The Xs and Os

The Xs and Os: Some tennis players believe they should just play their game, regardless of the opponent; but I believe having a match strategy can improve your chances against anyone.

It’s a given that playing smart won’t make you a winner against a far superior player; but it can help you do better than you would have. If someone beats you regularly 6-2, 6-2, there are things you can do to win another game or two.

What are those things? Well, that depends on your analysis of your opponent.

Think about what their strengths and weaknesses are – no matter who they are, they are stronger on one side than the other. For example, the common wisdom now playing Federer is to give him high, looping shots to his backhand.

Or, think about what the player does against YOU that gives you trouble… and try to take away that shot. If he tends to give you a lot of drop shots that you have trouble getting to, stand on or inside the baseline to force him to try to play the ball deeper in the court. If he plays your weaker backhand and comes in behind the shot, cheat over to give yourself more forehands to hit. Granted, it will open up more of the court that you will have to cover; but it will be with your forehand.

The basic philosophy is: think about what your opponent wants to do in a given situation, and take that shot away from him. If you have tried this, what success have you had?

2 thoughts on “The Xs and Os

  1. I agree with you, particularly at the club level, strategy can be the competitive edge.

    I play a guy once a week. He has no clear weaknesses. Moves very well, tall, primarily a baseliner, but will come in on his serve at times to mix it up. If I ever hit the ball short in a rally, he sets up well and comes over the top and hits an angled winner to the corner (and I can’t pick up which corner until he hits it …. too late). I’ve been losing to him for several weeks.

    But I beat him the last two times we played.

    The mistake I was making is this. Because he hit so many winners against me to the corners, I was trying to shorten the rallies (thinking I will lose most long rallies) by going for winners myself. But I don’t have the game to play this aggressive strategy. I was just making more errors. I was also trying to hit my first serve harder, also increasing my errors.

    So I decided to stop trying to hit winners and try to achieve a winning court position in the rallies. Only go for winners when I’m inside the court.

    I started hitting looping and deep shots to his backhand. When I would serve, I tried to always get my first serve in with more of a looping serve to his backhand.

    His backhand is not a weakness, but he can’t hit winners from a high ball to his backhand.

    This has worked. Cut down on my errors and I’m winning more of the rallies.

    But I can also see him adjusting. He’s making fewer errors trying for winners to my looping shots to his backhand. He is now playing a safer and deeper return from his backhand.

    Time for me to think of something else to counter his adjustments.

  2. Mark – good example! I think opponents are like viruses… then tend to adapt and modify themselves; so we have to come up with new antidotes! thanks

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