Sudden disappearance of Serve and Volley with Sampras.

leodevlin

Professional
I am not understanding how so abruptly the Serve and Volley game to an end.

It appears the Sampras generation was the last one to play this tactic and he had multiple fellow serve and volleyist as his rivals.

It is as if overnight with Fed's generation emerging ,the courts and balls got slowed down and the next generation decided not to play that way.

I am no historian but I feel there should have been a transition period of people playing serve and Volley failing to trigger a mass Exodus out of that style.

What am I missing ?
 

ibbi

G.O.A.T.
A perfect storm of...

1. larger racquet heads becoming more common.
2. magical strings.
3. infinitely better kept grass courts.
4. the disappearance of carpet courts.
5. the three sizes of balls depending on surface to homogenize the game.

The 5th was a decision literally made to create more baseline tennis, the rest just helped it along the way.
 

BeatlesFan

Bionic Poster
Surfaces were deliberately slowed down because supposedly fans wanted longer rallies. Wimbledon grass was slowed down in 2002, then the grass changed to a different type of grass which eliminated the lower bounce and by 2003, it was slower than ever. Strings also played a role because it became easier to pass an opponent at net.
 

leodevlin

Professional
I get that factors that led to the disappearance of it , I am puzzled by the speed at which it happened.

Younger players had no way of knowing that changes to court and ball speed was coming so there must have been a few who continued without success which as one poster said there were.
 
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leodevlin

Professional
There were several serve and volley players that came up after Becker, Sampras, Rafter, and Ivanisevic retired. Taylor Dent, Ivo Karlovic, Takao Suzuki, Feli Lopez, Radek Stepanek, and maybe Dustin Brown, but none of them could break through to the big titles.
Ok so there were some causalties:)

Good to know
 

kevin qmto

Hall of Fame
Ok so there were some causalties:)

Good to know
I was just saying it wasn’t a sudden dissapearence. There were players on the tour at the time playing almost exclusively serve and volley in the mid 2000s, they were just not at the top of the game and if they won any titles at all they were lower level ones.
 

gqnelly

Rookie
They adjusted the grass largely due to the change in the game. Luxilon strings came into the game in the late 90s with Gustavo Kuerten being the first to win with them (3 Frenchs). The power baseline game soon evolved and net play slowly became less of an advantage. The entire court used to get worn down when serve and volley was prevalent but the power baseline game really obliterated the backcourt soon after the start of the tournament. The grass change to ryegrass was largely due to this dynamic and the desire to increase its durability and water tolerance. I think some like to say that they wanted to slow down the servebots but it was really the technology that changed things more than any nefarious agenda to foil Pete Sampras.
 

Holmes

Hall of Fame
There were several serve and volley players that came up after Becker, Sampras, Rafter, and Ivanisevic retired. Taylor Dent, Ivo Karlovic, Takao Suzuki, Feli Lopez, Radek Stepanek, and maybe Dustin Brown, but none of them could break through to the big titles.
They just weren't good enough. To pull off serve and volley in any era requires extreme athleticism and coordination, an incredible serve (either of the Edberg/Rafter or Sampras/Becker variety) and ideally touch as well. Dent, Suzuki, Lopez and friends fulfilled some but not all of the requirements. With the slowing of the courts and balls, and the implementation of Luxilon and bigger rackets, Pete would be the only one winning majors. Maybe Becker if he had a great run.
 

PRS

Professional
I get that factors that led to the disappearance of it , I am puzzled by the speed at which it happened.

Younger players had no way of in morning that changes to court and ball speed was coming so there must have been a few who continued without success which as one poster said there were.
Younger players bring new technologies into the game. Players are slow to change to new technologies once they've gone pro. The young guns came up with poly strings and 100" head sizes (maybe started at 95-ish, not really sure) and therefore hadn't been doing serve and volley much. As soon as they began to break through, it was pretty much over for the serve and volley players.

Yeah, the technology was around for a little before, and that may have started the decline, but as soon as the young-guns who had been playing with those for a while, there was a shift.

Note: this is purely an idea/speculation. I could be way off, but it kinda makes sense to me without actually researching it before responding.
 
