How To Play a Moonballer?

A tournament tennis friend wrote that he was frustrated, perplexed, and beaten recently by a Moonballer; and is looking for help on what he should have done.

He emailed, “I’m writing partly as therapy and partly because you’re a tennis ‘doctor’ who writes about making adjustments during a match. Maybe you’ll have some suggestions as to how the outcome of my loss to a ‘moonballer’ may have been different.

“I won the 1st set 6-2 and I got ahead 4-2 in the second set; and then lost the last 10 games in a row.

“It was because I was being pushed back especially with moon balls on my backhand side. I started trying to hit too many of them on the half volley or as the ball was coming up after hitting the court near the baseline. And I just plain missed some of them ugly.

“I was unnerved. The rhythm in my stroke production was broken. I was beaten. And, I will appreciate any thoughts you may have on how to beat a moonballer.”

I wrote back to my friend: As I read your report, the two things that jump out at me are:

1) What’s happening and what should I do about it? Those were the two key questions in a blog post a couple of weeks back. I would think as the second set was slipping away from you — or surely, after you lost it and got ready to start the third set — you would have sat yourself down, realized that whatever you WERE doing was not working, and try to figure some strategy out to change what was happening.

2) What to do against a moonballer? In my opinion, the last thing you want to do is back up on that moon ball and try to play a high back hand (one of our weakest shots). I have tried the short-hopping solution, and it is just too difficult for me to pull off consistently. The solution? According to Larry Turville, you should take the ball in the air and play aggressively.

The bottom-line for me is: change the game so that your opponent cannot do whatever he is doing to beat you. Stand inside the baseline, take the ball in the air, come to the net … but take away that deep moon ball to your backhand.

Any other words of wisdom from those who have played moonballers (or if you ARE one)?

4 thoughts on “How To Play a Moonballer?

  1. As a lifelong moonballer I love hearing how much other people feel about it ! There are of course 2 ways to beat the moonballer, either at his own game or simply hit him off the court. I rarely lose to the former but all too often nowadays to the latter ! Either way it’s nice to be out there in the fresh air hitting lots of balls for hours on end or even without end !

  2. Oh how I hate them moonballers….and I’m not a hater. 🙂

    This is what I do; I tell myself I’m going to HIT the ball. Win or loose…but i’m going to HIT. When I walk off the court I want to feel good about having HIT the ball. Even if i loose. I feel the worst when I pushed the ball back for 2 hours and lost…so i commit to hitting. This has to be a true commitment as the whole strategy of the moonballer is to take away the pace and get you to push with them.

    so hit away, feel good and take many balls in the air from inside the baseline.
    If you have committed to HIT, than you will be moving through your vollleys and putting good pace on the ball and you will easily start winning the match. If you do NOT put pace on your volleys, get ready to run a lot as the moonballer will lob you constantly.
    The other side of the coin on a positive side….when you start taking control of the match, they only thing a moonballer can do is try to be even more steady…they can and will not change their strategy, because it;’s the only game they have. Hope that’s helpful and I still hate them

  3. Good advice, George. I have faced moonballers and it is always frustrating. I have also occasionally used the strategy of hitting a deep moonball to my opponent’s backhand, except the difference in my tactic from a true moonballer is that I use this as an alternative approach shot and I will try to sneak into the net while the opponent is hitting his backhand return so I can intercept that return — which is always weak — and maybe put away an easy volley. In terms of how to play against a moonballer, some other things that I have personally tried — with varying degrees of success — include the following; 1). Become a moonballer yourself. In other words, resolve to just be out there for as long as it takes and hit the same kind of shots. However, be forewarned this requires a lot more patience than most people have (and it is also boring as hell). 2). If you get too impatient or bored with 1), try waiting for the occasional short moonball and try running around the backhand to hit an inside out forehand taken off the bounce (like Agassi used to do) to the opponent’s backhand. 3). If you are really quick and have good hands, try hitting all or substantially all of your returns of backhand moonballs by running around to hit the forehand and, if you can do this, mix up your forehand returns with the occasional drop shot (most, but not all, moonballers are uncomfortable at the net) and deep hard drives. 4). As previously noted, try taking some moonballs in the air and play the return like a swinging volley but closer to the baseline (but remember not to hit down on the return but, rather, hit out on it similar to a normal groundstroke). 5). Get in really good shape and be prepared to run, run, run your opponent as much as possible so he drops sooner than you do.

  4. You may have wanted to moonball or lob him back on his backhand side and wait for a green ball, one that you can take advantage of, to hit and overhead, half volley or strong forehand winner. You needed to change something and sometimes you can fight fire with fire.

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