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Death Knell for a Shot 03/09/2010 - 3:46 PM

94075467 by Pete Bodo

Afternoon, folks. Things are easing up here at the office, and I look forward to focusing on the upcoming Masters 1000 combined event at Indian Wells. Bobby Chintapalli will be back by popular demand, probably tomorrow, with a women's preview.

Meanwhile, a remark left in the comments at a recent post on how Nick Bollettieri helped shape the contemporary game stuck in my mind and had me thinking a bit in the ensuing days. I think it was Aussiemarg who wrote the comment, in which she expressed her appreciation for the approach shot, which once was the second- or third-most important tool in the box of the serve-and-volley expert.

It occurs to me that if the serve-and-volley game has indeed gone belly up, at least until  more promoters make an (unforeseeable) commitment to faster surfaces, it's partly because the approach shot was already going the way of the carrier pigeon. There's certainly a chicken-or-egg riddle at the heart of this issue, but does anyone else share the opinion that the approach shot was one of the first casualties of the New World Game (the power baseline game, if you prefer)? And that the development only made serve-and-volley tennis that much less tenable?

Note here that serve-and-volley tennis is not synonymous with approach-and-volley tennis. If you're courageous (or crazy) enough to serve and charge the net, you'll be hitting fewer rather than more approach shots than if you play an all-court or even baseline game. To my way of thinking, the demise of the approach shot drove one of the largest of nails into the serve-and-volley game, because once the approach-and-volley game was no longer effective, an entire area of skill and strategy based on the use of the volley began to dry up.

Only a contrarian would suggest that a serve-and-volley player would survive on today's tour on a week-to-week basis. If it were possible, someone out there would be doing it - of that I'm convinced. And even if we all agree that serve-and-volley tennis is on life-support, there's no automatic linkage there with approach-and-volley tennis. If the latter strategy were more productive, we'd be seeing a lot more that, too. Maybe we should be seeing a lot more of it, because it isn't like the approach shot/volley combination has been proven insufficient (hail, there isn't even enough data to make that claim with any empirical evidence). It's just that the approach shot appears to have been swept into the dust bin of history, either for solid, game-based reasons, or as a matter of prejudice (in which case the trend might yet be reversed).

What happened, I think, is fairly simple. The new, muscular baseline ball bangers, with a load of help from the evolution in equipment, decided that the risk/reward equation of the approach shot was no longer favorable. The approach shot is a set-up shot, and it usually requires a conscious decision by a player to sacrifice pace and even power for placement, for which the reward is excellent court positioning to end the point with a volley. The problem is that in today's game, players just can't afford to hit a shot as basically prudent as the typical, pretty approach (I think especially of a John McEnroe or Stefan Edberg's  backhand slice). What passed for a textbook approach shot as few as 15 or 20 years ago is answered today by something like a resounding shout of: Get that crap out of here!  Ka-Boom!

Unless an approach shot is hit with the opponent in a hopeless position to begin with, today's versatile, make-power-from-anywhere players are apt to treat it with scorn. The shot is too. . . neutral, and therefore too much of an invitation for the player receiving it to take the offensive. You need a surface with very particular playing properties (low bounce and, preferably, medium to fast speed) to even think of hitting an approach shot that basically says: I'm betting that my volley can beat your passing shot.

Unless, of course, you feel that you can pressure your opponent into missing shots he's ordinarily expected to make. But that's a whole other story. . .

So in today's game, the approach is a defensive-offensive shot; it's intended to end the point on the deferred payment plan, but it's also hit (usually) with a measure of prudence - something for which there is increasingly little place in the contemporary game. The alternative to the approach shot is the purely offensive shot, and that's where the changing game has made the approach shot even less appealing. Where Rod Laver might have hit a certain backhand down the line with resolve but restraint, setting up his volley, Roger Federer pulls the trigger and blasts a monstrous winner. Where an Ilie Nastase once moved forward to hit a rolling forehand to the backhand corner of his opponent, daring him to come up with a good pass or lob, a Rafa Nadal today punishes the ball, going for the out-and-out winner. At worst, he settles for driving his opponent even further back off the baseline.

