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Stars appeal to ITF boss to step in

Past greats who dazzled with their serve-and-volley skills have written an open letter to the ITF, expressing anguish at the way the modern game is headed.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2003 01:05 IST
S. Kannan
S. Kannan

Past greats who dazzled with their serve-and-volley skills which include John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Martina Navratilova, Pat Cash and Vijay Amritraj, alongwith several noted tennis writers, have written an open letter to Francesco Ricci Bitti, President of the International Tennis Federation, expressing anguish at the way the modern game is headed.

In the era gone by, it was the serve-and-volley masters who ruled the roost at The Championships. But peeved at the way the baseliners have stormed the bastion, these luminaries have advocated a reduction in the width of the head of tennis racquets from 12.5 inches to nine inches.

Of course, the demand for such a reduction in size has not been demanded overnight, but in a span of four of five years.

"Our sport has become unbalanced and one-dimensional. Today, we see few matches involving players of contrasting styles. Instead, we have a preponderance of baseliners using the Western grip forehand and the double grip backhand, hitting with fierce topspin," says the letter, which was signed by over 35 players and noted tennis writers on Thursday. The signatories also include Stan Smith, Ilie Nastase and writers like Bud Collins and John Barrett who have followed the game for several decades.

At The Championships, the serve-and-volley players are a dying breed. The past greats, in the letter, write that "hitting top spin drives is so easy and effective, players are reluctant to come to the net.

Volleying against these fast, dipping drives is extremely difficult so that even natural volleyers think twice before coming in."

The letter also clearly blames the change in racquet technology leading to this monotonous state. "Over the years, racquet technology has developed powerful, wide, light bodied racquets that are easier to wield than wooden ones and have a much larger effective hitting area which is called the sweet spot," adds the letter. Making a fervent appeal to the ITF President, the former Grand Slam champions who shone on grass feel the state of affairs is so bad, "even coaches are not encouraging younger players to learn volleying skills."

The appeal has also been made on behalf of the spectators. "Even on fast courts, 90 per cent of the matches are baseline contests. On slower surfaces, the matches become tedious, and even boring, either because rallies are long and repetitive," says the letter.

The signatories have also written that they are willing to debate on the issue with any of the technical experts of the ITF. The letter ends by saying, "Please do not ignore this suggestion which is made by responsible individuals -- former players, and journalists who are professional observers of our sport -- all of whom believe that action must be taken to ensure a bright future for tennis."

First Published: Jul 04, 2003 01:05 IST