Sunday, January 31, 2016

Game-changers: Who's best at the net?

Like gameshow contestants locked in isolation booths, we asked five members of the digital team to tell us which players have the most dominant strokes in the game today. This time it's the art of the volley, a stroke that two champions used on their rise to No.1...

Paul Moore's pick: Roger Federer

If you were going to come up with a signature shot, you'd want it to be called something cool, right? Something like… SABR (Sneak Attack by Roger). That's what Federer's sneak attack has been dubbed, and at the tail-end of 2015 it sent the tennis world into a frenzy. But while opinion remains divided over SABR, it's anything but about Federer's awesome abilities at the net. It doesn't matter how or when the Great One makes his way to the net, when he does he's nigh on unbeatable.

Matt Trollope's pick: Martina Hingis

No player possesses better hands at the net, or finer reflexes and anticipation to pick off winners when she's there. Hingis' volleying prowess explains her continued doubles success yet was also a feature of her major-winning singles career.

Michael Beattie's pick: Roger Federer

Volleying was thought to be a dead art when spin-happy baseliners began sweeping all before them, but some players have managed to thrive going forward in the singles game – none more so than Federer, whose SABR return is perhaps the best illustration of his commitment to net gains.

Vivenne Christie's pick: Martina Hingis

Hingis' deft touch at the net made her one of the most watchable women in a Grand Slam-winning singles career and now that she's returned as a doubles specialist, it's equally (if not more) impressive. With an uncanny ability for anticipation, Hingis also boasts perfect technique.

Nick McCarvel's pick: Martina Hingis

A lot of people make a living with their hands: masseurs, stenographers, bakers. But Martina Hingis might be the top of them all, from her debut as a major champion at the Australian Open in 1997 to her second – no, third! – "career" she's carved out on the doubles circuit. It's almost as if she knows a tennis court as well as she knows … the back of her hand.

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