View Full Version : do you really need a big serve to serve and volley?

Nov 10th, 2002, 12:47 AM
don't ask me why I am posting this now, I guess I am just bored.

Well, anyways, I think there is a huge misconception with serve and volleyers. The idea, specially in the women's side (and even among the players), is that you have to come to the net after a big serve and put the ball away with the first volley.

That of course limits the chances to do it, however, if you watch a true serve and volleyer, such as Pat Rafter or Stephan Edberg, even Sampras, you will notice that they normally use the first volley as an approach shot, they don't try to win the point there (which is very difficult unless it was a great serve). That makes it possible for those players to serve and volley all the time, because they can come up even with a not-so-good serve or a second serve (the three mentioned players do that a lot).

There are players like Krajicek, Goran or Michael Stich that had really huge serves but I don't think they were serve and volleyers in the sense Edberg or Rafter or Novotna were.

Of course you need a decent serve, Martina's serve isn't good enough, but you don't need to go for a big one, and don't try to hit a winner off the first volley, the first volley is the perfect approach shot, something that today's players tend to forget, I think players like Justine, or Kim, or Daniela should take advantage of this.

Nov 10th, 2002, 01:16 AM
Wow, an actual tennis question!?!

You kind of answered your own question but I would add that against normal players (not the Sisters) you need only serve a ball that breaks wide and low so your opponent has to stretch out to get to it and hit up to return it.

Only the best returning shotmakers will consistently beat you shallow cross court or with that evil Chucky shot that doesn't even cross the net but lands on the court in the back corner.

The biggest detriment to serve and volley women is that they start so young and have success so young as little "baselining backboards" that any time they approach the net and don't win the point reinforces them doing things the "way they did them to get where they are today".

As far as using the first volley to set up the put away. At the pro level every woman should be able to put the first one away. I agree at lower levels that it is good stategy to slice deep and away from your opponent the first time and if your opponent gets to it they'll be "stretched out and hitting up" which is how you want them to be whether its a serve, a slice approach or a volley approach shot.

I am a serve volley player and I alternate between slicing my serve out wide and jamming it into my opponents body (keep them honest). I have a big first serve so I just blast (wide or at my opponent) it for attempted aces/winners, I aim my second serve.

Since I'm not playing for money, I usually smash my volleys (bad technique but it feels soooooooo good). When I care about the score, I only smash the floaters and I slice the rest (alternate between cross court shallow and cross court deep; I'd only go down the line if your opponents cheating).

Nov 10th, 2002, 01:23 AM
Didn't Tauziat used to crank em up about 125?

Nov 10th, 2002, 01:24 AM
kiwifan, I don't agree that at a high level they should put away the first volley, that's precisely the problem.

Pat Rafter or Stephan Edberg were two of the best volleyers ever and they would normally not try to put away the first volley, I don't think you can consider them as lower level.

That's the biggest mistake IMO, to put away the first volley, players often miss good chances to come to the net, and make more errors than they should, if Sampras of Pat Rafter would do that, I think there is a very good reason for it and it's that you can actually come to the net much more often and you don't take that much risk on the first volley, it doesn't have to be a great shot, just good enough and by surprise (although with Rafter it would hardly be a surprise to see him coming to the net).

Nov 10th, 2002, 01:32 AM
these days the players think they have to have a big serve to serve and volley because the return of serve is so good and so powerful these days that they think they don't have a chance because they think that they have to win the point on the first volley

Nov 10th, 2002, 01:36 AM
In the men's game you have great returners and they still serve and volley.

On the other hand, what's the difference between being passed at the net on the return and being blown out the court staying at the baseline? at least at the net they have a chance.

Nov 10th, 2002, 02:01 AM
Now if you're talking Venus or Lindsay or other "players that take up a lot a net space" they can afford to loiter up front for a few volleys like the top men would.
Most women are too easy to pass with the lob or just taking what ever they give you.
So if you have to make a good first volley you might as well make it the "kill shot".
Yes, I am an aggressive bastard.
Only way to play the game for me.

