SI.com 2003 Wimbledon



Serve and volley

Federer's finesse offers new hope for old order

Posted: Sunday July 06, 2003 1:39 PM
Updated: Monday July 07, 2003 2:10 AM

 
Favorable comparison
LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) -- There was something strangely familiar about the languid, almost lazy brilliance with which Roger Federer broke his Grand Slam duck in a tear-laden triumph over Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Swiss' three-set neutralization of the Australian cannonball server bore many of the hallmarks of a not-so-long-gone era, that of American seven-time winner Pete Sampras.

With his textbook serve-volley technique, panther-like prowling of the baseline and unruffled on-court demeanor, Federer has plenty in common with the semi-retired American, the last of whose Wimbledon triumphs was in 2000.

Frighteningly for future opponents, though, Federer probably has even more weapons than Sampras.

His flourished backhand is a work of art, while his improvisation and ability to play on any court surface are qualities Sampras would have envied.

However, Sunday's success was only his first Grand Slam title, compared to Sampras' record total of 14, and for now the Swiss is happy just to be compared to the American.

"This is one, compared to his seven [Wimbledon titles]. I'm so far away. But it's nice. If I look at the players who have won here, a lot have been idols to me," Federer said.

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LONDON (Reuters) -- Wimbledon champion Roger Federer restored the tradition of serve and volley tennis at the All England Club on Sunday.

A year after Lleyton Hewitt stormed to the title without hitting a single volley winner against fellow baseliner David Nalbandian, Federer displayed his sublime skills from the net to become the first Swiss man to lift a Grand Slam title.

The fact that Federer's victim, Australian Mark Philippoussis, was also an exponent of attacking net play must have come as a relief to the organizers of the event, who had been accused of slowing down the slick surface.

"I enjoy watching myself play my game because it's so different. I hope you guys also enjoyed it," an emotional Federer told the Centre Court crowd after he had treated them to an exhibition of style and finesse in his 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory.

Despite Pete Sampras' winning seven Wimbledon titles between 1993 and 2000, serve and volley has been a dying art form over the past decade. Nine of the world's top 10 players prefer to do battle from the back of the court.

Last year's final at the grass-court Grand Slam between two baseliners, the first since Bjorn Borg beat Jimmy Connors in the 1978 title match, had the purists lamenting the future of the sport.

Three-time Wimbledon winner Boris Becker was one of a host of former champions so concerned by the lack of volleyers in the modern game that they sent a letter to the sports' ruling body this week calling for a reduction in the size of racket heads.

But Federer and Philippoussis laid to rest fears that the premier grass-court event was being hijacked wholesale by the baseliners.

"Finally you see a player with old technique; he plays the serve and volley tennis and plays the slice and doesn't need the 140 mph serve to succeed," Becker said while commenting on Federer's artistry on Sunday.

From the moment Federer rushed to the net on the first point of the match, he dished out a class in old-school tennis to Philippoussis.

With his deft touches and acute angled volleys -- he even hit one from just inside the baseline -- the 21-year-old ripped apart Philippoussis' Wimbledon dreams in one hour and 56 minutes.

"He's one of the great players out there," said the vanquished Australian, who matched his opponent with 20 points won at the net.

"He's a competent serve and volleyer and showed today that he can do everything on the court."

As Federer fell to his knees in his moment of triumph, he had the traditionalists cheering around the world once again.


 
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