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Why Can’t Annacone Teach Fritz To Volley?

By Scoop Malinowski

Taylor Fritz is about to be . 5 in the world. This week his ranking will vault from no. 7 to 5 and he’s done it by primarily playing at the baseline despite his large wingspan and almost 6-ft and five inches of height.

One of his coaches is the former serve and volley ATP player Paul Annacone, who won three ATP titles in his career (Los Angeles and Brisbane in 1985 and Vienna in 1989), by attacking the net on almost every point. Annacone is well known for his aggressive, all-out attacking play style and it’s a mystery why he has not been able to mold these tactics into Fritz, with his co-coach Michael Russell.

I asked another former ATP player Sander Groen about this dilemma: “Good question, same with Annacone and Edberg when they were working with Roger and he was losing out on winning slams because he didn’t move in……shocking, he should have won three or four more slams in that time and only started moving in more against Rafa when he won those two slams after such a big drought. But with Fritz I think it is more that he does not feel comfortable at the net. Like Medvedev, if he get’s a chance to run back after running for a dropshot he is back at the baseline.”

With another weapon like net attacking in his arsenal, certainly a talent the athletic Fritz surely can master if he applies himself and takes the risk, it would seem very possible that Fritz could reach a higher level of results and performance – and even the no. 1 ranking.

I can’t think of another player who when he or she tried to expand their comfort zone of skills and strategies, that they lost ability in their primary methods of playing tennis.

It would be very interesting to see Fritz challenge himself to become an proficient volleyer to add to his extraordinary baseline excellence which has elevated him into the top five of the ATP.

My advice to Fritz, as a journalist, author and decent tennis player is to do various volley drills for 45 minutes every day, so that he can become natural and comfortable at the net. I asked Groen what he thinks about this idea?

“The only drill for that is to make 1000 approaches and convert from the baseline to the net all the time. This is very time consuming and boring. Just standing at the net and volleying does not do it.”

I just thought of one player who did convert from a baseline grinder in juniors to a serve and volley master. Mischa Zverev. How do I know this for fact. I played a guy in the New Jersey Tennis League on the Beacon Hill team Christian Tempke told me that he played Zverev in juniors and he was always just a baseline grinder but then in the pros that style was failing so he adapted and became a much more aggressive, net attacking player.

So if Mischa Zvereve could do it, so too can Fritz.

By the way, Fritz played Zverev in the third round of qualies at the 2016 Australian Open. Fritz, still a teenager at the time, choked away the second set and then found himself down 0-4 in the third set. But then Fritz changed gears, tactics and mindset and won six games in a row vs Zverev to qualify for this first grand slam main draw, which he lost to Jack Sock in five sets in the first round.

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  • Forrest Stewart · March 1, 2023 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve been a teaching pro in Malibu at my beautiful home for close to 60 years. No other pros have courts at their homes that live here. Not Gilbert, McEnroe, Chuckie or anyone else that I can think of. My kids all played junior tennis and one lost in the finals of Kalamazoo. My kids went on to to bigger and better(one single handedly reversed Roe v Wade recently! A few years ago I beat Guy Fritz in a couple of tournaments!
    It’s easy to teach magical volleying techniques ala Johnny Mac but as you know it takes a lot of trips to the net to implement them.
    My wife has been bedridden for 12 years with MS and loves Taylor Fritz and has for years! It’s important that he come to my home to say hello to Kristine Stewart(a beloved retired 2-3 grade teacher). This as important to me as volleying is to Taylor!
    He’ll leave here with an understanding of what volleying is and what it is to be a great humanitarian. I also knew his mom years ago from John Thomas Dye(ask her about David her father). Forrest Stewart (310) 795-4338

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 1, 2023 at 7:42 pm

    Whoa, you must be the Forrest Stewart who played the US Open a few times in the 1950s. If so I’d love to do a Biofile interview with you. Taylor Fritz needs to try your volley instruction or at least hear a new voice. Not sure if Michael Russell serve and volleyed once in his career ) Talk soon.



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