Tennis Tactics and Strategies for Singles Play

Singles Tennis Tactics

To enjoy competing in tennis, there are some basic aspects that every player should strive to accomplish. They are:

1. Consistency – It is the player’s ability to hit the ball over the net and land it inside the court as many times as necessary.
I would say, for a beginning level, the player should be able to hit at least 5 balls in a row over the net and inside the court, during a pressure situation.
As you develop a better technique, footwork and feel, consistency could mean hitting 10 or more balls in, under pressure. I consider a match-play situation to be a pressure situation. You must know that it is a lot easier to be consistent with your strokes when there is no fear of missing (like in practice) than when every point counts towards winning or losing a match.
Consistency is directly related to other skills like footwork, balance, timing, coordination, preparation, ball control, technique and mental control. As you can see, tennis is a sport that relies on multiple skills and qualities that must all work together at a certain moment.
If you look at the statistics, you will notice that most matches are lost and not won. By that, I mean tennis is a game of consistency – the player who makes the fewest errors will win most of the time. Winning shots (winners) account for only 5 – 10% of all the points won. So it basically comes down to winning by missing less.

2. Placement
Being able to place the ball wherever you wish on the opposite side of the net is the second most important tactic in tennis.
That means you can hit cross-court, down-the-line, down-the-center, short, deep etc.
Suppose that you discover your opponent has a weak backhand. Being able to direct your shots to that area will make winning the match a lot easier.

3. Spin 
Putting spin on the ball increases your ability to control and place the ball. Spin will also slow down a fast ball due to the air pressure exercised upon it.
We can distinguish four basic types of spin:
– flat (very little rotation of the ball) – flat serve, overheads, volleys etc.
– top spin (low to high brushing motion on the back of the ball) – groundstrokes, swing volleys, serve etc.
– under spin (high to low brushing motion on the back of the ball) – volleys, slice groundstrokes, drop shots etc.
– side spin (right to left or left to right brushing motion on the back of the ball) – slice serves, some of the groundstrokes etc.

4. Power
It’s the ability of a player to produce high ball velocity on a shot.
Power should be used only after the previous elements (consistency, placement and spin) have been acquired. Power without control (consistency) is nothing.
All the previous tactics can be very successful without power but power without them is useless. A ball hit with velocity must have the required amount of spin in order to come down into the court.
Power and spin must be used together.

5. Move the opponent 
It is a lot easier for everybody to control a ball when they don’t have to move too far, or too fast to get to it. Therefore to make your opponent struggle to return the ball, hit it away from him. That affects his timing, body balance and as a result, racquet and ball control.

6. Strength vs. Weakness
Using your strengths to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses is another tactic that should not be neglected. Your strength can be either physical (better, more powerful strokes, foot speed, stamina etc.) or mental (good knowledge of tactics and strategies, better concentration, mental toughness, perseverance etc.).

7. Variety
It is very difficult for your opponents to control their timing, body balance and rhythm when the balls you send come in different ways: low, high, short, deep, with slice or topspin… Vary your types of shots to get the opposition out of their comfort zone.
You can also surprise the other player by varying the tactics you apply. For example, add a serve and volley to your normal baseline game. Your opponent should be uncertain of what you will come up with next. If not, he will enjoy playing you if there is predictability in your game.

Tactics for Beginning Players
Tactics for Intermediate Players
Tactics for Advanced Players
How to Play against Defensive Baseliner
How to Play against Offensive Baseliner
How to Play against All-Court Player
How to Play against Serve-and-Volley
How to Play against Left-Handed Player
How to Play against Inside-Outer
How to Pass the Net Opponent
How to Return a Drop-Shot
Singles Court Coverage – Lesson 1
Singles Court Coverage – Lesson 2
Singles Court Coverage – Lesson 3
Singles Court Coverage – Lesson 4

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