Reasons for decline of Serve and Volley

drexeler

Rookie
Many posters noted the lack of serve-and-volleyers in the top ranks currently in men's tennis in the Sampras-Federer thread. In light of this, I thought it would be appropriate to reproduce the following post from Stephen Jaros of rec.sport.tennis newsgroup (StephenJ) that makes an attempt to explain the decline of S&V:
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Ok, i've decided to use this rain delay to explain this once and for all, so
pay attention. Note that because we are talking about the men's game as a
whole, these are general statements, characteristic of the game as a whole,
and may not apply to specific players who deviate significantly from the
norm. They also of course vary in applicability depending on surface.

Key idea: Volleying - other than putting away something extremely easy like
an overhead- is a *difficult* skill. A player who hasn't learned it cannot
just decide to "come into the net". A player has to practice volleying and
learn the skill, otherwise it's not a viable tactic for him.

Because it's a difficult skill, learning to volley well requires a
significant investment of a player's time and effort, so he'll only make it
if he believes the payoff will exceed the cost of the investment.

So the immediate answer to the question of "why do so few guys volley these
days?" is that so few take the time to learn how to volley when coming up as
juniors and then as young pros. That begs the question of "why do so few
bother to learn to volley"? Why do so few perceive a positive return on that
investment? And that takes us into more specific territory related to the
nature of different aspects of the modern game, largely related to the
emergence of modern racquets:

1) Why do so few guys follow their first serve with a volley?

answer: Compared to the wood era, when s/v was a common strategy, modern
rackets produce such powerful first serves that volleying is rarely needed
to win the point. First-serve speeds now regularly exceed 120 mph, and with
much more consistency and better placement than during the wood era. A
well-placed 120 mph serve is extremely difficult, even with a modern racket,
for the vast majority of returners to deal with. They usually must lunge
sharply to get their racket on the ball, meaning their footwork is such that
they can't produce an effective return.

Most of the time, the first serve is either not returned or is returned so
weakly that a "putaway" shot, wherein the server lets the return bounce
short, usually near the middle of the court, is playable. This is what i
call a "sweep" shot. Yes, letting a ball bounce short doesn't give the
server quite as high a chance to hit a clean winner as taking the ball in
the air on a volley does. But only slightly, because the modern racket
improves the deadliness of the sweep shot via much better power and
placement as well. A high-bouncing mid-court ball is easy pickings for a
server armed with a modern racket.

And, this slightly lesser chance of hitting a clean winner is more than
balanced by it being a much safer play - the odds of making an error are
lower on the sweep shot than hitting a volley.

And, since the volley is usually a directional shot or a touch shot, not a
power shot, the modern racket *doesn't* improve the lethalness of the volley
shot nearly as much as it improves the lethalness of the serve and the
follow-up sweep shot.

Summary: Compared to wood, the modern racket boosts the first serve
pace/placement significantly, it boosts the power of the sweep shot or any
follow-up baseline shots significantly, but doesn't improve the volley shot
nearly as significantly. All of this combines to make the volley play much
less desirable on the first serve.

2) What about volleying off the second serve?

answer: With the second serve, the huge boost in power/placement provided by
the modern racket is largely negated, because of the need to make sure the
ball lands in the return box. Now, the advantage shifts to the returner. A
100 mph second serve that lands well-within the confines of the box is
red-meat to a returner armed with a modern racket. Not even a mac or
edberg-level volleyer can hope to have much success against the ripping,
low, angled returns he is likely to face. Net-rushing isn't viable on the
second serve, except perhaps as the once-a-set surprise play.

3) What about the returner volleying off the return of serve?

In the wood days, The serve-and-volley play, volleying off either the first
or second serve was as much a *defensive* play for the server as it was an
offensive play. The server new that if he stayed back on either serve, there
was a good chance the returner would "chip" the ROS and "charge" the net,
and if the returner could seize the net, the server's odds of winning the
point fell dramatically. So that was an incentive for the server to play s/v
on both serves.

However, the chip-and-charge play is much less common these days, because
(1) the typical first serve is just too "big" to chip - it's almost
impossible for the returner to effectively "chip" a 115+ mph near-the-line
serve and rush the net when he is sprawled out to his right or left barely
trying to get a racket on the ball, and (2) on the second serve the "chip"
shot is rarely used because the returner can just as easily (thanks to the
modern racket) drive the return ball angled, powerfully and deeply, which is
usually an even more effective point-winner.

Basically, compared to wood, the modern racket has widened the advantage the
server has over the returner on the first serve, and narrowed his advantage
on the second serve. Each diminishes the "return on investment" of rushing
the net for both the server and returner.

4) Net-rushing during a baseline exchange:

In the old wood days, if a point happened to develop into a baseline rally,
the goal of each guy was still to get to the net. Baseline rallies largely
consisted of each guy trying to maneuver the other guy such that he could
hit an approach and close to the net for the volley-winner.

Why has this style of play largely disappeared?

Answer: Mats Wilander said it best when he described Boris Becker as
"changing the geometry of the court" during baseline rallies. We usually
think of Becker's contribution to the modern game in terms of his serving -
he inaugurated the modern "huge serve". But Becker was equally influential
as a baseline hitter. What Wilander was referring to was Becker's
realization -in practice if not conceptually- that the same modern racket
that could produce unprecedented huge-serving could also produce
unprecedented baseline power. Specifically, the ability to hit *clean
winners from well behind the baseline*. Wilander noted that before Becker,
if your rally opponent was a few feet behind the baseline, you just didn't
have to worry about a winner being hit. The wood and primitive metals didn't
permit even powerful hitters (for that day) to hit those kinds of shots.

That meant that to hit a winner, you pretty much had to get to the net.

