The Six Playing Styles Described

#1
There have been numerous threads addressing different playing styles. But they’ve pitted one style against another ... or deeply analyzed a particular style. Here, we’re going to define all the different styles of play in one location. (At least that’s my goal.)

1 - Define and categorize the styles of play.
2 - Identify some Pros who exemplify the styles in question.
3 - Be prepared to defend your opinion with some logic.

Let’s see if we can arrive at some level of agreement ... and keep the flaming to a minimum.

- KK
 
#2
I’ve put a lot of thought into this. Here’s my best shot at this -- garnered from over thirty years of playing, teaching and coaching tennis. Tell me what you think.

I describe the styles of play with Major Categories ... and Subcategories. Some of these groupings may surprise you, but please read through it before you fight me. Of course, I’m open to different views ... so long as you can support them.

<Edit> I am removing the examples of Pro Players from my descriptions. I agree with those who have suggested this creates confusion, rather than clarity. (Look at Roddick: When I made this guide he played quite differently than he has the last two years. He's just one example of a Pro NOT being a "pure" example of a style anymore....) </Edit>

My Major Categories of Playing Style are:

1 - Attack the Net
2 - Baseline
3 - Counter Punching
4 - Junk-Ball
5 - All Court
6 - Pusher

1 - Attack the Net should be pretty self-explanatory. This player constantly presses, probes and exploits the slightest weaknesses they uncover. They push forward and try to finish the large majority of their points with winning volleys. They relentlessly pressure you to try and come up with your best passing shots or lobs. They put you on “constant defense.”

What I expect might ruffle some feathers is how I consider S&V to be a subcategory of Attack the Net. The more I thought about it, the more I like this manner of codifying the styles. (I’ve observed many players who S&V ... on “offense”. But when Receiving, they are baseliners. Maybe they lack confidence in their Returns, so the attacker becomes a more patient Baseliner....)

1 a. - Serve & Volley

1 b. - Chip & Charger

1 a & b ^^^ “ought” to be self-explanatory. If they are not, let’s get more detailed.

2 - Baseline is the most prevalent broad category of choice for the last 15 years. Almost all the WTA players are in this category -- as are most of the ATP’s clay courters and even several ATP pros preferring hard courts. These players stalk the baseline and rarely *choose* to come to net.

2 a. - Blasters, as Baseliners, may have a big serve and a big forehand ... or just a reliable serve with big ground strokes. Blasters pound the ball into the corners ... down the line ... inside out. They jerk you from one side to the other putting you in the position of constantly being on the defensive. Any ball is fair game for them to “go for broke.” Most points against Blasters are over in less than ten shots; usually from the Blaster’s winner ... or unforced error.

2 b. - Machine Baseliners are the steadiest opponents you’ll ever meet. They may not have any single stroke which is their “big weapon,” but they relentlessly hit with pace ... running you from one side to the other ... sometimes even prolonging the points to wear you down in the end. They don’t seem to miss. They don’t seem to tire. They demoralize you with their stamina.

2 c. - Soft-Baller Baseliners are tireless players with excellent footwork and anticipation. They always seem to be where they need to be to cut down your angles of attack. You cannot get them to engage you in a power exchange. They seem to absorb all the power of your shots and redirect it with good deep placement, but they won’t give you any pace to work with. You must always supply your own power. This player exhausts you ... physically and mentally.

2 d. - Retriever Baseliners are quick and tireless. He believes he can get any ball back and becomes a “human backboard.” They rely on your misses, rather than any one “money shot” of their own. Their strength is that while retrieving, they keep you pinned to your own baseline. They have good depth and uniformly good pace on their strokes. They just don’t seem to work the corners or angles the way most baseliners do. If you are playing the baseline game yourself, you are in for a long day against the Retriever.

This style rarely exists beyond the club level. In my area, most of the top HS Girls -- and many JV Boys -- play this “war of attrition” style.

3 - Counter Punching players are always looking for the opportunity to *instantly* switch from safe defensive tennis ... to ripping winners. They can “change gears” with a single shot. Their passing shots are “thread the needle” accurate against those playing Attack the Net. Their drop-shots and lobs are deadly. Counter Punchers can detect and exploit the baseliners’ inadvertent openings ... and end the point with one “high risk” down-the-line winner ... or fool you with a short-angle inside-out forehand winner.

Opponents playing both Attack the Net and Baseline tennis are fooled into thinking “He can’t keep that up the whole match.” When do these opponents realize their error? Unfortunately, when -- befuddled -- they are shaking hands at the net and congratulating the Counter Puncher on a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

4 - Junk Ball players can drive the “purists” among us into the Nut House. These players never allow you to get into a rhythm. They vary the height, depth, angles and quantity of spin so much your “strokes” fall apart ... right after your brain explodes. Junk Ballers seem never to be out of breath and play high-percentage tennis when it comes to “court position.” When you do manage to get them on the run, you learn they are also very quick on their feet.

4 a. - Spin Doctor players are the highest developed of the Junk Ballers. They stroke the ball with pace (when they wish) but also with crazy slices, side spins, topspins and some spins we don’t yet have names for. Spin Doctors keep you off-balance, wrong footed and clumsily compensating for their shots by altering your own strokes. They are serious threats to both players who Attack the Net and Baseliners.

