View Full Version : Who's gonna get aggressive?

Jul 11th, 2002, 05:56 AM
You all saw the Wimbledon final. Venus was covering the baseline like a gazelle jacked up on amphetamines, and she got beat in straight sets. Face it sports fans, you're not beatin' Serena from the baseline. Patty Schnyder didn't beat her from the baseline. Justine didn't beat her from the baseline. Basedliners won in the past because Serena went Wild Thing. Now she justs blasts away at the opponent, tossing in the occasional slice or drop shot, waiting for a weak return she can move in and kill. 'Just blasts away'. Understand, these groundstrokes are DEEP, and they are often ON the lines.

Playing baseline defense is suicide. Serena treats it like a shooting gallery. The only tactic offering a hope for success is aggression. Not 'I can hit the ball harder than you'. But rather tactical aggression and 'first strike' aggression. You have to take control of the point from the first stroke of the racket, and IMMEDIATELY try to force a weak return, and kill it. You can do it like Martina, you can do it like Venus, You can do it like Monica, but you better do it because Serena is going for control right away, and when she gets it she tries to force errors. She's jumps every weak return and follows it to net. Serve and volley its not, but it is good all court tennis.

So? Who's going to change? It's not so easy. You notice Venus played the same way she did the last two times. I cannot imagine Jelena Dokic aggressively seeking the net. Justine Henin, OTOH, clearly already understands the dynamic involved.

Who's going to take THEIR game to the level of aggression necessary to match Serena? Serena winds up playing three feet inside the baseline every match, because she just wills the whole match forward. She just constantly pressing, attacking, trying to wear you down or break you down. But she's vulnerable to that to, as Justine showed in Berlin. Patty quite honestly made her look a bit silly at Charleston. Serena just couldn't handle her. Patty threw everything at her but the kitchen sink. But I digress.

Who's coming off the baseline this hardcourt season, and meeting Serena and FIGHTING for dominance of attack, and therefore dominance of the net?

Who's going to use tactics that force other players into errors? For example, a real sharp angle shot pulls the opponent out of court, and puts them in a position where they almost have less risk by going for the winner. If this player is Elena Dementieva or Jennifer Capriati, you just lost the point. But it you go down the line the other way, and move in, taking the next ball on the rsie, you get a MUCH sharper angle. Or course, you're in 'no man's land'. So the return may land at your feet. If you half-volley like jusine, no problemo.

Anyway that's what I mean by 'aggresive'. Hitting hard is only half the trick. Venus Williams explained her French Open success this year by saying 'mostly, I'm trying not to hit the ball so hard'. But word to Monica, Venus, Lindsay, Jelena and Jenn. That baseline thing is passe. Okay Venus will continue to get some wins, because of her serve, court coverage and nuclear weaponry. But the head-to-head will inextolerably tilt Serena's way, if Venus keeps trying to camp out back there. The slower the baseline, the worse Serena will make them look.

Well, that was verbose. So who's your choice?

Jul 11th, 2002, 06:05 AM
Of course, Venus is my choice. You mentioned Venus' serve. Well, it's been just that which has let her down in her last two matches against Serena. I'm thinking that along with Venus' serve will come the confidence to move forward behind her stinging baseline shots (esp. her backhand), moving Serena from side to side.

Jul 11th, 2002, 06:23 AM
Hey, didn't we say this about Venus when she was winning 4 Grand Slams? The Sisters keep pushing eachother :)

Jul 11th, 2002, 01:36 PM
I don't think Venus's essential mentality is going to the net. She has to force herself to do it. We'll see though.

But will Monica start going for the winner or the setup for the winer on EVERY return of serve. Often, she goes for power for a few shots, then the angle. I think she has to go fo the radical offense early. Punish the return, move in and KILL the next shot. Rallying is for cars. At RG, Justine manipulated her, forcing her into net on Justine's terms.

Martina, OTOH, has to accept getting passed occassionally and get to the net where her volleying could rule the day. Easier said than done of course.

Jelena, I think, will simply hit harder, harder, harder and will keep losing to the 'all court' harder, harder, harders.

