Sabr

HuusHould

Professional
I was wondering whether people thought this tactic will be employed much in the future? Do you have any ideas on how to train the sabr? As well as what sort of techniques can be effective in its execution? What footwork is most effective? (Do you start further back and move forward quickly?) When should you use the sabr? Against what type of serve/gamestyle? Eg I find it can work on the 1st serve against S&Volleyers, also to keep the net player out of the action in doubles. Any drills for getting to the pitch of the ball? How do you deal with getting handcuffed when launching a sabr attack?
 

blablavla

Legend
Eg I find it can work on the 1st serve against S&Volleyers,
How do you think it could work on 1st serve against S&Volleyers?
Your opponent attacks the net behind the 1st service.
You chip return and run to the net as well.
sure, there is the point of surprize for the opponent, but you will probably be in the "no man land", so your opponent will have plenty of options how to play the point further.

I was wondering whether people thought this tactic will be employed much in the future? Do you have any ideas on how to train the sabr? As well as what sort of techniques can be effective in its execution? What footwork is most effective? (Do you start further back and move forward quickly?)
Fed was usually entering inside the court, so that after chipping he can cover the net easily.
I have seen this live many years ago, at a junior ITF competition.
The player that did it, was as well doing it from inside the court.
Another parallel, it worked well versus opponents of lower level, but by the time when the guy reached the final, he wasn't employing the sabr anymore, and his return position was as well rather standard.
Fed stopped using it after Novak showed the world that it is possible to counter-act sabr: lob, passing shots and of course mixing the two.

so in summary, if you are good at the net, and your opponent has a weaker wing, it makes sense to employ sabr.
but if your opponent is of similar level, or higher level, and there is no weaker wing, it can be countered.
 

pencilcheck

Hall of Fame
I don't think this technique can be taught, as it is very similar to volley that it is mostly all about intuition and experience, I think. Just need a lot of trial and errors to get good at it.
 

Dragy

Legend
How do you think it could work on 1st serve against S&Volleyers?
Your opponent attacks the net behind the 1st service.
You chip return and run to the net as well.
sure, there is the point of surprize for the opponent, but you will probably be in the "no man land", so your opponent will have plenty of options how to play the point further.
One of the solutions against SnV player is to cut away his time to approach the net and break his approach rhythm (give him a ball that comes back sooner than he plans). So actually stepping in and taking it as early as possible you shift the table - now he's pinned in NML, while you move on over service line. Still very dependent on your shot quality - not working if you shank the ball and puff it up weakly, not even to mention faulting into the net.
 

HuusHould

Professional
One of the solutions against SnV player is to cut away his time to approach the net and break his approach rhythm (give him a ball that comes back sooner than he plans). So actually stepping in and taking it as early as possible you shift the table - now he's pinned in NML, while you move on over service line. Still very dependent on your shot quality - not working if you shank the ball and puff it up weakly, not even to mention faulting into the net.
Exactly right, if executed well, theres no doubt it's advantage receiver after the return, (server well back in NML trying to netrush, receiver all over the net cutting down their angle) but its just a very to extremely difficult one to execute depending on the quality of the server. The whole idea of the sabr is that you contact around service line depth, moving forwards. Otherwise its just a garden variety chip and charge. So theres not much chance of being caught in NML.
 

HuusHould

Professional
Fed stopped using it after Novak showed the world that it is possible to counter-act sabr: lob, passing shots and of course mixing the two.
But should he have stopped using it, or should he have gone back to the drawing board and honed his sabr. Maybe come up with a few variations to keep the Joker off balance.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
The SABR can work very well against intermediate players. Especially players with weak second serves. Even Roger did not use it against first serves. And, while he did employ it against some big servers, there were some big servers who had pretty good placement and disguise are there second serves. John isner is one server that RF did not SABR.

SABR has and use pretty successfully at a 3.5 level. Sometimes, even at a 4.0 l level if the server has a weak second serve. You would not be standing further back on second serves, esp against week servers. You should start inside the baseline. And, when the server looks up to watch their toss, that is the time you want to quickly sneak in so that you are much closer to the service box. One of the best tactics is to put your SABR return at the feet of the server. They are often still recovering from their own serve motion, when the SABR return handcuffs them.

If they have a weak second serve, it would be foolish for them to come in behind that serve whether the returner executes a sabr or not. Once you have mastered the sabr against weak servers, then you might consider it using it against someone with a somewhat better second serve.
 