Most players would rather have a root canal than play these guys. Their tennis seems as much “psychological warfare” as it is “real tennis” competition. While Spin Doctors’ opponents frequently “lose their cool” during matches, the Doctors themselves tend to be some of the most unflappable players you will encounter.

4 b. - Chop Shot-er Junk Ballers are found all over the Recreational and Club levels of tennis. These players have mastered the Chop Slice shot so well, they rarely bother hitting a flat or topspin shot. Chop Shot-ers can put their chopped slice deep, short, angled and lobbed. They are very good at “working the wind” with their chops and can run the 4.0 and below opponent into the ground with their accurate shooting.

Chop Shot-ers play very good “position” and rarely have to run for your silly attempts to blast them off the court. When you do succeed in running them, you sadly discover they are some of the quickest players afoot. They love it when you try to overpower them ... because they are masters at redirecting your power with their junk.

(A friend near the bottom of our ladder is 74 ... and proudly informs the 20- and 30-somethings on the ladder (after badly beating them) that the rest of us call him “Mr. Chop Shot.”)

5 - All Court players are able to adapt their games to give them the best advantage ... against any opponent’s style ... in any weather condition ... however and whenever needed. They can Soft-Ball the Baseline Blaster. They can Attack the Net against the Junk Baller. They find what works best against the Counter Puncher that day and dismantle *that* game. The All Courter can blow some Baseline Machines off the court with an Attack the Net style. They can exhaust the Serve & Volleyer with Counter Punching.

At the highest levels, the All Courter may choose to play directly into his opponent’s strength. (Bill Tilden was notorious for this tactic. When asked why he attacked the other guys’ strengths, his answer was, “That way, once I’ve broken him down, all he has to fall back on ... are his weaknesses.”)

All Courters tend to be able to change strategies and tactics “on a dime.” They may, within a set -- even within a point -- switch from one pattern to another. They can keep you off-balance ... and unhappy.

<See next post>

- KK
 
Last edited:
#3
6 - Pusher tennis players win by relying nearly exclusively on their opponent's unforced errors. They block, bunt or poke the ball with the goal of “just getting it back.” Pushers aim for just beyond the T in their opponent’s back court. This target gives them the largest margin for error.

They give you no power, no pace, no depth or placement. They just "get it back.” The strokes of the Pusher are never full and flowing. They have little ability to employ topspin. Any “passing shots” the Pusher hits are hardly intentional. (But they never act surprised when a shot of theirs becomes unreturnable.)

Pushers have unshakable psyches. Mind games and insults about their lack of “real” tennis ability have no effect on them. (They tell anyone in the Club about the times they beat the local High School “hero” in straight sets.) Pushers are completely aware that tennis competitors are not scored on “style”. They care only about the “W / L column.” Pushers are content with the fact that they will never be at the top of the 4.0 ladder; they know most Club payers don’t advance beyond 3.5 ... and since they are in the upper third of the 3.5 ladder, they are content.

Pushers are some of the friendliest and most outgoing members of the Club. They are always willing to help fill-in to complete your doubles court (which usually elicits groans from the other two players on your court).

There are no pushers in the pro ranks. None. The Pusher tops out at the 4.0 level.

Believe-it-or-not, I distinguish two types of Pushers....

6 a. - Soft-Ballers, as Pushers, have excellent court sense. They never seem to be out of position. Your efforts at blasting winners come floating back to land just beyond your service line. This Soft-Baller may be athletic from success in another sport, such as basketball, football or baseball. They may not have pretty strokes, but they know where to position themselves to give you the least likely angles of success. When you are begrudgingly shaking hands with them after they’ve embarrassed you again, you usually notice they are hardly even sweating ... which only “adds insult to injury.”

6 b. - Retrievers, as Pushers, move around the court like water bugs, getting to your best “winners” and floating them back again. Their foot speed is remarkable and they seem never to tire. Your frustration at not being able to hit winners against the Pusher Retriever only seems to refill their tank” for more.

They even have the temerity to smile throughout this match which is ripping your guts out. You try hitting even bigger winners -- or “wiping that smile off their face” with your display of power -- and they *love* this in you. They delight in watching your mind disintegrate as your very best shots just keep on coming back.

Back in the Clubhouse, they really “twist the knife” by offering to buy the beer with that SAME SICKENINGLY PLEASANT SMILE ON THEIR ROTTEN FACE!!! The Pusher Retriever makes you seriously think about taking up some other sport from which you will gain more fulfillment. Something like ... catching javelins for the Track Club. Sheesh!!!

- KK
 
#4
Kaptain Karl said:
1 a. - Serve & Volley

1 b. - Chip & Charger

1 a & b ^^^ “ought” to be self-explanatory. If they are not, let’s get more detailed.

Pro Examples of Attack the Net: Martina Navratilova, Tim Henman. [I don’t see Dent as a “pure” Attack the Net type because he spends a significant portion of his Receiving time as a baseliner.]

- KK
I agree that SV tennis has the 2 variants for returning serve. Resedski would be the prototype all attacker since he does not have the ability to hit return of serve winners. Edberg and McEnroe also fit this category. A player like Dent can blast return winners so he prefers to stay back rather than chip/charge. This was the style for the majority of the old school champions like Budge, Vines and Kramer.
 

arnz

Professional
#5
Very interesting reading, thanks for that. I've faced several of those pushers that you've mentioned, one of those guys was in his late 50's, retired, and yet running around the court like a madman!! The other must be in his 60's, and brought his younger girlfriend to watch our match!:mrgreen:

I almost always have more fun in those matches than when I play with the baseline power players where we just match each others power to see who can hit harder.

