Serve & Volley – How Pete Sampras’s Tossing Motion Helps Move Him Forward

I really miss watching Pete Sampras play tennis.

Serve and volley on the pro tour for a majority of the players doesn’t appear to ever be coming back any time soon.

Whatever, as players not making a dime on the pro tour, serve and volley should be alive and well.

It’sa helluva lot more fun than camping out 3 feet behind the baseline, grinding, and trying to copy Rafa.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching today’s pros. But, I don’t want to play like them.

If you want to play more serve and volley or even start the process of learning how to learn how to do it, this video of Pete Sampras will show you the importance of how your serve tossing motion’s finish position plays a huge part in your efficiency to move forward into the court.

 

How To Serve & Volley So That You Feel A Bit Like Pete ;-)

Seriously, when I learned how to serve & volley from the great Tom Stow,
I’ll never forget when he first started showing me what to do.

He kept reminding me that serve & volley was simply a lot more fun.

More fun because you feel in charge out there.

Click here to get started with having MORE fun on the tennis court.

 

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Comments

  1. I only play at the 4.5 level, but in this age, even at this low level, the baseliner has the advantage. Tennis is a game of percentages, and the baseliner has a bigger target space than the netrusher.

    I play a lot of different players, and there’s definitely one who makes me nervous at the net. “T” rushes the net every single point, and he maxes out your strategy effectively. He has the personality to attack constantly, and he’s perfected his volley technique. Volleying can definitely “work” when practiced and employed religiously for years, but most people will never fit this profile

    About a third of my remaining opponents claim to enjoy the net and make occasional forays to the front, including serving and volleying. They all make me very happy when they come forward. Seeing my opponent coming forward simplifies the service return for me, and sharpens my stroke amazingly. When I see them coming forward I go from returning about 70% to 80%+, because I do nothing fancy. I just hit the ball at them lowish and hardish, and wait for the floated volley. The percentages are with me. The serve was a tough shot, but if I can give them a tough return to volley, I’m going to get a much easier 4th shot, and I have 4 targets to choose from (left, right, over, and at them.) Sure, they get a percentage of nice 1st volleys, but that percentage is lower than 50%.

    Volleyers don’t get a magical increase in ability just because they’re at the net. They get an increase in available angle and an increase in self-imposed pressure. It works for some points, but between equal level players with modern equipment I like it when my opponent tries for “free points.”

    • Morning codepoke.

      I’m curious to what age group you’re in?

      A lot of the discussion recently this week here at WebTennis has been centered on whether or not juniors are being taught serve and volley.

      If you’re trained as a kid to stay back all day long, then you’re right, those players find it really tough to develop a solid serve and volley game later on when they’re adults.

      But I disagree with you on s/v taking way too long to learn.

      It’s definitely a commitment for sure. No question there.

      I didn’t really get my serve and volley training going until I was in my early 30s.

      I had to take my lumps for about 6 months. My game was all over the yard, and I was definitely losing to guys I’d regularly beat by simply staying back and running everything down.

      And yep, there were plenty of times then when I was ready to chuck it all in, and just say screw it to this serve & volley thing.

      Maybe I was too dumb to know when to stop trying, but I kept going, and for me, the confidence to play that style eventually started to work its way into my game.

      The proof that it works shows up in my results as a tournament player.

      Serve and volley is not simply a bull headed storm to the net.

      There are different ways to work your way up there behind your serve depending on the returner.

      Where to split step, where to play the transitional shot, what to look for next are all things that have several different variables that have to be deployed against specific types of opponents.

      So, I agree with you that serve and volley takes a real dedicated effort to be good at.

      I disagree with you that it can’t be done …

      Brent

      Serve & Transition is all that it takes – my 90 minute course

      • I’m 48 playing in an open league in Orlando. I grew up wanting to be an S&V specialist, and watched Pete for hours, but I grew up in a town of 3,000 and there was never anyone with whom to hit and certainly no coaches (the one I hired taught me to hit my backhand with my thumb behind the handle – sigh). Therefore, I’m a wall-trained, self-trained player. But I’m not forming my opinion based upon my difficulties learning to S&V, but upon the difficulties all the kids I’m playing have with it.

        Given the angle they generate from the baseline they all seem to be safer approaching behind a set play than behind their (very good) serves.

        • Interesting discussion.

