Hardly an unbiased opinion.
Too much nonsense to answer all...
"We have to ask though why the biggest crowd reactions are for the touch shots, the rare delicate volley, or the rallies which involve both back and forecourt?"
Because it's rare. Same as crowd would go crazy in past if witness modern rally...

Tournament directors are people that live of tennis, they certainly know better than minority (which thinks is majority, looool). Its so easy to just use extra speed court, isnt it? But they know its not what majority want.
Don't you think ATP or WTA would change racket technology or rules if that would make tennis more pleasurable? But they don't because of the same reason... They know better than us, it's their job, you know...
 

junior74

G.O.A.T.
What is missing isn't the skill involved, its the instincts for when to go, and what to cover and a real feel for how to defend at the net position. These guys are in real trouble if they are forced to hit two or more volleys because they lack a strategic sense up there.
The biggest difference is polyester strings, which makes it easier to hit passing shots under pressure. It's also more difficult to volley with polyester strings + increased head size help groundstrokes but make volleys a lot harder to control.

In the earlier days, rushing the net was a good strategy, because it drew errors from your opponent.
 

tonylg

Legend
I really can't think of any recent/current players whose net skills (and supplementary skills such as the serve or slice) are so strong that the only rational explanation left for their inability to break through was the nature of the sport right now.
There could be another Rafter going around at Challenger level. You wouldn't know because the only way to win is grinding. Even Federer, who can volley very well, played the last Wimbledon final from the back of the court. At least for the first two sets, because that's all I could be bothered to watch.

Deep down the lovers of baseline botting know that the success of their heroes is built on equipment more than talent, otherwise the idea of variety wouldn't send them into such a frenzy.
 

BringBackWood

Professional
@beard umm except they did have longer rallies in the past also, away from your mythical construct of all serve fests. A missed easy smash is rare, don't see it getting a great cheer.

Do you have a concept of business risk? Why do you defer tennis integrity and beauty to people making very good off the current arrangements?
 

socallefty

Hall of Fame
I agree with you that poly is the death knell of the net rusher, and speeding up surfaces would not help matters. The ascension you refer to though is not an ascension is skill is it? It's just technology making players look better. Wouldn't it be 10x more awe-inducing if baseline play improved because of players' talent or skill at using the regulated equipment. Truly then we would have known that tennis 'evolved'.
I could care less if tennis has improved or if tennis players have evolved. I have 300+ Cable tv channels that I can watch in addition to streaming options on both my TV and tablet. I’ll watch pro tennis if it keeps me entertained and I don’t care if it is because of technology or because players have more skills than in the past. It just has to be an entertainment that is better than what is on other channels. Right now, I watch more tennis than I ever have in in my 52-year old life and so, I guess the tennis world is doing something right in terms of just me as a fan. I don’t speak for anyone else, but I love power baseline tennis way better than any version of tennis I watched in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. When it stops entertaining me, I’ll watch something else and I‘ll stop going to Indian Wells every year and to local Futures/Challenger tournaments. When I watch replays of matches I loved in the Eighties and Nineties, they just look awful these days because of the poor quality of baseline passing shots and winners as it was impossible to hit good angles with higher than 3000 rpm topspin - it was not possible to hit the same way without poly strings in those days.

Similarly, I still love playing my rec tennis with 4.5 and 5.0 tennis players every day and play more tennis than I ever have partly because I am semi-retired with grown-up kids. Poly strings have added tremendously to my enjoyment as I serve and hit bigger with an aging body than I did twenty five years ago. So, I think that tennis has evolved positively for both rec players and fans and I don’t want it to go back. I have never met anyone below the age of 40 who thinks that poly strings or today’s predominant style of power baseline tennis is boring either. I still play S/V-C/C tennis when I play doubles, but increasingly find myself staying at the baseline when more of my opponents serve at 100mph+ at a high % or take big cuts at the ball on returns helped by the enhanced control/spin of poly. I don’t complain about it, but try to adapt to it by taking lessons to add more topspin and pace to my baseline game. I have also learned in the last ten years that there are much more strategic nuances for constructing baseline point patterns than I ever did before and I think I am a better player because of it.
 
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beard

Hall of Fame
@beard umm except they did have longer rallies in the past also, away from your mythical construct of all serve fests. A missed easy smash is rare, don't see it getting a great cheer.

Do you have a concept of business risk? Why do you defer tennis integrity and beauty to people making very good off the current arrangements?
Rallies were so different in those times, shouldn't be compared, please...
And yes I kinda believe experts, I believe I am better in my job than someone that do something else for living...
For example, I go to the doctor when I am ill, not to some biased forum to get medical advice...
 

beard

Hall of Fame
They should speed up more courts and keep some slow. Develop specialists again.
Well, RG is the most entertaining tournament because there is most specialized player ever... Or not?