I think you are right that pushers who slice and lob can't pass higher than a 4.0. A person rated 4.5 and above will just have too many weapons and have enough consistency for the pusher to have any effectiveness
 
#6
Agassi went from your "Blaster" to sort of "Machine Baseliner".

I wouldn't really call him a machine though, he still has just as much power as he used to, he just doesn't end the point immediately.
 

dmastous

Professional
#7
Chip and Charger examples; Paul Annacone & Pam Shriver. Neither had much a baseline game, so they came in on everything.
Serve/Volley; there are many in this catagory, Becker (though he fancied him self a basline basher at times and it go him in trouble) & Tim Mayotte are two more.
As for the Baseliners there are too many to count.
I would use Micheal Chang as a baseline retriever, but wanted to be more a counter puncher. Miloslav Mecir was also a retriever.
Were would you catagorize Kimiko Date? She was something of a retriever, but hit flat pinpoint winners that constantly surprized her opponents.
 
#8
Nice work!

Kaptain Karl said:
I... Pro examples: I cannot think of any WTA players. Fabrice Santoro is a “model” of the Spin Doctor.
Patty Schnyder and Conchita Martinez, at times.

Pro examples of All Court players: Justine Henin-Hardenne is the closest WTA player I can think of.
Mauresmo, too.
 
#9
From the USTA Newsletter for Coaches, there are four playing styles:

Style Example

Counterpunchers Guillermo Coria
Agressive Baseliners Serena Williams
All-Court Players Justine Henin-Hardenne
Serve and Volleyers/Net Rushers Tim Henman
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
#10
Very nice job KK,

You beat me to the punch, I was about to post the game-styles as described in "Serious Tennis" when I saw this thread. (I knew I should have checked w/ you first).

LoveThisGame said:
From the USTA Newsletter for Coaches, there are four playing styles:

Style Example

Counterpunchers Guillermo Coria
Agressive Baseliners Serena Williams
All-Court Players Justine Henin-Hardenne
Serve and Volleyers/Net Rushers Tim Henman
These are much broader definitions. Here's how "Serious Tennis" breaks game-styles down:

1. All Courters (Federer, early Sampras, Hingis)

2. Attackers
2a) Big-Serve Attackers (Ivanisevic, Flipper, Roddick)
2b) Net Crushers (s&v/c&c) (Edberg, Navratilova, Rafter, later Sampras)

3. Attacking Baseliners
3a) Big-Forehand Baseliners (Lendl, Graf, early Agassi)
3b) Heavy Topspin Baseliners (Nadal, Mauresmo)
3c) Pure Ball-Strikers (Connors, Evert, Kafelnikov, Davenport, Pierce, later Agassi, Safin, Sharapova)

4. Defensive Baseliners
4a) Counterpunching Baseliners (Hewitt, Chang)
4b) Junkballers (Brasch, Santoro)
4c) Moonballers
*Doesn't exist on the pro-level as per the author.
 

dmastous

Professional
#12
Kaptain Karl said:
dmastous - I was trying to stick more with players who are still current. But you're right about how you classed those folk.

- KK
You will find it hard to find example of either classic serve/volley types in todays game and almost impossible to find chip/chargers in today's game.
Watch a Wimbledon match from pre 2000 and one post and watch the grass wear out on the baseline instead of the service "T".
 
#13
Kaptain Karl said:
6 - PusherBack in the Clubhouse, they really “twist the knife” by offering to buy the beer with that SAME SICKENINGLY PLEASANT SMILE ON THEIR ROTTEN FACE!!! The Pusher Retriever makes you seriously think about taking up some other sport from which you will gain more fulfillment. Something like ... catching javelins for the Track Club. Sheesh!!!

- KK
Man, you hit it right on the money with this one man. The Pusher Retriever is usually very passive agressive. They feed off your anger and negative energy, delighting in your mental anguish. After the match, they are always so friendly too! lol
 
#14
Kaptain Karl said:
Yeah. I like Rusedski and Edberg for that model. Good ones.

I'd argue Mac was some sort of "type" of All Courter. He could play lots of ways. (But he *mostly* played Attack the Net.)

Cool! This falls into the "You learn something every day if you're not careful" category. I never knew *what* Dent was thinking on his Returns. (Frankly, he'd better work on that. His "blast" Return isn't that good, IMO.)

Thanks for the input, joe.

- KK
Greats posts KK !
Thanks for adding Rafter, he was about my favorite attackng all out SV game, along with Edberg.
Your correct that Dent is not playing smart enough.
He has had top training from all the aussie friends of his father Phil and the potential is scarry. Would love to really see him revive that style and effectiveness of some of those boys !
 
#15
1. Serve and volleyer (this also includes chip and charge, and Attacking Style of Play).

2. All court player. (a player who can serve and volley, play from the baseline, passing shots, and also attack the net behind approach shots).

3. Aggressive Baseliner (like Agassi who can pound the balls from the baseline and put any ball away for winner that lands short either in the mid-court, in the right zone, or in the left zone).

4. Defensive Baseliner: Who simply returns the ball via a topspin; does not go for winners, no approach shots, no net).

5. Counter-Puncher: (Chang, Hewitt). He thrives on someone else's pace. He can approach and volley if he so pleases!

Every thing else is included in the above.
 
