We have discussed why serve and volley is unpopular among modern players in the article Is serve and volley still alive?
One blog’s reader said: “To serve and volley at the professional level (and be successful) an individual would have to have beyond super human reflexes, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and speed/quickness to deal with the tennis balls traveling 110 mph’s off a ground stroke or a ball that has 2,500 RPM (Roger Federer’s) to 5,000 RPM (Rafael Nadal’s).
One could argue that the pros do already have some of those characteristics and I agree some do. However, to serve volley (and be successful) the player must have double or even triple that amount of “super human” talent that exists on the tour today. It physically is not possible at this day and age to do so.”
I asked a tennis coach to express his opinion about the perspective of serve and volley.
“I heard the same arguments almost thirty years ago, when the person who was destined to become the greatest serve and volley player of all time was still a baselines with a two-handed backhand. It’s just not true.
What is true is that the ball crosses the net in both directions faster, in general, than it did a generation ago. The slower court helps the receiver more than the server because the volley is played before the bounce. But Yannick Noah won the French on clay and Pete Sampras the Australian on Rebound-Ace playing serve and volley. And I doubt that returners today are any better than Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, or Bjorn Borg.
What is also true is that serve and volley is difficult to learn. The truly great players of this type of game in the modern era, Sampras, Rafter, and Edberg at least, and probably John McEnroe and Boris Becker, all started off as ground strokers and then learned serve and volley.
That’s like telling a student to learn fluent French, and then pick up fluent Chinese in high school. And they have to give up the two-handed backhand if that is how they started. It isn’t easy, and if they want to turn professional at seventeen, it isn’t even possible.
Sadly, there aren’t any role models for what used to be called “the big game.” Sampras and Rafter had Edberg, Becker, and McEnroe. They in turn had Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Stanley Smith and Arthur Ashe. Tim Henman, the best serve and volleyer post-Sampras, might have been the twentieth best in the sixties.
Likewise the coaches aren’t familiar with the game anymore. They make their living by getting quick results, and learning to play the net doesn’t come quickly.
I tell my players that after they learn to serve, and after they learn to volley, it will take two years to put it together. Nobody has that kind of time anymore.
I do agree that the serve and volleyer has to be a superb athlete, and new technology permits ordinary athletes to win majors. But great athletes like Roger Federer and Serena Williams will still win their share of titles, and while Martina Navratilova may not return, some girl may look at videos of her, as Pete Sampras did of Rod Laver, and say, “I’d like to do that.”
What do you think about the perspective of serve and volley in modern tennis?