But when Becker started to crack winners from behind the baseline, and it
changed the whole strategic-mindset of baseline play:

Instead of shifting the other guy back and forth, etc. to set up an approach
shot to be followed up to the net, it became one of shifting the other guy
back and forth such as to create enough open court to crack a winner from
the baseline, or to hit with such depth/power as to create a short ball that
could then be cracked for a winner from just inside the baseline.

And of course since the baseline shots are so powerful, rushing the net in
the face of them is far less viable than it was in the wood era.

Rushing the net isn't *needed* because winners can be hit from or behind the
baseline, and it isn't viable because the chances of getting passed are much
higher.

So add all this up and what do we get? The young guys coming up see that
there is very little to be gained by volleying effectively, so they don't
learn the skill................
 

Shyyre

Rookie
the only thing i would add ( it's sort of touched on) is big first serves going so fast leave the net rusher at an instant disadvantage because he'll be caught in between the service line and the baseline. it's simple physics... the faster the serve, the faster the rebound (if they can get the racquet on the ball in the first place, but even blocking a fast serve automatically equals a fast return.. look at agassi) the less time to get into position. watching taylor dent play is a good example of this... he's rarely where he needs to be for a put away volley (don't get me wrong there aren't many others out there who are anywhere near as good at s/v as dent is) because he's too far foreward to let it drop and too far back for an effective finsihing volley... leaving a playable ball that lacks punch set up for an easy passing shot.

if players would slow their serves down a bit (say 100-110mph) then they would have a better chance of being in position to finish the point straight away... but then one has to consider the powerof the modern racquet and what someone will do to a "slow" serve like that ;)

i think it is worth pointing out, that the modern game for many amatuer players who take the game semi-seriously play like th pros of 20 yrs ago... charging the net when the opportunity presents itself and serve and volleying on both 1st and 2nd serves simply beacuse they are in position in time and don't have to worry (too much) about their opponent hitting a miraculous federer like passing shot. if we could do that, we would all be pros.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
drex,

I'm half way there with you. However it doesn't explain Sampras and Federer using the style in varying degrees to reach the very top of the men's game. My feelings are the following (forgive the copy/paste from a prior post):

I agree w/ the notion that s&v vs. the baseline is part nature, but if it isn't nurtured, early, its unlikely to feel natural later. Factory tennis academies are trying to develop the next child prodigy, and throw their efforts into developing what a kid gives them to work with. Groundstrokes. The factories draw the most talented kids because the best competition breeds the best players. The pressure to be the top "puppy" is incredible. What does it mean? More groundstrokes, because that's what the kids win and lose with. Yeah, they learn, volleys and overheads. But is much time spent on s&v and transitioning? Doubtful, because kids don't win with that and there is so much pressure to get to the brandname instructor's court, let alone the pressure to win in the juniors from the 10s on up. Can the kid, or the instructor du jour, take the time to ingrain s&v in that junior? A game style, which probably won't become viable for, at least, another 5 or 6 years? No. So, groundstrokes, and how to make them better than the other 6 to 8 top juniors in camp, are what's worked on. Extreme grips can develop because the junior needs to win now. Those grips make it less likely that volley grips and s&v will ever feel natural later.

The whole thing conspires to become a self-fulfilling prophecy: S&V can't win in the juniors so there's no time to work on it. As juniors, Pro Players didn't work on s&v, ergo, s&v can't work on the pro tour.

So unless you have a father to son handed down game style like the Dents, or a tremendously talented kid seeing, born to patient parents with deep pockets, who search out and find a forward thinking pro, well versed in all facets of the game, with whom the parents and kid have a meeting of the minds, to work on a game which won't be viable until 3/4 of a decade from the start date...

Yeah, I think it sounds like hitting the lottery too. But maybe. People DO get struck by lightning.

I give Roddick credit for trying now, but watching him try to play s&v today, betrays the fact that he rarely if ever worked on it as a junior. I'll add that with Sampras's recent domination of the sport and the baseline bangers from his years, followed so closely by Federer's (who while not a devout s&v employs it better than anyone else) you may see more of the next crop of juniors emulating them, just as a glut of 2hbh's appeared several years after the successes of Borg, Evert and Connors, followed by the next generation hitting enormous forehands after Lendl. We will probably see a resurgence of TRUE all-court play as well as a few more devout s&v. It would be good for the sport.
 

araghava

Rookie
I agree completely. Tennis has become extremely competitive at the junior level. It's almost impossible to win at the junior level at the net. The juniors are simply not tall enough and don't have the wingspan to control the net. The become sitting ducks for any opponent who can lob semi decently. Why bother to learn a skill that might be useful 5 or 10 years later when you grow into your full size.
 
Yeah I agree as well. The technology, and training of the game has changed so much, serve-volley is becoming increasingly less effective, and players are more hesistant to learn it. I suspect if the players of the serve-volley era played today, you would see alot less of them serve-volleying as often as they did then.
 

Shyyre

Rookie
araghava said:
I agree completely. Tennis has become extremely competitive at the junior level. It's almost impossible to win at the junior level at the net. The juniors are simply not tall enough and don't have the wingspan to control the net. The become sitting ducks for any opponent who can lob semi decently. Why bother to learn a skill that might be useful 5 or 10 years later when you grow into your full size.
that's a good point... but at the same time, the point was made in the initial post about how it's important to learn all the aspects of the game, because you never know when you are going to be called on to use them.

i used to play table tennis competitively and i saw some interesting training videos using the chinese players... as kids, they could barely see over the table, but would still hit phenomenally strong serves and forehands... as they grew it changed the angle and developed from there. the point here is that they are trained from an early age to do it all, even when that seems unfeasable. as a result when they get older they have a background to develop their strokes to the point that they were comfortable from anywhere, with any shot... and by the way, i'm not trying to start an arguement here, but juniors table tennis in china is probably far more intense and more rides on it than junior tennis anywhere else.

i agree the juniors are too small and the racquets too powerful to play effectively at net... but if they kept it at and played (as another poster said earlier) a modern full court game their skills would be honed and more importantly usable when it counts.
 

