Here are some basic tenets of the game to
keep in mind.
NEVER CHANGE THE DIRECTION OF
A HARD HIT BALL
opponent's ball his hit with pace, the recipient's reaction time and
preparation times are greatly reduced. These factors are compounded when a
player must run hard to retrieve an opponent's shot. The
best course of action when a ball is hit hard at you is to send it back in the
direction from which it game. Failure to do this will frequently
lead to an errant reply. It is difficult enough to return a hard struck shot.
Changing its direction (e.g. taking a ball hit cross court and hitting a down
the line reply) just exacerbates the difficulty. Best to play it safe in these
situations and simply hit the ball back from where it came!
VARY THE SPIN, HEIGHT AND PACE
OF YOUR BALLS IN A LONG RALLY
players (unless they are competing on clay courts) are not that likely to have
long rallies. The faster the surface is, the less likely that the groundstroke
exchanges will evolve into long rallies. But if you find yourself exchanging groundstrokes for even
moderate rallies (let's say the ball crosses the net 5 or 6 times), you
probably want to vary the spin in your groundstroke series. For
example, you may want to try and hit some groundstrokes with topspin followed
by a sliced shot. This may not always be viable, but you can always vary the
pace of each shot and the height at which it crosses the net. The
idea here is to create variance, and to prevent your opponent from being able
to "groove" his/her groundstrokes. This
approach will test the patience of your opponent. Not uncommonly, your opponent
may attempt to end the point quickly and fail to hit with precision.
80/20 RULE... HIT 80 PERCENT
OF YOUR GROUNDSTROKES CROSSCOURT AND 20 PERCENT DOWN THE LINE.
the tennis guru, Peter Burwash, is the original proponent associated with this
rule. It is simple, but profound! It really is based on the
"geometry" and "percentages" associated with tennis. Suffice
it to say that the margin for error when you hit crosscourt is much greater
than when you hit down the line. So, your chances of keeping the ball in play and in bounds
are greatest when you hit the vast majority of your groundstrokes crosscourt,
and carefully select which you will hit down the line.
RUN THE TURTLE. HIT AT THE
players fail to recognize the mobility of their opponents. Unfortunately, too
many players fall into doing exactly what their opponents prefer when it comes
to movement. If a player is fleet of foot, she/he probably wants to run
and hit balls. The best course of action with this type of opponent is to hit
more shots directly at the opponent than you normally would. If the opponent
seems to lack mobility, it may be wise to try and run this type of opponent. He/she
may get to these shots, but it may fatigue him/her later in the match. Of
course, almost everything in the game of tennis is subject to change during a
match other than the net and the lines! So, you always want to assess and
re-assess your opponent's mobility as a match unfolds.
ALWAYS MOVE FORWARD WHENEVER
THE OPPONENT RETREATS
It is imperative that you move forward every
time your opponent moves back. The modern game of tennis with its
emphasis on groundstrokes tends to emphasize side to side movement. I think
this explains, at least in part, why I see players who do not take a step or two
forward when their opponent is forced to move back a step or two. Taking this
step forward greatly increases the angles available to you. Andre Agassi was a
phenomenal tennis player. On almost every groundstroke, he would move forward a
half step or full step... even when his opponent did not retreat! He could take
the ball on the rise. He recognized that every step forward gave him a wider
scope of possible angles to hit his reply. Well, we aren't all Andre, but we
all can move forward when our opponent is forced back.
IT IS BEST TO APPROACH THE NET
WHEN YOU CAN MOVE STRAIGHT AHEAD... DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLOSE NET ON AN ANGLE
modern game of tennis, serve/volley and chip/charge have almost completely
disappeared from our wonderful game! Still, there are times when even the most
committed groundstroker will want to come to the net for a traditional or
"swing" volley. The key here is to always try to avoid moving to the net at
an angle. This may not always be possible. However when you
do have to approach the net at an angle, you are leaving yourself vulnerable
for a passing shot that is in essence "hit behind" your forward
angle. In addition, any sideways movement takes away from how "close"
to the net you can get because you are moving diagonally... not forward.
APPROACH DOWN THE LINE WITH
SLICE AND CROSS COURT WITH TOPSPIN
that there are times when you do wish to come to the net, how you strike your
ball as you approach is important. I learned of this technique from a video
hosted by the great Arthur Ashe. He recommends that if
you are going to hit an approach shot down the line, hit with slice... if you
are hitting an approach shot cross court, hit it at the most severe angle
viable and with lots of topspin. I am NOT a natural or gifted
volleyer. However, I have never been "burned" by my approach shots
when I stick to this rule.
