Friday, April 20, 2007

Serve and Volley - A Surprising History

Two of my favorite tennisheads, the man calling himself "Edma", and the inimitable "Graf_Sampras" posted this on the ESPN board. When you think of serve and volley the first names to come up are Laver, Sampras, McEnroe, Becker. What you probably don't know is that the man who was the true King of Serve and Volley, the man who caused the tennis establishment to change the rules so that he could not come in and had to play from the baseline was Ricardo Alonzo "Pancho" Gonzalez. Here's an excerpt from the article followed by a link to the entire article.

As a kid, I would watch McEnroe play Borg, then head out, wooden Dunlop Maxply in hand, and stand in front of a school wall volleying like Johnny Mac. The goal was to hit the ball as many times as possible without letting it hit the ground.

But McEnroe was not the prototype. Jean Borotra (“the Bounding Basque”) was the first truly world-famous serve-and-volleyer, one of France’s “Four Musketeers,” who dominated tennis in the late twenties and early thirties. Borotra started playing while serving in the French army and developed a style in which, according to tennis histor-ian Arthur Voss, “he sought [the net] at every opportunity.”

Borotra was followed by Pancho Gonzalez, who grew up playing on the concrete courts of South Central Los Angeles and was never embraced by the wasp tennis establishment. A loner with an explosive temper who only grew more effective when angry, Gonzalez played a serve-and-volley game so devastating that tournament organizers briefly changed the rules in order to prevent him from coming to the net immediately after serving.
Legendary Australian player Rod “the Rocket” Laver, though skilled from the backcourt, came in incessantly and won all four of the major singles titles (Wimbledon and the Australian, French, and US Opens) twice each, becoming the only double Grand Slammer in the history of the game. Laver’s style inspired the generation of great serve-and-volley players led by McEnroe, Edberg, and Boris Becker.

Starting in the midseventies, however, technological advances and the popularization of tennis set the stage for the demise of the serve-and-volley ethos.

The entire article is here:

Walrus Magazine

For more on "Pancho" the man read this article.

Pancho Gonzalez: The Greatest Tennis Player of All Time


edma1022 said...

The "inimitable Graf_Sampras" put a smile on my face, Nubie.

If it was my blog I would change the word to "incorrigible".

Just kidding. He did point me (and a lot of ESPN boardnuts) to the direction of Pancho. I just like to read tennis articles, that's all. I devour them. Like yours, Craig's.


Craig Hickman said...

Ed gets the trophy for most readerly tennis fan. Okay, well, maybe G_S is right up there with him. But still...

Anonymous said...

Nice that people are showing an interest in the game's history but honestly, that is one of the most biased, ill-informed and factually negligent articles I've read. It conveniently fails to mention that his dominance of the pro game - as seen at the 3 pro championships (Wembley, Paris and the US Pro) was mostly confined to American soil and, with the exception of the US Pro Championships, ended when Rosewall entered the pro ranks.

Savannah said...

Anonymous - Whan a piece of history has been ignored an article pointing that out and extolling the greatness of the person ignored could seem biased to others. Since you feel this way you could compose something righting what you consider bias and refuting, point by point, the authors printed facts? I know I, and others, would be glad to read it. Of all the Aussies I know the least about Rosewall. Any ideas on why he's not talked about as much? I was too young to know much about him during his heyday.

Another player who has been ignored in favor of other more "popular" ones is Ivan Lendl and he's still around. His record is a little inconvenient for some as well.

Craig Hickman said...

Ivan Lendl is my favorite past player.