NoBadMojo

G.O.A.T.
actually serve/voley has diminished because returns of serves have gotten better in porportion to the serve. granted, it;s less tiring to serve now than with wood, but a good server can serve just about as well with a woodie (racquet ;O) as he can with anythng hi tech. (that's been proven)
so there really is no advantage or percentage to trying serve volley at that level of play (unles that is your only lay because you cant compete from the baseline)..it's because the returns have gotten so good. the racquets are lighter in weight and larger in area, and more powerful, and MUCH easier to return with.
every year i do a wine and wood exhbition with a couple other pros (the ones with traditional grips, because the westerners cant hit with wood). we can serve just about as well but it takes more energy.....we cant return serve NEARLY as well with a woodie (racquet ;O) :O ..so without getting into a too lengthy dissertation, i really think this is the reason..
 

bluegrasser

Hall of Fame
Wow ! great article, the big thing is the power/speed of the serve -(eg) big serve, weak return, forehand putaway - end of story. That's why the TV ratings are down, bang, bang, bang -snoooooze. You youngsters get the tape of the Borg/Mac Wimbledon final, certainly another word, what artistry..
 

fastdunn

Legend
The original article says the reasons are 1) serve 2) return game in that order.
But I'm thinking more of 1) return game, first and then maybe 2) serve in order.

Return game is so good now you have less motivation to do 3/4 serves and volley.
You take more risk in serves and if it gets returned, go for a huge forehand winner.

It's more of ground strokes to be blamed than serves itself, IMHO.
It already started in 90's. Agassi gave you more reasons to take more
risk and go for huge serves.

It's kinda natural for racquet manufacture to focus more on improving
the part that general public enjoys most: ground stroke ralleys.
New technology truely revolutionized tennis ground strokes.
Totally new concept and stroke mechanism, especially forehand
which speed approaching serve speed closer than ever.
Serves remain same fundamentally. Just higher speed and fundamental
stroke mechanism remains same.
 

spinbalz

Hall of Fame
There is 1 other parameter, if you want to become a pro player, even at a very young age while you are still a child, you will need to obtain some financial help from sponsors or from your tennis federation to join a tennis academy, and to travel all over your country and the world to play youngsters tournament, and to pay tennis equipements like strings, or shoes that many family can't afford with their own money for a young player, good enough to kill strings and shoes at a high rythm, an other way is to benefit from a high level training/coaching program by your federations.

The only way to benefit from these helps when your are still a child, is to show that you have a great talent and a good chance to become a pro player, and the only way to show your talent is to win as many matches and tournaments as possible during your youth, so all the young aspiring pro players play the only style of game that give them a chance to be competitve in the young categories : BASELINE GAME, they can't win much with S&V because it takes more time to develop the S&V skills than the baseline skills, and the children don't have yet the body to play S&V tennis.

So the children learn and play almost only baseline tennis, because only the short terms results count due to the reasons I listed above, and once they get older it is often too late to make the transition to a S&V game, so they keep their good old baseline bashing or counterpunching game, for exemple Nadal would be probably nowhere today, if at 16 years old he would have made the decision to make the transition to a S&V game, so he kept is baseline grinder game and became the king of clay at only 19 years old. Consequence : S&V style slowly dies.
 

BigboyDan

Semi-Pro
Well, the ability to S/V at the top level still trumps baseliners (Sampras/Federer) except on clay... and yes, I know that Federer is not a pure S/Ver, but, he CAN volley well ENOUGH to win three straight W's...
 

forehander

New User
araghava said:
I agree completely. Tennis has become extremely competitive at the junior level. It's almost impossible to win at the junior level at the net. The juniors are simply not tall enough and don't have the wingspan to control the net. The become sitting ducks for any opponent who can lob semi decently. Why bother to learn a skill that might be useful 5 or 10 years later when you grow into your full size.
This is a great post guys. I agree with the above statement. For some unknown reason my son as a 4 foot little kid just loved to go to the net. He was there any chance he could get. His opponents would just hit looping forehands over his head most of the time. Maybe it was because he was a small late bloomer as a kid so he didn't have the powerful ground strokes of the bigger early bloomers. We even tried to get him to stay back more, but he wouldn't do it. Now, as an older guy he is one of the few serve and volleyers I ever see. Although he's much more effective with it now that he's bigger. There is definitely a comfort level associated with net play. If you didn't develop it as a junior, it's very difficult to pick it up later.
 

newnuse

Professional
It also seems like the top juniors are getting ID at a very young age and sent to those tennis academies. The academies are pumping out a bunch of baseliners with limited volleying skills, nevermind S&V'ing skills.

I think this will very much be the rule and not the exception in the future. I don't think you will see a player learning the game on his own, private coaches etc... :(
 

AngeloDS

Hall of Fame
The game is much faster paced as well. I don't see why they don't do it more in the WTA. Seriously, in guys tennis those balls are flying left and right @ excessive speeds.

Volleys also have to be setup, and with most games we hardly see hits lasting more than just a couple hits. You can't hit a driving forehand and run to the net expecting to be there in time. It's a heavy mental game because You have to think 2-3 shots ahead.
 