HuusHould

Professional
Not like a volley. It's like a half-volley. Often times it IS a half-volley.
Yeah, the goal is to get to the pitch of the ball and half volley it, as that gets you further in. Sometimes they serve shorter than expected and you have to keep it low even though it gets a bit big on you, then it can be a bit more like a volley, if you choose to deal with it that way and not hit a fool blooded semi half volley drive.
 

blablavla

Legend
But should he have stopped using it, or should he have gone back to the drawing board and honed his sabr. Maybe come up with a few variations to keep the Joker off balance.
indeed, I also wonder why he completely stopped using it.
throwing it in, once a while, just to keep the tension on the server could be worth it.

but on the other side, what can he do to keep Joker off balance? chip to his FH as an alternative to chipping to his BH?
perhaps Joker FH is not as weak as this forum describes it, hence Fed decided that it is better to stay on the baseline.
 

HuusHould

Professional
John isner is one server that RF did
This could be related to a couple of things; 1- With his height he can hit more parts of the service box at pace, so it's hard to get to the pitch of the ball and half volley it,
2- One of the main goals of the sabr is to keep it low, whether you're hitting it deep or short and with the trajectory of Isner's serve if you don't get it as a rank half volley you're likely to pop it up.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
But should he have stopped using it, or should he have gone back to the drawing board and honed his sabr. Maybe come up with a few variations to keep the Joker off balance.
At the pro level, the SABR it's not an easy tactic to pull off. Nick K failed when you tried it against Roger.

Roger used it very effectively in Cincinnati in 2015 against Novak and several others. After getting burned a few times in Cincy, you can bet that Novak and Boris Becker worked diligently on finding an answer to subdued the SABR.

It seems that he did have an answer at the US Open final that year. I don't know the success rate for Roger's SABR or for Novak's response in that match. I don't believe Rodger was using it as much at the USO as he was Cincinnati.

I did notice that one of Novak's answers came when Roger hit the SABR return away from Novak rather than at his feet.
 
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HuusHould

Professional
throwing it in, once a while, just to keep the tension.
Yeah just to steal a point here and there and p#$s the Joker off! I don't think anyone will ever have "sabr the return of 2nd serve" as a main point in their game plan. But I think it can be a reasonably important part of a more generic strategic objective, such as "taking the return of serve early most of the time/keep the server off balance"
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Yeah, the goal is to get to the pitch of the ball and half volley it, as that gets you further in. Sometimes they serve shorter than expected and you have to keep it low even though it gets a bit big on you, then it can be a bit more like a volley, if you choose to deal with it that way and not hit a fool blooded semi half volley drive.
What do you mean by the "pitch of the ball"? Not familiar with that terminology.
 

HuusHould

Professional
After getting burned a few times in Cincy, you can bet that Novak and Boris Becker worked diligently on finding an answer to savor SABR.
I guess the main answer to someone who's good at the sabr lies in the serve - mixing up the placement and depth and being more agressive.

It wouldve been interesting to see how they trained for the passing shot. Did they hire a sabr specialist?
 

Dragy

Legend
SABR has and use pretty successfully at a 3.5 level. Sometimes, even at a 4.0 l level if the server has a weak second serve.
Why would you SABR against a weak second serve against taking it as forehand inside the baseline? IMHO SABR should work against decently paced serves where you can block it rather than actively hit. Otherwise trade offs not worth it. Or do default C&C return and don’t call it SABR.
 

blablavla

Legend
I guess the main answer to someone who's good at the sabr lies in the serve - mixing up the placement and depth and being more agressive.

It wouldve been interesting to see how they trained for the passing shot. Did they hire a sabr specialist?
I think there is no need to hire a SABR specialist.
Joker hits the 2nd serve to a defined location, his hitting partner does SABR.
Joker wins the point if he makes clean passing shot.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
This could be related to a couple of things; 1- With his height he can hit more parts of the service box at pace, so it's hard to get to the pitch of the ball and half volley it,
2- One of the main goals of the sabr is to keep it low, whether you're hitting it deep or short and with the trajectory of Isner's serve if you don't get it as a rank half volley you're likely to pop it up.
Roger had a lot of respect for the John Isner serve. John could hit angles on his serve that other server simply could not do. Federer actually fared pretty well against many other big servers like Andy Roddick and Kevin Anderson. But isner might have had better placement and better disguise than other big servers.

I recalled that Roger employed the sabr return, successfully, against Kevin Anderson and a couple of other big servers. But with John Isner, he did not even attempt it.
 
