Can You Moonball?

We all have faced them at one time or another… the frustrating player who just stands at the baseline and lobs moonballs back at you, point after point. That can be a successful strategy; but can YOU choose to do it?

Let’s say you are playing someone who is clearly better than you, have you ever resorted to this strategy to win the match? And if so, was it really worth it?

Yes, I believe you should “change a losing game” and adapt to what your opponent is doing; but for me, there are limits. If he has a big serve that is blowing you off the court, you move back. If he is making a lot of unforced errors, you keep the ball in play. If he doesn’t run well, you play side-to-side and use the dropshot.

But I have never initiated the use of the moonball game. Thinking about this seeming contradiction, I come to the conclusion: I do not like that style of play and I would rather play “my game” and lose, than moonball and win.

What is the purpose of playing that game? Just to frustrate your opponent and end up with a victory? But if you are on the court to play a game that you enjoy, why play one that you don’t?

I am sure there are those who would disagree. (Eddie Dibbs being one of them).

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7 thoughts on “Can You Moonball?

  1. suppose you’re playing someone with tremendous ground strokes who only wants to stay back, suppose your ground strokes are not as good as his. what’s wrong with taking pace off the ball and not giving your opponent the ball he likes. it’s harder to hit a good ground stroke against a ball with not much pace, high in the strike zone. isn’t that what “moonballing” is? i used the moonball for that exact reason and to get to the net…….no matter how long it took. it’s also a good shot in the doubles game, for sure.
    ps. that was a compliment to your ground stroking ability all those years ago when i did it against you!

    Joe – i remember you switching to the moonball vs me! i think moonballing is one step above (worse?) than “taking some pace off the ball.” for me, it comes to “what price for victory”? george.

  2. I may face an opponent who is better at hitting ground strokes with a great drop shot, and very steady and crisp. He beats me at this game (which I try to play). My best chance is to prevent him from getting into too much of his rhythm.

    Also: a topspin moonball deep to the opponent’s backhand is an OFFENSIVE shot – that is you can come to net behind it and it provides an opportunity.

    Nick – somehow, a loopy topspin, deep to the corner that you come in behind IS a good offensive play… and not “offensive tennis” to me! go figure. tks, george

  3. Don’t drop your shorts and moon him either. That is also in bad form. Mike

    Mike – sage advice from Rambo! tks, george

  4. If you are not normally a moonballer, it is hard to switch to this style of play on every shot. It takes a certain mental discipline that, I confess, I don’t have either George. But I agree with Nick that a topspin moonball deep to the opponent’s backhand followed by a rush to the net is a great play and one that I use all the time. In fact, this was probably the first play that I ever used as an approach shot, back when I was just starting to play tennis eons ago as a young teen. However, I have only been able to use this ploy in singles. In doubles, it seems too risky to be throwing up half lobs, no matter how deep or well placed they may be, which can potentially be intercepted by a nimble net person as an overhead UNLESS both opponents are hugging the net too closely. But I call that a lob winner in doubles and it is not a moonball used as a ground stroke substitute.

  5. I like all of these comments and have pondered this topic for days. Let’s start with one simple premise: Whether with moonballs or approaches, spins, court coverage or firepower, the object in competition is indeed to frustrate your opponent; not beyond the rules, but within the rules. This is true in all sports. The shooting guard likes to go left; make him go right. Fastball hitter? Mix in curves. What, the baseball pitcher who’s getting hit repeatedly just says he’s going to play his game regardless. I don’t think so.

    So why disparage hitting balls high, deep and slow? Even if you don’t come to net, what is bad about trying to play this way, about potentially broadening one’s arsenal of tactics?

    Yes, it’s a free country. If a player prefers to not try that tactic and lose, then so be it. But in the wake of not pulling that out of the tool box, you’d have a hard time then coming off the court being able to say you left no stone unturned. And after all, what makes you think you’d even earn the win with this tactic?

    In many ways I’m honored when opponents try different tactics to frustrate me. This reveals a certain respect for me and the battle we are engaged in — and a total contrast to the tactical self-absorption I see many show on the court.

    Stylistically, Marty and I are similar in that it would be likely harder for us to hit dozens of deep groundstrokes per point. That said, would be helpful for us each to build that skill — such as playing some practice matches that way.

    Finally, in defense of Eddie Dibbs, there was far, far more to his game than just hitting the ball high and deep. Much more.

    On a bigger note, it’s encouraging to see a player looking to build long-term skills. Ergo, if you’ve won with frequent moonballing but are looking to enhance your offense, then to regress to it simply for the sake of a one-off victory might not be the best long-term approach. But then again, situations like league tennis — and this is why I quibble with league play — do not warrant long-term, skill-building approaches. The team needs you to win now.

    Joel – I really appreciate your thoughtful response, and I agree… It is “just another tool in the tennis toolbox”. But going back to an earlier comment you made in another reply about “joyfull tennis,” playing that style does not bring me “joy.” It’s like hitting drop shots … I recognize the value and will hit them during a match; but hitting them very frequently is not fun for me on the hitting or receiving side of that style. I can’t quote you a number, but there is an unwritten “drop shot quota” that one is allowed to hit in a match! George

  6. george. you need more tools in your toolbox!! moonball, dropshot….

    Joe – “be careful what you wish for.” 🙂

  7. I have read everyone’s input. All you TF guys are much better players than me – let me just say as the official spokesman for the Moonballers’ Trade Union that we can only do what we can do ! My motto used to be ‘just stay out there for as long as it takes, the only point which matters is the last one’ – sadly my aging legs can’t do it any more so it’s doubles only from now on but I will still to try & taunt a few people along the way !
    Be well
    Best wishes

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