NoBadMojo

G.O.A.T.
doesnt matter anyway though....marius makes a good point about the quickest path to success being banging from the back, but even if time was taken to develop all court and serve volley skills, with the gear the way it is, serve/volley would still be unlikely because the returns are so good. federer and a handful of others dont serve/volley more not because they dont know how well enough..it's because it just doesnt make for good strategy to other than as a change up. wimbledon and serve/volley? just about gone...it is harder to serve/volley at W than it is on hardcourts these days the way they have the grass set up. OLYMPIC DOUBLES WAS REVEALING AND SHOCKING AS IN SOME MATCHES ALL 4 stayed back..unheardof! BLASPHEMY!!and as far as bang bang tennis and points being quicker now, i think that was more in the older days (with some exceptions) than now..with the traditional grass surface big serves had more serves which were unreturnable then than now, not to mention that players back then made TONS more UE's thus making many of the points shorter..(i know there were always exceptions like the Bagel twins and such)..the points arent too short now, they are actually becoming too long with the endless baseline exchanges, nobody coming to net, etc. pro tennis these days is becoming more about fitness and endurance and technology and chemistry than it is tennis skills in my book..does NOT bode well for the game with many of the elements missing from professional play..
 

Yours!05

Professional
NoBadMojo said:
pro tennis these days is becoming more about fitness and endurance and technology and chemistry than it is tennis skills in my book..does NOT bode well for the game with many of the elements missing from professional play..
So right NBM.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
I absolutely agree that technology has raised the level of the returner in today's game dominated by power baseliners. I accept that on its face. But to conclude, that the ability to hit better returns, in itself, has somehow rendered s&v obselete, ignores results on the court during the last 15 years plus, throughout the era of larger hitting areas and wider bodies.

Serve and volley and all-court has, in fact, dominated the sport for the past 15 years. Not in the quantity of players employing the style, obviously, but in #1's. In a time when even the traditionally faster surfaces have been slowed down year after year as evidenced first by the surface chosen by the Australian Open and now, even at Wimbledon, Sampras and Federer have reached the top employing the style to a greater or lesser degree througout their careers, and with smaller head, narrower bodied frames.

The argument against S&V still being viable seems to look right past "the guy" and concentrates on the masses. Those masses, with the exception brief occupancies by Hewitt and Roddick in the top spot, have been looking UP at the top of the rankings, at guys who CAN play S&V for most of the past 15 years.

S&V has also been played with great success by names like Rafter and Henman. Rafter winning two GS championships before injury hastened his retirement. Henman while a disappointment to most at Wimby, was a perennial top tenner until recent years when slowed by age and injury. Today, guys like Mirnyi, Dent and more recently a resurgent Rusedski can still compete on the men's tour employing S&V exclusively and very little else. I am one who believes that Max, Taylor and Greg's results are disappointing because they have lesser ground strokes and have practically NO RETURN games at all. Not because they play an "obsolete" game. All these S&V'ers played/play against opponents wielding larger heads and wider bodies.

And before someone argues that Sampras career was too long ago to draw valid comparisons, keep this in mind: He played his entire career against the best returner of all time AND played S&V a higher and higher percentage of the time on all surfaces as he aged, and as more and more return bangers armed with even larger heads and wider bodies were arriving.

Even in the days of these high tech equipped power returners, Sampras, Rafter and Henman have reached the SF of Roland Garros where the red clay inherently gives returners an even better look at their serves.

I feel the argument that S&V has been somehow forced out by superior technology and a superior game style, ignores the fact that the top spot has been occupied more by players who can play it, than by the standard tennis factory product armed with the latest generation sticks, looks at the result in terms of the masses and draws a bad conclusion as to its cause. I have not seen a professional player, yet, even while tennis commentators keep recommending it, that could successfully add S&V to their arsenal after playing from the baseline in all their years prior. If you do, name one.

I also believe that if several special juniors, with the foresight, will and almost more importantly, as a prior poster suggested, the financial backing, do stay the course and actually develop the inherently inferior S&V game, they will experience success and dominate on the tour more easily in the future. Why? Those very masses of baseline blasters with big returns will have become so accustomed to ONLY playing the other factory product they ALWAYS see in the mirror across the net from themselves, they will no longer be well versed in disarming opponents demonstrating an obvious lack of intelligence and the "audacity" to follow their serves to net.

It ain't that it don't work, it's that, as athletically blessed and talented as professional players are, THEY CAN'T PLAY SERVE AND VOLLEY BECAUSE THEY NEVER PLAYED SERVE AND VOLLEY.

JMHO.
 

Marius_Hancu

Talk Tennis Guru
rackets simply too big, too easy to return.

the quality of the materials per se hasn't brought that much of a difference, esp as now companies realize getting into stiffness of 70 backfires.
 

NoBadMojo

G.O.A.T.
Five to expand on your point of view, you basically list a very small handful of serve volleyers (there really arent many) and rafter as he wound down stayed back ALOT more (developed his baseline game) to better compete as did Henman..the other guys you mention Miryni, Dent et al fall into the group who cant play from the baseline consistently enough so they have to come in. as for Sampras and Fed..true athletes! and therin lies the problem i believe...tennis just does not get the best athletes (here in the staes anyway) and that is part of the reason there are more trained players these days than athletic tennis players. Edberg too saw the game changing and had to learn to stay back more and ditto for Rafter, and now fed even stays back more then he did a couple years ago, that is pretty indicative of a trend....and all 3 are terrific athletes, and all 3 from slightly diff eras..all 3 were forced to learn to stay back more because the service return game was exceeding the ability to serve well..pros find the smallest of edges to explot. it's the way the game is evolving and i sure miss the tennis from a few years ago..watch edberg volley and rafters general athletic ability..it's just not something you see on tour much anymore amongst the very top players save for Fed..it's a trained grind em out who is the fittest who is willing to pull the trigger first and take a chance sort of cat n mouse game from the baseline out there...each match is becoming ****goneous...each point is like the previous..all the players are starting to play the same and look the same. if i played T that way, i would be bored and quit..not that i am anywhere near that level.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
NBM,

I understand your point and it is well argued.