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HuusHould

Professional
Why would you SABR against a weak second serve against taking it as forehand inside the baseline? IMHO SABR should work against decently paced serves where you can block it rather than actively hit. Otherwise trade offs not worth it. Or do default C&C return and don’t call it SABR.
I understand where you're coming from. Maybe you're right, honing an aggressive return from just inside the baseline is a more realistic answer. But it depends on your skillset and your opponent. If you dont have the weapons to do damage by ripping a groundy and you have good hands at the net and on the half volleys and your opponent has a tendency to miss when pressured at the net. Thats a lot of provisos, but it can be the more effective option in that situation for example. One advantage of the sabr is that it doesnt really matter what wing you take the ball on. So you dont need to leave the court open as you could running around your bh on the ad court. Yes chip and charge is a viable alternative as well as yoy mention.
 
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SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
I guess the main answer to someone who's good at the sabr lies in the serve - mixing up the placement and depth and being more agressive.

It wouldve been interesting to see how they trained for the passing shot. Did they hire a sabr specialist?
SABR specialist? There were no such specialists when Roger unveiled it at Cincy in 2015. Novak and Boris only had 2 or 3 weeks to study Roger's new tactic and figure out how to neutralize it.
 
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blablavla

Legend
I understand where you're coming from. Maybe you're right, honing an aggressive return from just inside the baseline is a more realistic answer. But it depends on your skillset and your opponent. If you dont have the weapons to do damage by ripping a groundy and you have good hands at the net and on the half volleys and your opponent has a tendency to miss when pressured at the net. Thats a lot of provisos, but it can be the more effective option in that situation for example.
but then you don't necessarily need sabr.

chip & charge?
if you don't have that massive forehand, or don't want to run-around the ball to hit the massive FH, slice it, keeping it low & attack the net.
 

HuusHould

Professional
SABR specialist? There were no such a specialists when Roger unveiled it at Cincy in 2015. Novak and Boris only had 2 or 3 weeks to study Roger's new tactic and figure out how to neutralize it.
I was talking about after Cincinnati, and was just speculating tongue in cheek :) But I assume youre refering to the US Open preparation.
 

Dragy

Legend
I understand where you're coming from. Maybe your right, honing an aggressive return is a more realistic answer. But it depends on your skillset and your opponent. If you dont have the weapons to do damage by ripping a groundy and you have good hands at the net and on the half volleys and your opponent has a tendency to miss when pressured at the net. Thats a lot of provisos, but it can be the more effective option in that situation for example.
I was toying with SABR returns agains weak second servers. It really felt that I needed effort and actively hit it to get decent ball back - not just blocky half-volley. Incoming balls were slow and sitting up, I was more likely to succeed with drop shot than a deep half-volley. Maybe I'm just not good enough.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Why would you SABR against a weak second serve against taking it as forehand inside the baseline? IMHO SABR should work against decently paced serves where you can block it rather than actively hit. Otherwise trade offs not worth it. Or do default C&C return and don’t call it SABR.
The SABR is another tool. Another means to unsettle a server, particularly one who is hitting 2nd serves. You see SABR tactics work at lower levels cuz those serves are attackable.

Let's say it's a mediocre serve rather than a powderpuff serve. If one always has the same response from inside the baseline, the server might be able to adjust and counter that attack a fair amount.

But, if the returner judiciously throws in a SABR every once in awhile, it can unsettle the server. One could even get the server to double fault a bit more often by employing these tactics.
 

HuusHould

Professional
I was toying with SABR returns agains weak second servers. It really felt that I needed effort and actively hit it to get decent ball back - not just blocky half-volley. Incoming balls were slow and sitting up, I was more likely to succeed with drop shot than a deep half-volley. Maybe I'm just not good enough.
Yeah, if you block a slow weak serve, you have to time it perfectly. I think it helps if you have a bit of momentum through the shot as well. Its like a floater volley, in that you try to effectively speed up the oncoming ball (relative to you) by moving forward quickly with little steps to meet the ball. It just takes a lot of practice also. Against the wall is good until you become proficient at it.
 

HuusHould

Professional
But, if the returner judiciously throws in a SABR every once in awhile, it can unsettle the server. One could even get the server to double fault a bit more often by employing these tactics.
Yep, I've found just advancing toward the server has resulted in double faults.

