from Serve & Volley
by Charles Applewhaite
Stefan Edberg, the 1988 Wimbledon champion, is yet another of the group of Swedish players who have been dominating international tennis during the past decade. Once again a Swedish player wins the Wimbledon Championship and yet he is so unlike his contemporaries. Until Edberg appeared on the tennis scene, most of the success of their players was based upon the method of play used by Bjorn Borg who was a catalyst to the rise and continuing success of Swedish tennis.
Now Stefan Edberg has shown us that the mainly baseline game relying on heavy topspin is not the only way that Swedish players can perform. He is an all-court player who is completely at home on grass because of a strong serve and volley game. He has very quick reactions and a sound volleying technique. He is very solid on all his volleys both in defence and attack. In particular his backhand volley from waist high and above, is well worth studying.
1. THE GRIP
From his strong "Eastern" forehand grip he changes to the basic grip for his backhand drive and it is this grip that is clearly visible when he is volleying. When under pressure at the net or in a quick exchange of volleys, where his quick reactions come into play, the grip appears to be the more central "Continental" grip. Given time he will stay securely with his normal backhand grip for the backhand volley (as illustrated).
2. THE METHOD
Stefan Edberg has a very consistent and aggressive method on the volley.
(a) He prepares early. (b) He uses very little backswing. (1) (c) He moves forward for the shot. (d) He has a firm wrist controlling the racket action. (e) He keeps the racket face squarely behind the ball. (f) The hitting action is crisp and firm.(2)
(g) The contact point is ahead of the body. (h) The firm control of the racket face gives him the opportunity to vary the angles and placements. (i) Balls above the height of the net are played with very little underspin. (j) He maintains balance throughout his shot. (3) (k) He recovers quickly to the next ready position.
Edberg's game is based, where possible, on dominating players from the net. He is generally looking for an opportunity to get to the net before his opponent. In this diagram. when returning the second serve, Stefan Edberg tries to counter attack the serve and volley tactics of the opponent (1) playing a good low return (2) and moving to the net where he will use his quick reactions in the front of the court. He will react to his opponent's cross court volley (3) and intercept with a backhand volley winner into the open court area (4). To succeed with this tactic requires good anticipation and explosive movemement to reach a strong net position before the opponent.
The speed and agility required to be dominant behind the service when coming in to net and to counter the approach volleying moves from an opponent is very demanding physically. Although the hard, repetitive practices that Edberg would do on court would keep this quality of performance at its peak, it is certain that he will do other off court work to complement this practice. This off-court work includes agility to improve footwork as good positioning is vital to achieve a powerful attacking position. Flexibility is essential particularly in low volley situations and arm and wrist strength must be developed to provide firmness and power to produce the winning strokes.
Well disciplined drills are fundamental to the success of any practice session. Commence this drill with simple basic repetitions gradually, bringing variety into the pattern of play.
Purpose - to practice the serve and volley routine and develop control and shot selection on the backhand volley.
Description - (Co-operative practice)
(1) Player A aims ¾ speed serves to forehand side of Player B's service court. (2) Player B returns down the line. (3) Player A follows his serve to the net, plays volleys above net height at target area C. Also plays volleys below net height at target area D.
Variation - (1) Player A volleys down the line. (2) Player B mixes returns (some to forehand volley). (3) Player A serves to left court or serves down the centre. (4) Players play competitively.
- Serve-and-volley tennis rises from the dust in Melbourne
- Federer and Edberg: serve&volley footwork analysis
- Stefan Edberg's and Roger Federer's backhands compared
- "I didn't envy Boris"
- Stefan Edberg: «Nadal's golden age is over»
- The elegant lessons of Edberg's style of play
- Tennis keys - Forehand / backbeat attack / backhand volley