Hard Court Tactics: The Serve/Forehand 1-2 Punch
by: Robb Julian
The U.S. Open is the next Grand Slam for the WTA and ATP Tours. It will take place August 31st through September 13th in New York City, and will be played on a hard court surface known as DecoTurf 2. Beginning the week, there's a series of smaller tournaments leading up to that final slam of 2015 called “the US Open Series.” Throughout this 5 week stretch of tournaments, due to the hot conditions, and the speed of the surface, you'll see the Pros using a lightning fast way of winning points: hit a serve that produces a defensive return and then use a Topspin Dip Drive (or just a Drive, depending on the height of the ball) Forehand to the open court. It's a deadly 1-2 punch!
The hottest tournament of the series is typically the first one: Atlanta! With on court temperatures averaging about 110 degrees (and toss in the 100% humidity), it's a true fitness test. That heat does have one effect that helps keep points short: balls move faster through the air as the temperatures rises. So it's no surprise that American John Isner, who's an expert at the big serve/big forehand combo, is 2-time defending champion. Here's a slow motion video clip of what this onslaught looks like:
Notice two things about the forehand Isner uses to finish the point.
- John is not hitting this forehand drive off of a short ball. He's barely inside the baseline. His opponent has gotten the return reasonably deep...but not deep enough for this court and these conditions. As fast as the ball moves in this situation, the Pro go for the winner into the open court with their biggest groundstroke (typically a forehand since there's more potential racquet head speed) because it's a winning play.
- To produce the nuclear speed on the forehand, Isner lets his racquet dip just below the level of the ball. This is not at all the traditional “C-stroke” where the racquet tip points to the ground before being launched through the ball. It's commonly referred to as a Dip Drive. This shot comes off the racquet with maximum mph, and will accelerate with a low bounce upon impact with the court.
Even if the receiver survives the serve and the Dip Drive, the server has a great chance at setting up for another attack to the other side of the court. Point in, point out, those two big blows are tough to come back from. The one-two punch often produces the knock out. For a great demonstration of this tactic, watch this quick highlight reel of last year's BB&T Atlanta Open where John Isner rolled through Israeli Dudi Sela. Notice how many points were decided by Isner's serve/forehand combo.