There absolutely was a transition era. Serve and volley was becoming rarer and rarer throughout the 1990s (and, I think, the 1980s, though I only started following tennis in 1987). Players still did it on grass, but it became rare to see it on outdoor hard courts. Becker and Sampras both played a fair amount from the baseline on hard courts - and even on carpet, as you can see if you watch their 1996 YEC match. And in women's tennis, almost nobody after Navratilova played serve and volley. Novotna on occasion, but by no means exclusively.

So, part of it is definitely the changed grass from the early 2000s, but only part of it. Serve and volley was becoming a thing of the past, anyway.
 

a10best

Legend
Dent left the game mainly due to chronic injuries early in his career. He was a beast and reached the 4th rds of W and USO and he still holds the fastest serve ever at Wimbledon of 148mph. He did beat some top 10 players. Not every s&v player will end up like Rafter or Pete.
 
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NatF

Bionic Poster
During the 2000 Queens final between Hewitt and Sampras, Pat Cash was already talking about the death of S&V. The truth is the process had started in the 90's.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
Sampras retired, Federer had no incentive to keep serving and volleying when courts continued to slow in the mid 00s and he became a baseline savant, and everyone else sucks at playing real tennis. Seems pretty simple to me.
 

Backspin1183

Talk Tennis Guru
With the kind of racquets we have today, just serving and volleying wouldn't work at elite level. Try it at your local club today if you don't believe.
 

jackson vile

G.O.A.T.
It wasn't so much the volleying as the serving. Wimbledon fans complained after seeing so many serve-fests between Sampras and Ivanisevic with consequently little in the way of actual play. That is the main reason Wimbledon decided to slow the surface.
The surface was never slowed, that’s not even possible, but the balls were changed for all courts and still are.

Too many people here don’t even understand why S&V was a thing at Wim, the surface was insanely uneven making the ball bounce erratically, hence the reason they did their best to stay away from a ground game as the ball became far too unpredictable.

Who came up with this nonsense of slower courts, they need to be held responsible for this disinformation!
 

Mustard

Bionic Poster
The main change was the strings, from 100% gut to either 100% poly or a poly-gut mixture, a process that was gradual from about 1997-2005. Poly strings enable more topspin with any given shot, meaning that it is easier and more reliable to both return serves and to rally with more power, depth and authority from the baseline. With gut strings, it had been harder to do that, meaning more unforced errors, and would encourage players on faster surfaces to come to the net to finish off points quicker. With poly strings, players are able to rally more reliably without hitting unforced errors, so it forces the other player back and discourages serve and volley play.

If you want more serve and volleying, you need to make it harder for players to reliably rally from the baseline with power, depth and authority. The modern racquets and strings do the opposite, and make rallying from the baseline easier.
 

Mustard

Bionic Poster
During the 2000 Queens final between Hewitt and Sampras, Pat Cash was already talking about the death of S&V. The truth is the process had started in the 90's.
In the traditional 1990s sense, you'd expect Sampras, Ivanisevic, Edberg, Becker, Stich, Krajicek types to do the best on grass, because of the big serving and looking to end points early. Hewitt types shouldn't really have a hope in that regard, but Agassi did win Wimbledon in 1992 from the baseline so it wasn't impossible.

If that 1990s tradition had carried on, 21st century grass-court tennis at Wimbledon should be about Roddick, Dent, Philippoussis, Isner, Karlovic, Raonic types as serious threats and likely candidates to win Wimbledon. Players like Hewitt and Nadal would need hotter, drier weather to help them out, causing higher bouncing.
 

Rosstour

G.O.A.T.
I am not understanding how so abruptly the Serve and Volley game to an end.

It appears the Sampras generation was the last one to play this tactic and he had multiple fellow serve and volleyist as his rivals.

It is as if overnight with Fed's generation emerging ,the courts and balls got slowed down and the next generation decided not to play that way.

I am no historian but I feel there should have been a transition period of people playing serve and Volley failing to trigger a mass Exodus out of that style.

What am I missing ?