Jenn hits what would be great approach shots, but she doesn't then approach. She'd be picking weak returns out of the air all day if she'd come in behind her forehand.

Jul 11th, 2002, 02:06 PM
As most know, I'm a huge Venus and Serena fan.

But I do think that Serena is not that great at playing defense at the net, meaning I think that she can get passed *relatively* easily. its not the part of her game that is her strongest, so I do think that part of a tactic could be to draw Serena in with a drop shot and see if she can win the point volleying. That is the weakest part of her game and I think players like Monica and Venus and Hingis have very strong passing shots.

on the other hand, I also think that coming into net is probably the only way to consistently beat Serena right now. but the problems are 1) getting a short ball to hit a decent approach off of; 2) executing a volley with the ball coming back at your MUCH faster and harder than other opponents. Amelie Mauresmo was just not able to get the wonderful approach shots and put away volleys against Serena that she was able to get against Jen.

Jul 11th, 2002, 02:09 PM
And how many times did Patty come intp net against Serena in Charleston??

Patty beat her with her awkward lefty serve and all the 'junk' (I mean that nicely) she gave her at the baseline.

And the last thing Patty does is hit the ball hard, she is all technique.

Jul 11th, 2002, 02:23 PM
I don't think it's as simple as "coming to net". To beat Serena, variety is the key & not allowing her to prevent you from playing your game. That's what Patty did from the baseline, Martina/Justine would probably be better off doing it from the net. But the key is aggression & taking control.

Jul 11th, 2002, 03:10 PM
babsi - Patty hit some some REALLY fasted paced shots inthat match. She mixed her speeds very well. And she atacked every short ball and did something creative with it. Serena was misreading her shots all day. That's EXACTLY what I mean by 'aggressively playing YOUR game'. Patty played her game, but really forced the action and the play with it, never just returning the ball safely. It would be ridiculous for Patty to hit hard every point. That ability to vary pace is an advantage she uses well. And every time she got a short ball, she did something that made matters worse for Serena. That's aggression. Finding the weakness, and taking EVERY opportunity to attack it. Martina Hingis won't do that the same way as Lindsay.

But if you sit back and rally you lose. This is true of other players. Remember what Venus said about Monica. 'If I don't dictate play she will.' (You notice how this whole power thing keeps coming back to Monica?) Same is true with Serena. And probably Kim and Justine eventually. Take control of the point from the first time your racket touches it, or else these players will sieze it, and that's all she wrote.

saki's got it right. aggression and taking control.

Jul 11th, 2002, 03:13 PM
It's a tough one, because Serena's playing so confidently right now. But I'd put the power players (Monica, Lindsay, Jenn, Kim) just slightly ahead of those who can mix it up more (Justine, Amelie, Patty, Martina). Unless their first serves are particularly strong 'on the day', Serena's speed and pace off the ground can negate attempts to disrupt her rhythm. Of course, there are exceptions (Patty's and Justine's wins earlier this year), but I still believe Serena wins against these players more easily.

Mind you, the power players MUST play fearlessly and with a minimum of errors. Monica is fearless but has lately made too many errors. I'd suspect Lindsay might fall into that category too until she's more into the groove. Jennifer seems to be slightly distracted for some reason, and makes errors at key times as well (she had a real chance to take the French Open semi in straights, then fizzled when those chances passed her by). Kim's injuries make her a question mark at the moment, but errors are the bane of her existence against Serena, too.

Venus is, I think, getting a little too cautious when playing Serena. She can retrieve as well as her and has the ability to use a bit more variety, but these recent defeats seem to have taken a bit of the edge off when things get really tight against Serena (not against the rest, though!). She seems to play not to lose, rather than play to win...

And Hantuchova's a bit of a wild card, as hard courts will suit her game and she'll be eager to really hit her stride this summer.

But all of the power players try to control the point early on, so each could give Serena trouble if their heads are in the right space on a given day.

Still, it says something that one and all have work to do before equalling her!