Athleticism as a pre-requisite. Absolutely. Conditioning? Different requirements. The baseline requires incredible aerobic fitness on the pro level. S&V while requiring some aerobic foundation is much more of an anaerobic activity. While Sampras always maintained that ability to expend short bursts of nrg on faster surfaces, his relative lack of aerobic fitness was usually exposed at AO and RG.

I also agree that in contrast to Sampras; Edberg, Rafter and Henman all played more points from the baseline later in their careers. But still, even given that fact, HOW did they WIN their points. Outrallying the best baseliners? No. At the net where they always did. And S&V was still how each played the majority of their points when serving. Also the serves which Edberg, Rafter and Henman followed to net were based very much in old school S&V technique, slower high kickers. Again different from what Fed follows in the majority of the time and vastly different than Sampras. I think that Sampras showed the way and Fed has adopted it albiet with greater variety. Sampras S&V to me was unconventional in that he followed higher paced serves into net than the norm. Fed also does this to a lesser degree. Just as the baseline game has been "modernized" over time, I believe that Sampras, in particular, modernized S&V consistently employing more pace on his serve than his predecessors and contemporaries. His serve was never the fastest on tour, but the best on tour, and he followed harder serves to net than other s&v of his era.

Federer has it all and can do either with great ability.

The ability to excell using S&V on the pro level does and will require a very specialized set of athletic and tennis specific skills (i.e. Sampras and Federer).
In the future I think at least a few juniors out there will have them, and judging from the numerous threads here involving discussions of Pete and Roger alot admire them which may indicate that a greater number may be trying to emulate there games. If so and a special athlete or two are in that group we may catch lightning in a bottle. I believe we will see it and for the reason you stated at the end of your prior post, I hope so.

Good post, NBM.
 

lefty10spro

Semi-Pro
Dear Posters,
Listen closely - today's players are better because of the evolution of technique! The wood vs. modern racket chatter is pointless. Reread my first sentence and think!
 

NoBadMojo

G.O.A.T.
thanks Five..it's rare and really good to be able to have a cogent discussion and not have things get 'overly' heated and personal. i agree with you..for edberg and then for rafter, there came the time when the modified kicker (thats what i call that serve) was no longer good enough to be able to back up with good volleys with because the returns got so good, so they had to mix it up more, stay back more, and actually retire partly because of it. agree the sampras serve was different.,..and exceptional...and he was athletic enough to serve at a buck twenty and still get close enough to hit a good first volley somehow, plus his serve had more work and action on it than any other serve in history (in my estimation). agree also with what you say about the different types of conditoning needed for the two styles...i would also add that fast twitch muscle guys make the better serve volleys, and the fast twitchers are usually the best athetes and all courters..so i raise my glass of Ketel1 to the return of all court T....thanks for your posts Five.
 

Phil_

Banned
FiveO said:
And before someone argues that Sampras career was too long ago to draw valid comparisons, keep this in mind: He played his entire career against the best returner of all time AND played S&V a higher and higher percentage of the time on all surfaces as he aged, and as more and more return bangers armed with even larger heads and wider bodies were arriving.
Five says it all and explains away the technolgy advancement jibberish.S&V is dying because all the teaching pros out there are 2 handed baseliner guys who don't know how to teach all court let alone S&V. Also the factories produce baseline grinders because they are all cloned in teh same many. Could you imagine how many pros it would take to teach them all to be all couters? There aren't that many good all court teaching pros out there! Recently in jubior tennis there has been a recent shift of players switching to a one handed BH priimarily because of Federer's dominance. BTW, I'm predicting that the next great American champion will be an all court one handed player, just wait about 6-7 years
 

Phil_

Banned
FiveO said:
And before someone argues that Sampras career was too long ago to draw valid comparisons, keep this in mind: He played his entire career against the best returner of all time AND played S&V a higher and higher percentage of the time on all surfaces as he aged, and as more and more return bangers armed with even larger heads and wider bodies were arriving.
Five says it all and explains away the technolgy advancement jibberish. S&V is dying because all the teaching pros out there are 2 handed baseliner guys who don't know how to teach all court let alone S&V. Also the factories produce baseline grinders because they are all cloned in the same many. Then they found out that the fastest guys go on the tour and the rest become teaching pros. Could you imagine how many pros it would take to teach them all to be all couters? There aren't that many good all court teaching pros out there! Recently in junior tennis there has been a recent shift of players switching to a one handed BH priimarily because of Federer's dominance. BTW, I'm predicting that the next great American champion will be an all court one handed player, just wait about 6-7 years
 

NoBadMojo

G.O.A.T.
Sampras is only one player...you cant define an entire sport and a discussion by one player, especially a genius and an anomoly like sampras. to discount that technology hasnt changed the face of the game and is jibberish doesnt seem right to me..of course it has. i agree though that there are fewer teaching pros who teach all the shots, and alarmingly fewer who can even hit all the shots. old dudes who teach all court tennis like me are quitting teaching and/or being replaced with the same guys who festered in the baseline bashers factories....at the pro level however, if there was an advantage to playing serve/volley, more players would be doing it..at least some of the time
 

Morpheus

Professional
NoBadMojo said:
wimbledon and serve/volley? just about gone...it is harder to serve/volley at W than it is on hardcourts these days the way they have the grass set up.
So true. One merely has to look at the wear of the grass to see the difference. In the McEnroe era, the grass was browned out at the net. Nowadays, the courts are worn at the baseline. The grass near the net is pristine.

This change in tennis is quite frustrating for those of us who came up on wood and were net rushers. It is hard to adjust to a baseline game especially as you age and fall out of shape. I'd be interested in hearing how other 40 somethings have changed their game to compete with the young bashers. I don't have the answer...
 

