Most of us love to take a moment to reflect on the past, to contemplate the good ol’ days if you like.
For tennis fans, in the peak of the northern hemisphere summer, that often means reminiscing about the way the game used to be played. Thinking back to a time when a young Boris Becker launched himself from one side of the service box to the other, or more recently when Pat Rafter attacked the net as enthusiastically in the first game of a match as he did the last.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) July 5, 2018
It’s no surprise that the common denominator fueling much of this romanticism is the serve and volley. It’s the ying of the serve-volleyer to the yang of the baseliner that has defined so many of the game’s great rivalries of style and personality (think Borg v McEnroe, Navratilova v Evert; Becker/Edberg v Lendl, Sampras v Agassi).
So, it’s with that touch of sentimentality in mind that we’ve asked ourselves, where has the serve and volley gone – and why?
In the table below, we’ve counted all of the serve and volleyers (across all court surfaces and not just Wimbledon) among the ATP and WTA top 20 for every 10 years from 1978 (year-end) to 2018 (pre-Wimbledon).
It makes for fascinating reading, reminding us of the pitfalls of rose-coloured glasses!
|Year||Top 20 serve-volleyers (ATP)||Top 20 serve-volleyers (WTA)|
The first thing that caught us by surprise was that the men’s top 20 in 1978 wasn’t all that laden with serve and volleyers. In fact, it wasn’t until near the turn of the century (1998) when the prominence of this style of game peaked among the top 20.
From that point on though, it’s been all downhill, with the serve and volleyer fast becoming an endangered species.
So what’s happened since 1998 for the game to have recalibrated in this way? Here we land on three reasons:
|1998: Grass and Carpet = 23% of ATP Tour events|
|2017: Grass and Carpet = 12% of ATP Tour events|
|1998: Grass and Carpet = 27% of WTA Tour events|
|2017: Grass and Carpet = 9% of WTA Tour events|
So, will it ever come back? It looks like the baseline will remain the place to be for the foreseeable future.
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