Modern-day tennis is increasingly becoming a baseline slugfest with players astounding the world with their physical strength but Nenad Zimonjic, one of the most formidable doubles players, says it can sometimes be boring to watch two players just hitting from the back.
Top current tennis greats such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have redefined the capabilities of the human body, having dished out innumerable marathon contests in their glorious careers.
Zimonjic, the winner of eight Grand Slam doubles titles, says all styles of the game have their own significance but rues that the conditions now do not allow players to adopt the serve-and-volley style. (Also read: India can surprise Serbia minus Novak Djokovic, says Zeeshan Ali)
"It's always nice when you see opposite styles, like (Andre) Agassi and (Pete) Sampras. (Pat) Rafter playing against some baseliner. But now balls are little slower, strings have improved which gives you opportunity to hit the ball heavy and harder," Zimonjic told PTI in an exclusive chat.
"It's tough to play serve and volley but not impossible. Nobody plays this style anymore. For sure, it can be boring to see two guys playing from the back of the court, hitting the ball as hard as they can," Zimonjic, one of the most successful doubles players from Serbia having won 52 ATP titles, said.
Asked if it was possible to dominate the game with the serve-and-volley style, Zimonjic said that a player's game has to have all ingredients.
"You have to be a complete player, what (Stephen) Edberg was, what (Boris) Becker was. You can mix it up. You can volley, if conditions are fast, stay back."
"I think definitely lot more points could finish on the net but the guys are comfortable hitting big ground strokes and going for the winners. This is the way it has been," he said.
The 38-year-old has played with India's biggest tennis stars like Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, and he fondly remembered his playing days with them.
Zimonjic had a phenomenal 2005 season with Paes when they won two titles (Monte Carlo and Barcelona), while ended runners-up in three (Stockholm, Madrid and Shanghai).
With Paes, he also ended runners-up at the 2005 year-end final in Shanghai, losing to the pair of Fabrice Santoro and Michael Llodra.
Zimonjic feels Paes is one of the most entertaining players in the game.
"It was a great experience. It was a step for me to get into top-10. I had to play the backhand and he's the best of all time in doubles. I could learn a lot about the game."
"On the court, he can do some stuff at the net, which nobody in the world can do, some reflexes, the way he reaches the ball. He is definitely the guy you would want to watch if you are a tennis fan. There are not too many players in the circuit, playing traditional volleys," he said.
Zimonjic though rued that he could not play a full single season with Mahesh Bhupathi, with whom he won the New Haven title in 2007 but never played together again.
"He's also a legend. He is a good partner to have, consistent in returning. Solid serves, good volleys, good support. It's just mis-timing...never got the opportunity to play for long," he said.
Zimonjic hinted that he would like to continue playing on the tour for another three-four years.
"I am trying to make most of the tennis that is left in me. Leander is three years older than me and still winning, he's still at the top, I would try to do the same. In 2004, when I played my first Grand Slam final, it was against Paes and Navratilova. I had read their achievements and said 'wow'. It was impressive and I thought I had no chance to achieve that level. But now I have 52 titles, including the Masters, and the Davis Cup title that I am proud of," he said.
Zimonjic said he never felt that his achievements were overshadowed by success of singles players from his country such as Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic.
"I have also got attention," he signed off.