NoBadMojo

G.O.A.T.
Morpheus that's a very good question, and I am surprised it doesnt get asked over in the Tennis Tips forum..there are several things you can do, but it is often a challenge for sure dealing with one dimensional power. Why dont you pose that Q over there and see what you get..i'll throw my .o2 into that one over there.
 

crazylevity

Hall of Fame
Well...growing up watching Sampras, and now Federer, I must admit I do feel the urge to learn to volley at least decently. While it's true that most people play powerful groundstrokes more than anything, if you can neutralise that power with a variety of shots, use slices and approach shots to construct a point, than the volley is still a great thing to have in your arsenal.
 

BigboyDan

Semi-Pro
It has been said many times:

Sampras switched from a two-handed backhand to the one at the age of thirteen/fourteen or so - why? - because he wanted to win Wimbledon. Worked...

http://www.usta.com/lessonsandtips/fullstory.sps?iNewsid=122414

"As a history lesson, Pete Sampras had one the best two-handed backhands in the country as a young boy. I know of some top coaches who are convinced that he would have won multiple Roland Garros titles had he kept his two-handed backhand. At the age of thirteen, Sampras switched to a one-handed backhand and struggled mightily for a short while. Of course, Sampras went on to win seven Wimbledon titles with his one-handed backhand so it is hard to argue with those results."

http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016453.html

"Sampras rarely won a major junior tournament. Fischer believed his protege needed to play "up" in age groups, against stronger and older players to develop his all-around game. "From the very beginning, the competition was always Laver," Sampras said.

At 14, Fischer changed Sampras' backhand from two-handed to one-handed. He also switched him from a safe defensive baseliner to a classic risky serve-and-volleyer. "I played just like (Michael) Chang, grinding from the baseline," Sampras said. "When I started serving and volleying, I became much more laid back."

Fischer told him that someday these changes would help him win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open."
 

forehander

New User
NBM says:
"tennis just does not get the best athletes (here in the staes anyway) and that is part of the reason there are more trained players these days than athletic tennis players."

I have to agree 100% mojo. But that is apparently true all over. My son recenty spent some time at Sanchez-Casal academy in Spain. To tell you the truth, it was full of very, very high quality players. But none of them were real good athletes. My son was actually the best athlete there (not the best tennis player by far). And I'm not just saying that. It is true. And he's a good athlete, but not a great athlete. Athletically he dominated. They even had some recreational time Friday afternoons and he dominated playing soccer. WHAT! An American who never played soccer past age 10, dominating a bunch of Europeans at Soccer? Give me a break. There were no athletes there.

Talk about these academies pumping out baseliners. Well, they would practice on court 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. We already know that Spaniards are strictly baseliners. But you would think they would be able to squeeze in at least a little time for Serve practice or Volley practice. No, not a bit. It was all about pounding ground strokes from the baseline.
 

newnuse

Professional
I don't think the S&V is obsolete due to technology. Granted, the rackets have helped the returners. The server still has the advantage. It's still very tough to break a good server. I just don't think people teach S&V any more for the numerous reasons mentioned above. A good S&V could can still win today on grass and hard courts.

People say it takes more skill or time to develop your volleys. To me it's always easier to put away a volley for a winner than to hit a passing shot.
 

!Tym

Hall of Fame
To be honest, as far as the comment about the Spanish academy, you do not need to be that athletic in tennis in my opinion.

There is not that much ground to cover. Raw athleticism is more necessary in sports like football and soccer and basketball, etc. because players need to run in full out sprint full-court/field. In tennis, it's a little salt and pepper movement here and there, but rarely a full out sprint. The actual playable court just isn't big enough for that. Put it this way, Agassi and Davenport might be able to catch up to a drop shot, but they're NOT going to be able to catch up to a healthy Bo Jackson in full flight...in fact, that would be laughable to even watch. Meanwhile put Carl Lewis on a tennis court against Agassi, and fast as he maybe, it's not going to matter. No human can catch up to a perfectly struck ball hit on the line if they're leaning the wrong way, going in the wrong direction. Why? It's not that it's impossible to run down the ball in tennis from a standing start, provided you know EXACTLY where the ball is going. But rather, it's because if you can't anticipate, if you don't have the instincts, if you're LEANING the wrong way, and the ball goes another struck at pro pace, the balls going to be by you. Now, however, IF you have pro level anticipation skills, THEN you will "sense" where the balls will be going, take two or three steps, and stick your racket out. You'll probably be ok. The tennis court is small, it's more important to have the knack for leaning the right way than it is to be uber athletic...i.e. facing an Andy Roddick serve, who has the edge? David Nalbandian and the little pouch around his stomach? Or...lean as a whistle, Michael Johnson? I think the answer is obvious, and it has nothing to do with athleticism or conditioning.

Seles, for the record, was an ABYSMAL athlete by ANY standard, NOT just "professional athlete" standards. This is per even Nick B.'s own confession. Meanwhile Graf was as astonishing athlete who was the European jr. sprinting champion. On the court though, Seles covered the court nearly as well as Graf during her prime. Why? Not because of her athleticism, but rather because of her ANTICIPATION and CAT-LIKE mental ALERTNESS (ever see the look in the eye of a cat stalking it's pray? Ain't NOTHING getting by it regardless of how tubby or lean the cat is).

What it all boils down to is that tennis is more a sport of anticipation and mental alertness in my opinion than raw athleticism. Players like Hingis and Martin and Agassi are not GREAT athletes by any means, but they are very alert to the ball and quickly anticipate where the ball will go. In tennis, that's 9 tenths of the battle. Getting to the ball is not THAT difficult, after all there is VERY little ground to cover. Don't believe me? Cry foul? You think catching up to a drop shot is something else? Well, how 'bout a wildly errant pass from a roided out quarterback in a massive field with stampeding buffalos chasing after YOU?