The player who first and still perhaps most conspicuously deleted the approach shot from his hard drive was Jim Courier, a Bollettieri protege. Granted, Courier's volley was less than a work of art. But more important, Courier's big, inside-out forehand was one indeed.

There's a popular expression in football: when you throw a forward pass, three things can happen, and two of them are bad (the only good one is a completed pass; an incomplete or interception represent failure). It's a little like that with the approach shot; you miss it (or don't hit it well enough) and you're toast; you make it but get passed, you're out of there. You make it and win the point with your volley, you've completed the task - unless, of course, you miss the volley. And your opponent has something to say about which result you get.

By contrast, you take that ball for which you're well set up and go for the killing shot and you're (at least in theory) working on a 50-50 proposition; and you have some cushion in there, because a fiercely hit ball that doesn't go out or produce a clean winner can be more effective than any calculated approach shot, and it sets you up for you next big forehand or backhand.

No matter how I add it up, the answer seems the same. The approach shot has outlived its usefulness. Only a renaissance of attacking tennis - which is different from serve-and-volley tennis - can make it relevant again. Pat Rafter was the master of the approach shot and we're not likely to see his likes again anytime soon, even if we wish we would. He paid dearly for basing his game on the approach (even moreso than on the serve-and-volley) at a time when the game was already in transition to its present state.

But as tennis is a game of motion, in motion, it will be interesting to see what happens next.


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Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 03:52 PM

ATP draw for Indian Wells starts in approx 7 minutes.

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 03:56 PM

Titles (Finalist appearance if best result)

Ace WTA rankings
(1)Serena Williams (10-1): Australian Open
(2)Venus Williams (14-1): Dubai and Acapulco
(3)Elena Dementieva (14-3): Sydney and Paris
(4)Justine Henin (10-2): (Australian Open and Brisbane)
(5)Victoria Azarenka (11-3): (Dubai)
(6)Na Li (8-5)
(7)Jie Zheng (8-4)
(8)Vera Zvonareva (11-3): Pattaya City
(9)Shahar Peer (15-5): (Hobart)
(10)Yanina Wickmayer (13-3): Auckland

Ace ATP rankings
(1)Roger Federer (10-1): Australian Open
(2)Marin Cilic (18-2): Chennai and Zagreb
(3)Andy Murray (7-2): (Australian Open)
(4)Novak Djokovic(13-2): Dubai
(5)Juan Carlos Ferrero(14-3): Costa do Sauipe and Buenos Aires
(6)David Ferrer (15-4): Acapulco
(7)Andy Roddick (15-3): Brisbane
(8)Nikolay Davydenko (13-3): Doha
(9)John Isner (12-5): Auckland
(10)Sam Querrey(9-6): Memphis

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 03:56 PM

Indian Wells commentary teams:

FSN(WTA) - Sam Gore and Lindsay Davenport
FSN(ATP) - Sam Gore and Justin Gimelstob
Tennis Channel(WTA) - Brett Haber, Tracy Austin and Cari Champion
Tennis Channel(ATP) - Jason Goodall, Doug Adler and Robbie Koenig

Posted by Neveah 03/09/2010 at 03:57 PM

Let the cupcake war begin;)hehe

Posted by Pspace (Proud Rafaelite since Shakira) 03/09/2010 at 03:57 PM

Interesting post, Pete. Not sure I agree. Approach-volley strategies are still a pliable trade on grass and DecoTurf. The number of points on clay that are finished at net is also quite high, perhaps because it's just hard to get the ball by guys from the back of the court.

Of course, if you adopt the narrow defintion of "approach" as slice bh DTL, then it is probably dead. Nowadays, you need to use more variety, and the goal is more to try to get the opponent to hit the shot off balance. If he gets his feet under him with time to hit the shot, bang...you're dead. I'd say that slice approaches could constitute about 20% of approaches, provided that there is a threat of a power approach.

Posted by robbyfan 03/09/2010 at 04:08 PM

ooo-I like the TC commentary teams. Nor more Gimbleslob?

Posted by robbyfan 03/09/2010 at 04:09 PM

Who is the man in motion in the pic?

