The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scud show a big fillip for serve-and-volleyers
- Sustaining such intensity against powerful baseliners not at all easy

After a long time, spectators finally got to see quality stuff from a serve-and-volley player at The Championships in Wimbledon. I have no doubt Andre Agassi hated losing to Mark Philippousiss Monday evening, but for all those who still care about grasscourt tennis, it was fantastic to see the Scud come out firing.

I had mentioned before how the game has been changing, with a lot of people playing power tennis from the baseline. In such a scenario, itís very hard for a Philippoussis to keep going and still beat the opponent with his own style.

Philippoussis is a very exciting player. His game revolves around the huge serve and he knows landing them at the right place is like getting half the job done.

But against a player of Agassiís calibre, there is always the danger that the ball can come back because he has such a great return of serve. Watching these two battle it out, I am sure a lot of people must have wondered what it takes to win a match like this which goes into five sets.

I have watched Philippoussis before as well at Wimbledon, but the conditions out there now are much more demanding. I have no hesitation in saying the change in surface at Wimbledon is there for all to see, which is why someone like Juan Carlos Ferrero manages to hang in there. The bounce has become higher and the game has slowed down, which is why one sees more rallies.

If Philippoussis came out with the big game even in such conditions, it was possible simply because of all that he throws into it. Philippoussis is a big man. The ATP Guide says he is six feet, four inches and when someone like that is serving consistently in the 120mph-plus range, it is difficult to face it. At the same time, I must say even though the Australian was able to do it against Agassi, it will take a lot more for him to do it against other players.

Once again, when I am talking of Philippoussis playing big, I am speaking for the dying breed of serve-and-volleyers. They not only have to be ready to challenge the baseline hitters but also take these challenging conditions in their stride.

Today the scenario is tough. If a Philippoussis has to win, he has to get past one power hitting baseliner after another. One round he might be battling Juan Carlos Ferrero, then Carlos Moya and on the third day an Andy Roddick.

Pete Sampras did take on everyone with style, but for the few serve-and-volley players left in the game, thereís a lot of hard work out there.

Coming back to Philippoussis, his win not only centred around the aces, but also smacking winners. The ball in use is heavier, and to come up with volley winners means the effort has to be huge. I would put it in mathematical terms like this. In a five-setter, a serve-and-volleyer has to not only serve big, hope to serve 30-odd aces, but also come out with another 35 winners. Sustaining that intensity takes a lot.

I would love to see Philippoussis repeat this performance in the remaining rounds. But believe me, itís not going to be easy.

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