I'm not saying athleticism isn't important in tennis, just not DIRE important if you know what I mean. After all, Todd Martin and Magnus Larson can get to most balls anyway. Maybe not as many as Chang, but *enough.* Remember, Goran was a 400mm champion as a junior, so he's got a good set of wheels on him. So what? On a tennis court, Todd Martin concentrated a WHOLE lot better and that's worth at least a U.S. Open final.

With that said, I think at the highest level, the Spaniards who've made a mark on tour have for the most part been exceptional athletes. Corretja, Bruguera, Moya, Ferrero, Berasategui, and now Nadal are all to my mind top of the food chain athletically on the ATP tour. Bruguera is actually a pro soccer player now going on three years, not top division of course, but still that's pretty impressive to me given his age and injury history when starting. Muster used to be on the national Austrian junior soccer team, Stich on the German national junior soccer team, etc. Bjorkman was on the Swedish national jr. hockey team, etc. I think Goran even played a few pro soccer games after retiring. Courier could have probably at least made the minor leagues in baseball. Who's going to argue with Clistjers or Hewitt's parents' genes? How about Pioline, the son of two national level volleyball players, definitely a jock. Paes, cat like quick, the son of an Olympic field hockey playing dad. Borg? Freak of nature.

Heck, even Pierce and Davenport...eh, maybe not. But AT LEAST, they're able to get their racket on *enough* balls to make a living right? Jan Michael Gambill? You bet, all the way to his next Jaguar.
 

JoostT

New User
NoBadMojo said:
Sampras is only one player...you cant define an entire sport and a discussion by one player, especially a genius and an anomoly like sampras. to discount that technology hasnt changed the face of the game and is jibberish doesnt seem right to me..of course it has. i agree though that there are fewer teaching pros who teach all the shots, and alarmingly fewer who can even hit all the shots. old dudes who teach all court tennis like me are quitting teaching and/or being replaced with the same guys who festered in the baseline bashers factories....at the pro level however, if there was an advantage to playing serve/volley, more players would be doing it..at least some of the time
I don't agree that he was the only one: Richard Krajicek is another example. The funny thing is, that he was really small as a junior and strictly played from the baseline. When he started to grow his serve got a lot better and he decided to try and learn serve and volley, helped by Rowan Goetzke. (Who was until recently coaching Mario Ancic, also someone still trying to play serve volley). But during the change he wasn't succesfull at all.

Joost
 

35ft6

Legend
Sampras was so successful as a "s and v-er" because his serve was almost the ideal serve for that style. Not incredibly fast but according to a study I once saw in Tennis magazine, the most potent combination of speed and rpm's. Basically, he had the "heaviest" serve on tour. Perhaps, the heaviest serve in history. He wasn't necessarily proof that "s and v" is inherently superior, it's just that with that serve of his, it just didn't make sense for him to stay back. His fitness wasn't the best.

I almost get the impression that some people think S and V is inherently superior. Am I wrong? If everybody started playing serve and volley tennis would we be having discussions on how to get more people playing baseline tennis? Just wondering. I certainly think S and V should be a part of a top player's arsenal, but only to mix things up, as I think the days of pure S and V tennis dominating are probably gone. Sure, there will always be exceptions, but to me to cite perhaps the greatest player of all time, and most certainly the possessor of the most potent serve of all time (IMO) as being proof that S and V is still viable just doesn't cut it. Sampras was a freak. His serve was supernatural. Let's not look to him as being an example of what everybody can achieve if they adopted his playing style.

With wooden rackets you were simply better off at the net. Now with modern rackets, people don't have to be in position to rip a passing shot, they can hit a passing shot falling down with their pants around their ankles and a pigeon pecking out their eyeballs. And they don't have to be that precise. If they hit it hard enough and with enough top spin, that's almost as good. These are things that just aren't possible with wooden rackets. Again, I think it's putting the cart before the horse to suggest that there's less S and V-ers out there ONLY because less people are teaching it. Why are less people teaching it? I think tennis has evolved so that baseline play has more reproductive fitness. It's simply more effective, and people copy it and there are more baseliners because they're copying what's proven to be successful. I don't think the tennis coaches of the world arbitrarily decided that they were going to stop producing S and V-ers. In fact, if this board is any indication, everybody seems to want more S and V play if only for the variety it offers the tour.

Call me, Captain Obvious. Yo, I'm bored. And hung over. Indulge me.
 

forehander

New User
Good post Tym. I have to agree with what you are saying. My son who hasn't been playing tennis very long (except for a short stint as a little kid), was quite surprised that he was the dominate athlete at the academy. He's accostumed to playing basketball and running track. In those sports he found himself to be an average athlete. Now he finds it a little disconcerting that he gets whipped by some little guy that looks like he is the class geek at his school. No offense to geeky looking guys, but it's true. You can look like you don't have an athletic bone in your body and still be a very good tennis player.
 

newnuse

Professional
Good post Tym.

You break sports down into 3 categories.

Sports that place a heavy emphasis on naturally athletic ability: Football
Sports that require more skill through practice: Baseball
Sports that require a bit of both: basketball (think Micheal Jordan vs Larry Bird)

Tennis is definitely more of a skills sports.
 

35ft6

Legend
I disagree with the baseball thing. I would put golf in there.

forehander, I agree that tennis hasn't, in general, attracted the best athletes yet. Right now it's too cost prohibitive.

edit: Yeah, great post Tim. I never thought of it that way. I still think if you put a racket into the hands of a Lebron James caliber athlete, it would be a whole new level of tennis.
 

AJK1

Hall of Fame
The reason S&V has diminished is because of the law of diminishing returns is being taught to kids. It is basically the theory of baseline play as this is the only way to play to lower the amount of unforced errors, and so they play it safe with huge topspin. The thought of serve and volley is fraught with the prospect of making errors, so they stay away from it. Smart players like Sampras and Federer have incorporated it into their game, and others couldn't cope with it as proved by the number of wins between them.
 