Posted by beth ( YEAHHHH SAINTS!!!) 03/09/2010 at 04:13 PM

I believe that is Rafter in the photo
only he has grown some facial hair there , so he looks a bit different than what we are used to seeing from him

Gimelstob - yuck - so glad I do not have to listen to him this time

Posted by Alexis 03/09/2010 at 04:15 PM

The picture is Patrick Rafter.

Posted by robbyfan 03/09/2010 at 04:16 PM

I do like the facial hair.

Posted by beth ( YEAHHHH SAINTS!!!) 03/09/2010 at 04:18 PM

as a general rule , I am not a fan of facial hair

but , it's Pat Rafter
it is hard to make him look bad

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 04:19 PM

Robbyfan,
Unfortunately, Justin will still be part of the TC team as he will do the Hit for Haiti on Friday and we will probably see him on TC later in the year.

Posted by Tic 03/09/2010 at 04:21 PM

Watch Djokovic's recent matches - BHDTL approach shots galore. Almost his most used attacking shot that one, from a neutral rally. Bet Todd is to blame.

And he gets punished for that more often than not, of course.

Posted by robbyfan 03/09/2010 at 04:21 PM

Master Ace-I am confused. I thought the Hit for Haiti was the 16th. Did it change? I was just hoping Justin was gone for good.

Posted by Alexis 03/09/2010 at 04:23 PM

'Hit for Haiti' is this Friday night, the 12th at 7:30pm pst.

And I will be there! YEAH!!

Posted by beth ( YEAHHHH SAINTS!!!) 03/09/2010 at 04:23 PM

the Hit for Haiti is this Friday night, the 12th

I wonder if there will be other matches scheduled, following the exhibition

Posted by robbyfan 03/09/2010 at 04:24 PM

Thanks Alexis. So jealous but hope you all have a wonderful time, take lots of pictures, and send daily updates.

I'm out for now.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 04:24 PM

Thanks Pete a well thought out post

Indeed Rafter was awesome in his approach shots.Pure.Though that was in a different era when real men wore real tennis shorts and long socks.I think to with these new power head racquets and poly strings the "technique" has gone to some extent.Moving on with the baseline play we have today.Unless the shot is correct and well positioned its just "candy" so to speak.I remember Graff used to use her slice to set up her awesome f/hand.

I still feel anyone player that can have as many "tricks in his bag" eg the volley is still advantageous even in todays game.

Posted by Alexis 03/09/2010 at 04:24 PM

Beth, originally the plan was for a singles match to follow the exo. But that was before they added the women to the exo. Still, I think one singles match will follow.

Posted by Mr.X (Got cupcake?) 03/09/2010 at 04:26 PM

Hi everyone.
I agree about the approach shot, Pete. It is rarely used, and when it is, it isnt very effective these days. Not that i see much wrong with that, personally. I like the type of game that's played nowadays.
But yeah, now, a player will rarely go the net if he doesnt have a distinct advantage in the point, and even that way, the number of passings we see is pretty high. Imagine what would happen if the players went to the net with the point in a neutral situation.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 04:26 PM

Please that is Rafter he looks good even with Facial Hair

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/09/2010 at 04:27 PM

Pspace... Can approaches be anything other than sliced? Surely, no one hits topspin approach shots. Unless, I guess, you also include as an "approach shot", say, a midcourt forehand that you mean to hit for a winner which your opponent somehow floats back and you put away the volley. And speaking of variety. Where is the forehand sliced approach hit with sidespin?

I think one of the problems might be how deep you need to hit the approach nowadays to elicit a weakish reply. The ball has to practically skid off the baseline to trouble the likes of Nadal or Djokovic.

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 04:28 PM

Aussiemarg,
Nadia is playing doubles with Samantha. I thought Samantha wanted to concentrate on her singles but this is the 2nd consective year, Samantha said that. Wonder if we should believe her if she say that again?

Posted by beth ( YEAHHHH SAINTS!!!) 03/09/2010 at 04:29 PM

Alexis - ok - sounds reasonable
I know they usually have 2 matches scheduled on the main court at the evening sessions - so that ought to work out

Hopefully , I will see you there !

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 04:29 PM

Master Ace Thanks for that news.I give up.

