Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Australian Open Semifinal Makes Federer Look Even Better than He Is

Apparently, I'm not the only one who sometimes gets ticked off about the approach shots I see in a professional match. These things just shouldn't happen, especially at this level of the game. Like last Thursday in the Australian Open semifinal between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick.

The purpose of an approach shot is to draw an easy-to-volley first volley, while you're passing through no man's land. If your approach shot ain't doing that, don't keep hitting it that way. Especially if your approach shot is failing so badly you're getting passed all the time off it.

Don't just stand there looking incredulous.

First, why would anyone hit an approach shot to Roger's forehand? If you're daring, you might want to see if you can get away with slicing a backhand approach shot down the line to his forehand, hoping the ball is deep enough and stays low enough for you.

But who on earth would hit a forehand approach shot CROSSCOURT to Roger's forehand? Get out a court diagram and a protractor. That's ridiculous. Of course you're going to get passed.

I wouldn't hit a crosscourt approach shot to Roger's backhand. Crosscourt approach shots are dangerous. They have a lethal Angle of Return. You haven't time to run all the way from the corner to get into position at net on the other side of centerline.

Yes, I know John McEnroe did it. But those weren't approach shots. They were attempted winners from well inside the baseline that he followed up. (You should follow such shots to choke up on the Angle of Return in case the ball does come back.) Most went for outright winners or forced errors. Those that didn't forced such weak returns that his opponent was just lucky to keep the ball in play and couldn't take advantage of the Angle of Return.

Roddick wasn't hitting screamers like that. He was trying to hit a regular approach shot crosscourt and never learned to stop doing that. He was never in position for the first volley = on the far side of centerline, so he was too far away from a down-the-line return (which arrives quicker than a crosscourt one). Which also made him easy to wrongfoot.

He constantly got passed off his approach shot. This big server on a relatively fast court lost 22 of 31 approaches. He hit but one overhead winner, two volley winners, and made two unforced errors at the net.

If Federer was managing to pass that frequently, the approach shot also wasn't forcing enough. Roddick has been flattening out his game (to be like his coach?). So he isn't getting enough topspin on approach shots to drive his opponent deep. Okay, but then he must hit them harder, because an approach shot must be forcing.

What about the good old forehand down the line to Roger's one-handed backhand, following up to that side? You have a good chance to read that return.

And if Roger's ripping off winners because you're topspin isn't forcing him deep enough, try slice to keep the ball low and at least force him to hit up.

Roddick also tried to approach off his serve - but by serving wide. Again, simple geometry warns against doing that. Wide service approaches work only against players who can't handle your serve when they're stretched out. Otherwise, you're just giving the receiver a lethal Angle of Return.

Serve to the T or at the body when following serve. That guarantees you a return within reach. And fast serves just get back too quickly. You aren't close enough yet. Try a little kick high to the backhand or at the body. You wanna surprise Roger? Do it on a first serve.

Andy's lousy approach shots made Federer look even better than he is. Which is pretty hard to do.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Operation Doubles Connection - January issue

The January issue of The Operation Doubles Connection (the free Operation Doubles monthly newsletter) is now online. For information about this newsletter and how to subscribe, see here.


  • What's New at Operation Doubles
  • Featured Tennis Website of the Month
  • This Month's Doubles Quiz
  • This Month's Q & A
  • This Month's
  • Shot-Making Tip
  • Tennis News & Upcoming Tournaments
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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Killer Serves

Yes, I know, biologists have more fun. Call us "strange." This is interesting.

Bats are apparantly confused by flying tennis balls. (Or are the bugs just that big there?) Does the spin on them perhaps distort the bat's radar reading on its size? In any case, bats seem to think the ball's a big bug. And insectivorous bats are going after service tosses.

Not a good idea.

Here's a cool post at the Regentville Tennis Blog about Killer Tennis Serves.

I bet you could keep the bats safely away with inaudible sound, but then they wouldn't help keep the insects in check.

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