          I am 47 and started tennis 5 years ago and also play open league and a few vets tournaments over here in the UK. I used to serve volley every point basically because my ground strokes sucked. Especially on fast courts I beat a whole host of people who should have creamed me based on stroke ability. I found it especially good in tiebreaks as attacking the net on bigpoints was very successful and getting my feet moving got rid of freezing tendencies on big points. However, we also play on very slow courts and continual SV is near impossible on these

          Then I learned proper technique and have taken the opposite journey to Brent – and had my fair share of lumps on the way!. I can SV, I enjoy it but I actually love being at the back and dictating a rally. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing an opponent try to tee off because he does not want to run another yard. And like you I find my return improves and passing shots are crisp if I have a regular target.

          FInally I think that whether to SV does depend on the opponent. If I am confident I am more reliable than my opponent and he does not have big weapons then I stay back. Both because I am confident of my consistency and shot placement and because these type of players seem to like a target. However, if I am playing a big hitter (or a youngster) I will serve volley much more because the sight of me there at net seems to make them go for glory and be erratic so I get lots of free points that are not there if I stay back

        • Ah, OK. Hey, Budge had his thumb slightly along the back of the handle and did pretty well with it.

          You’re right about the kids having a tough time approaching the net behind their serves.

          So much of it is the fear of not being able to play a decent transitional shot.

          Brent

  2. Mike Scarpitti says:

    He is rotated too far to the left, a little.

  3. Rodger Schuester says:

    I’m lucky, in way, having only started this game at age 56, 6 years ago, and not having watched the pros playing tennis I lack the viewpoints, conceptions, and assumptions about the game that many of my fellow players have built up over the years. Playing competitively at the 3.5 singles tournament level these last few months has been a seasoning, growing experience for me and basically the game seems much about who is able to take control first, has the least unforced errors, and good enough strokes for the tactics they employ.

    The serve and volley argument, for me, is not one of absolute right, but relative to capabilities. Last week I played against a guy my age who was a 4.5 long before I started, and is now playing at the 3.5 level. I lost the tie-breaker by 2 points and he mentioned how bad I had killed him with my drop shots and said I should have won – well maybe and probably so next time…next time I will adjust to his adjustments a bit sooner and I will have grown my skills a bit more.

    My point is that most players I run into don’t use the drop shot any more than the serve & volley at my level. If you are missing a skill, that is one less skill to bring to the table against the wide variety of players, skills, physicalities, tactics, etc. one comes up against. Why would anyone not want to develop their serve and volley skills, etc?

    Well, ok, the answer is clear, variety comes at a huge cost and there is nothing wrong with focused expertise – it also works.

    For me, the more variety I employ, the more fun the game is and I know little or nothing about what the pros do, just what happens in my little corner of tennis. If someone else enjoys being an aggressive baseline, while I enjoy being an aggressive counterpuncher who likes to get to the net – that just makes the game more fun that day to see who can bring the most to the table for that moment in time.

  4. Chris Prescott says:

    Brett, watching Pete brings misty tears to my eyes, he was the last of the s/v warriors, along with Rafter and Edberg. With his 13+ oz. St. Vincent Pro Staffs and 18g natural gut and a serve gifted from the gods. Unfortunately polyester string has thrown all the s/v options out the window. Anyone 4.0 and higher can rip most serves back with interest making it very difficult to hit an aggressive volley. Rafter noted shortly after he retired that guys he was practicing with were passing him with ease and he attributed it to poly. I personally play a hybrid baseline game , I don’t try to s/v much but if I can get my opponent off court I will race in and volley any reply. BTW most juniors I hit with cannot volley to save their ass. On a final note, I think Sergei Stakhovsky is the only s/v player I can think of on the tour right now. I watched his match at Indian Wells and he was awesome, but if his volleys were not absolutely perfect he was in trouble and so it was, he lost in 3. The percentages just weren’t in his favor.

    • Hi Chris.

      Yeah, I agree. Watching Pete play was a treat that I think we may have taken for granted when he was at his best.

      I disagree however that most 4.0s and higher can grip and rip against a s/v player.

      No question that some can, but in my experience, s/v works IF you know what you’re doing.

      Unlike Sergei as you mentioned above, for the rest of us mere mortals, that approach volley doesn’t have to be dead perfect.

      Sure, I’ll get passed from time to time, but not often enough to force me to stop coming in.

      The serve at our level also doesn’t have to be huge as well. It’s just gotta keep the returner guessing, plus, a decent high bouncing 2nd serve is a must.

      In addition to s/v for us, don’t forget the chip and charge when you’re returning. The more pressure you put on your opponent with s/v and c/c, the more forced “unforced” errors you’ll get.

      Keep me moving forward out there Chris … ;-)

      Brent

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