Hitting Behind Your Opponent: When and Why
“Hit to the open court.” This phrase, on the surface, seems like common sense. Totally logical. If your opponent is on one side of their court, it would seem to make sense to hit it where he/she isn't. Yet, this strategy, while logical, has some drawbacks.
Before I address these drawbacks, let me review some basic strategic ‘rules' that you should understand when playing singles and doubles. (Remember, for every rule, there are possible exceptions. These exceptions can include weaknesses and strengths of the players, deviation from the norm, and situational exceptions.)
When at the baseline or when you don't have a winner (or when you are not going for a winner) keep the ball crosscourt away from the net player. (Remember: deep to deep.) If you are at the net and you have a put-away, go through the net player. (Short to short.)
When at the baseline if you are not going for a winner, keep the ball crosscourt. If you are at the net and you don't have a winner, keep the ball down the line.
These simple rules take into account two things: One, they are strategies that play the percentages, and two, they are strategies that can minimize your opponent's ability to exploit your position.
And this brings me to the drawbacks of hitting to the open court.
In singles, if we are approaching the net and are faced with a low or deep volley on our side of the net, by hitting to the open court, (usually crosscourt if we have approached down the line), we had better hit this crosscourt for a winner or, at the very least, for a very offensive shot. The reason is that if we hit the ball crosscourt we leave ourselves vulnerable for a passing shot down our line if our opponent gets to our crosscourt shot.
If we take this low or deep volley and hit it back to the same place we hit our approach shot, (called ‘hitting behind our opponent'),
two things occur that are in our favor: One, we won't leave ourselves as vulnerable for the down the line pass by our opponent; and two, our opponent—who has probably been moving towards the center of the court following their last shot—will have to stop, change direction, and then be faced with a more difficult passing shot.
Simply put, don't try to put your volley away from a deep or difficult position. If you want to come to the net, think of hitting two approach shots instead of one. That is, hit your normal approach shot (slice, chip, topspin) down the line, then take your next shot and treat it just like another approach shot. (Usually down the line again.) This strategy will help you win points by making your opponent hit another shot,
(possibly off balance and not in prime position), and it will help you win points by being closer to the net for a better put-away.
What if you are being attacked?
If you find yourself on the receiving end of an attacking player, learn this passing tactic: make your passing shot a two-shot pass. That is, don't try to pass your opponent on the first pass with a hard-hit ball. Instead, imagine hitting a ball that is dipping downward before it reaches the net. (This can be a finesse topspin or slice ball.) Opponents who have not learned the tactics mentioned in this article will notoriously try to hit to your open court. By hitting a slower, lower ball, you yourself will have time to recover under control, and, your opponent will have to hit this softer, lower ball, up to clear the net. (Making it more difficult to hit a winner off it.) In most cases, this volley will NOT be as penetrating or as difficult to hit as was their original approach shot.
In any case, when you start to adopt strategies that increase the percentages, (both strategically as well as simply making your opponent hit more shots!), you will learn that winning is not dependent on your ability to hit big shots. Winning is about hitting the right shots, in the right situations. Winning is about making your opponent hit more balls and in uncomfortable situations! Follow this advice and watch your confidence grow!
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Dave Smith, TennisOne Associate Editor
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ProStrokes Gallery: Taylor Dent - Serve
This issue it's all about the serve so who better to feature than Taylor Dent, who sports one of the biggest in the game. Taylor has been “knocking on the door” for some years. An extremely dangerous player, rather than rallying from the baseline, he seeks the net at every opportunity. He has good hands and his instincts around the net are superb. Once there, he usually ends the point. Check out his serve only in the TennisOne ProStrokes Gallery.
Hitting Up on the Serve
We have been through a number of articles on the serve and through the entire motion, there is always the question of timing. Where is the hitting arm when the legs push against the ground? How are the shoulders positioned as they begin to turn up and into the hit? Where is the elbow when it extends the forearm up and into the hit? And often neglected but just as important, where is the head at the moment of contact? Jim McLennan examines this in depth.
QuickTip: Trap the Ball to Hone Your Toss
More often than not, when I see a student having trouble with the serve it is because of an inconsistent toss. It is not rare to see players take one or even two steps just to catch up to it. And When the toss becomes erratic, serving consistency goes south. Confidence goes south. Perhaps even enjoyment of the game goes south. Monty Basnyat offers a QuickTip that could improve your results.
Product Highlights: Pro Tech Video Analysis
The Pro Tech Video Analysis system is the industry's premier video analysis service. Pro Tech puts your strokes side-by-side with the strokes of three professional players, providing a detailed graphical analysis of your strokes compared to the reference points of these top pros. This invaluable visual comparison, combined with the detailed analysis by a current tour professional coach, offers the most advanced and unique learning environment in tennis. Pro Tech will store your video lessons for two years on your own web page, so you and your coach can evaluate your progress from anywhere in the world. TennisOne members receive a 10% discount.
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