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 04:30 PM

"Imagine what would happen if the players went to the net with the point in a neutral situation."

Mr. X.,
That player would win the point only one out of ten attempts.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 03/09/2010 at 04:34 PM

"Only a contrarian would suggest that a serve-and-volley player would survive on today's tour on a week-to-week basis."

Waiting for NP's arrival...

Enjoyed the read, Pete, & I'll enjoy reading everyone else's knowledgeable comments, too. :)

I like pictures of Rafter. :)

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/09/2010 at 04:35 PM

Maybe with the two-handed backhand being more or less standard, particularly in the WTA, many players today don't slice effectively enough for the approach to be a viable strategy.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 03/09/2010 at 04:35 PM

Hmm. I recognized Rafter by his legs.

Posted by DMS 03/09/2010 at 04:36 PM

Wow, Master Ace, you even know the commentary lineups for television, you are the true sentinel around here...so the men's draw comes out when?

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 04:37 PM

Pete By the way you get extra points from me for that wonderful shot of Pat

You do know how to "get to me" lol!

Posted by greenhopper 03/09/2010 at 04:38 PM

AM, Nick Lindahl just beat Kendrick, coming from a set down. On to the 2nd round of qualies.

The tournament website says men's draw will be out on the 11th, but according to draw challenge page on the ATP site, it should be out already. I so confused.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 04:39 PM

I cant wait for Robbie and Doug again

What a commentary team they make.

I have missed Doug soo much.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 04:40 PM

GH Well done by Nick.Thanks for the info.

Posted by Sherlock 03/09/2010 at 04:40 PM

Not to be a contrarian, but I wish somebody would try it. If someone had a pretty good serve and a Rafter/Edberg-like volley, I think it could still be done. So many guys just block returns back these days because they know there is no immediate pressure of a net rush. And it would be interesting to see the big hitters have to face the pressure point after point. A lot harder to hit winners under those circumstances.

Posted by ulpianus 03/09/2010 at 04:42 PM

It is for the reason exposed by Pete, that we have to admire the only specimen that yet use good aproach shots: Stepanek.

Posted by Grant 03/09/2010 at 04:45 PM

""Only a contrarian would suggest that a serve-and-volley player would survive on today's tour on a week-to-week basis."

Waiting for NP's arrival..."

Now he's sure to deny being a contrarian.

Posted by Alexis 03/09/2010 at 04:46 PM

greenhopper, the website is wrong. The mens first round starts on the 11th, so obviously the draw couldn't be then. I believe the draw should already have started.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (in love with Mark Harmon) 03/09/2010 at 04:48 PM

Sherlock, there was a fellow this year who actually served and volleyed. I think he was an Aussie (Carsten Ball?). He was playing really well. Made about 1,000 approaches to net and won about 90% of them. I think he ran out of steam in the end as he had to keep coming up with superb volleys all the time. His serve while it was good, he ended up making quite a few double faults. AM was that Carsten Ball or another Aussie?

Posted by greenhopper 03/09/2010 at 04:48 PM

Right. Thanks, Alexis. The tournament twitter says Harrison and Ginepri are doing the draw right now.

http://twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN

Posted by Pspace (Proud Rafaelite since Shakira) 03/09/2010 at 04:50 PM

YAL, If you look at good approacher, for example, Federer, Stepanek, and to an extent Nadal and Murray, they hit a ton of different approach shots. Pretty much any shot that you play in response to a short slice counts as an approach-type shot in my book. Sometimes you try to end the point with the approach itself, one can also go down the middle and really close the net to cut off angles, attack the opponent's weaker side (for example, going with topspin to Murray's fh and forcing him to hit it DTL), drop shot...and so on.

Federer himself has said that he employs CC "approaches".

In the past, you could expect to do less with your approach and more with the volley. Now, I'd say the approach is more important. Anyways, I don't think approach shot is the right way to think about it any more...it's more a set of patterns to draw from ending at net.

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 04:52 PM

DMS,
I read that yesterday so I decided to post that here at TW.

