Top 10 volleyers in tennis today
Little did I realize when I took this up as a task, that I would stand challenged. After a week-long fumble, and thanks to the guidance of a couple of tennis experts, I have finally freed myself from the trap and have drawn out a list of the top ten volleyers on the singles circuit today.
If I was assigned this task a couple of decades back, then the list would have been ready in no time. Back then, we used to see as many compulsive volleyers as we find double-handed backhanders these days. But to compile such a list in the modern era was a daunting assignment, as we hardly see players with good net games today. That said, I have tried my best to come up with a credible list of the best net players currently on the circuit. Let there be a reminder that the rankings are based more on effectiveness of the players, rather than their frequency of approaching the net.
10. Rafael Nadal
Though branded as a claycourt player earlier in his career, Rafael Nadal of Spain silenced his critics by developing himself into one of the best on all surfaces, primarily through the improvement in his net-approach game. He is one of those guys who does not come to the net very frequently, but is very effective in winning points once he is there. He is particularly skillful in handling low volleys.
9. Andy Murray
Having Ivan Lendl on his side is doing wonders to this man from Scotland. Strangely, his net game has improved this year by leaps and bounds in the company of his coach, who was a proficient baseliner. Murray is good off both his forehand wing and backhand wing at the net, particularly with drop volleys.
8. Julian Benneteau
This man can probably be called old wine in a new bottle. You cannot label him a baseliner, but that does not mean he is a serve-and-volleyer either. He does not involve himself in baseline exchanges unlike most other players from the current era. He is not completely comfortable at exchanging baseline groundstrokes, and maybe that is why he approaches the net at times. However, once he is up there he has the ability to unleash volleys which are quite handy.
7. Feliciano Lopez
Lopez is the second Spaniard in my list who is known for his flawless net game. He has the appropriate height to hit volleys, and like most southpaw single-handed backhanders, is reasonably good at the net. His movement is commendable, and so is his anticipation of passing shots.
This Frenchman prefers the net game more than some of the others who are ranked higher than him, simply because he is a proficient volleyer. He sometimes overdoes simple things at the net, which makes him lose winnable points. But having said that, it should also be remembered that it is not easy to get a ball past him, as he can overwhelm his opponents with his mind-blowing stretch volleys.
5. Tommy Haas
This former world number two plays volleys with the utmost precision, particularly on grass. Unlike Tsonga, his judgment at the net is usually very good, and even if he is made to hit a half-volley, he can handle it impressively. He can switch over from forehand to backhand very easily at the net.
4. Mardy Fish
True to his name, he likes fishing with the net. When he hits a good first serve, he approaches the net almost instinctively. The only problem with the American is that he is a bit slow with his reflexes, but then his overall skill eclipses this minor ‘flaw’, if you would like to name it so. He keeps himself at the baseline most of the time during rallies, but then never stays on the back foot if he has to take the bull by its horns.
Many players in their thirties have carried on the legacy of the 80s and 90s, a point that is very evident from the way this veteran plays his game. He serves and volleys most of the time, even in this era of tireless baseliners. He plays his volleys with soft touch, taking the pace off the ball. The sharp angles he gets on his volleys and the way he drops his shots make him one of the best in the business in this era. Most of his points are won at the net, leaving only a few that he fetches from the baseline.
The Swiss ace is one player who can do just about anything with his racquet, and therefore the net game is no riddle to him. He wins nearly eighty percent of the points that he attacks the net in, and covers the net so comprehensively that for anyone to nail passing shots past him is almost impossible. The other good thing about him is that he can play both drop volleys and low volleys even as he approaches the net.
1. Michael Llodra
Robin Soderling has gone on record calling Michael Llodra the best volleyer in the business today, so Llodra’s net skills have to be taken seriously. No one plays the volley more consistently than Llodra in men’s tennis today. He almost never stays put at the baseline, and takes off to the net very frequently; way more frequently than anyone else at the moment. His childhood idol was Stefan Edberg, so it goes without saying what his most preferred style of play is. Since McEnroe’s retirement, Llodra is perhaps the only southpaw who is well-known for his net game. The Frenchman is 32 already, and when he retires, the serve-and-volley game will likely stay buried forever after.Published 08 Nov 2012, 01:15 IST