WHEN AT THE NET AND YOUR
OPPONENT IS AT THE BASELINE, COVER THE DOWN THE LINE SHOT
again, I must credit Arthur Ashe for this tenet. Once you have closed the net,
you are vulnerable to a passing shot or to a lob. More often than not, the
modern player will go for the passing shot. Indeed, there are many "big
bangers" who simply "love a target" at the net. I actually have
charted some pro matches and collegiate matches (men and women) over the years
to track how often a player will attempt the passing shot down the line as
opposed to cross court. By my data, Arthur is correct! About 70% of the time the
person at the baseline will attempt the pass "down the line."
DON'T DROP SHOT ANY DEEPLY HIT
BALL, AND ONLY DROP SHOT WHEN YOU CAN MAKE CONTACT WITH THE BALL ABOVE YOUR
thing to realize about the drop shot is that it is frequently a
"desperation" shot. Recreational, high school, collegiate and
intermediate players will hit a drop shot simply because they are losing or
they are fatigued. Pros hit drop shots for a reason that is tactically sound...
they recognize that their opponents will have difficulty getting to the ball! Pros
realize that to hit an effective drop shot, you must be inside the court...
preferably near the service line. In addition, you only want to hit a drop shot
when you can strike the ball at waist height or higher. As it the case with the
pros, you want to hit a drop shot only when it will result in your opponent
having to scramble a good distance to make a reply. In
addition, recognize that if your opponent is attempting foolish drop shots that
she/he is probably doing so out of desperation and/or fatigue!
NEVER STAND AND LOOK AT A DROP
The great temptation with
hitting a drop shot is assuming that it is going to be an outright winner. Even
on the pro level, you will see players who hit the "dropper" and
simply watch it. The opponent who scrambles to make contact with the ball may
actually "knock" it over the net! In some instances, I have seen the
opponent's reply to the drop shot be a somewhat weak, but unexpected, lob! In
truth, it may be difficult, and at times, impossible to fully anticipate
specifically how your opponent may reply to your drop shot. Frequently, they
are simply putting a racquet on the ball and hoping for the best. But,
you definitely do not want to be caught napping!
WHEN YOU ARE TIRED, HIT
a moonball rally or two whenever you are feeling drained and weak. Whenever
you are really tired during a point, a set or a match; it usually makes good
sense to avail yourself of a series of moonballs or offensive lobs. These will
slow down the pace of rallies, and prevent you from having to run as much
and/or as vigorously.
WHEN YOU ARE OUT OF POSITION
AND IN AN EMERGENCY, HIT HIGH, DEEP DEFENISVE (BACKSPIN) LOBS
I see far
too many players who attempt to do something offensive with their reply when
they are in a defensive position. Recreational and/or inexperienced players
will frequently hit a down the line shot for an attempted winner when they are
out of court, on the run, and clearly in a defensive position. The
smart play when in a defensive position is to hit a defensive shot. Most often,
this is a sliced lob that lands deep in the opponent's court. The
goal is to keep the point going, and to hopefully, get back into a neutral
WHEN ALL SEEMS TO BE FALLING
APART, FOCUS ON QUIETING YOUR HEAD
those days, matches and times when we seem to be incapable of hitting any of
our shots effectively. Serves, forehands, backhands, you name it... they all
seem to be doomed to land out or into the net! Assuming that you have tried to
"refocus" more carefully on the ball, what is left? Well, when all
else fails... quiet your head. By this, I mean try to keep your head as
motionless as is possible throughout the entire shot... from take back to
follow through. Having a motionless or "quiet" head at the moment of
impact is imperative. Making a deliberate effort to keep your head
"frozen" throughout the entire stroke more often than not will allow
your non-conscious mind to make the necessary "corrections" to bring
back all of you strokes.
SLOW DOWN A LOSING GAME, SPEED
UP A WINNING GAME
us has a preferred pace at which we like to compete in tennis. However, it is
important to use "match pace" deliberately when you are either
winning or losing. If you are having a good outing and are up by more than a
break, you want to keep things moving quickly. You
don't want your opponent to regroup and/or gain momentum. The flip side of this
is to slow down a losing game. If you are down more than a break, you definitely want to
take all the "legal" time you are allowed in between points and
during game changeovers.Slowing
things down will automatically give your body a chance to relax a bit more, and
allow you to get back into "automatic" pilot mode.
YOU MUST CHANGE GAME PLANS
WHEN YOU ARE DOWN A SET AND A BREAK
face it. Sometimes, matches seem to be impossible to win. THEY NEVER ARE!!!
However, you need to know when you must change game plans. The best rule of
thumb that I can offer the reader is the following: If
you find yourself down a set and down a break, you MUST do something very
different. It may be that you need to try and take angles
away from your opponent by hitting more balls to the center of the court. It
could be that you need to hit with less pace, but keep the balls deep. Maybe,
your service needs to change. It could be that using a slice serve allows for
points to be tilted in your direction. As a drastic measure, you may need to switch
from your normal baseline game to a serve/volley and/or chip/charge approach.
The point is simple. You are down, but not out! However, you probably need to
change things rather significantly if you are going to come back and win.