Posted by Pspace (Proud Rafaelite since Shakira) 03/09/2010 at 04:56 PM

"""
So many guys just block returns back these days because they know there is no immediate pressure of a net rush
"""

Sherlock, but they block it because they can, not because that's the only thing they can do. How many times have we seen Federer get burned when he tries a sneak S&V? And, a lot of the time it has nothing to do with volleying skills....he can't even get the raquet on it.

If you look at Oz '10 SF, Fed vs Tsonga. Tsonga did an S&V on one point. Next three points Fed plays aggressive topspin returns, forcing him to stay back. And, I don't believ there is a player in the world past or present who can employ a majority S&V strategy against Rafa, Djokovic, Murray or del Potro. I'd like to see Sampras try...but I wouldn't bet on him.

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/09/2010 at 04:59 PM

Pspace... yeah... I see your point. Particularly, approaching the net by cutting off angles. Of course, with Federer's speed, and by that I mean speed of thought not just foot, he often sneaks into the net off shots that may not have initially been approaches.

You're right to say the approach shot, as such, probably doesn't exist any more and that it's more about patterns. Nadal's often excellent net play certainly doesn't stem from the conventional approach. I'd still like to see someone bring back the forehand slice. Of course, with the sort of two-hander wielded by the likes of Murray and Djokovic, the forehand slice would be suicide. Though maybe they'd be laughing so hard at the approach they'd miss the pass.

Posted by Mr.X (Got cupcake?) 03/09/2010 at 05:02 PM

"I'd like to see Sampras try...but I wouldn't bet on him."
That's it. THAT will make him appear:)

If you consider the shots used to answer a short slice approaches, then there are indeed some, but the way i see it, the approach shot in the past was a result only of the player's decission. In those cases, it's more of a reactive shot (to answer a short slice), so i'm not sure that's the type of shot Pete was making reference to in this post.
Still, s&v can be effective as a surprise weapon. Muzz got Rafa several times in key points in their QF match in Oz, seving well and charging the net.

Posted by DMS 03/09/2010 at 05:02 PM

thank you greenhopper. Ace, don't sell yourself short.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 05:04 PM

Karen Yes it was Carsten I believe

Posted by foogaw 03/09/2010 at 05:04 PM

Part of the problem appears to be bad coaching. Players when they do approach hit more cross court approach shots than down the line these days, which gives their opponents easier passing shots. Also when they do approach down the line, they rarely cover the down the line pass. All this discourages them from taking the net.

Posted by Samantha Elin, supporter of all things Scandinavian 03/09/2010 at 05:04 PM

OMG, Pat Rafter is so hott!!

Posted by VC 03/09/2010 at 05:05 PM

I think the introduction of strings that can impart more spin and the prevalence of slower surfaces that take more spin also makes it harder to approach the net. Flatter approach shots that skid off the surface would work better than the standard topspin groundstrokes that players use these days.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 05:06 PM

I still believe that using say even the s/volley in todays game is good on a tactical basis.Lets say you can see your opponent way behind the baseline using a drop volley will get you the point.

Posted by Tigress 03/09/2010 at 05:06 PM

R.F. WEEKLY COUNTDOWN to 287: 14


Monday, March 8, 2010
Roger Federer Countdown to #1 Record 287: 14 (Fourteen) weeks
Weeks #1: 273
#1 Weeks Rank: 2nd
Ranking Points: 11,350
Points gain/loss from last week: 0
2nd: Djokovic (8310), 3rd: Nadal (7440) 4th: Murray (7255)
Point Lead: 3040 (Djokovic), 3910 (Nadal), 4095 (Murray)
Points Lead gain/loss: 0 (Djokovic), +80 (Nadal), 0 (Murray)
Target Date for Record #287: June 14, 2010
Pete Sampras Record for #1: 286 weeks
1st time #1: February 2, 2004. 237 weeks
2nd time #1: July 6, 2009. 36 weeks (ongoing)

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 05:06 PM

With players getting more accurate with passing shots these days, I believe that for a player to get to net with an effective approach is that they must read correctly on what the opponent is doing. I believe this is where Roger does a decent job at these days.

Posted by fifties 03/09/2010 at 05:07 PM

Those of us who saw Nalbandian this weekend noticed a modern type of approach shot. Nalby hit deep to his op:s bh and when he figuerd the opponent was only going to reply with a defensive slice, he quickly took the net, very small degree of risk in that S-V strategy, nice to see.


