Who Has The Greatest Backhand Volley of All Time?

Social media is a popular venue for discussions – and arguments – and one that has gone around is who has the best backhand volley of all time? Steve Flink, in his book “THE GREATEST TENNIS MATCHES OF ALL TIME” ($28.95, New Chapter Press, available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257936/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_SIRbBbB48F1H1) rated Stefan Edberg and Martina Navratilova as having the best backhand volley of all time by men and women, respectively.

The backhand volley rankings are as follows.


1. STEFAN EDBERG The Swede was his era’s best at the net, by a considerable margin. He was the quintessential serve-and-volleyer, with a heavy kick serve designed to allow Edberg to get exceedingly close to the net for his first volley. His forehand volley was awfully good, but his backhand volley was stupendous. Edberg was supremely confident on the backhand volley, which he could “stick” better than anyone. Either high or low on the backhand volley, Edberg always had all of the answers, displaying finesse, precision and the capacity to put it away whenever possible.

2. TONY ROCHE The formidable Australian’s backhand volley was virtually on a par with Edberg’s—some would say that Roche’s was even better. His shoulder turn and soundness were his enduring virtues as a player. No one wanted to allow Roche to hit that backhand volley if they had a choice because he invariably would keep the low ones deep and put the high ones away emphatically. Roche played the backhand volley with clinical efficiency.

3. KEN ROSEWALL While the understated Australian was more revered in some circles for his backhand ground stroke, the fact remains that his backhand volley was every bit as impressive. Rosewall altered his game when he left the amateur ranks and turned pro, realizing he had to approach the net more frequently. Once that change occurred, Rosewall put his stellar backhand volley on display with growing assurance. It was ineffably good.

4. ROD LAVER The two-time winner of the Grand Slam was spectacularly versatile, capable of taking his place alongside any of the great shot makers of all time. But I believe no one gave him the plaudits he deserved for his backhand volley. This deeply humble left-hander had good feel and great control on that side and he never wavered when he was set up for a backhand volley.

5. PETE SAMPRAS Over the second half of his career, the American became more committed to following his second serve in at almost all times. Sampras made serious strides in his ability to volley with the best in his business. He had a very good forehand volley as well, but his backhand volley was outstanding. Even when he was stretched out or reaching down to his shoelaces, he would make even the toughest backhand volleys look remarkably easy.

1. MARTINA NAVRATILOVA This outstanding left hander’s athleticism was displayed most convincingly when she was stationed up at the net. Her speed and anticipation was second to none and her long reach on the backhand volley was phenomenal. It seemed almost impossible to get a ball by her on that side. Navratilova could not only pound her volleys for winners at sharp angles but also could use her touch for some astounding drop volleys.

2. BILLIE JEAN KING Her technique and flair on the backhand volley was comparable to Navratilova’s. King had a much better backhand than forehand off the ground. On the volley she was highly skilled off both sides, but her backhand volley was more of a weapon. She would knife it away with total conviction, go down the line as well as crosscourt and her footwork and forward movement was outstanding.

3. EVONNE GOOLAGONG Goolagong was very comfortable at the net, relishing the challenge to end points with her dazzling athleticism and staggering grace. Goolagong’s backhand volley was awesome. Navratilova and King were more adept at making the low volley in many ways, but Goolagong was the best on high backhand volleys and backhand overheads. She would leave audiences gasping when she played that shot.

4. MARIA BUENO The Brazilian’s elegance and grace were reminiscent of Goolagong. This fierce competitor hit a heavy ball off the ground, but her forte was the volley. Bueno had wonderful touch and vision at the net, which made her such an estimable grass court player. She knew exactly what to do with the backhand volley and had one of the best ever.

5. VIRGINIA WADE The winner of three singles majors on grass courts—including Wimbledon in 1977—Wade possessed a terrific first serve. It was among the most potent of her time and she followed it in persistently. Up at the net, she was comfortable and usually in command, exhibiting very good lateral movement. Her backhand volley was first rate. Wade could knife that shot crosscourt with extraordinary regularity.

“The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” features profiles and rankings of the greatest matches of all time dating from the 1920s featuring Bill Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen up through the modern era of tennis featuring contemporary stars Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Flink breaks down, analyzes and puts into historical context the sport’s most memorable matches, providing readers with a courtside seat at these most celebrated and significant duels. Flink also includes a fascinating “greatest strokes of all-time” section where he ranks and describes the players who best executed all the important shots in the game through the years. Other champions featured in the book include Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Rod Laver, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf among many others.

The book is published by New Chapter Press, the premier global publisher of tennis books.
Flink, one of the most respected writers and observers in the game, is currently a columnist for TennisChannel.com. A resident of Katonah, N.Y., he is the former editor of World Tennis magazine and a former senior columnist at Tennis Week.

The book has received high praise from some of the most respected names in the sport, including Chris Evert, a winner of 18 major singles titles in her career, who wrote the foreword to the book.

Said seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras, “Steve Flink was there reporting on almost every big match I played in my career. He has seen all of the great players for the last 45 years. I encourage you to read this book because Steve is one of the most insightful writers on the game that I have known and he really knows his tennis.”
Said former U.S. Davis Cup captain and player Patrick McEnroe, “As a writer and a fan, Steve Flink’s knowledge of tennis history and his love of the sport are second to none, which is why you should read his book.”

Said ESPN’s Cliff Drysdale, “To see tennis through the eyes of Steve Flink is to wander through a wonderland. These are not fantasies because Steve captures the essence of tennis matches in graphic detail. There is no one more passionate or caring about his subject. In this absorbing book, I can relive matches that I have called on television.”

Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Secrets of Spanish Tennis” by Chris Lewit, “Trojan Tennis: The Storied History of the Men’s Tennis Program at the University of Southern California” by S. Mark Young, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “Andy Murray, Wimbledon Champion: The Full Extraordinary Story” by Mark Hodgkinson, “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Sport of a Lifetime” by Judy Aydelott, “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” by Rick Macci with Jim Martz, “Absolute Tennis: The Best And Next Way To Play The Game” by Marty Smith, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer, “The Days of Roger Federer” by Randy Walker, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “Court Confidential: Inside The World Of Tennis” by Neil Harman, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com), “How To Permanently Erase Negative Self Talk So You Can Be Extraordinary” by Emily Filloramo, “Internet Dating 101: It’s Complicated, But It Doesn’t Have To Be” by Laura Schreffler, “How To Sell Your Screenplay” by Carl Sautter, “Bone Appetit: Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Suzan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin among others.

Stefan Edberg

Stefan Edberg