Nov 10th, 2002, 02:08 AM
i think the key is to not serve at full speed, as you need to make sure you have time to reach the T and be fairly balanced to play your first volley. if you serve out wide on either side, be wary of DTL passes and volley these cross-court if you're opponent is sufficiently out of court still, or go back behind them if they've started making a move back to the centre.

i agree. the first volley should be seen as a mid-term shot for closing in further on the net, though of course it's great if you hit a winning volley. once you've closed in, you have increased your chances of winning the point.

i think in percentages and it's helpful:

you are serving, so you're chances of winning the point are greater than losing it, so start with 60%.

serve full pace but stay back and rally = 53%
serve full pace and attempt winning volley from mid-court = 47%
serve mid/low pace and stay back and rally = 50%
serve mid/low pace and attempt winning volley from mid-court = 50%
serve mid/low pace and use first mid-court volley as approach shot = 65%

i think the last strategy is the best one to employ to maximize the chances of holding serve for the hypthetical all-court player. if you're facing a difficult first volley at the T area, perhaps, after assessing the situation, be prepared to retreat to the baseline to prevent facing a nasty lob or passing shot as a result of hitting a defensive volley???

I think more of the girls, especially given how easily they win their early matches in most events, should practice some serve and volley, say in matches where they're up a set and a break, and leading 15-0 on serve.

it's helped mauresmo's game, and i think kim and justine should try the same. i'd be surprised if daniela doesn't mature into a serve and volleyer, as she has the right physique, good volleying skills and has mandlikova as a mentor IIRC

Nov 10th, 2002, 04:25 AM
baleineau, I guess we understand each other :)

I remember Martina Navratilova (who knows a little about serve and volley) saying once that you don't need to hit a great volley, a good volley is enough.

I think it's the way tennis is taught this day, to get the winner as soon as you can. The same way that players can construct point from the baseline, they can and should construct point at the net.

Of course, the requires a lot of practice, and a lot of skill, and there is a very important factor that is the "sense" of the net, that only is developped through practice. If a player wants quick results, I don't recommend this style.

Height and reach are certainly assets but not the only ones. Yes, Lindsay Davenport is tall, with good reach and a good serve, can she be a serve and volley? in a word NO, she is too slow and it's very important to get to the net quickly, and she doesn't "feel" the net, sure, she has good hands and can put away a volley but from that to be a serve and volleyers there is a big difference.

Neither can Venus IMO, at least not now, she has a powerful serve, and reach, but again, to be a serve and volleyer requires time, risk assumption and a mind set.

The thought that short players can't come to the net because they can be passed through lobs or passing shots is a myth. Anyone can be passed with a low, the key is to make it difficult for the opponent to hit a good lob, and to sense when the opponent is going to do that, not to be tall.

Again, look at Pat Rafter, he seems to know where the ball is going, crosscourt, dtl, a lob, he anticipates and covers the net, reach? not really, he moves to reach the ball and to get the best angle, and that's another mistake, most players tend to be static at the net.

Now, how does Pat Rafter "know" where the ball goes? well, partly is that net "sense", call it experience, and partly is because a good serve and volleyer will dictate how the point is gonna be played, if he hits a good approach shot, he limits the option the opponent has, and just looking at the opponent, and hearing the ball he can "predict" where it's going.

Ever wondered why serve and volley is said to be suitable for fast surfaces?, because it gives the other player less time to set up the shot. The passing shot, or the lob has to be instintive and that makes it predictible, if you give your opponent time, you can be as tall as you want but you are gonna get passed.

Nov 10th, 2002, 05:20 AM
what surprises me is that a lot of the players with big serves don't serve and volley. to me smart tennis would be to end the point as quick as possible and save energy but if they stay at the baseline they are more likely to get into a rallying and prolong the point.

i don't think they need a big serve (depending on your definition of a big serve) a serve up around 110-115mph is not needed but i think to be an effective serve volleyer it has to be at least 105mph or possibley just under if they are really good at approaching.

Nov 10th, 2002, 05:37 AM
Gowza, it doesn't surprise me that players with big serve don't serve and volley more.

As I said before, a big serve has nothing to do with it, one factor ofter forgotten in serve and volley is the "volley" part, there are many players with good serves, but good volley? (and that does not include the easy put away volley).

Rather than a powerful serve you need good placement, and a kick serve is good for that, plus, determination, speed and of course, volley skills.

As DH said, Tauziat didn't have a good serve, neither did Novotna, Novotna had a good serve, well placed and suited for serve and volley but hardly a powerful serve.