FedererUberAlles

Professional
araghava said:
I agree completely. Tennis has become extremely competitive at the junior level. It's almost impossible to win at the junior level at the net. The juniors are simply not tall enough and don't have the wingspan to control the net. The become sitting ducks for any opponent who can lob semi decently. Why bother to learn a skill that might be useful 5 or 10 years later when you grow into your full size.
Yeah, and don't forget that junior tournaments are just moonball fests anyway.
 

Exile

Professional
Is there no one teaching tennis the traditional way anymore?
That sort of traditional/transitional game is exactly what will begin to win matches not now, but later. Because like it was said, everyone is in a hurry to become the next big thing.

I know when I start coaching I'm going to do things Charlie Hollis style.
That kind of coaching is exactly what the modern game needs to move beyond the baseline.
Anyone know what I'm talking about?
 

Marius_Hancu

Talk Tennis Guru
Glad to see today a match in TMS Montreal Q today between Wawrinka and Moodie, which both of them S-Ved quite well.
 

bluegrasser

Hall of Fame
I think if they went to a slower ball you'd see s/v come back, the powers that be should act, as viewership ( at least in the states ) is going down. Watching Roddick yesterday was boring, and I'm a tennis player ! Look, don't get me wrong I admire the kid with his power tennis and all, but boom, boom, point over won't bring in the casual fan.
 

Marius_Hancu

Talk Tennis Guru
bluegrasser said:
I think if they went to a slower ball you'd see s/v come back, the powers that be should act, as viewership ( at least in the states ) is going down. Watching Roddick yesterday was boring, and I'm a tennis player ! Look, don't get me wrong I admire the kid with his power tennis and all, but boom, boom, point over won't bring in the casual fan.
right, viewership is going down.
size of rackets and their stiffness should be limited.
 

Galactus

Banned
Dunno about this but I used to hear people complain in the late-80s/early 90s:
"tennis is boring now - everyone just serves big and follow it up for the volley put-away. Why don't they have rallies like they used to in the 70s"?

Now we have all the baselining rallies you could ask for and people bemoan the fact that there's no serve-and-volleying being deployed? :confused:

There should be room for both styles of play: that's what made the McEnroe-Borg rivalry so even...

Al it takes is for someone to start the ball rolling.... ;)
 
L

laurie

Guest
I thought serve and volleyers like faster balls, not heavy ones so they can serve faster with more slice and put more slice on the volleys. Henman was complaining about heavy balls before, during and after exiting Wimbledon.

I agree that Sampras was a freak. He was never a pure serve and volleyer in the Rafter mode for instance. His serve was much more of a weapon (literally). Along with Becker he help changed the game. But not everyone is blessed with the talent to serve like Sampras and Becker with so much pace and spin.

I agree that volleying is not that difficult to learn if you learn early. What is difficult is positional sense. You see, I'm not sure how easy it is to teach that. Some people have an instinct for that sort of thing. A good example is forwards in football. The best ones know when to time their runs to get into a good position to receive a pass and have a shot on goal. Thats an instinct which is hard to teach. Good midfield players will also say they love to play with strikers of that ability. It makes their life as playmakers easier. If they make a good pass, they know the forward will be sharp of mind and onto the possibility.

A good net player has similar instincts. He knows to play the court correctly and recover quickly for the next pass to cut it off. If you look at any 19 year old Sampras matches from his 1990 US Open win, you'll see a kid who had an extraordinary instinct to play at net against some real hard hitters like Muster, Lendl and Agassi he met along the way.

Edberg had an even better net play instinct than Sampras. Edberg was always closer to the net. They were both very very athletic but in different ways.

Roddick is a prime example of someone who does not have a good instinct at the net. His positional sense is very poor. He finds it hard to read where to position himself. For instance, if you play a volley wide and a player has to run onto it and maybe stretch a little, then your instinct must be to cover the line, like a goalkeeper covering angles. However, Roddick in the past has taken up postions more in the middle of the court and that means he gets burned by a player who can hit good passing shots.

Good coaches have to see if their pupils have an instinct for net play and then encourage them. My nephew is nine years old and he loves the net. He also loves wrong footing shots. But then through me he loves to watch attacking players.

I wish Mauresmo beat her demons this year. She could have won Wimbledon if she held her nerves and could have helped revitalise serve and volley play for young women and girls. I saw her live at Wimbledon and her style is a joy to watch.

Thats another thing, not all of course but many serve and volleyers down the years have been a joy to watch because they are usually smooth players.
 

urban

Legend
I think apart from the equipment the western grips and the doublehanded backhand have something to do with the decline of the volley. But the biggest asset for a good volley is a certain mentality, a self-confidence to go into the net. That is obviously lacking in modern tennis and is not taught by the academies with their streamlined players. You can volley not only behind a serve, but also behind a good, deep and low approach shot - in the way Connors played. These slice shots are seldom seen in pro matches with all the weight on hard, topspin hitting.
 

bluegrasser

Hall of Fame
While I agree with Marius that " the rackets and stiffness " are a big part of the problem, you then have Federer, Agassi, Safin, Sampras (past tense ), Coria, Hewitt, using thin beamed flexible frames.
 
L

laurie

Guest
Urban, that is a very interesting call you make. Because when it comes the forehand, Amelie Mauresmo uses quite a western grip and uses exagerated topspin on her forehand shots. And yet, she's one of the best volleyers around male or female. So this is what I'm saying about instinct, if a person really wants to do it, they will find a way to accommodate. Human beings are flexible and in many cases its about what the mind tells you, you can or cannot do.
 
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