Tennis Rivalries between Serena Williams and Venus Williams

Greatest Tennis rivalries of all time

There is no doubt that Tennis fans across the globe love watching high caliber players face off against each other in friendly (or not so friendly) rivalries. There have been so many phenomenal rivalries between players over the years, however a few stand out over the rest in terms of playing ability, excitement, close matches and fan following. This article delves into the greatest rivalries of all time and touches upon what makes these rivalries great.

1. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova

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The Evert and Navratilova rivalry is by a distance the greatest women’s tennis rivalry to ever exist and probably the biggest women’s sport rivalry at the time. It spanned over a period of 16 years during which they faced off 80 times against each other. 

They were the face of women’s tennis back in the 1970s and 1980s and really put women’s tennis on the map, selling out venues wherever they played. Another fun fact is that out of the 80 meetings between the players, an unbelievable 60 meetings occurred in finals, which highlights just how heavily these two players dominated the women’s game for many years.

Navratilova just about edged her compatriot by winning 43 matches as opposed to Evert winning 37 matches. The two played against each other mostly on the faster court surfaces (grass and indoors), where Navratilova’s offensive serve-and-volley style of play gave her the upper hand over Evert’s counter-attacking baseline approach. Evert enjoyed her greatest success against Navratilova on hard courts and especially on clay courts.

2. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

Anyone who reads the title of this article has to expect this rivalry to be in the mix. Arguably the two greatest players ever to hold a tennis racquet, this is one rivalry which even non-tennis fans know about, which goes to show how significant these two players are for the sport.

Rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

Nadal and Federer have dominated the game for well over 15 years now and have won a total of 20 grand slams each, which is an outrageous achievement considering how competitive and physically demanding men’s tennis is. This rivalry has also witnessed probably the greatest grand slam final ever, the Wimbledon 2008 final which was definitely a match for the ages.

The two heavyweights of the modern game have faced off a total of 40 times, with Nadal winning 24 matches as opposed to Federer’s 16 wins. Federer usually thrives on the faster surfaces such as grass and hardcourts owing to his attacking style of play and Nadal significantly dominated on clay which is no surprise as he is without a doubt the greatest clay court player of all time. The Djokovic-Nadal rivalry or Djokovic-Federer rivalry could have made this list, however this rivalry delivered innumerable iconic matches for us tennis fans, which is why it made to this list.

3. John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors

Tennis Rivalry between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors

This rivalry that spanned the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s makes this list as much for the intangible qualities as to what happened on the court. John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors met in Grand Slam finals only twice, but together they became the bad boys of American tennis with their swearing, on court antics, yelling at umpires and to add to all of that, their distaste towards one another.

This rivalry added entertainment value for everyone involved in more ways than just tennis. There may be a lot more rivalries which outweigh this one in terms of memorable matches, however no rivalry matches the entertainment that this rivalry gave tennis fans, which is the primary reason of why it makes it to this list. Connors first made his splash in the early 1970s, with McEnroe emerging later in the decade.

Their greatest showdowns would occur in the early 1980s, after Bjorn Borg had departed from the scene and Connors and McEnroe briefly reigned supreme. They played a total of 34 times between 1977 and 1991 with McEnroe edging his rival with 20 wins as opposed to Connors’s 14 wins. For modern day tennis fans who aren’t too familiar with this rivalry, check out YouTube videos of their rivalry along with their on-court antics to understand why exactly this rivalry is so iconic.

4. Serena Williams and Venus Williams

Easily the greatest sibling rivalry that tennis has seen and probably ever will see. In all honesty, it may even be the greatest sibling rivalry in sporting history. This rivalry has spanned over 20 years which just goes to show the longevity of their playing careers. Both Serena and Venus have been ranked number one in tennis at some point in their careers. 

Tennis Rivalry between Serena Williams and Venus Williams

Serena is the greatest modern day women’s tennis player of all time, winning an astounding 23 Grand Slam titles. Venus has won a total of 7 grand slams which is also quite an achievement. The sisters have met a total of 31 times with Serena winning 19 of the meetings as opposed to Venus’ 12 victories. The Williams sisters are the only two women during the Open Era to play each other in four consecutive Grand Slam finals: from the 2002 French Open to the 2003 Australian Open. Serena won all four of these finals. They have also shared immense success as a doubles pairing, having won a total of 14 Grand Slams and 3 Olympic gold medals. This rivalry is still on going and hopefully us tennis fans are treated to more legendary Williams sister matches.

