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Fresh Takes: The Charging Return of Serve
There is perhaps nothing more tactically important in tennis than taking time away from your opponent. Here's a new way to do just that.
Published Aug 02, 2021
Today’s young pros are adding new and sometimes radical shots to the classic tennis repertoire. Here’s how to make these next-gen plays work for you, too.
Roger Federer’s coaches dubbed it the SABR: “Sneak Attack by Roger.” In 2015, looking for ways to liven up his game and utilize his hand skills, Federer began swooping forward on opponents’ second serves, taking them on a short hop, and barreling to net.
The tactic didn’t always work, but it did catch the attention of a few younger creatives. Kyrgios and Alexander Bublik devised their own sneak attacks, and while Naomi Osaka doesn’t charge forward, she steps well inside the baseline to pressure her opponent.
The timing involved may sound daunting, but the shock to your opponent alone may win you the point.
“Think of it like a volley,” Mayotte says. “Keep your legs moving forward and bunt the ball; there’s not much racquet work involved, and hitting it short is just as good as hitting it deep. The pressure should get you missed passing shots.”
If the SABR is too radical, simply chipping and charging, once a staple of the return game, should be sufficiently surprising to throw your opponents off. Sometimes the oldest tricks in the tennis textbook can still feel brand new.