The Lost Art of Chip and Charge

The chip and charge is a long lost and forgotten art form.

For you youngsters who may not know what that is, it refers to when the returner chips or slices the return and follows it in to the net. The list of great chip and chargers gets smaller every year and we may have seen the last player to have that ability vanish when Tim Henman retired.

The reason for the decline in this tactic is simple: The serves are just too big on the pro tour to be able to do it effectively. But for club players, weekend warriors and doubles league specialists, this tool could prove invaluable.

The advantages of the chip and charge are many. It forces the server to think about their serve, knowing that the opponent is coming to the net on the return. This forces a lot of missed first serves and double faults.

But why chip? Why not knock the tar out of the ball and follow that in? First, it gives more margin for error. What I am looking to do is put pressure on my opponent. That's not going to happen if I hit the fence on the fly with my return.

Second, it gives the returner more time to close into the net for a better volleying position. And third, the ball will stay low, forcing the opponent to hit up on the passing shot. Which should give me an easier volley to handle.

Should I chip the ball down the line or crosscourt? Obviously, if my opponent has a glaring weakness I will chip to the weak side whether it be their forehand or backhand.

Barring that, move the ball around. Keep them guessing by going crosscourt, down the line and even take the angle away from them by approaching down the center sometimes.

Jut be sure whichever way you return, as you come in, you follow the path of the ball to the net and cover the line.

Also, do not be afraid to hit a short chip when coming in. Becker did this phenomonally well and you can see Federer use this short chip to Roddick's backhand again and again. It is difficult for many two-handed backhand players to move forward and get under a short, low chip with the added pressure of having to hit a passing shot.

A good tip to begin learning the chip and charge is to stand a little closer on the return. Move in and try to take the ball a little earlier. You may say to yourself, "But then my opponent knows I am coming in."

Exactly!! Let them know you are coming and let them think about it for a second. Keep the backswing a little more compact than on a normal slice and get into the net quickly for good volleying position.

This tactic takes some practice, but can pay handsome dividends. It is equally effective in doubles as long as your opponents don't do a lot of poaching.

Be sure your opponent has a serve you can handle before attempting this. If the server has a big delivery, then this may not be the right tactic for that day.

More: 4 Tips to Turn Tennis Into an Intense Workout

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