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”