How to play against a serve and volley player?

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Always present during tournaments, serve and volley players are still players really tough to play against. Let's see what strategies you can use to counter them


Kasatkina retour

Yes, we are in 2017! Surfaces are slowing down and a lot of players starting to have the same game. Purists are complaining about the direction the tennis world is going, but also forget to say they are still using old school methods when they play. At Wimbledon this year, we have seen that serve and volley is not dead yet. Seen as a tough style to play against by some, the serve and volley player builds their game on one main game plan, simple but so efficient. How do you deal with this kind of opponent? This is what this article is all about. 

Everything starts during the warm-up!

The advantage to playing against a serve and volley player is that you already know what is coming. In order to prepare yourself, you should start by anticipating this. Try to find a partner who plays like this and practice with him. It will be a good warm-up before the match. Make this practice serve and return oriented. 

The return, the most important shot. 

This is the shot that will define if you will succeed or not against this kind of player. Of course it’s easier said than done. The goal is first to make your opponent play a second shot when he is serving. Exchanges are so short against them that every shot matters. The quality of your shot doesn’t matter, just think about keeping the ball in the court first. If your opponent is missing an easy volley at 30-40 you will be the happiest person on earth… Also, get used to their 1st and 2nd serve. Normally, their second serve will be slower than their first one. Therefore, if you show determination on your 2nd serve return, your opponent will start to think a little bit more and in turn decrease the speed of their 1st one. Everybody is not Karlovic hitting 1st and 2nd as the same shot.

Stay positive 

A great server is working with confidence. Their game is made by one main game plan. They will be able to perform with perfection if they are feeling confident. It’s your job to get in their head. If you’re starting to win these mind games, that is a great place to start. Like we said, to do it, you have to be flawless in your own behavior. Stay positive, push yourself, and show determination with your return of serve. If your opponent starts to think, their first serve percentage can quickly decrease and disturb the balance of their game. 

Bedene serve

Use the lob to increase uncertainty 

Today, the lob is starting to disappear but… Nothing is better than a good lob to counter a serve and volley player. When we look at the pro players today, a lot are looking for the most powerful passing shot possible. Most of the time, that doesn’t work because the serve and volley players left on tour usually have good results when that happens. Let’s get to the point: don’t hesitate to use lobs again and again. Easier said than done for some, its great strength is that it doesn’t need a perfect angle to work and your position on the court doesn’t matter. Now, you have to hit it with good depth to avoid the smash. Try to take Andy Murray’s game plan as a model. He is using (abusing) lobs to perfection and he’s now considered as a true reference for this shot. You won’t perhaps become number 1 with only lobs, but at any level it can be really useful ! 

Think first about your service game.  

Thinking your service games will be easy to win because of their position is an easy trap to fall into when playing a serve and volley player. Don’t think this way, a lot of serve and volley players are not waiting for the tie-break to attack you on your serve. So you must prioritize. Defending your serve must be your main priority. Don’t be misguided, it’s easier to hold your serve than break this kind of player. Therefore if you have a really good hold, you will feel a lot more confidence heading to the return game. If there is a tie break, summarize what worked and what didn’t during the set. But never forget, the main thing is to make your opponent play one more shot. Moments of tension in a tie-break can cause more unforced errors. 

3 tips to contain a serve and volley player on your serve

Chardy volée

When it’s your time to serve, there’s still one main problem you have to face. Prevent your opponent from stepping inside the court. Their goal will be to put you under pressure during the whole match even if they have to make huge errors. You have to keep them behind the service line to put them outside of their comfort zone. 2-3 tips to make it. First, the length of your shots. Be sure to not play in the service box. They need only one short ball to set up their game.  It’s your job to stay away from this. Second, the kind of shots you have to make. Look for shots with a lot of spin. By doing this, your ball will speed up after the rebound and beyond everything will go high. With this effect, your opponent will produce shots at the shoulder level and not at normal height. This will put him in an uncomfortable position and protect you from a charge. At the same time, a slice is not a good idea. This type of ball can give them an opportunity to hit another slice and follow it at the net. Be careful of the shots you are using. Last tip, make them run! Don’t start to centralize the game against a serve and volley player. Like we said before, they are taking all the opportunities that they have. Keep them moving in order to not have any ball that they can use to make a charge. 

These are the different methods we advise you to use against a serve and volley player. Now it’s up to you. Make good choices based on your style of play. Combine all these tips and you’ll be able to better manage your matches against them. Who knows, maybe you could beat McEnroe if you played a couple decades ago….