That's exactly what happened

Courts were slowed down to lengthen points and rekindle interest in the game

Sampras vs Scud vs Rusedski et al matches were so boring, every point was so short and no suspense was built up
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
There were several serve and volley players that came up after Becker, Sampras, Rafter, and Ivanisevic retired. Taylor Dent, Ivo Karlovic, Takao Suzuki, Feli Lopez, Radek Stepanek, and maybe Dustin Brown, but none of them could break through to the big titles.
Don’t forget Llodra

Last of the true serve and volley players IMO, was a sad day when he retired
 

a10best

Legend
That's exactly what happened

Courts were slowed down to lengthen points and rekindle interest in the game

Sampras vs Scud vs Rusedski et al matches were so boring, every point was so short and no suspense was built up
Yes, those matchups were boring while Sampras vs Rafter or Goran were entertaining.
With S&V at least you get to see some crisp angled volleys, touch volleys, overheads and crowd ooooohhhs when one player retrieves a supposed winning volley.

You can't tell me there's waves of suspense and interest with a Murray, Djokovic, Medvedev/Zev match. It's no wonder tennis interest has declined in the states and the middle-aged/elderly have become interested in quite possibly the least skilled paddle sport invented, pickelball. They like to volley not watch forever baseline rallies for 4-5 hours.

The only baseliners I like are Alcaraz, Sinner, and Rafa. I appreciate Djokovic but if he's not playing one of these guys it's a boring match.
 
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leodevlin

Professional
There absolutely was a transition era. Serve and volley was becoming rarer and rarer throughout the 1990s (and, I think, the 1980s, though I only started following tennis in 1987). Players still did it on grass, but it became rare to see it on outdoor hard courts. Becker and Sampras both played a fair amount from the baseline on hard courts - and even on carpet, as you can see if you watch their 1996 YEC match. And in women's tennis, almost nobody after Navratilova played serve and volley. Novotna on occasion, but by no means exclusively.

So, part of it is definitely the changed grass from the early 2000s, but only part of it. Serve and volley was becoming a thing of the past, anyway.
SO we have any stats as to how many S&V players we had in the 80s Vs the 90s?
 

travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
Surfaces were deliberately slowed down because supposedly fans wanted longer rallies. Wimbledon grass was slowed down in 2002, then the grass changed to a different type of grass which eliminated the lower bounce and by 2003, it was slower than ever. Strings also played a role because it became easier to pass an opponent at net.
I recall wimbledon also deliberately used slightly deflated balls at one point, in an effort to reduce serving advantage.
 

travlerajm

Talk Tennis Guru
I like to think that somewhere, at some point in the last decade, someone has stolen LeBron's cells and cloned him, and has been secretly training the growing clone to be the next great S&V hero.
 

Holmes

Hall of Fame
The surface was never slowed, that’s not even possible, but the balls were changed for all courts and still are.

Too many people here don’t even understand why S&V was a thing at Wim, the surface was insanely uneven making the ball bounce erratically, hence the reason they did their best to stay away from a ground game as the ball became far too unpredictable.

Who came up with this nonsense of slower courts, they need to be held responsible for this disinformation!
Blake, Roddick, and Federer have all said the courts slowed and homogenized. Very publicly and clearly without any doubt or interpretation involved.
 

socallefty

G.O.A.T.
Poly strings give you amazing spin and angles making passing shots way more effective and potent. So, it is safer to hit a big serve and then hit a great +1 groundstroke to take over the point for pros than to run to the net to hit a volley and risk being passed easily. The death of S/V tennis pretty much coincided with the ascent of players who grew up on poly who also seemed afraid to come to the net as they probably never developed great volleying skills playing against other juniors who hit great passes.

