The Longest Tennis Rallies Ever
Different players favour different game styles in tennis. Some old school players like to serve and volley, whereas many of today’s best players like to hit aggressive groundstrokes from the baseline. There are some players though that no matter who they’re playing against, simply love a long rally! Today, we take a look at why some rallies last so long, which professional players love a long rally and some of the longest tennis rallies ever!
Why Do Rallies Last So Long?
When two fairly evenly matched players are going at it, there are bound to be long rallies in the match.
Of course the aim of tennis is to get more balls in the court than your opponent, so naturally it is beneficial to be as consistent as possible in order to reduce your own unforced error count.
However, tennis has not always been a game of attrition, as before the 2000s, many players opted to serve and volley thanks to faster courts, lighter tennis balls and less powerful rackets.
This meant that the precision play paid dividends and we saw big servers like Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic have great success with their net rushing game styles.
However, as racket, string and ball technologies have become more advanced, as well as massive strides in the overall fitness and endurance of modern tennis players, the game has become much more a game of outlasting your opponent from the baseline than picking off volleys at the net.
Nowadays, professional players tend to return a lot better and are able to pass net rushers a lot easier than players of yesteryear.
Players like Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and David Nalbandian all paved the way for the most consistent game style we see throughout the men’s and women’s game today, which of course produces longer rallies.
Many beginners and younger players are taught to be consistent from the baseline now rather than mastering the art of serve and volley, which naturally breeds a culture of rallying until an opponent breaks down rather than hitting a winner outright.
These are some of the main reasons as to why we see a lot of long rallies at all levels of tennis these days.
Players That Love Long Rallies
Whilst there are players like Federer, Del Potro and Roddick that like to finish points on their terms come what may, there are other players that prefer to grind their opponents down with bruising rallies.
Here are some of the most consistent players out there that simply love long rallies!
The king of clay takes great pleasure in wearing down his opponents and relying on his unbelievable fitness levels to win his matches.
Of course he has an awful lot of skill and over the course of his career he has developed a more aggressive game style, by improving his serve and using his monstrous forehand to open up the court. But, Nadal certainly loves to break down his opponents using long rallies.
If there is one player that backs himself in a drawn out exchange it is Andy Murray. The two time olympic champion is notoriously consistent and, like Nadal, relies on his fitness and warrior mentality to stay in points and make one more ball.
Murray is a very talented and crafty player that likes to use drop shots, lobs and passing shots to take away an opponent’s rhythm. But overall Murray’s default mode is to play heavy groundstrokes from the baseline and outlast his opponents.
Aga Radwanska is definitely one of the most intelligent and talented players ever to play the game of tennis. She relied on placement and her ability to out-think her opponents rather than power in order to win her points.
She was incredibly consistent and would often win points from defensive positions thanks to her agility and court awareness.
A modern player that is synonymous with long rallies and unrivalled consistency is the Argentine ace, Diego Schwatzman.
He is a shorter than average player that doesn’t possess the big serve or crushing ground strokes of some of his contemporaries, but he is able to win a lot of matches through unbelievable foot speed and consistency.
Schwartzman is famed for his quickness around the court, always tracking down every ball and producing high quality shots time after time. He is then able to work his way into points and hit into the open court when his opponent has been manoeuvred out of position.
Kimiko Date Krumm
A wiley veteran of the game, Kimiko Date Krumm had a unique game style that relied on absorbing her opponent’s pace and using it as a weapon against them.
She was able to redirect the ball with incredible accuracy, always making her opponent play one more shot. She’s prefered to win her rallies with angles, drop shots and by out manoeuvring her opponents rather than overpowering them, much like Andy Murray.
It is therefore very common to see many long rallies in Kimiko’s matches.
Another player that loves to wear his opponent’s down and rely mainly on his fitness levels is Gilles Simon. He always had a slim build so could never generate major power, but he was able to find a way to reach a career high of world number 6 in 2009.
The reason for this was his incredible ability to chase down balls, anticipate play and ultimately outlast his opponents. Simon is famed for being one of the most consistent players out there and never gave his opponents an easy ride.
The Serbian superstar is arguably the best defensive player of all time, using his insane flexibility and court coverage to track down balls that most other players simply wouldn’t be able to get to.
Djokovic’s great return of serve combined with his ability to keep the ball deep no matter where he is on the court allows him to stay in rallies even when his opponent’s are sending down thumping groundstrokes.
Although he has become more aggressive as he has gotten older, he still relies on drawing out errors from his opponents through long rallies when the going gets tough.
The lefty legend Abgelique Kerber is a fantastic absorber of pace that uses her athleticism, grit and compact swings to redirect her opponent’s heavy groundstrokes and turn defence into attack.
She used this to great effect in her 3 grand slam wins and has consistently been able to extend rallies in order to physically and mentally drain her opponents.
The Longest Tennis Rallies Ever
Frediani vs Pecci: Grosseto Italy 2017
Let’s start off with the officially recorded longest rally of all time. The Guinness World Record goes to Simone Frediani and Daniele Pecci for their simply astonishing 51,283 shot rally achieved in 2017. The attempt took over 12 hours to complete!
Sampras vs Agassi US Open 1999
Another very long rally between two greats of the game came at the 1997 US Open between bitter rivals Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. The pair exchanged 51 shots in an epic rally. Agassi would go on to win the tournament.
Nelson vs Hepner Richmond Virginia US 1984
The longest recorded rally in a professional tennis event was at the 1984 Virginia Slims tournament in Richmond Virginia and was played by Vicki Nelson and Jean Hepner.
These heroic women hit an incredible 643 shots in 29 minutes in their epic hour and 47 minute tie break. The match lasted a total of 6 hours and 31 minutes, with Nelson eventually getting the win over Hepner.
Borg vs Vilas French Open 1978
One of the greatest clay court players of all time Bjorn Borg took on Guillermo Vilas in the 1978 French Open final. Vilas was the defending champion, but that didn’t stop Borg from dismantling him in straight sets.
One of the stand out moments of the match however was the 86 stroke rally they played, which clearly wore Vilas out!
Djokovic vs Nadal US Open 2013
Djokovic and Nadal have arguably the greatest tennis rivalry of all time. They have played 58 times, which is more than any other tennis rivalry in history.
The pair have also shared some of the biggest stages in the tennis world, one of which was at the 2013 US Open.
In the final, Djokovic managed to break Nadal’s serve to lead the second set 4-2, a crucial stage of the match, with a 55 shot rally. Nadal would eventually overcome Djokovic and win the title in 4 sets.
Simon vs Monfils Australian Open 2013
One of the longest and more gruelling rallies on our list came from French duo Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon. This 71 shot rally was insane to watch, especially at such a crucial point in the match at 4-4 in the second set.
The pair also produced a 60 shot rally in their encounter at the 2011 Hamburg Open, so they definitely know how to push each other to the limits!
Mahut vs Granollers Davis Cup 2018
When France took on Spain in the 2018 edition of the Davis Cup, two veterans of the game came to blows. Nicolas Mahut and Marcel Granollers played an 84 shot rally in the tie that would eventually see the Spaniard take the match 13-11 in the decisive final set tie break.
This rally came on just the second point of the match and the pair were clearly playing for the crowd as most of the shots were backhand slices back to each other.
Some of the most fierce rivalries of all time have produced some of the longest and most exciting rallies we have ever seen. Whilst not all players love to engage in these prolonged exchanges, they are always fun to watch and they set new world records that are there to be broken!
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