During Sampras we knew he won't win RG, but will win almost every Wimbledone. What's fun in that?

Tennis need variations, but not extreme ones... Modern tennis is about what variations should be...
 

mxmx

Hall of Fame
Well, RG is the most entertaining tournament because there is most specialized player ever... Or not?

During Sampras we knew he won't win RG, but will win almost every Wimbledone. What's fun in that?

Tennis need variations, but not extreme ones... Modern tennis is about what variations should be...
To me all the courts are slow. RG is just grandpa slow. I wouldn't call that variation.

In Sampras' day there was proper variation. He did awesome to deal with the slower courts except against some of the best clay courters ever.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Some here talk about the next gen being awful at net and the classic players before 2000 were so much more skilled at volleying. Watching traditional grinding players like De Minaur, Schwartzmann or Medvedev go to net is a once in a blue moon moment in a match. What changed from then to now, and could things ever reverse, where grinding just becomes so unbearably long that tennis overcorrects and returns to serve and volley and more net play? Would you enjoy a return of these tactics being mainstream? Or is net play not dead and the next gen just needs to find their inner Boris?
Yes.
 

mxmx

Hall of Fame
Ps. Sampras did to grass what Nadal is doing with clay. They're just that good. That does not mean the setup in Sampras' time had to change. The problem is we have too many "Nadals" atm for the hardcourts. The setup should change.

Variation is needed.
 

BringBackWood

Professional
Rallies were so different in those times, shouldn't be compared, please...
And yes I kinda believe experts, I believe I am better in my job than someone that do something else for living...
For example, I go to the doctor when I am ill, not to some biased forum to get medical advice...
I agree with you, baseline rallies back then had more variety, strategy, and were just plain more exciting.
 

aldeayeah

Legend
Deep down the lovers of baseline botting know that the success of their heroes is built on equipment more than talent, otherwise the idea of variety wouldn't send them into such a frenzy.
I mean Nadal is good at the net. Djokovic, eh, has some holes but he's not incompetent.

the younger players are more or less useless with some exceptions
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
The racquets changed. Set your racquet up weighted like Sampras or Edberg — volleying crisply is easy.

The extra 30-40g above the top of grip makes a big difference. You can just punch the handle forward and the head comes with it.

With a modern racquet weighting (less weight above handle), you try to punch the handle forward, and the head tilts back instead of coming forward. So you have to apply rotational torque before contact to get the head moving. Very difficult to control depth.
 
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beard

Hall of Fame
To me all the courts are slow. RG is just grandpa slow. I wouldn't call that variation.

In Sampras' day there was proper variation. He did awesome to deal with the slower courts except against some of the best clay courters ever.
Speed doesn't equal variety...
That's why we have Nadal with 13 RG, 2 W and one AO, or Federer with 8 W and only one RG...
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
There could be another Rafter going around at Challenger level. You wouldn't know because the only way to win is grinding. Even Federer, who can volley very well, played the last Wimbledon final from the back of the court. At least for the first two sets, because that's all I could be bothered to watch.

Deep down the lovers of baseline botting know that the success of their heroes is built on equipment more than talent, otherwise the idea of variety wouldn't send them into such a frenzy.
But Rafter had both the serve and the volleys. The most "high profile" S&Ver we've seen in the past five years is M Zverev, and both his net game and serve are pretty pedestrian. If there truly is a new Pat Rafter playing, surely we would've known about him by now.

And I don't buy this idea that a baseline attrition game is somehow inherently conducive to success. If that were the case, then why are we even trying to push for a comeback of a strategy that is quite clearly inferior? What is this, some kind of affirmative action for tennis styles except we're starting on the premise that some game styles actually are inferior?

At any rate, Federer has shown that S&V is viable if, and only if, you actually have the two elements required to execute S&V, ie the serve and the volleys, failing which you at least need a return and the volleys. That was the case back then, and it still is the case now (probably more now than ever). As I said before, as far as I can tell, there are three possibilities:
  1. the volleys are decent but the serve and/or return sucks (eg Dimitrov);
  2. both the volleys and the serve/return aren't that good to begin with (just that the groundstrokes are even worse) (eg M Zverev); or
  3. both the serve and the volleys are good but the groundstrokes are even better (eg Federer).
And I can't get behind this notion that baseliners inherently have no talent--unless of course your definition of talent is the ability to execute net play, in which case then yeah, sure, by that definition baseliners with poor net skills have no talent.

As for variety, variety is just a matter of being able to use different shots within your game. It's just a matter of execution. If modern racquets and strings make everything easy, then surely these young guys would be able to execute literally everything better than previous generations did, and that's clearly not the case.

