Roger Federer is a generous man. He’s spent the last two decades of his life pouring every bit of his heart, mind, and soul into giving us the best tennis experience possible. All he’s ever asked of us in return is that we come to the net more.
And yet, none of you gifted tennis freaks are doing it. Why? Why don’t you ding-dongs come to the net?
The net can be found in the exact middle of the tennis court, where your half meets your opponent’s:
As long as you don’t touch the net, you’re allowed to get as close to it as you want. And you should, for two reasons: a) because time and time again, doing so has been statistically proven to be more likely to win you points than staying at the baseline, and b) because Roger Federer is telling you to do it.
So why don’t you dinguses listen? Why don’t you come to the net?
I get that coming to the net isn’t very fun. It isn’t fun for your opponent, who gets thrown off their rhythm. It wasn’t fun for spectators when Pete Sampras, the least fun player of all time, spent a decade winning Wimbledon by serving and walking to the service line. And coming to the net especially isn’t fun for you, the net approacher. You leave behind the rhythm and decorum of baseline play and enter a world where mysterious things like instinct and luck matter more.
All of my own least pleasant tennis memories are linked to coming to the net. Rallying from the baseline makes me feel like a pro, while coming to the net makes me feel like an idiot trying to dunk the ball in a game of pickup basketball. Given how much coaches have abandoned the tactic in recent years, coming to the net these days can also feel unsanctioned. Like entering a seedy casino.
Roger tries to remain dignified by wearing an Armani dinner jacket while he does it. Mischa Zverev sits in front of the slot machines with a bag full of tokens. Recently Denis Shapovalov has started driving into the side of the casino with a bulldozer. But for the most part, regular wholesome folk stay away.
But professional tennis isn’t about having fun. And you aren’t normal people. You’re tennis mutants with arcane-level hand-eye coordination, still-malleable post-pubescent brains, loads of practice time, and access to the best coaching money can buy. So why don’t you nimrods come to the net more? What do you have to lose?
Hey Sascha: why don’t you come to the net more, you big doofus?
You’re so tall and you hit so hard that some of your opponents probably already think you’re standing at the net. You would damn near blot out the sun if you came forward.
Because you’re a big long-armed condor, you would be impossible to lob or pass. You could swoop in on your serve, your forehand or your backhand, keeping your opponents guessing and in constant terror of a visit from Sascha “Big Bird” Zverev. The way things are going, you’re due for a slew of knee injuries in your mid-to-late 20s. Shortening your points could also help delay that day of reckoning.
Come to the net, you blockhead!
Dominic, every time I look, you are as far away from the net as the construction of the tennis court lets you be. You play like you were kidnapped by a tennis net as a child.
This is a shame, because there is no physical thing that should prevent you from going to the net. You’ve got a huge serve, penetrating groundstrokes, solid volleys, and you aren’t short. You have all the tools. Those forehands you love to hit the shit out of, Dominic? Every single one of those is an approach shot. And every time you decide to hang back behind the baseline and let your opponents recover, you give up all the advantage you’ve accrued from shelling them with all those bombs in the first place. What is the point of hitting the shit out of that forehand if you’re not going to do anything with it?
Why you don’t come to the net, Dominic? Is it because you’re a big moron?
Nick, my friend. Tennis is lonely and it sucks. You want to be with your family and play basketball with your mates. I get it.
But get this: If you started coming to the net more, you could win enough to buy every professional basketball team in Australia. You could turn the Perth Wildcats into your personal traveling practice squad.
You have one of the biggest serves in the game. You have the scariest and most penetrating two-handed backhand since Marat Safin. You have spooky touch at the net. Your opponents are already struggling to figure out what the hell to do with you. If you came to the net you would make their lives a living hell. You’ve said yourself that you’re bored of playing low-ranked players and want to spend as little time on the court as possible. I have a proposal: come to the net, win some short points and rake in that cash, you big boob!
Garbiñe Muguruza, who is good and righteous
Garbiñe, in case you goofballs didn’t know, won Wimbledon this year, and is now world No. 1, and she did it thanks in part to a series of very brave and profitable expeditions to the net.
Net play is especially rare on the WTA these days, where hard-fought, drawn-out baseline rallies have become the norm, which probably made Garbiñe’s aggressive approach all the more surprising and effective. So why can’t you nincompoops be more like Garbiñe?
Milos: Listen to me. I know that people have talked your ear off about your strong serve, your movement, how you already come to the net plenty, how your former coach was one of the greatest net players of all time, and how you’re a dingus for not listening to him and coming to the net even more than you do now. So I’m not going to talk about that.
But what if I told you that waiting for you at the net right now is this tall, cold, refreshing glass of lemonade?
A nice lemonade. What do you think about that, Milos? Doesn’t that sound good? All you have to do to get it is come to the net.
Nick Zarzycki is a writer living in Toronto.