You look at some of the responses to the Feds sabrs in the link I posted and some of those players are clearly rattled by it.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
but then you don't necessarily need sabr.

chip & charge?
if you don't have that massive forehand, or don't want to run-around the ball to hit the massive FH, slice it, keeping it low & attack the net.
Chip & Charge, every once in awhile, could be effective. But I see the SABR, used judiciously, as being more aggressive and potentially more effective than a simple C&C.

The SABR gives the server less time to recover and respond to the return. The ball comes back so much sooner. The return is in a more aggressive position, more forward, when returning with a SABR move. The server might be in a better position, or state of readiness, to pass or hurt the C&C returner more often than a surprise SABR.
 

HuusHould

Professional
The SABR gives the server less time to recover and respond to the return. The ball comes back so much sooner. The return is in a more aggressive position, more forward, when returning with a SABR move. The server might be in a better position, or state of readiness, to pass or hurt the C&C returner more often than a surprise SABR
All true. Also if you mix it up between C&C and the sabr, then they don't know exactly what to expect when you advance. I mix C&C up with a drop shot return, which has the same effect.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Yep, I've found just advancing toward the server has resulted in double faults.

You look at some of the responses to the Feds sabrs in the link I posted and some of those players are clearly rattled by it.
I recall that Roger had used the SABR, quite successfully, at Cincinnati against quite a few servers before he met Novak in the final. I'm sure it was already in Novak's head that RF might use it. Roger waited until they got to a first-set tiebreaker. And then he used it several times IIRC in that TB. Roger took the TB and the set with this tactic.

So, when Novak is serving in the beginning of the second set, SABR and Roger is in his head even more. He DFs at least twice in that game to get broken. I don't recall for sure, but he may have hit more DFs in that set. He ended up losing that Cincy final, 6-7, 3-6. Boris was fuming.
 

Shaolin

G.O.A.T.
I was wondering whether people thought this tactic will be employed much in the future? Do you have any ideas on how to train the sabr? As well as what sort of techniques can be effective in its execution? What footwork is most effective? (Do you start further back and move forward quickly?) When should you use the sabr? Against what type of serve/gamestyle? Eg I find it can work on the 1st serve against S&Volleyers, also to keep the net player out of the action in doubles. Any drills for getting to the pitch of the ball? How do you deal with getting handcuffed when launching a sabr attack?
I use it on 2nd serves and sometimes 1st.

Continental grip, wait till server's toss goes up, move in as fast to the service line as possible, half volley return as deep as you can.

I try to do it at random times just to keep the server guessing a little. Also it's fun. I'd do it on all 2nd serves but that would take the surprise element away.
 

HuusHould

Professional
but on the other side, what can he do to keep Joker off balance? chip to his FH as an alternative to chipping to his BH?
perhaps Joker FH is not as weak as this forum describes it, hence Fed decided that it is better to stay on the baseline.
I think its purely a matter of improving execution of the tactic as there is not a lot else you can do tactically with the sabr, other than keeping it low, central and deep (or short). A drop shot sabr maybe!!?
 

HuusHould

Professional
Continental grip, wait till server's toss goes up, move in as fast to the service line as possible
I started out with a conti grip trying to caress the fh, but found taking more of a full cut at the ball with either an eastern fh or bh (single hander) worked better for me. Obviously one of the hazards of the sabr is that you can get caught with the wrong grip, if it comes to the other wing, in which case I might only get as far as continental changing it back. (But with enough practice you can find the sweet spot on the conto grip fh drive) The faster serves Im more likely to use continental if I decide to use a volley/slight slice technique.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
I was toying with SABR returns agains weak second servers. It really felt that I needed effort and actively hit it to get decent ball back - not just blocky half-volley. Incoming balls were slow and sitting up, I was more likely to succeed with drop shot than a deep half-volley. Maybe I'm just not good enough.
I wasn't just talking about powderpuff second serves. When I said weak second serves, it was relative to their first service. Or to the second serve of a more advanced server.

Sure, a drop shot return from a SABR position could be very effective at some levels of play. But to use a SABR return at a higher or elite level would take some mad skills -- ability to read players, great hand-eye, stellar half-volley skills, etc.
 

Shaolin

G.O.A.T.
I started out with a conti grip trying to caress the fh, but found taking more of a full cut at the ball with either an eastern fh or bh (single hander) worked better for me. Obviously one of the hazards of the sabr is that you can get caught with the wrong grip, if it comes to the other wing, in which case I might only get as far as continental changing it back. (But with enough practice you can find the sweet spot on the conto grip fh drive) The faster serves Im more likely to use continental if I decide to use a volley/slight slice technique.
For me, committing to the continental grip for both fh and bh is everything. I just block it and come in on the fh, slice with backhand. When taking it that early you dont have to add a ton of pace, just blocking deep is usually enough.

