Wimbledon 2015 – Federer takes net!

Serve and volley

Chip and charge

Finish at the net

Yes more and more players are crushing the ball from well behind the baseline.  And yes the strings, the racquets, even the conditioning – all favor the topspin baseline game.

Once, it was not that way – when so many of the champions knew how to play a the net

  • Stefan Edberg
  • Boris Becker
  • Pat Cash
  • John McEnroe
  • Pete Sampras

Now the courts have slowed down play.  And perhaps that is important when so many very tall players can pound the serve into the corners at 120 130 and even 140 mph.

But you and I can take the net, and you and I can even serve and volley.

It is a wonder why coaches did not demand these players learn to volley when they were young  – for Andy Roddick and now Milos Raonic, may have missed out on developing their net game when they were still young and developing.

Now, take yet another page from Roger Federer’s book – he is taking the net more and more often.  Applying pressure on the return of serve with his chip and charge.  Following his serve to the net for a simple volley into the open court.  Sometimes getting passed, sometimes making volley errors, but always moving forward and applying pressure.  In an interview before Wimbledon Roger said, “I feel I have much more confidence with the serving and volleying, the chipping and charging, and that makes it really interesting,  and I’m enjoying not waiting for mistakes from my opponent.”

His semifinal matchup against Andy Murray will revolve around Andy’s movement and return against Roger’s serve and finishing skills at the net.

Of our recent American champions – Sampras rode his serve to 7 titles, and credited as he said having the “Best second serve in the game.” Jimmy Connors captured two titles in 1974 over Ken Rosewall and in 1982 over John McEnroe – but as regards serve and volley, chip and charge and finishing at the net no one in my mind ever did it quite like John McEnroe.

After Bjorn Borg beat Mac in the 1980 final by the amazing score  16 75 63 67 (16-18) 86, McEnroe  captured three Wimbledon crowns in 1981, 1983 and 1984. His reign ended with the rise of perhaps the first prototypical power player Ivan Lendl – but to me Mac exemplified the highest form of the net rushing game.

Now we can enjoy Roger as he controls the net – but for a great look at what has come before – check out the footage of vintage McEnroe at a recent Power Shares event – I know these senior guys are now older – but I believe you can appreciate and learn from McEnroe’s art.

 

Many ways to play the game, and equally many ways to hit the ball.

And for sure the same is true for the volley – we see many styles both on the pro tour as well as on your adjacent courts.

Sometimes heavy swings, sometimes simple deflections, sometimes hitting through the ball, other times deftly blocking the ball to the open court.

Enjoy the above footage of Mac the Knife as well as the slow motion of his actual technique – and then join me on court for a deeper look at this particular volleying style.

The companion article is called, “Mac the Knife – Wall to the Ball. Part 2”

 

8 Comments

  • kwok

    Reply Reply July 9, 2015

    Jim,
    You are going to love this one too. After Maria Sharapova lost to Serena today, after many previous ones, she was asked by reporters how was she going to change her game so that she can beat Serena. She said ( I am paraphrasing ), ” What do you suggest ? Should I go learn serve and volley ? No I am not going to do that.” The original article is in Yahoo.com news.
    To me is – what does she has to lose ?

    Kwok

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 9, 2015

      Kwok – I think that when Maria was 9 or 10 the coaches were teaching the overly high toss because at that time Steffi was number one in the world – but with her rhythm issues and shoulder surgeries – it feels the only way she could change here fortunes would be to totally and completely rework her serve with more of a low tossing full snapping action of say Milos Raonic – but very few of the ladies serve that way – but consider how Venus has the high toss rhythm issues as well but not Serena??
      Jim

  • kwok

    Reply Reply July 9, 2015

    Jim, thanks for the article and video. Good stuff as usual.
    Recently I came across an article about why Federer is so good, and I like to share that with anybody who might not have seen it yet.

    http://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/not-just-tennis/?_r=1

    Cheeres.

    Kwok

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 9, 2015

      Kwok – I owe you one on this – really!!
      The link in the article is about Federer and badminton – and the highlight reel of points played is truly amazing
      So much of what I know and how I teach came from Don Kerr who was a world class badminton coach – and who convinced me that playing badminton would unlock much of the feel of a tennis serve – and when PMac was young we played a lot of badminton in the back yard – and now he has his own version of flicks smashes and more
      Again thanks for this note and the article – I have bookmarked it
      best
      Jim

      • kwok

        Reply Reply July 9, 2015

        Not only playing badminton would help a tennis serve, also,I think to be successful in badminton, one has to learn to have a good stragedy and tactics. Power alone will not make you a good badminton player. That is something tennis players can learn something from.

        I am not a badminton player, but I have watched quite a bit of badminton matches.

        Kwok

  • D M

    Reply Reply July 9, 2015

    I wouldnt forget Patrick Rafter

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 9, 2015

      Yes Rafter was a great volleyer as well – but I was only listing Wimbledon champions
      Jim

  • Bud Light

    Reply Reply July 9, 2015

    Great stuff, as usual, Jim. When I was learning back in the day it was to serve and volley. I watched Pete, Pat,Stefan, etc. to gain insight into how to do it effectively, but nobody had quite the beautiful form that John McEnroe had, and still has, at his age, especially with that wide out lefty serve. Thanks for the memories! Bud Light, bltennis@bellsouth.net

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