Posted by Pspace (Proud Rafaelite since Shakira) 03/09/2010 at 05:08 PM

Mr. X, I was actually surprised that Rafa didn't adjust to that tactic from Muzz. It wasn't the first time he's done it against him. But, Rafa's bh return was off. Anyways, I think it was more that Muzz came up with huge serves in the important points...the volley itself had a pretty low degree of difficulty.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 05:08 PM

Thank goodness Roger is using his volley more.Tony Roche would be proud.

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 05:08 PM

Samantha Elin,
Do you think Caroline will jump start her season as she only played 3 tournaments so far? If you think Rafter is hott with the picture presented, you need to check him out in Edberg/Sampras days when he wore a ponytail.

Posted by VC 03/09/2010 at 05:10 PM

Aussiemarg : Yeah, if you look at Davydenko's net-game, it basically consists of a decent FH and BH drop-volley - that's about it. He doesn't attempt any other type of volley, and he still manages with it pretty well as long as he comes in behind the right approach.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 05:10 PM

Where is NP this post was just made for him

Posted by Sherlock 03/09/2010 at 05:11 PM

"but they block it because they can, not because that's the only thing they can do"

Well, sure. I agree. But they still don't have to do it very often, under pressure. Fed did it once in your example. But for a whole match, over and over, well, I'd just like to see it.

It's a mentality. And one that nobody has anymore. These guys are brought up on ripping from the baseline. It's comfortable for them.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 05:12 PM

VC As I said and even Pete picked it up

Its all about the "approach shot period".

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 05:12 PM

Aussiemarg and Jewell,
Indeed, this is a NP post. My post is tomorrow when Bobby preview the WTA. Hopefully, I will have my bracket done by then with qualifiers included. Sokol may be happy where I think some of her Russians will fare.

Posted by Mr.X (Got cupcake?) 03/09/2010 at 05:12 PM

Tigress,
Are you sure it isnt Nadal losing 80 points as a result of his points from the DC 1st round last year falling off?

By the way, VC, congratulations on your team.

I read an interview with Nadal in the Spanish newspaper AS today. The guy is as stubborn as it gets. Journalist kept trying to bring the point of his HC defeats to the likes on Nole and Delpo mainly, and he kept saying it was lack of confidence and the inability to find rythm playing regularly. And he also gave a new view on how he will address DC, saying more or less that he will be there when absolutely neccesary. Included the upcoming tie against France in that category.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 05:14 PM

Master Ace Thanks.Russia has so much depth in the WTA today.

Posted by Mr.X (Got cupcake?) 03/09/2010 at 05:15 PM

Ignore my previous post, Tigress. I just realised that what you included was Roger's gain or loss of points in his lead, and what you meant is that with Rafa losing 80 points, Roger's advantage increases.

VC,
True about Kolya, but as many others, he only comes to the net when he has the point well in control, to close it. In those cases, a drop volley works.

Posted by fifties 03/09/2010 at 05:18 PM

Nalbandian used it frequéntly, was very succesful with it. The shot was often the second-in-a row hit at the op.s bh, almost always but not completely "wrong-footing" him. The court was quick though.

Posted by Ognyen 03/09/2010 at 05:18 PM

Bodo. it's time for you and other American [edited for profanity] on Tennis.com to start writting as Journalist not fans and haters!

Posted by Expert Commentator 03/09/2010 at 05:21 PM

Maybe the only approach shot that is dead is the slice or chip approach. You can always hit a forcing shot and come in behind it if it is good enough. If you can hit winners from the baseline, then you can hit forcing shots from the baseline good enough to draw a weak or short reply.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 05:21 PM

Actually I was surprised that Nalbandian was coming to the net so often.Not usually his game at all.Though it makes sense if you are in control of the point and are transgessing to the net why not? gets the point over quicker.

Posted by fifties 03/09/2010 at 05:22 PM

Nalbandian is really a creamy player when he plays well, which he did in Sthlm, apart from Federer I can´t think of anyone I rather watch.

