Seeing that most of the kids that my daughters played against were very steady from the baseline (real human walls), we decided we had to come up with a good tactic against them. And indeed we DID!
These combinations of shots won at least two matches (easily) during my daughters’ latest tournament:
Two days before we took off for the tournament I set up the ball machine and had my daughters practice their drop-shots.
Once they got a good feel for the short balls, we proceeded to discussing what they’d do from there on…
Considering that “pushers” are very comfortable playing at the baseline, once at the net, they might try to either back away from it (towards the baseline) or stay up where their volleys would not be solid enough.
Right after the drop shot, my daughters had to be inside the baseline and get ready for an eventual short ball return or a deep one.
If their opponents would back up and away from the net following the drop-shot return, my daughters were going to take the next ball early and hit it to their feet or easily pass them considering their fragile balance while backing up.
If the opponents were going to stay up at the net, I instructed my daughters to hit the first ball in the direction of their opponents and try to pass them on the second attempt.
By hitting to them first, the opposing player might be taken by surprise expecting a pass. On the second attempt, while opponents trying to defend themselves a passing shot would be easier to execute.
The first tactic was the more efficient since most of the pushers did not feel comfortable staying at the net and tried to move back to baseline.
At least two matches were won by my daughters (each) applying these tactics!
Try them and let me know if they worked for you too.
For more tactics and strategies that work, click here!
Ok, this situation has happened to me many times in my over 27 years of playing tennis:
You play an opponent whom you have competed against before, but in this particular day everything “connects” for him: the ground-strokes are consistent, perfectly placed and timed drop-shots, his lobs are “magically” finding the baseline, the first serves are at a high percentage… and whatever you do the ball finds it way to come back for another shot. In short, your opponent has one of those days when everything connects. So frustrating for you…!
What should you do and how do you play?
One lesson I’ve learned in my entire tennis career is: no matter how good your opponent is playing you should always care for these three things:
1. How long can she/he maintain this level of play?
2. Whatever it takes, I should stay positive and show no sign of frustration to fuel my already confident opponent.
3. Stick with whatever strokes you feel you have control over. It is not the time to try something new. Be humble in your play.
Really, all it takes to win most of the matches against “in the zone” players comes down to the above three mental points.
However you play, always keep in mind that the mentally stronger players always (or at least most of the time) prevail when the balance of technical skills is levelled between players.
Have fun on the court!
Certified Tennis Teaching Professional
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A few days ago I got an email from one of our subscribers who is a passionate doubles player. He had a dilemma: how should he return against an aggressive server and a tall player at the net?
Immediately I thought: tough question! In my opinion this particular player has to face a perfect doubles team: a great server and a tall partner to pick up the weak return.
The thing is that most of the players would try their best to avoid the net player by hitting aggressive passive shots. That puts extra pressure and the percentage of missing the balls into the net or out are greater.
I would do the following:
– for doubles… I’d have my partner position just behind the service line and let him/her know that I’d return the serve right at the opposing net player (well, not all the time; just often enough to keep him/her from poaching and putting the pressure on).
– for singles… again, I’d try to hit the ball at my approaching opponent’s feet or hit the first ball right at him/her hoping and waiting for my chance for a passing shot.
Certified Tennis Teaching Professional
I thought about writing this article after a match I recently played against one of my top students.
What happened during that match? Even though my student is much younger than me (he is 17), I found myself overpowered in the matter of strokes and quickness by him. This usually makes me proud to see it in my students but in that particular situation I had to save my pride by trying to not lose to him. 🙂
One thing I had to do in order to stay alive in that match was… to be creative and be able to get out of my comfort zone.
In order to achieve that I had to mix up my shots a lot more often than I usually do, I had to really plan ahead every stroke (I mean, to think at least two tactical strokes before the point would begin) and be “on my toes” a lot quicker…
So what was the lesson that you can learn from my experience?
▪ If a player wants to achieve top performance in tennis, she/he must strive for consistency and stroke dependability first. This consistency must be applied to at least two shots on each side (forehand, backhand or serve). Because if one fails, you must be able to rely on the other one.
In what way can a stroke fail you? In my case, against this particular student, he would 90% of the time crush my kick serve (putting it away) so I had to use my slice on the second serve most of the time to keep him away from winning the point off of my second serve. So having two dependable serves (kick and slice) I could switch between them when one failed me.
▪ You, as a player, must learn/practice to think ahead in the point. Avoid just hitting the ball in play and wait to see what happens. Instead you must make things happen. If your opponent, let’s say, is slow, then hit the ball often to the open court to make her/him hit it on the run (off balance); if she/he likes to come up to the net, you can visualize a two shots combination: one short at her/his feet followed by an attacking shot (assuming the low ball at her/his feet will produce a slow return) etc.
Think at least two shots that will put you ahead in the point!
▪ A good player must be quick. If you are not, then you can train to be one.
When I say quick, I do not mean fast. As an example, I was never a fast runner but I was quick on the tennis court.
How can you be quick on the tennis court? Well apart from doing footwork specific drills you must train your eye to read your opponent’s body language. The way her/his body is facing before the shot or the grip she/he uses to strike the ball are to be paid attention to all the time. Also, learn proper court coverage (see Court Geometry) so you know ahead (before your opponent strikes the ball) what your opponent’s options are considering her/his location on the court.
Consider these new tips in assessing your game and see what you lack and what you need to improve.
Above all try to work on stroke variety in your practice sessions. Is your slice backhand a weak shot? Then go ahead and practice it. You never know when you will have the chance to play against someone who does not handle slice well.
Is your slice serve a weak shot? Well… you know what to do. And so on.
Practice what you are not very good at because being able to change your game and to mix up your shots will pay off in many tennis matches.
Having fun playing comes from being confident that you can rely on your strokes ability when needed.
Practice all your shots not only the ones you like!