Rafter Would Chop Today’s Deep Returners

Pat Rafter Would Chop Today’s Deep Returners

I was sitting courtside in Miami last week watching Andy Murray battle Daniil Medvedev. Sitting next to me was Tim Henman.

Our discussion initially focused on Andy’s resurgence and how he is feeling better and better on court. Medvedev won the match 6-4, 6-2, pulling away from Andy after an even start to the match. We also chatted about the ultra-deep return position of Medvedev and other current players who like to stand a loooong way back to return serve.

The obvious counter-attack to that is serve and volley.

Tim (and I) felt confident that players such as himself and Pat Rafter would have a “field day” serving and volleying against current players that stand 5+ metres behind the baseline to return serve. We discussed how effective Rafter would have been hitting a heavy kick serve out wide in the Ad court and having so much time to get to the net before the returner even made contact with the ball.

It turns out Carlos Alcaraz completely vindicated Tim’s strategic sentiments just a few days later.

Alcaraz defeated Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-4 in the Miami final, winning all 11 serve and volley points he played. Ten of the 11 were heavy “Rafter-Esque” serves out wide in the Ad court. He ate Ruud’s lunch with this key strategy, oftentimes finding Ruud 6+ metres behind the baseline trying to counter Alcaraz rushing straight to the net.

Good luck with that!

The Hawk-Eye graphic below shows Ruud’s return location vs. Alcaraz in the final. Yellow dots represent 1st serve return hit points. Blue dots are 2nd serve return hit points.

2022 Miami Final: Casper Ruud Return Hit Points

Ruud made contact with one 1st serve return more than seven metres behind the baseline. It’s almost impossible to win the point from there against a serve-and-volleyer.

Source; Brain Game Tennis