The biggest "what if" in my view, is what we would have if players were trained differently, to let players express themselves more individually and build their coaching around that, than to mass produce inferior clones of a more successful player. As I'm not a coach I wouldn't know the first thing about how one would go about it, or the less obvious practicalities that hold back high-end coaches from doing so. But from what I have seen and read, it does seem like these academies are trying put a square peg into a round hole, shoehorning juniors to play a type of game almost purely on the basis that it worked for someone else.
 

California

Semi-Pro
Can the baseline bot lovers at least agree that today you can play the same style (baseline) on every surface and throughout the calendar year and win? Don't need to change your playing style, or try anything different because that style will work regardless of the surface or tournament?

So essentially you are seeing the same tennis all year long, no material changes, tournament to tournament, surface to surface... are you not tired of that? Have you watched your favorite movies 30 times or more each? Tennis needs variety, needs style of play changes, tactical changes by surface, needs a new look from season to season (clay, grass, HC) otherwise it is a bore. Former players who are still tied to the game aren't going to trash the current game, they are financially invested. They are going to say it is great! Do they really believe it? Probably not.

Watching contrasting styles is fun! Try it instead of railing against it. Did anyone watch the Rafter vs. Agassi replays at Wimbledon? These were great matches! If you haven't seen them take a look. Or watching someone like Mac, Edberg, Rafter, try to win at the French Open? How they had to adapt their games and make adjustments in their tactics?

Variety isn't to be feared. It should be embraced.
 
D

Deleted member 778933

Guest
You mean tennis has regressed. Serving and volleying and playing the net have been the hallmarks of tennis since its inception. It's vanished only in the last 20 years. The next gen isn't talented enough to venture forward to end points quickly. That is not evolution, it's the antithesis of that.
And what does it say about the level required of the Player who dominated the Era of Regression? The ER if you will?
 

HBK4life

Professional
As long as poly is allowed on the tour SV is dead. Just the way it is.


There should be a non poly tournament. See what happens. I assume the best players would still be the best but the ones that can play more attacking style would do better.
 

California

Semi-Pro
As long as poly is allowed on the tour SV is dead. Just the way it is.


There should be a non poly tournament. See what happens. I assume the best players would still be the best but the ones that can play more attacking style would do better.
I disagree. Sampras, Rafter, Henman, etc... were playing against poly players in the late 90s and early 00s. They still did fine. Poly is one part or the equation, court speeds are the other. The courts are too slow and gritty making the balls bounce very high allowing defenders to counter well played vollies. Players can't "put the ball away easily or fast enough" they end up getting passed.

I do like the idea of a non poly tournament. Won't happen, but I love it! Would be interesting to watch and see the adjustments of the players. Can you imagine the crying from the players if this were to happen?
 

BringBackWood

Professional
Damn I mention Trabert, and then he goes. His commentaries with Pat and Newk put today's offering to shame. Maybe that's fitting. Rest easy Tony.
 

mike danny

Bionic Poster
Well, as unsuccessful as they've been so far, there's also no denying that they're better in other aspects of the game than players from 20 years ago too.

So overall it's not really an evolution or regression. It's just changed.
Not sure if plsyers today are better baseliners than 20 years ago.
 

Robert F

Professional
Increasing the speed of surfaces will not bring S/V tennis back. Instead, guys will hit even more effective serves than they do today and just hit serve+1 winners from mid-court which will be a lot less risky than approaching the net. It will just get harder to break serve and many sets will end in tiebreakers. All sports are liable to change with technological advances and there is no going back.
This is a great point. I think a big reason we don't see as many volleys is that guys are putting the mid court shot away. What used to be an approach shot is more than likely a winner these days. In the old days, you hit an approach shot to set up your volley, not really necessary anymore.
 
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mike danny

Bionic Poster
Not from a standstill but I think your average player moves and hits on the run and hits better passes than your average player from 20 years ago.

That's where the game has changed. It's slowed down so much from 20 years ago that they all naturally became better grinders because it's all they do.
Yes, but just because they're forced to play like this, doesn't mean they're better.

I don't think Roddick-Hewitt of 2001 USO were worse baseliners than today.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Not from a standstill but I think your average player moves and hits on the run and hits better passes than your average player from 20 years ago.

That's where the game has changed. It's slowed down so much from 20 years ago that they all naturally became better grinders because it's all they do.
Wait... how can players today be better at passing shots if they never have to hit passing shots?
 

1HBHfanatic

Legend
-its hard to know how to volley properly when you are 20' behind the baseline!! :oops:
-if tournaments keep making the "back courts" bigger and bigger , you'll never see the players again until its time to shake hands, WTF!!??
-i would bet that ISNER is not liking this either, he is losing his advantage :rolleyes:
-he can no longer bounce the ball over peoples head on a serve :sneaky:
-players against isner just have to back up until the ball comes back down to hit it, RIDICULOUS!!
 
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