These days if a pro has time to get his poly strung racquet on the ball even on the full run, they hit a crazy angle pass more often than not. The extra spin and increased control also allows players to swing faster and hit harder while retaining pinpoint control - so, the passes not only have more angle/spin and dip, but more pace also. It was very hard to hit those kind of passes with gut strings and so the odds were not stacked so much in favor of the baseliner in the pre-poly days. Even in advanced rec tennis, you rarely see S/Vrs winning in singles a lot while it was fairly common before poly.
 

jackson vile

G.O.A.T.
Sampras retired, Federer had no incentive to keep serving and volleying when courts continued to slow in the mid 00s and he became a baseline savant, and everyone else sucks at playing real tennis. Seems pretty simple to me.
It’s total nonsense to claim that the courts were slowed down, the balls were changed and still are
Blake, Roddick, and Federer have all said the courts slowed and homogenized. Very publicly and clearly without any doubt or interpretation involved.


You think Wim and USO are as slow as the FO, really??? How would that even be possible?

Also, how would they know the difference if it was the court or the balls, when we know for a 100% fact the balls have changed a lot and often as it very publicly expressed and known

“Oftentimes, a lot of courts are blamed for being slower, when it’s the balls that have undergone the major changes and not the courts. A lighter, smaller ITF-approved Type 1 ball will always be faster through the air, while a heavier, bigger ITF-approved Type 3 ball will always be slower through the air. (note: the differences between a Type 3 and Type 1 are minute). There have even been cases where the usual Type 1 or Type 3 ball had had further modifications, one being the use of the lighter Type 1 Babolat balls at Roland Garros 2011. Also, if certain balls are wound tighter, they don’t fluff up so much, and tend to move faster through the air. If they fluff up often, they will take more drag, and slow down.”

“The short answer is yes - tennis balls very much matter. For example, in 2011, the French Open switched to Babolat from Dunlop and players claimed that the balls bounced higher and played faster. That was the last time Roger Federer made the final in Paris, and Paul Annacone - his coach at the time - said, “The baseliners were complaining because it was a very quick ball.” Players also criticize the balls they have to play with from time to time as Nadal did in Shanghai when he found the quality to be sub-par. Andy Murray was irate when he found a ball used for the WTA matches in the mix during his match at the Miami Open a couple of years ago.

After doing some research, it was clear that even though we are passionate tennis fans who played at a high level (and can discern the difference in feel between Babolat and Slazenger balls, for instance) there was a lot we didn’t knowabout a major element of the game. This article aims to illuminate the most interesting aspects of tennis balls: their evolution, specifications and implications for how the game is played.”




According to the article in the Independent, three types of standard ball were to be introduced in 2002:
“Ball type 1 (fast speed) is identical in size to the standard ball except it is manufactured with harder rubber.”

“Ball type 2 (medium speed) is the standard ball”
“Ball type 3 (slow speed) is six percent larger in diameter than the standard ball and tends to move slower in flight” All are the same weight as a standard ball.

The article says that the introduction of different balls was designed to slow down the power and speed of serves on hard courts, but speed up the game on slower surfaces such as clay. It was also claimed that the larger type three ball flies off the racquet at the same speed as a standard ball, but will slow down during flight to give the receiver about 10 percent more reaction time.”

American No 1 Taylor Fritz also weighed in with his focus on the balls which he feels make it harder to hit winners or get a reward for a good strike.

He tweeted: “For me the balls make the biggest difference in speed, some of the slow/soft balls make the conditions so slow regardless of court speed… Lots of times with those balls it just doesn’t feel like tennis, there’s never a reward for taking a chance on an aggressive shot.”


“It is funny that balls are not spoken about, but they have a massive impact on a tournament and a player,” says David Taylor, coach of former U.S. Open Champion Sam Stosur. “Some find it very difficult [to adapt to changes from tournament to tournament.] The first thing we do when we get to the tournament is work out what tension [the racket] will be with that ball.”

The difference in balls dictates racket tension, but also style of play. Taylor says the heaviest ball on tour is the Slazenger, used at Wimbledon since the early 1900s. “It is quite heavy so it gets large, especially if it gets a little moist,” he says. “The amount of fluff makes a massive difference.”

 
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Grafil Injection

Hall of Fame
Over a period of around 5 years at the end of the 90s into the 00s, both the grass mix at Wimbledon and Queens was changed, and the ball dimensions were altered. First they increased the rye to fescue ratio which makes the court more 'sticky', then a couple of years later they cut it 1mm longer for durability, then after a few more years they introduced slower balls which we all use today. It's all detailed in magazines from the day, for those who don't remember.
 