Posted by VC 03/09/2010 at 05:22 PM

Thanks, Mr. X! However, I don't expect them to go any further in the competition. Best of luck to yours as well, though I'll be cheering for the underdogs. ;-)

I agree with Pspace that players block back returns because they have the choice to do so. I find that Nadal and Murray make very quick adjustments to return at a S&Vers feet when they play the occasional S&Ver like Karlovic or Stepanek. Even Federer returned much more aggressively than usual against Ivo at Wimbledon last year.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (in love with Mark Harmon) 03/09/2010 at 05:22 PM

As I have no idea how to volley apart from when an opponent draws me to the net with a short ball, I cannot contribute to this conversation. I will say however that when placed under pressure even the worst player that ever took up a racquet and decided to hit a tennis court will be able to hit a half way decent approach shot. I can recall on 2 occassions when I was faced with being given a 10-0 beating in my very first league match hit a forehand up the line that took my more experienced opponent off guard, he went cross court (it was a mixed league) and I channeled my inner Venus and after hitting the approach shot up the line realising that I had no choice but to approach the net for the cross, ran up to the net (there was no transition in that approach) and put away the forehand volley for a winner. I went on to lose the match 10-0 but that approach shot and volley are my very best memories. I remember in that match I actually hit a lob as well when my opponent was approaching the net. The lob was not hit because I knew what to do I think the racquet just got tired of me hitting balls into the bottom of the net and decided to put one over - the good thing was that it ended up being a winner.

Posted by Alexis 03/09/2010 at 05:23 PM

"And he also gave a new view on how he will address DC, saying more or less that he will be there when absolutely necessary."

I can't fault him for that at all. But as I've said many times, he's lucky that he isn't 'absolutely necessary' for his team to win.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 05:23 PM

Players today use the "slice" as their approach shot

Posted by Yet Another Lurker 03/09/2010 at 05:25 PM

Fifties... I guess that fits in with what Pspace was saying (not to put words in his mouth). Nalbandian, going by your description (didn't seem him play at the weekend), worked the point until he elicited the weak reply and then rapidly approached the net to close with the volley.

The approach shot, as I think of it, is a shot that enables you to camp at the net. It stays low, forces your opponent to hit up, enabling you to finish the point at the net with one or two volleys. Of course, approaching these days to your opponent's two-handed backhand, with anything less than perfect depth (i.e. skidding off the baseline) will result in the ball dipping past your despairing lunge.

Posted by fifties 03/09/2010 at 05:26 PM

I was surprised too, but probably the quick courts made it easier for him. His backhand was superb as well, but that´s nothing new.

Posted by Diane 03/09/2010 at 05:27 PM

http://www.atpworldtour.com/posting/2010/404/mds.pdf

Finally

Posted by Pspace (Proud Rafaelite since Shakira) 03/09/2010 at 05:29 PM

Yay! Roger-Rafa SF!!! Please guys, you both better make it.

Posted by Expert Commentator 03/09/2010 at 05:29 PM

The last great serv-and-volleyers: Pete Sampras, Pat Rafter, Goran Ivanesevic...

Posted by Jamaica Karen (in love with Mark Harmon) 03/09/2010 at 05:31 PM

Moderator, clean up at 5:18 - use of profanity

Posted by VC 03/09/2010 at 05:31 PM

Hmm, interesting. Possible QFs :

Fed-Roddick, Murray-Tsonga, Rafa-Kolya, Nole-Cilic (DC preview?). Should be good fun.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 03/09/2010 at 05:32 PM

"Roger-Rafa SF!!!"

So which one has the cupcake? ;-)

Thanks for that about Rafa, Mr X. :)

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 05:33 PM

Start the cupcake discussion:

http://www.bnpparibasopen.org/Scores/Draws.aspx

Posted by Sherlock 03/09/2010 at 05:33 PM

Pspace, is that right? I must be reading it wrong. I see Rafa-Djoko in the bottom half, Rog-Andy on top.

Posted by VC 03/09/2010 at 05:33 PM

Pspace : They're in oppposite halves as far as I could make out.. I think Fed-Murray and Rafa-Djokovic are the possible semi lineups. Still, not bad.