#16
dmastous said:
Watch a Wimbledon match from pre-2000 and one post- and watch the grass wear out on the baseline instead of the service "T".
Yeah. I see that and wonder, "What's wrong with those people???"

Everything seems to go in cycles. Serve & Volley will be back ... at least at Wimby....

- KK
 
#17
Mahboob - You and I are probably of the same "tennis era." (I'm 49.) The more I thought about the classifications you describe -- and to which I used to, also -- the more I realized how today's players simply don't *see* the "included ins" that we were accustomed to.

Mahboob Khan said:
1. Serve and volleyer (this also includes chip and charge, and Attacking Style of Play).
But this really doesn't describe the (very common) player who ... when Serving, plays S&V ... but when Receiving, plays Baseline.

3. Aggressive Baseliner (like Agassi who can pound the balls from the baseline and put any ball away for winner that lands short either in the mid-court, in the right zone, or in the left zone).

4. Defensive Baseliner: Who simply returns the ball via a topspin; does not go for winners, no approach shots, no net).
There are too many variations on the Baseline game today. These, which served us so well in the '70s, are inadequate.

But as stated in my OP -- reasonable minds can differ. I'm not insisting everyone conform to my classifications.

- KK
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
#19
dmastous said:
Chip and Charger examples; Paul Annacone & Pam Shriver. Neither had much a baseline game, so they came in on everything.
Serve/Volley; there are many in this catagory, Becker (though he fancied him self a basline basher at times and it go him in trouble) & Tim Mayotte are two more.
Good examples on Annacone and Shriver.

dmastous said:
I would use Micheal Chang as a baseline retriever, but wanted to be more a counter puncher. Miloslav Mecir was also a retriever.
Mecir is another. I would add Amanda Coetzer.

dmastous said:
Were would you catagorize Kimiko Date? She was something of a retriever, but hit flat pinpoint winners that constantly surprized her opponents.
Personally I would categorize Date as a counter-puncher.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
#20
I would opt to breakdown Attacking or Offensive vs. Defensive baseliners and then add the subs under those headings. I also think the sub-category, Heavy Topspin Baseliner needs to be added and perhaps to each. I feel that a Borg and now Nadal hit the ball so uniquely that it deserves its own label. While generally recognized as a devout defensive hitting-style, Borg and Nadal, raise it to a different level and in doing so present such a dilemna for opponents that it morphs into another attacking baseline sub-category. I recall Borg opponent's describing the experience of playing against his high bounding shots from the baseline as "feeling like I was combing my hair for two hours". I see Nadal presenting a very similar problem for the current crop. I also view this quasi-offensive baseline style as so different than the pure ball-striker (Agassi, Davenport) and big fh attackers (Lendl, Graf) that it qualifies as it's own thing.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
#21
Hybrid Game Styles?

I would suggest that rather than creating some sub-categories in some game-styles categories, it might be easier to identify certain players as employing 2 or 3 sub-categories in their games. Not enough to qualify as "true" all-court players but enough so that you can comfortably identify how the play.

For example, as dmastous correctly suggested, Annacone and Shriver (I might add Cash) would be classified: s & v/c & c

Edberg, McEnroe, Henman: s & v/net attacker
Rafter: s & v/net attacker/retriever
Sampras*: big server/s & v/net attacker/big fh baseliner

Federer: all-courter

*Federer has caused me to re-think Sampras as a pure all-courter. Sampras was never willing to play defense and retrieve like Federer or Rafter and almost never drew opponents forward with short balls or drop-shots as Fed does regularly. While Sampras was more all-court than his contemporaries and predecessors, Federer simply utilizes more elements in his game than Pete did.

The same can be done with the other offensive and defensive baseline styles where a player combines elements.
 
#23
I think the reason definitions and categories are breaking down in this discussion is simply because many of these distinctions simply don't apply, any more. Maybe they're simply not descriptive enough. Someone's game is only partly defined by where they stand on the court. There's also:

1) shot tolerance
2) degree of aggression
3) reliance on instinct vs. reliance on active brainpower
4) etc.

For example, you could simply describe Coria and Gaudio as clay courters, but one gets by on fitness and attitude and a whole lot of moxie while the other does it on talent and hot streaks and pouts the rest of the time. The techincal details are probably the least interesting parts of that discussion, comparatively.
 
#24
FiveO said:
I would suggest that rather than creating some sub-categories in some game-styles categories, it might be easier to identify certain players as employing 2 or 3 sub-categories in their games. Not enough to qualify as "true" all-court players but enough so that you can comfortably identify how they play.
This idea is growing on me, but let me be sure I understand your ... coding.

Are you suggesting that since players usually have a *primary* style ... accompanied by differing "supportive" styles ... we could actually code their styles accordingly? (If so, Sampras is the perfect choice for this -- as I agree with you, he doesn't "fit" the (too commonly afixed) label "All Courter.") To decipher your coding of Sampras' game...

Sampras: big server/s & v/net attacker... This describes Pete's primary style. But he also employed the big fh baseliner tactics ... on a secondary level.

Is this what you meant?

I also agree with all of the following....
Federer: All-Courter

Federer has caused me to re-think Sampras as a pure all-courter. Sampras was never willing to play defense and retrieve like Federer or Rafter and almost never drew opponents forward with short balls or drop-shots as Fed does regularly. While Sampras was more all-court than his contemporaries and predecessors, Federer simply utilizes more elements in his game than Pete did.

