Advanced Tennis Technique Development For All Levels Of Players

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The Importance of Serve-and-Volley

Roger Federer’s Serve

The art of the serve-and-volley, many tennis experts argue, has no place in today’s game. It is a common refrain that the speed of the courts, modern string technology and even the size of the athletes have made that style of play obsolete.

It’s outdated, they say, a relic of a bygone era that was left behind as the game evolved.

An examination of the statistics, however, shows that serving and volleying remains a winning strategy.

At the 2012 United States Open, the official tournament statistics broke down points in three categories: baseline, net, and serve-and-volley.

The average percentage of baseline points won for men during the tournament was 46.2 percent; for women, it was was 47.3 percent.

Getting to the net was more successful. Men had a winning percentage of 66 percent when approaching; women were won 65.7 percent.

But both men and women had the highest winning percentage when serving and volleying: 68.7 percent for men, 69.2 percent for women.

The numbers were similar at Wimbledon last year, when men won 68.3 percent of their serve-and-volley points and women won 67.8 percent. Still, there were only 190 serve-and-volley points in the women’s tournament, and only 37 of the 128 women in the field served and volleyed at all. But 19 women did not lose a point while serving and volleying.

In the men’s draw, 102 of 128 players attempted the tactic at least once, and 92 won at least 50 percent of their serve-and-volley points. Twenty-eight men won 100 percent of their serve-and-volley points.

Last year at Wimbledon, Sergiy Stakhovsky served and volleyed on every one of his 109 first-serve points when he upset Roger Federer in the second round.

If serving and volleying delivers the highest winning percentage, why isn’t it more common?

The primary force in the demise of the serve and volley has been a misguided mentality that it does not work anymore. At tennis academies across the United States, coaches are reluctant to teach it to young players.

At every level of the sport, serving and volleying is shunned, and it shouldn’t be. At the very least, it is an effective secondary tactic that keeps the returner guessing about the server’s intentions and stops the returner from floating high, defensive shots back into play.

But it can also be a lot more than a secondary tactic. Rajeev Ram, then ranked 272nd, when he defeated No. 59 Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 6-4, in the opening round in Atlanta. Ram served and volleyed 38 times in the match and won 34 of those points.

He had been told he could not serve and volley anymore, even though he was skilled at it. He recommitted to serving and volley and by July 2012, he was ranked 93rd.

Last year at Wimbledon, Sergiy Stakhovsky served and volleyed on every one of his 109 first-serve points when he upset Roger Federer in the second round. He also served and volleyed on 41 percent of his second serves, winning 69 percent of those points.

“Well, you can’t really keep up with Roger on grass on baseline rallies,” Stakhovsky said after the match. “It’s just impossible. He feels the grass. He feels the slice. He can do whatever he wants with the ball. The only tactics I have is press as hard as I can on my serve and come in as much as I can. The shorter it is, the less rhythm he got.”

Federer agreed. “He was uncomfortable to play against,” he said. “I think he served and volleyed really well. It was difficult to get into that much rhythm, clearly, against a player like that.”

Men’s finals at Wimbledon used to regularly feature hundreds of serve-and-volley points. In every men’s final at Wimbledon in the last 10 years, there have not been 150 serve-and-volley points combined. The numbers are even worse on the women’s side. From 2000 to 2013, 10 women’s finals did not feature a single serve-and-volley point.

As Wimbledon kicks off for another year, look for the players bold enough to serve and volley. The odds will be on their side.

Take note that the two best players in the world, Federer and Nadal, are always moving forward—just watch!


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