Posted by zenggi 03/09/2010 at 05:33 PM

Hi again.

Excuse me but Rafa is not in Roger's half.

Posted by Alexis 03/09/2010 at 05:34 PM

Jewell - Roger and Rafa are in opposite sides. They can't meet in the SF.

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 05:34 PM

No, its a Novak/Rafael and Roger/Andy M SF

Posted by greenhopper 03/09/2010 at 05:34 PM

Umm no. Fed/Muzz Rafa/Nole are potential SFs based on seeding. Not that it will happen.

Posted by chegu 03/09/2010 at 05:34 PM

roddick in fed's quarter, i didn't want to see it:-(

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 03/09/2010 at 05:35 PM

Phew. :)

Posted by Mr.X (Got cupcake?) 03/09/2010 at 05:35 PM

OK, the cupcakes are ready. So, Fed and Rafa are not in the same half. Rigged draws, anybody?:)

Posted by VC 03/09/2010 at 05:36 PM

I had forgotten that in IW and Miami, the top guys have to win 6 rounds and not the usual 5 to win the tournament.

Posted by Jamaica Karen (in love with Mark Harmon) 03/09/2010 at 05:36 PM

Whew!!!!! indeed

Posted by Aussiemarg,Madame President,bring back the Sleeveless 03/09/2010 at 05:37 PM

Well I suppose people will say Rafa has a cup cake draw regardless lol!

Posted by Pspace (Proud Rafaelite since Shakira) 03/09/2010 at 05:37 PM

Ok...predictions:

Q1: Federer vs Monfils -- Randy is in Bambi's eighth, but I think Gael should go through.
Q2: Nadal vs Gulbis (!) - Kolya is in Ernie's eighth, but he's hurt. Bird is the other big player....so he's a possibility as well. But, I'm feeling the hope.
Q3: Murray vs Soderling -- Jo lurks for Robin, but he's playing hurt as well.
Q4: Cilic vs Djokovic -- I could see Nole losing earlier...possibly to PEHK if he's playing well. He's also potentially got a tough first match against Fish.

S1: Federer vs Nadal -- Pretty please!
S2: Murray vs Cilic

F: Nadal vs Murray -- Picking Fedal is impossible. I feel like IW suits Rafa's game better.

Winner: Muzzzzah! Provided there is no tornado this time.

Posted by Pspace (Proud Rafaelite since Shakira) 03/09/2010 at 05:40 PM

Oh crap. Sorry guys. My bad. *cries* No Fedal SF. Muzz will take out Fed. Amended predictions:

Q1: Fed vs Monf
Q2: Muzz vs Soderling
Q3: Nadal vs Gulbis
Q4: Cilic vs Djokovic

S1: Fed vs Muzz
S2: Nadal vs Cilic

F: Cilic vs Muzz

Winner is still Muzzah!

Posted by Master Ace 03/09/2010 at 05:41 PM

Pspace,
You got your Quarters wrong - Rafael is in Novak half and Muzzah is in Roger half

Posted by Skeptic 03/09/2010 at 05:41 PM

Hi Pete,

I'm a long-time reader of this blog and I rarely post, but here I feel a need to comment ... The question of whether or not the "approach shot" is dead hinges heavily on how we define it. I think that if we define an approach shot as "any ground-stroke which sets up a volley or mid-court overhead" then the approach shot is certainly not dead. We know that Federer, Djokovic, Tsonga - even Nadal and Roddick - hit at least a handful of volleys and overheads in any given match, and only a small proportion of those net plays are set up by that dinosaur of tennis, the serve-and-volley. What about the remainder of those net plays? How are they set up, if not by ground-stroke approach shots?

I wholly agree that net play, and certainly the serve-and-volley, has taken a back seat to baseline play in recent years. But as far as I can tell the approach shot is still very much a part of the top players' repertoire.

Posted by Alexis 03/09/2010 at 05:41 PM

One thing I've never liked is that 'qualifiers' and 'wildcards' are randomly drawn instead of being spaced out like the seeds are. Rafa's quarter has five qualifiers in it. That seems overloaded.

Just from a cursory look, I didn't see any quarter as being markedly more difficult than any other.

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