Jul 11th, 2002, 03:14 PM
Yes, I think you are right. the answer is not necessarily to come to net, it is to mix up the pace a lot and not give her the power to feast on. give her a lot of topspin and high bouncy stuff. But I do think that perhaps forcing Serena to come to net is not a bad play. I think she can be passed and I think her volleying game is not her strong suit.

Jul 11th, 2002, 03:21 PM
Patty quite honestly made her look a bit silly at Charleston. Serena just couldn't handle her. Patty threw everything at her but the kitchen sink. But I digress.

Lmao, that match was hilarious. Patty was making Serena so confused, and was hitting these UNbelievable shots! I remember on match point against her, she took this hard crosscourt forehand from Serena and looped/topspinned/whipped a backhand back crosscourt that landed precisely on the line:eek: .

I think many of the plaeyrs in the top 10 have the weapons to get to net, or have weapons AT the net, but not so much of both. Jen has a great serve when it's on, and can get lots of weak balls, but doesn't og to net with them, like Volcana said. Justine has a good serve to get to net, but only goes there afew times in a normal match. Hingis has everything you could want at net, but cant/wont go up there as much as she has to.

Jul 11th, 2002, 03:25 PM
If you watch Patty against a lower ranked player who doesn't hit the ball that hard, you will see the 'real' Patty because she can't generate very much pace, what she was doing in that match was generating Serena's pace against her.

It would be really interesting if anybody had the statistics on that match.

Another play of Patty's is to really frustrate the opponent into error, which she was doing against Serena as well.

That is why Patty has to be always be aware and concentrated to win matches, it is a mind game for her.

Williams Rulez
Jul 11th, 2002, 03:28 PM
It is all in the mind. Whoever is willing to go for more will make the matches more competitive. Lindsay and Venus and Monica can hit as hard as Serena... but they don't do it. Martina and Justine can approach the net more, forcing Serena... but they don't do it. Jennifer can hit more to the corners and the lines instead of in the middle of the court, but she doesn't do it.

It is all in the mind imho, but these players have a set way of playing, and sometimes, asking for a drastic change is too much. So until then, we'll just have to wait and see...

Jul 11th, 2002, 03:30 PM
Just another note, you are not going to be beat Serena with pace, you have to mix it up and frustrate her.

But then if her serve is on what do you do? Guess...

Although the Arantxa match was 2 years ago at the Canadian Open and it was 2 sets with Serena winning, she showed how you can beat Serena by just mixing it up.

The only players that come to mind that can beat her are Justine, Patty (on clay), Daniela (she is still developing in mixing her game up by serve-volleying) and Hingis (but still a question mark).

Jul 11th, 2002, 04:05 PM
Patty and Justine defeated Serena on clay. The spins, pace and tactics they used were very effective as they both are strong clay-courters. If they tried those same things on a hardcourt, I'm sure the results would be very different.

Aggression is the key definitely, but for each player, aggression means something different.

Serena is a very aggressive player, she is much less comfortable as a defensive player (this is where Venus and Jen have superiority as they play attack and defense so well), so getting Serena on defense is a good ploy IMO.

One of the best matches I saw in terms of aggression and defense was between Dementieva vs Henin at Wimby. They are both VERY athletic girls and both displayed weapons that were worthy of Top 3 talent.

But can these two (and Hantuchova) consistently play like that?

Lindsay, Martina and Jen are experienced and know that in order to defeat at Williams, they need to be even more aggressive. Just based on their history and careers, I think they will become more aggressive.

Out of the young girls, I see Justine and Daniela as two definite contenders who can 'mix it up' and become aggressive. Bias aside, I saw the same in Elena. Jelena Dokic is aggressive, but its not controlled very well.

The girls on tour know that aggression is key. It'll be interesting to see how tennis moves forward from this point.

Jul 11th, 2002, 04:36 PM
Hingis is someone who will attack the net, until she gets passed. Then she doesn't want to be up there.:mad: Against Serena, she is going to have to swallow her pride, and get up there! The problem isn't rallying with Serena, she can do that, but she isn't fast enough to chase down any of Serena's shots. That was OK in the past because Serena would miss a lot, but she isn't now.