Tennis Volley Net

How to Hit a Volley in Tennis – Technique & Drills

A volley is one of the most underrated strokes in tennis. It is the stroke which is more often used in doubles than in singles. Volleys are crucial when it comes to finishing off points and also keeping the rallies short. Often many recreational and young players hit their volleys like it is a forehand and backhand, however, this technique is wrong as volleys are more about using the pace of the ball from the opponent, as well as using the touch and feel.

One of the most important things in respect to volleying is that all volleys must be played with a continental grip, which is the same grip that is used for serving. The technique behind a volley is going to be broken down into three simple steps to make for easy understanding.

Three important factors when hitting a volley:

  1. Volley Footwork
  2. Racquet Positioning
  3. Forward Momentum

Technique

1. Volley Footwork

Tennis Net

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The first and arguably most important step, is using the right footwork to get into a good position for the volleys. The best thing to do prior to hitting the volley is a split step – most players run from the baseline to hit a volley and it is important to perform a split step in order to be well balanced. This is crucial for players that are charging in from the baseline, however if a player is already positioned at the net while playing doubles then a split step may not be necessary.

While hitting the volley you should ideally turn your hip sideways at about a 45-degree angle from the net, with your hips in a slightly closed position. For right-handed players, you will have your left foot forward for forehand volleys and right foot forward for backhand volleys and for left-handed players it is vice versa.

2. Racquet Positioning

More often than not, players make the mistake of taking their racquet too high or too far back while volleying. To hit clean volleys, your racquet needs to be behind the place where you will make contact with the ball, without bringing the racquet behind your body. Your hand should be slightly under the racquet head and strings tilted slightly up depending on how low the volley is. The lower volleys will require the strings to be pointed higher to get the ball over the net, and your racquet head will drop.

You can think of the volley as a punch, you don’t swing as you do with groundstrokes because you’re already close to the net. You’re also hitting the ball before it bounces, so you use the momentum of the ball to get your power. You usually need to have a firm grip and wrist as well.

In simple terms, you are not generating your own pace while volleying, you utilise the pace provided by the opponent to perform the volley. For drop volleys a player needs to use their wrist a lot more and requires immense control of the racquet head. This shot can often only be played correctly by a player with years of experience and near perfect volleying technique.

3. Forward Momentum

While hitting a volley, your body and feet should be leaning and moving forward into the shot. As you hit the volley you should transition your weight from your back to front foot while opening your hips from the closed position to let your arms release the energy through the racquet into the ball. A lot of people are scared to close into the net and keep their momentum forward because they might get hit. Actually, if you are on your heels, then you are much more likely to get hit.

Drills

Volley on a wall

Start slow, with short touch volleys to get your technique correct before hitting harder volleys deeper in the court. Try 10 forehand volleys then 10 backhand volleys. If you are a more advanced player, you can try 20, 50 or even 100 in a row. This one is easy because you can use a tennis wall at your local courts, or a brick wall on the side of your house. You also do not require another person for this drill!

Two up two back volley drill

A fun four-person drill is two up two back. In this drill, two people start at the service line and the other team at the baseline. The people from the service line feed, alternating to the two baseline players. On their first shot, the baseline team must hit it in the singles court (no lobs), after that the whole court is open and lobs are allowed. The net players must hit their first volley from the service line, or within a few feet (no charging the net to put the first volley away). Play first to 11 or 21 depending on how much time you have!

One up one back volley drill

In one up one back, you play with similar rules to two up two back from above. The difference is only half the court is used. One player starts at the service line and feeds to the other player at the baseline. The players should be down the line from each other. The baseline player must hit it in the first shot in the singles (half) court (no lobs), after that the entire half of the court (including the doubles alley on that half) is open and lobs are okay. The net players must hit their first volley from the service line or within a step of it. Play to 11 or 21 and switch.

Volleys may seem easy when you watch them, however it is a difficult stroke to master and requires immense practice like any other stroke in tennis such as the serve, backhand or forehand. These technical tips and drills are more than enough to get you volleying the right way and perfecting volleys before you know it!