Yes. Federer is the "model" of the All Courter, IMO.

The same can be done with the other offensive and defensive baseline styles where a player combines elements.
Agreed ... I think. Do I accurately grasp your intent, above?

And, friends, I'd really like to keep this to current players. Of course we "old timers" can easily categorize Borg, Smith, Newk, Evert, King, etc. ... but if this methodology is to become useful, it must appeal and apply to the "modern" styles of play.

- KK
 
#25
ohplease said:
... For example, you could simply describe Coria and Gaudio as clay courters, but one gets by on fitness and attitude and a whole lot of moxie while the other does it on talent and hot streaks and pouts the rest of the time. The techincal details are probably the least interesting parts of that discussion, comparatively.
Can you elaborate on this? I don't think their temperaments have more influence than their tactics.

Actually, I don't know how you can separate one's temperment from their functional style. (And this whole Temperament / Style / Interests thing actually IS what I do for a living....)

- KK
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
#26
Kaptain Karl said:
This idea is growing on me, but let me be sure I understand your ... coding.

Are you suggesting that since players usually have a *primary* style ... accompanied by differing "supportive" styles ... we could actually code their styles accordingly? (If so, Sampras is the perfect choice for this -- as I agree with you, he doesn't "fit" the (too commonly afixed) label "All Courter.") To decipher your coding of Sampras' game...

Sampras: big server/s & v/net attacker... This describes Pete's primary style. But he also employed the big fh baseliner tactics ... on a secondary level.

Is this what you meant?

I also agree with all of the following....
Federer: All-Courter

Federer has caused me to re-think Sampras as a pure all-courter. Sampras was never willing to play defense and retrieve like Federer or Rafter and almost never drew opponents forward with short balls or drop-shots as Fed does regularly. While Sampras was more all-court than his contemporaries and predecessors, Federer simply utilizes more elements in his game than Pete did.

Yes. Federer is the "model" of the All Courter, IMO.

Agreed ... I think. Do I accurately grasp your intent, above?

And, friends, I'd really like to keep this to current players. Of course we "old timers" can easily categorize Borg, Smith, Newk, Evert, King, etc. ... but if this methodology is to become useful, it must appeal and apply to the "modern" styles of play.

- KK
Exactly my friend.
 
#27
Kaptain Karl said:
Can you elaborate on this? I don't think their temperaments have more influence than their tactics.

Actually, I don't know how you can separate one's temperment from their functional style. (And this whole Temperament / Style / Interests thing actually IS what I do for a living....)

- KK
I don't think it's a matter of more or less influence so much as it's a matter of accuracy.

In fact, I think this whole exercise would do better with multivariable categorization, in the style of let's say Meyers-Brigg:

1) Where do they prefer to win their points? Baseline or net?
2) Do they take points, or do they collect donations (plenty of net rushers win on pressure, for example)
3) Does their body type match their ideal style of play (ie. Lindsey Davenport: no)
4) Can they adjust game plans midmatch? Do they even have a game plan? Do they make their living on instinct? (Wilander? Gonzo? Rios?)
5) Can they grind?
6) Etc.

I bet we could think of AT LEAST 5-10 more variable just off the top of our heads.

So does it work? Let's just take the variables above, and choose the last option for each: Net rusher, collecting donations, non-ideal body type for S&V, living on instinct, probably doesn't grind out matches. That description makes me think of Leander Paes.

Traditional anti-S&V dogma may or may not work against Paes. Knowing he doesn't like to grind, or is just a touch too short or short of reach at net, making him think about it - all that stuff would be at least as effective as the good old mindless, boring, return to his feet stand by.

How about picking all the first options? Baseliner, wins points, body type better for roaming the backcourt, can adjust plans midmatch, will grind if they need to. Sounds like a tough customer, but there's still a ton of difference between Wilander, Chang, Ginepri, Agassi, etc., which tells me there are other things we're still not considering.

You said it yourself, simply describing someone as a "baseliner" gets you Conchita Martinez, Andre Agassi, and every possible combination in between. You don't want just a hierarchy of categories and subcategories - you want a matrix.
 

dmastous

Professional
#28
Kaptain Karl said:
And, friends, I'd really like to keep this to current players. Of course we "old timers" can easily categorize Borg, Smith, Newk, Evert, King, etc. ... but if this methodology is to become useful, it must appeal and apply to the "modern" styles of play.
- KK
IMHO most of todays game has funneled itself into a very small variety of play. They have taken Conners attacking groundstroking play and applied topspin to it. Then they took the commentators comment, "why doesn't he come in off some of those penetrating groudstrokes?" and taken it to heart. Thus the All Court style of play. Mostly baseline, mostly topspin, penetrating groundies that hard courters will come in behind and finish off at the net. Clay courters just stay back and look for a chance to hit a winner. That seems to me to be the only two styles played by todays players.
Can any one come up with examples of modern players that don't play either one of these two styles?
Some will be more adventurous and hit harder, or more angles, some will be more loopy, but they all do the same thing. I think all of todays players would fall into the Baseline style then can be catagoriezed with in that style.
 
#29
ohplease - Okay. I understand your point, but I'm not going to help construct that matrix. It's TOO much work.