Williams Rulez
Jul 12th, 2002, 01:03 PM
That's right... Serena is not missing as much now... and as Venus has shown, no matter how fast you are, there is only so much you can chase down.

Jul 12th, 2002, 01:28 PM
To be aggressive against Serena you must effectively return her serve. If she is serving extremely well beating her will be tough. Her aggression is directly proportional to how she is serving. Jen returns Serena's serve about as well as anyone on tour. That is why she gives Serena so much trouble. Serena also is improving probably faster than anyone in the top ten. So what worked last year, or even last month is now suspect. Serena just lacked patience against Patty, if they played today she would not do that. So no one thing is going to defeat her probably, just an overall well played game with few errors. Oh yeah, one thing you cannot do against Serena is give her free points. When you do, she feels free to really unleash her power. Play clean and keep her somewhat conservative..well at least conservative for her. :cool:

Jul 12th, 2002, 02:16 PM
I think what one must do to beat Serena is:

A: Have psychopathic aggression going for the lines on every shot, WITHOUT MISSING BUT 10-15 TIMES A MATCH! Thus controlling the point from the start, and after about 4 or 5 "winning shots" the fifth one, even against Serena, should really be a winner.

b: Confuse Serena by throwing in amazing amounts of "junk" (i.e. slices with no pace, moonballs, an occasional flat ball, angles etc.) to always keep Serena guessing and get inside her head.

No matter which option you choose, you have to stay agressive (the biggest thing Jenny Cap has trouble with) and MUST have an awesome return of serve (Venus does not, Monica is unfortunately not the fastest creature and can't always execute her return, though when she can it is better than anyone else's in either side of Tennis IMO). Basically, I say that if and when Monica gets into her absolute best shape (it may take even better shape than last summer, but certainly better than now) she should be the one to beat Serena. Hingis, if she learns to control her hubrius, can also beat Serena, but MUST come to net, and MUST be much much more agressive on serve. Those two are the only ones who COULD beat Serena consistently, but as stated, they must make improvements.
Wild Card: Daniela Hantuchova. Does everything Serena does, and just as well, but goes on mental holidays (so to speak) and misses strings of first serves and makes way too many errors. If and When she can not wander off at any given time, she could beat Serena.

Jul 12th, 2002, 02:26 PM
Daniella has a great game, but what makes her a wildcard is her forehand. Serena was picking it apart in her match against her at Wimbledon. I'm not sure she does everything quite as well as Serena.

Jul 12th, 2002, 02:58 PM
So I guess first and foremost, YOU have to play well to beat Serena. If you let her psych you out of your game, you're already. ON TOP OF THAT, you have to give her different looks and shots, junk as well as pure power.

Seems sort of simple when you don't have to actually DO it.

Jul 12th, 2002, 03:29 PM
You're right baout that Volcana. It's so easy tp tell players what they have to do to beat Serena, but so much ahrder to accomplish it. When I play tennis I have a game plan of how I'm going to play, etc. When I get on the court though it changes completely. If my opponent misses an easy shot once or twice it makes me relax. Same with Serena' opponents. Like in Mami against Hingis, she missed once or twice the entire match. When she did Hingis went all passive and just hit back feather balls(not much she could do about that though). Players NEED to be aggressive from start to finish. Like you said though, much easier said then done.

Jul 12th, 2002, 03:41 PM
i disagree Volcana. the player who came the closest to beating Serena was Els Callens and there is NOTHING aggressive about her game. Serena feeds off pace. Playing her aggressively is not the way to go IMO.

Jul 12th, 2002, 04:10 PM
tennischick - 'aggressive' is not the same as 'hitting hard'. Wasn't Els trying to control the points? Wasn't she taking the initiative? Wasn't she aggressively playing HER game? She went to net 24 times. She won 33% of the points off Serena's serve even though Serena only had 26 UEs. So Els was WINNING points. Serena wasn't just losing them.

If that isn't 'aggressive', what is?