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Great to see serve-and-volley

In a long time, spectators finally got to see quality stuff from a serve-and-volley player. I have no doubt Andre Agassi would have hated losing to Mark Philippoussis, but for all those who still care about grass-court tennis, it was fantastic.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2003 01:10 IST

In a long time, spectators finally got to see quality stuff from a serve-and-volley player at The Championships in Wimbledon. I have no doubt Andre Agassi would have hated losing to Mark Philippoussis on Monday evening, but for all those who still care about grass-court tennis, it was fantastic to see the 'Scud' come out firing.

I had earlier mentioned briefly how the game has been changing. A lot of people play power tennis from the baseline and in such a scenario, its very hard for a Philippoussis to keep going and still beat the opponent with his own style.

Philippoussis is a very exciting player. His game revolves around the huge serve and he knows that it's half the job done. But against a player of Agassi's calibre, there is always the danger that the ball can come back because Agassi has such a great return of serve. Watching these two battle it out, I am sure a lot of people must have wondered what it takes to win a match like this, which goes into five sets.

I have watched Philippoussis before as well at Wimbledon, but the conditions out there now are much more demanding. I have no hesitation in telling you the change in surface at Wimbledon is there for all to see, which is why someone like Juan Carlos Ferrero manages to still hang in there. Not only has the bounce become higher, the game has slowed down to an extent, which is why one sees more rallies being staged.

In such conditions, if Philippoussis did come out with the big game, it was possible simply because of all that he throws into it. Philippoussis is a big man. The ATP guide says he is 6 feet 4 inches and when someone like that is serving consistently in the 120mph plus range, it is difficult to face it. At the same time, I must say, even though the Australian was able to do it against Agassi, it will take a lot more for him to do it against other players.

Once again, when I am talking of Philippoussis playing big, I am speaking for the dying breed of serve-and-volleyers. They not only have to be ready to challenge the baseline hitters but also take these challenging conditions in their stride. Today the scenario is tough. If a Philippoussis has to win he has to get past baseliners one after another. One round he might be battling Juan Carlos Ferrero, then Carlos Moya and on the third day Andy Roddick.

Pete Sampras did take on everyone with style, but for the few serve-and-volley players left in the game, there's a lot of hard work out there.

Coming back to Philippoussis, his win not only centred around aces, but also smacking winners. The ball in use is heavier, and to come up with volley winners means the effort has to be huge.

I would put it in mathematical terms like this. In a five-setter, a serve-and-volley player has to not only serve big, hope to serve 30-odd aces, but also come out with another 35 winners. Sustaining that intensity takes a lot.

I would love to see Philippoussis repeat this performance in the remaining rounds. But believe me, it's not going to be easy. (PMG)

First Published: Jul 03, 2003 00:48 IST