And it's too much *like* my work now. (BTW, I really wish you hadn't used the MBTI as the "for instance." IMO, it is the best marketed ... but least valid of ALL the available personality profiles.) Geez! That hurt.

- KK
 
#31
Kaptain Karl said:
ohplease - Okay. I understand your point, but I'm not going to help construct that matrix. It's TOO much work.

And it's too much *like* my work now. (BTW, I really wish you hadn't used the MBTI as the "for instance." IMO, it is the best marketed ... but least valid of ALL the available personality profiles.) Geez! That hurt.

- KK
KK, I'm not commenting on the validity of MBTI - it's simply the most accessible "for instance" to demonstrate my point.

Now, as far as validity of the matrix approach I proposed, so far your only knocks are 1) it's too much work and 2) it's too similar to your day job. I'd counter with the fact that it handles multiple category membership/delineation far, far better than any hierarchical or flat categorization ever could.

In fact, I don't even think it'd be that much work. You could probably get a workable matrix just on a few criteria. And I'd bet money most of those criteria would have more to do with mentality than technical issues.

As an aside - if a meaningful matrix would really be too much work - I guess the old saw about the game being ruined by a bunch of carbon copy baseliners isn't quite so accurate, now is it? There's plenty of texture even in an all academy matchup, you just have to know where to look.
 
#32
FiveO said:
2. Attackers
2a) Big-Serve Attackers (Ivanisevic, Flipper, Roddick)
2b) Net Crushers (s&v/c&c) (Edberg, Navratilova, Rafter, later Sampras)
I wouldn't put Goran in 2a). Ivanisevic followed almost every serve to finish with a volley, even c&c. He would be a Big-Serve-Net-Crusher, but he hadn't have the gentle volleys Edberg or Rafter had, but pretty effective anyways.

The thing with Goran is that 40% of the time he approached the net after his serve, the point was already over (ace or S.winner)
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
#33
Andres Guazzelli said:
I wouldn't put Goran in 2a). Ivanisevic followed almost every serve to finish with a volley, even c&c. He would be a Big-Serve-Net-Crusher, but he hadn't have the gentle volleys Edberg or Rafter had, but pretty effective anyways.

The thing with Goran is that 40% of the time he approached the net after his serve, the point was already over (ace or S.winner)
It's actually where the author of Serious Tennis, Scott Williams put Goran, along with Flipper and Brenda Shulz. I through Roddick in to that category. Basically this category for Williams were for players whose serves were really there one true weapon and that while the limited ability to break they only need one because the opponent wouldn't get a sniff at a break. Based on that criteria I don't know that I'd disagree with Williams. On carpet his serve games were ridiculous, but if you could make him play he was average everywhere else. I can't really think of another stroke that stood out for Goran.
 

dmastous

Professional
#34
Kaptain Karl said:
Maybe I'm not being clear enough.

Since Navratilova still plays singles (barely) she's "current" ... though definitely not "modern". But JHH, Mauresmo and Molik come to mind as not being the baselining automatons for the women.

Federer, Blake, Dent, Henman, Luby, etc. certainly belie your assessment of homogenized baseline games. Compare them to Agassi, Coria, Nalbandian, etc. Those are clearly different playing styles.
I would say they are all essentially playing similar styles with the difference being 1 or 2 handed backhands.
At Wimbledon there are those how do play serve/volley tennis, but much fewer than before. I watched Blake & Dent as well as Rudseski at the HOF tournament in Newport and saw a lot of baseline play from them. So with the exception of grass (about 2 weeks out of the year) everyone spends most of their time at the baseline and noone makes their living at the net.
Of singles players only Greg Rudseski & Tim Henman are most often at the net. Maybe Navratilova but I've only seen her play doubles. If you can site examples of recent tour level singles play than she could be considered current, but I wouldn't count doubles specialists as that is a much different game.
I do see differences in style, just not as much as 15 years ago. And no dedicated Serve/volleyers like before. JHH and Muresmo (never seen Molik) also spend much of their time at the baseline like Federer & Luby, but they are willing to come to the net at times. They'll even throw a serve/vollery at their opponent to keep them off balance.
So to me I see all courters and baseliners, but (with the exception of Henman and Rudsetski) no serve/volleyers. The variation in the game has shrunk. There's variety, but not as much.
Since you probably watch more tennis than I do now (work doesn't let me watch as much as I used to), you probably have a better finger on the pulse of modern tennis. I'll return to my cave.
Kaptain Karl said:
That was funny. But actually, isn't that redundant? I think of Counter Punchers as being sharp shooters....- KK
I can agree with that. A counter puncher would look for an opening and take advantage with an angle or harder shot to end a point.
 
#35
FiveO said:
It's actually where the author of Serious Tennis, Scott Williams put Goran, along with Flipper and Brenda Shulz. I through Roddick in to that category. Basically this category for Williams were for players whose serves were really there one true weapon and that while the limited ability to break they only need one because the opponent wouldn't get a sniff at a break. Based on that criteria I don't know that I'd disagree with Williams. On carpet his serve games were ridiculous, but if you could make him play he was average everywhere else. I can't really think of another stroke that stood out for Goran.
But, at returning games, he still rushed to the net all the time anyways ;)
 
#38
Kapt Karl - Thanks for breaking out the different styles of play. I thought it was very well done. While it's true that most players may emply different styles as needed, I think it's great the way you broke them out - even including some sub-categories (such as Retreiver) - within multiple categories, which I think is very accurate.

