Advertisement
  1. Archive

There will be no hanging back in this men's final

The revolution lasted a year at Wimbledon.

When Lleyton Hewitt beat David Nalbandian in the men's final in 2002, neither served and volleyed. Both preferred to hug the baseline, trading groundstrokes and pushing forward on rare occasions.

But when Roger Federer and Mark Philippoussis take Center Court today for this year's final, they will follow the long-established route to success at the All England Club.

Philippoussis has served and volleyed on nearly every point, although the 164 aces he has smacked in six matches have led to less need to volley. Federer has been more selective about charging the net, but he has served and volleyed on nearly every first serve.

"Only twice in the last 20 years have two guys won this tournament serving and staying back, and both those guys are pretty good on every other surface," said Andy Roddick's coach, Brad Gilbert.

The first was Andre Agassi in 1992, and the second was Hewitt.

But despite alarmist comments from former champions such as Boris Becker, there clearly are rewards for the net rusher on grass. That seems just, considering how much more difficult the task has become on slower surfaces because of heavier balls, bigger sweet spots on rackets and quicker opponents.

Concerned by that trend, a group of journalists, coaches and former champions submitted a letter to Francesco Ricci Bitti, the president of the International Tennis Federation, on Thursday urging the width of racket heads be reduced to 9 inches from 12.5 to make it more difficult for players to whack away and to promote variety in playing styles. Among those who signed the letter were John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Ilie Nastase, Pat Cash and Jim Courier's former coach, Jose Higueras.

The initial reaction to the proposal from current players such as Roddick and Serena Williams has been tepid. Gilbert chided some of the signers.

"Last I checked, Martina (Navratilova is) playing with a racket that's like the size of a 747," he said. "She was the first one to go to a massive racket."

Those looking for variety need look no further than Federer, the 21-year-old Swiss who looks at ease in all compartments of the game. He can serve authoritatively, volley with subtlety, strike ground strokes with slice or topspin and has the best backhand overhead of his generation.

Until now Federer's problem in Grand Slam tournaments has been keeping his nerve and finding the right blend of options. But he has lost only one set in six matches in this Wimbledon, and he generated a lot of goose bumps on Center Court against Roddick in the semifinals Friday by making the incredible look routine.

Federer beat Philippoussis in their first two encounters, but Philippoussis won on clay in Germany this season. Federer has been more consistently impressive so far at Wimbledon, however, and has spent nearly six hours less on court than Philippoussis, who had to extend himself to the five-set limit to beat Agassi in the fourth round and Alexander Popp in the quarterfinals.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement