The Net Rushing Returner

federer-3You remember the “old days” of tennis when the server used to rush to the net after he hit his serve? Well, Roger Federer is pioneering a new tactic: rushing the net as he hits the return of serve.

Not Chip and Charge

Pat Rafter used to successfully put a lot of pressure on the server as he would chip his return of serve and follow it to the net. But Mr. Federer unveiled a much more aggressive variation at the Cincinnati tournament … he started his return position slightly inside the baseline; but then as the server tossed the ball to serve, he CHARGED toward the net and took the serve on the rise no more than 3-4 feet outside of the service box.

He then kept coming forward as the surprised server is scrambling to get his feet set and attempt a pressure-packed passing shot. If the server gets the ball back in play, it typically wasn’t too powerful and the Fed puts away the volley.

Me Too

This is actually a technique I have used for several years, primarily in doubles vs. those with an effective high-kicking serve or a slow second serve, which they quickly follow to the net.

But in a post-match interview, Roger said he had been doing this in practice “just for fun” and thought he would try it in a match. And his camp have labeled it the SABR… Sneak Attack By Roger.

Winning Future Points

Not only can it help to win a critical point (as Roger did in the first set tie breaker vs. Djokovic at 4-1), it plants that all important “seed of doubt” for future critical second serve points, when the server is wondering whether you will use this tactic.

According to veteran tennis expert Allen Fox:

If the player is at all adept at the net, it is a diabolical play. The server has just finished his action and looks up to see his opponent at net and is forced to hit a rushed passing shot. …

“The psychological benefit of the play is that it takes the initiative away from the server. The receiver is calling the tune. On top of that, it is very disconcerting to the server and can cause double faults. (Djokovic double faulted 3 times in the game when he lost his serve in the second set to Federer, one of them on game point down.)”

Have you tried a similar technique?

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5 thoughts on “The Net Rushing Returner

  1. First saw it used here (with great success) at the National 40’s Clay Courts back when Rick Kepler played it. Have tried it a fair bit, myself, as service return in dubs is so “hit and miss” for me, anyway. It can also make for some spectacular fails, in my experience. 🙂

  2. As you know, Jimmy Parker has been doing it for as long as I can remember. He does it in both singles and doubles. He’s a great volleyer and very quick so it often works for him. He told me either he half volleyed a return, or he hit an underhand serve, I don’t remember which, at Forest Hills against Rosewall on center court in the 60’s. Either way, he got a dirty look from Rosewall:)!

  3. I love it!! I’m for anything that might break up the endless baseline rallies of this generation. I miss the days when you saw different styles of play. Baseline, net rushers and all court players.
    Almost everyone plays the same game and I must admit it gets monotonous.

  4. George

    Couldn’t resist posting on this topic. Having been born and raised at the net, I couldn’t agree more with the comments made so far. However at this stage of our tennis lives, I think more emphasis should be put on shortening the points. Join the ” chip and charge ” club, you will love it. I do !!!

    Hank – great that you finally commented on a post! and yes, i saw you successfully attack my friend Chuck Kinyon in a tournament match. thanks, george

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