It was nice to see styles such as Pusher, Junk Baller, Retriever, Counter Puncher, Moon-Baller (I think?) described separately. So many times people just lump all those opponents together to bash them, but they're really quite different.

Good Job!
 
#39
And actually (a few minutes later) I thought about the examples you listed for each one. While examples are generally nice, in this particular situation they may in fact detract from the description. People may get so caught up in discussing whether Sampras was a Serve-and-Volley'er or an All-Courter that it detracts from the description itself. And, people can probably PROVE that in "this" situation he was S&V, and in THAT situation he was AC, etc.

And, while Pushers litter the landscape at the rec level, there are no pro's to provide as an example.

So, I guess my only constructive comment would be to leave the examples out, and let the descriptions stand on their own merit. That would also help keep the piece timeless, forever perfect despite the fact that pro's change tactics, or leave the game and new players take their place.
 
#40
FiveO said:
Sampras*: big server/s & v/net attacker/big fh baseliner

Federer: all-courter

*Federer has caused me to re-think Sampras as a pure all-courter. Sampras was never willing to play defense and retrieve like Federer or Rafter and almost never drew opponents forward with short balls or drop-shots as Fed does regularly. While Sampras was more all-court than his contemporaries and predecessors, Federer simply utilizes more elements in his game than Pete did.
I beg to differ a bit here. Federer might be as good as one can get
for a *all-courter* in terms of tennis of last 5 year or so(baseline
oriented game). But in terms of whole tennis history, Sampras
is still the guy who successfully implemented the most optimal
and complete balance of S&V and baseline style.

Federer's more balanced in terms of defense and offense game but
then again he has to be (his service game can get vulnerable).
He has other varieties but he has not been tested in the S&V game
yet. It's hardly played these days but I think it's major style in terms
of whole tennis history. So it's too early to say Federer is such
a all court player.

I disagree Sampras never willing to play defense and retrieve like
Federer or Rafter. He does less often but the very few points he
played as retriever or defense have huge weights. Like 7th game
of a set. See how Sampras run in break points. Sampras' foot speed
is very underrated. I think Sampras is actually faster than Federer
(who has astute movements largely based on superb anticipation)

About the "drawing" opponents using drop shots from baseline,
it's done by all top players these days simply because every body
is playing basleine these days. It's become popular last 5 years.
Federer indeed has very interesting varieties but in terms of
*solid* repitoire of basic elements in tennis, Sampras had that
ideally optimal implementation of classic textbook tennis, IMHO.
 
#41
I remember a pro from the early 1950's or was it earlier than that, that was a spin doctor. He was short, like 5'5", and climbed to the top.
 

FiveO

Hall of Fame
#42
fastdunn said:
I beg to differ a bit here. Federer might be as good as one can get
for a *all-courter* in terms of tennis of last 5 year or so(baseline
oriented game). But in terms of whole tennis history, Sampras
is still the guy who successfully implemented the most optimal
and complete balance of S&V and baseline style.

Federer's more balanced in terms of defense and offense game but
then again he has to be (his service game can get vulnerable).
He has other varieties but he has not been tested in the S&V game
yet. It's hardly played these days but I think it's major style in terms
of whole tennis history. So it's too early to say Federer is such
a all court player.

I disagree Sampras never willing to play defense and retrieve like
Federer or Rafter. He does less often but the very few points he
played as retriever or defense have huge weights. Like 7th game
of a set. See how Sampras run in break points. Sampras' foot speed
is very underrated. I think Sampras is actually faster than Federer
(who has astute movements largely based on superb anticipation)

About the "drawing" opponents using drop shots from baseline,
it's done by all top players these days simply because every body
is playing basleine these days. It's become popular last 5 years.
Federer indeed has very interesting varieties but in terms of
*solid* repitoire of basic elements in tennis, Sampras had that
ideally optimal implementation of classic textbook tennis, IMHO.
I almost agree with you. In fact I used to. My point was I agree that Sampras had a tremendous blend, better than anyone of his time and the vast majority of his predecessors. He was the most complete player I saw until Federer.

All-court tennis as defined by Serious Tennis incorporates "all" styles not most. Sampras rarely retrieved prefered going for outrights during his return games. Miss, winner, short ball, miss, short ball. Then winner, winner and up 0-30 in a game then he'd play however he had to get the break. Fed's return games are much more relentless and consistent and he relies on his speed and ability to play D to stay in until able to turn the tide in the point and does it with regularity to the point you ask "how does he get away with consistently hitting relatively soft returns so often?" Yet Fed can still hit the outright winners off the return that Sampras hit.

I agree with you that Sampras was an extremely underated mover, but he didn't, couldn't grind as much as Fed does regularly, perhaps due to questions about his stamina. Pete would pick his spots to spend that nrg where Roger will do it point after point.

Pete's bh was never near the weapon Roger's is in terms of consistency and variety in spin, pace and placement.

Pete rarely employed angle or took off pace to change the rally and preferred to hit through the court once and then twice. One of Roger's favorite ploys is that soft, low, short angled bh he hits to a 2hbh's side drawing him forward and outside the sideline regularly giving the opponent a choice between a rock and a hard place. Roger displays more than just drop-shots.

Roger is a much more consistent passer. Pete may have been more spectacular but Roger is more consistent.