Olli Jokinen

Hall of Fame
Still remember those super boring indoor or grass games in the late 90's between guys like Stich, Sampras, Scud, Goran, Karjicek etc. 2-3 times across the net and done (often just serve winners). Hated it, almost stopped watching. Entertainment value was awful, happy they homogenized courts. I really enjoy today's game, and I'm an '80's tennis lover.
 

Crocodile

G.O.A.T.
I have a different view about the serve and volley game. Done to perfection, it’s a beautifully thought out geometric game with a very concise understanding of how to play tennis with precision.
Yes the advent of more powerful racquets and larger heads made the serve more dominant in the men’s game and that’s why the ITF went on the mission to slow things down:
The addition of polyester strings also made it harder for the serve volley player to deal with sharper trajectory returns.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
In the traditional 1990s sense, you'd expect Sampras, Ivanisevic, Edberg, Becker, Stich, Krajicek types to do the best on grass, because of the big serving and looking to end points early. Hewitt types shouldn't really have a hope in that regard, but Agassi did win Wimbledon in 1992 from the baseline so it wasn't impossible.

If that 1990s tradition had carried on, 21st century grass-court tennis at Wimbledon should be about Roddick, Dent, Philippoussis, Isner, Karlovic, Raonic types as serious threats and likely candidates to win Wimbledon. Players like Hewitt and Nadal would need hotter, drier weather to help them out, causing higher bouncing.
I'm not sure coming in behind every second serve was every truly optimal, even in the pre-00 conditions. Even Sampras with his second serve was under 53% of second serve points won from 1993-2000. I reckon it would have been a bit higher even he stayed back a little more.
 
Surfaces were deliberately slowed down because supposedly fans wanted longer rallies. Wimbledon grass was slowed down in 2002, then the grass changed to a different type of grass which eliminated the lower bounce and by 2003, it was slower than ever. Strings also played a role because it became easier to pass an opponent at net.
Grass was already changed in 2001, but due to wet weather the courts played quick nevertheless.
 

heavyD

Semi-Pro
I was not personally a fan of the serve and volley days a lot of those Wimbledon matches would turn into glorified table tennis with very few rallies. Now we have gone a little too far in the other direction to the point where I enjoy the novelty of seeing a guy like Cressy play serve and volley. Still I think today's tennis is better as there is at least some variety with drop shots and volleying at strategic moments. One of the reasons that I was always an Agassi guy over Sampras was how boring Pete's matches could be as his serve could be so brutally effective. Edberg was probably the most classic serve and volley player after McEnroe but he lacked McEnroe's flair and wasn't particularly exciting. I don't think there's anything wrong with a player having a serve that's a big weapon but when their sole ability to win matches revolves around it, chances are a lot of their matches are not going to make for a great viewing spectacle and to me there were too many guys in that generation that overly leaned on their serve to win points as quickly as possible to not expose the rest of their game.
 
I am not understanding how so abruptly the Serve and Volley game to an end.

It appears the Sampras generation was the last one to play this tactic and he had multiple fellow serve and volleyist as his rivals.

It is as if overnight with Fed's generation emerging ,the courts and balls got slowed down and the next generation decided not to play that way.

I am no historian but I feel there should have been a transition period of people playing serve and Volley failing to trigger a mass Exodus out of that style.

What am I missing ?
It’s not too surprising with the control and power the new strings and rackets gave the returner. Everyone saw what baby Hewitt was doing to King Sampras. Did Pete start declining? Yes. But the decline was in part due to new racket tech that allowed for players to control and generate pace without needing as much racket talent and/or having “great hands.” Everyone knew that there was a new era coming as they saw a teenage Hewitt do to Sampras what had never been done before.

Lleyton Hewitt, a player who is derided by Nadal and Djokovic fans, was absolutely destroying Sampras because Sampras couldn’t serve him off the court.

In 1998, a 17 year old Hewitt breaks Sampras twice on a fastish New Haven court but loses

In 1999, an 18 year old Hewitt plays a Sampras who is playing extremely well on grass though has a difficult time on return.