Look in the men, Stephan Edberg or Pat Rafter didn't have big serves. A big serve is meant to win the point, or leave the server in a winner position, a serve to volley is a different matter, you need to place it well, to use the spins and try to force a certain return from your opponent.

I don't think you can put it in numbers, like to say "you need 110 mph to volley", that's wrong. One player can serve 140 mph and still be unable to volley, another can serve 90 mph and volley. Pat Rafter used to serve slower than Venus in average, but he would come to volley every one of them, even second serves, and against men who hit harder.

Nov 10th, 2002, 05:55 AM
I haven't seen many of Novotna and Tauziat's matches. I guess they're the last of the good serve-volleyers on the women's tour, although Raymond is still playing isn't she? Did they try to "put the ball away on the first volley" or "use the first volley as an approach"? You're right about Tauziat serve, it is considerably weaker than some of the girls from the current baseliner generation. Although I think Tauziat's shorter than Hingis, but it seemed to me that she could hit the serve harder.

But of course, it is essential that you be a good volleyer - and Hingis, Novotna, Tauziat and Raymond are all good volleyers. Hingis is probably the best out of the four, so I guess that is why many people wonder why she still slugs away at the baseline a lot of the time when she could have found her way to the net.

No, you don't need to have a big serve to serve and volley. But I think it would be extremely helpful, and it would mean that you would not be as vulnerable on claycourts.

Nov 10th, 2002, 07:16 AM
One thing that makes it so difficult consistently is the face that when you come in you have even less time to react to the return. I can't give you an unequivocal answer as to why more girls don't try learning it. It's a complex thing to explain actually since there are many different factors that contribute to the reluctance of girls to really invest in becoming serve n volleyers.

Rae Q.
Nov 10th, 2002, 07:27 AM
No you do not. If you place it well you can come in on an 80mph serve.

Brian Stewart
Nov 10th, 2002, 08:12 AM
Agreed with everyone here. You don't need a big serve, you need a good serve. For S&V, this puts the priority on placement over velocity. S&V is the tennis equivalent to a mini chess game within the match. Each shot has a purpose, with the ultimate goal being to give yourself the best chance of winning the point.

The old-timers call this "percentage tennis", and for good reason. The basic geometry of tennis tells you that the closer you get to the net the greater the angle you can hit a successful (in bounds) shot, both in terms of horizontal angle, and vertical. More of your opponent's court is open to you. This gives you even more options. And allows you to win points even when the shot isn't executed as well. The closer to net you are, the less precise your shot has to be. A mis-hit off the frame can be a winner.

As far as going for a winner on the first volley, I think you'll see that the top S&V practitioners don't set out with this intent, although you can often wind up with a winner on the first volley.

The other plus of S&V is the benefits within the Physics of the game; the time vs. distance aspect. From the time your opponent hits the shot, until you hit it, the ball travels "X" feet, and takes "Y" seconds to do so. If you hit your return shot just as hard, it has to travel back roughly the same distance over the same time. Thus your opponent has 2Y seconds before they have to hit it again. As the ball is slowing down as it travels through the air, each foot the ball travels takes longer than the previous one. So, the further back you are in the court, the more time you allow them.

But, move in a bit, and you take time away from your opponent. For every foot you move forward, you take away not only the time it would have taken to travel that extra foot to you, but also from you. In both cases, this will be the last, slowest foot of travel. That's why Agassi and Seles were so successful in the early 90's by "hitting the ball on the rise", thus taking time away from their opponents. S&V is the ultimate "time-robber". Not only do opponents have to play uncomfortable shots, they've precious little time to recover to hit the next.

Oops, got me going on one of my fave topics. Why use one sentence when you can use a few... dozen? :o

Rae Q.
Nov 10th, 2002, 09:04 AM
Lol@Brian Stewart. Very good description.

Nov 10th, 2002, 12:13 PM
Yes, Brian Stewart sums up the merits of serve and volley.

Why are the women (particularly) not doing this then? It can't just be confidence surely? The technological advances with rackets have helped the returner get more power. I wonder if the supposed disadvantages of returning have completely reverting to being neutral?

It's hard to explain, and i think there's no logical reason, just a lack of teaching of this method now, few examples on tour, and a lot of pressure to not take risks on court.

Nov 10th, 2002, 12:26 PM
Serena is mad at herself for not serve and volleying this year:o ! She listed her year as a 7 out of 10 because she wasn't coming to net enough. Is anyone else scared?