Pete would display touch on volleys. Roger does that and touch off both wings off the ground.

I am not saying one is better than the other. Pete's serve could tip the match his way and if real on could end points from anywhere in the court.

Roger, while not possessing the serve of a Sampras, it's damn good, and the rest of his game has that much more variety in pace, spin and placement, will defense/retrieve and does in almost every game, displays more touch off the ground, is consistently a more patient baseliner while having the same ability to break the point open off either side that Pete had. As a result of all that Roger is much more willing to prolong points, point after point, than Pete ever was. Roger has also already displayed his prowess on all surfaces where Pete, while not a slouch on clay, was at a disadvantage against many more players on that surface.

Pete was extremely complete with two huge weapons and an achilles heal of stamina and clay.

Roger is all that, minus that one-of-a-kind serve and without the achilles heal. JMHO.
 
#43
FiveO and KK, I generally agree with you and I know you guys are
very knowledable and probably better player than me.
But I have to check if you're including
entire career of Sampras. You sounded like you're describing Pete of
his 2nd half of his career. Because my 1st impression of him was a baseliner
I still view Sampras as a baseliner outside of Wimbledon.

I have this taped match of Sampras against Korda in early
90's at Indian Wells. Great baseline match. In that match, commentatiors
mention they think Sampras true color is a baseliner. Their key argument
was what Sampras does at those *pressure* points.

Up until late 90's Sampras would park himself at the baseline at pressure
points and grind it away. There were many S&Ver's in 90's and it was
very effective strategy because he could out-grind away many power
players(except on clay).

Yeah, Federer is such a fabulaous player and truely inspring tennis.
He opened my and lots of people's eyes and let us see some of the hidden
part of tennis game.

But I'm not convinced yet that Federer has the net game.
When Federer career is finalized, maybe we can make clearer arguments.
I know many people are lining up at Federer side but I'm not leaving
Sampras' side yet. :) O.K. I'll go ahead say it: I still think Federer
is 1 notch below Sampras. History will give us answer. Let's see
how Federer did after 5 years later and tak about it here at TW....
 

dmastous

Professional
#44
I'm sure everyone knows Sampras was a baseliner with a 2 handed backhand until he was 15 or 16 when he came to the conclusion he wanted to win Wimbledon. He switched to a 1 hander dropped from #1 to #48 in the SoCal junior rankings then was #1 again the following year.
 
#46
Kaptain Karl said:
fastdunn - I must not have expressed myself very well. Sorry.

I'm not doing the Sampras / Federer "thing". And that's not what this thread is about.

My point ^^^ was, that I never considered Pete an "all courter." (Yes. He was a baseliner, first. Then he changed to more S&V. But those are only two styles. An "all courter" can play *many* styles well. (Say...) S&V, Baseliner, Counter Puncher, Junk Baller.)

Federer has shown that he is an all court player. Sampras was -- GREAT!, but -- not an all court player. He should not be used as a "model" of what an all courter is.

Was that clearer?

- KK
Sorry I digressed a little bit.

I see what you're points are. But I still differ a little bit.
"All courter", to me, should utilize all part of the court.
Due to current status of pro tennis, Federer dwells much more
at the baseline while Sampras did successfully implemented
net game too.

There are 6 styles as you mention. But you know the baseliner
and S&V(or net player) are the two major styles. I think all
tennis players know how tough to truely implement both.
It would be nice to be able to play other styles *if* you're
done with implementing these 2 important styles.

Federer is a complete player indeed. In fact, Sampras and Federer
are two of the most complete players I've seen.
I understand Federer excites many people. That includes me.
But it's an over-excitements if you say Federer also has a
net game. In fact, I'm not sure if Federer plays as much net game
as Borg did.

Federer is indeed the most complete player among current
generation of players. But it's too early to tell in terms of
whole history of tennis. I personally doubt Federer
will play net game as good as Sampras did.
 

PM_

Professional
#47
Great thread!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hat's off to both KK and Five0.

Now I know the term to describe my friend who I haven't been able to crack yet: a junkballer.:mrgreen: :mrgreen:
 
S

SageOfDeath

Guest
#48
Question, might be a little off topic.

Doesn't any good player need to be able to change their style if they are losing? They can't continue with a losing strategy can they? So is it possible for a player to really be any of these styles because more than likely they are going to change it anyways depending on their opponent?

Or is this just me and that's my own style to change up my game?
 

kevhen

Hall of Fame
#49
Not everyone changes their style. All-court players tend to adjust in order to beat their opponent but many people will stick with one game plan and hope things eventually turn around when slumping. The best players will make some adjustments throughout a match though.
 
#50
Very interesting thread! Thanks KK and FiveO. This breakdown makes sense and is very understandable.

I always viewed Sampras as an all-court player, but he certainly had preferred styles and seldom found a need to depart from them. Whereas Federer is the model all-court player.

I think you can make a case for a sub-category of the heavy-topspin baseliner (like Bjorn Borg was). Simply because of the way it wins. It is agressive and breaks down the other guy's game because he can't get his shots to roll over for him. Result -- Out, long...a lot. Also, when that starts happening, the heavy topspin artist can attack the net very easily. So this style of aggressive basline play is different than other aggressive baseline play. Frankly, I wonder why we don't see it used anymore. Any thoughts on that?

Kathy K
www.operationdoubles.com
 
Top