In 2000, a 19 year old Hewitt straight sets Sampras in the Queen’s Club final and breaks him 3 times in two sets. Sampras was serving with power but Hewitt was controlling that pace and passing Sampras left and right. Sampras only won 65% of his points on 1st serve. That was the third lowest % of first serve points he had ever won on grass (post 1990 when the ATP started posting offical stats).

In 2000 at the USO, Sampras played a brilliant match and made many, many great volleys.

At the 2000 TMC, Hewitt bagels Sampras and handles Sampras serve with ease on a fastish surface.

In the 2001 Queens Club final, Hewitt breaks Sampras 4 times. Sampras only won 63% of his points on 1st serve. That was the second lowest % of first serve points he had ever won on grass

Then you had the 2001 USO and 2002 Indian Wells massacres in which Sampras was getting passed left and right.
 

gqnelly

Rookie
Pete was really the last of his era and the game evolved over time. Racquets and strings allowed players to swing more aggressively on baseline shots and you could pass your net charging opponent more easily or hit a lob over their head with access to more spin. It really was that synthetic strings combined with wide beam racquets that allowed you to hit EVERY SHOT as hard as you wanted to...which opened up a world of options. You could force more mistakes or win the battle of court position from the baseline without taking a lot of risk...you could hit angles previously unheard of...and hit HARDER which made the ball jump up against one handed backhands. Technology and Synthetic strings also all but made the one handed backhand extinct....
 
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JasonZ

Hall of Fame
I am not understanding how so abruptly the Serve and Volley game to an end.

It appears the Sampras generation was the last one to play this tactic and he had multiple fellow serve and volleyist as his rivals.

It is as if overnight with Fed's generation emerging ,the courts and balls got slowed down and the next generation decided not to play that way.

I am no historian but I feel there should have been a transition period of people playing serve and Volley failing to trigger a mass Exodus out of that style.

What am I missing ?
sampras, rafter, ivanisevic, krajicek were the last really great serve and volley players (some more serve than volley :)), all nearly same age, all declined and retired nearly same time. becker, stich and edberg retired and declined years before that.

henman and philippoussis played longer but then that was it. cant say if it was racket technology or court homogenisation or the more and more popular 2 handed backhand (probably/maybe better passing and return from the hewitts and safins) or all of those factors or also another factor, but it was a pity that serve and volley nearly completely disappeared.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
It’s not too surprising with the control and power the new strings and rackets gave the returner. Everyone saw what baby Hewitt was doing to King Sampras. Did Pete start declining? Yes. But the decline was in part due to new racket tech that allowed for players to control and generate pace without needing as much racket talent and/or having “great hands.” Everyone knew that there was a new era coming as they saw a teenage Hewitt do to Sampras what had never been done before.

Lleyton Hewitt, a player who is derided by Nadal and Djokovic fans, was absolutely destroying Sampras because Sampras couldn’t serve him off the court.

In 1998, a 17 year old Hewitt breaks Sampras twice on a fastish New Haven court but loses

In 1999, an 18 year old Hewitt plays a Sampras who is playing extremely well on grass though has a difficult time on return.

In 2000, a 19 year old Hewitt straight sets Sampras in the Queen’s Club final and breaks him 3 times in two sets. Sampras was serving with power but Hewitt was controlling that pace and passing Sampras left and right. Sampras only won 65% of his points on 1st serve. That was the third lowest % of first serve points he had ever won on grass (post 1990 when the ATP started posting offical stats).

In 2000 at the USO, Sampras played a brilliant match and made many, many great volleys.

At the 2000 TMC, Hewitt bagels Sampras and handles Sampras serve with ease on a fastish surface.

In the 2001 Queens Club final, Hewitt breaks Sampras 4 times. Sampras only won 63% of his points on 1st serve. That was the second lowest % of first serve points he had ever won on grass

Then you had the 2001 USO and 2002 Indian Wells massacres in which Sampras was getting passed left and right.
Hewitt actually didn't switch to poly until 2004. He was beating Pete with gut.
 
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