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Serve and Volley Tennis Style

Why has the serve and volley tennis become a lost art in modern tennis? Why has the serve and volley tennis become a lost art in modern tennis?

The serve and volley tennis is one style of play that is used by tennis players to win points. The serve and volley is done in such a way that the tennis player moves quickly towards the net after hitting a serve. The player then attempts to hit a volley, as opposed to the baseline style of play, where the server stays back following the serve and attempts to hit a groundstroke as his next shot. These players, producing the serve and volley tennis, come to the net after nearly every first serve and also very often times after a second serve, especially on faster surfaces. On the times they do not come to net right away, they are looking to come to net as soon as possible, usually within the first several balls in a rally as they aim to keep the exchanges short and put the pressure on their opponents. Their typical point construction is to hit a big first serve, then a well-placed first volley that opens the court and then end the point by hitting a finishing volley. And that's it. Their matches may be a little boring on some occassions as it is the same pattern again and again, point after point after point.

The aim of the serve and volley tennis strategy is to put constant pressure on the opponent with the intent of ending points quickly. The player on return must hit quality returns, or else the server gains immediate advantage. This tactic is especially useful on fast courts (like grass courts or carpet) and less so on slow. For it to be successful, the player must either have a big serve or be exceptionally quick in movement around the net and have great reflexes. However, this strategy has to be perfectly executed from the serve to the volley or else the player losses a point instead of winning it.

Why has the serve and volley tennis become so rare in modern tennis?

The serve and volley tennis style of play has become less popular in recent years and we can notice that less professional tennis players are using this strategy in their matches. The slowing down of court surfaces we have witnessed in last decade and the the advances in racquet and string technologies which allows tennis players to generate great amount of topsin on ground strokes and passing shots have made the serve and volley tennis more of a rarity than in the days of old when the game was played on fast grass with wooden racquets.

Most of the tennis tournaments held on fast surfaces, had to slow down the courts on account of criticisms that the matches were becoming boring and monotonous and losing people's interest because points were lasting two or three shots at the most. As a result, the fastest tennis courts, the indoor carpet courts, practically don't exist any more.

The return of serve, which once was a defensive shot, became a weapon thanks to the equipment evolution and the advent of the two-handed backhandand, turned the act of following the serve to the net a mission impossible for most of the professional players.

Another factor is that tennis players have become much better athletes with great stamina and power.

Reasons for the Decline of Serve and Volley Tennis

  • slowing down of court surfaces,
  • new technologies in tennis equipment,
  • physically better prepared tennis players,
  • concentrating on powerful tennis.

Its role also plays the lack of teaching the serve and volley tennis art to tennis players in junior age. In order to become an effective serve-and-volleyer, it takes even the most skilled players until their early 20s. When young players face the pressure at 17 or 18 years old of junior rankings and earning college scholarships, they often opt for the route that will have them winning the most matches at a young age - the power game.

The Advantages of Serve and Volley Tennis Style:

  • less tiring than playing constantly from the baseline,
  • ideal tactic to conserve energy or to rest from long and tiresome rallies,
  • can disturb opponent's momentum and concentration,
  • player can surprise his opponent with the serve and volley move,
  • can scare the opponent forcing him to make unforced errors.

Players Using the Serve and Volley Tennis Strategy

The serve and volley tennis has played an important role in the history of this sport, and many great tennis players who dominated the game were true serve-and-volley players. Some of the most famous tennis players known for the serve and volley tennis style of play include Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter, Richard Krajicek and Tim Henman.

Although the strategy has become less popular in recent years, few players still prefer to use it to win their points. Notable examples of net-rushers are Michael Llodra, Radek Stepanek, Nicolas Mahut or Rajeev Ram. We should also mention Roger Federer, who emloyed this strategy in his early days on the professional tour and during some of his great runs on grass courts of Wimbledon.

Serve and volley tennis strategy has traditionally been less common amongst female players than male players. Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova, Jana Novotna or Amelie Mauresmo became the players known for their serve and volley style. The strategy has become almost extinct at the very top level in women's tennis. Roberta Vinci, Su-Wei Hsieh and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez are the only notable WTA Tour players that prefer to play with this style.

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