It def takes getting used to though. I have a close to western grip on my fh so hitting a fh with a conti took some time to acclimate to.
 
I try chip-charge or take it early well inside and hit a very short return to draw the server in. All of this if the second serve of my opponent is weak enough to permit it. SABR is tough to execute because you have to run in a couple or more steps first and then punch the return. When you do that - as opposed to a slice return - you don't give yourself much time to get into a good position at the net, so I don't see the value of it in rec tennis unless you're really talented and athlete enough to pull it off.
 

HuusHould

Professional
You should start inside the baseline. And, when the server looks up to watch their toss, that is the time you want to quickly sneak in so that you are much closer to the service box. One of the best tactics is to put your SABR return at the feet of the server. They are often still recovering from their own serve motion, when the SABR return handcuffs them.
Good point about moving forward when they look up at the ball. Also going at the feet of the server. This means they have less time, are cramped, still off balance and have no angles to pass (or even lob - its a shorter diagonal from the centre) the incoming volleyer.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Good point about moving forward when they look up at the ball. Also going at the feet of the server. This means they have less time, are cramped, still off balance and have no angles to pass (or even lob - its a shorter diagonal from the centre) the incoming volleyer.
Most servers are looking up at their expected toss location a bit before they actually release the ball. Some will already be looking up as their tossing arm is just starting its upward movement. Jo Konta (after 0:26) is a good example of this. Many players will visualize their toss. They fix their gaze at the desired toss location, and then let their brain/arm put the ball there.

Roger Federer may very well visualize his toss, but he delays his upward look more than most servers. He is still looking at the returner immediately before he releases the ball. He starts to look up just as he is releasing the ball. This makes it more difficult for Nick Kyrgios (or anyone else) to get away with a SABR return against him.



 
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HuusHould

Professional
Roger Federer may very well visualize his toss, but he delays his upward look more than most servers. He is still looking at the returner immediately before he releases the ball. He starts to look up just as he is releasing the ball. This makes it more difficult for Nick Kyrgios (or anyone else) to get away with a SABR return against him.
Yeah, those shots clearly illustrate that he's late to look up. I play against some players who assume their position on the baseline prior to serving and that'll be the last time they look up. As soon as they know they've missed their first serve they'll go into their pre service ball bouncing routine and wont even see that you're still busy clearing their first ball that bounced back off the fence. Even when you call out "hang on" half the time they don't even hear you. I could duck off to the toilet during their pre serve routine and they wouldnt even notice
 

HuusHould

Professional
I have made it work a few times always by slicing with walking footwork
It's satisfying when you pull it off, especially when it's a winning volley. I think the wide serve is problematic when you premeditate a sabr (and they're all premeditated), especially if its deep and you're positioned too far forward/have too much forward momentum. When I get caught in this fashion I generally aim for the centre tag or as wide and deep as possible dtl, so as to either give them zero angle or me more time to get into position for the next ball.
 

HuusHould

Professional
I was considering trying to employ a "mid rally sabr" I think against players that hit heavy topspin loopys that sometimes land shortish and rear up at you. These players tend to not like to be rushed as they take relatively big cuts at the ball and the shape of their shots can allow you to get to the pitch of the ball.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Yeah, those shots clearly illustrate that he's late to look up. I play against some players who assume their position on the baseline prior to serving and that'll be the last time they look up. As soon as they know they've missed their first serve they'll go into their pre service ball bouncing routine and wont even see that you're still busy clearing their first ball that bounced back off the fence. Even when you call out "hang on" half the time they don't even hear you. I could duck off to the toilet during their pre serve routine and they wouldnt even notice
Yeah, I've come across that. When it happens, I'll sometimes used the opportunity to change my position w/o the server noticing it. I may show them one position if they see me set up. But I might change that position when they are no longer looking at me, even if it's not a major position shift, like it would be for a SABR.

Whenever I'm serving, I'll always look at the returner's position. I may use their position as a major factor in determining where I decide to place my serve. It may even affect my decision as to what type of serve I'm going to use.

Notice that, even tho Jo Konta looks up to her toss location very early, she still takes a last look at at her opponent, after her unique (exaggerated) serve bounce ritual, but before her tossing arm starts moving upward.

 
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