Getting Bigger Angles

Me and the Big Brainiac
Me and the Big Brainiac
Ever watch the pro clay courters stand 10-15 feet BEHIND the baseline to return serves and groundstrokes? All they can do is loop the ball straight back down the court. But if you moved forward (and net players moved forward) you can create wider angles to take your opponents off the court.

Forward = Angles

Naples tennis friend and math Brainiac Jack Moter did some math that demonstrates this principle…
If you started on the baseline, every three-foot stride you took moving forward toward the net would let you create a 6-8% greater angle on your groundstrokes toward the sideline. If your opponent is fast, he can get to the ball before it gets too far away from the court sideline. But if he is slow, he has to run wider (at a greater angle) to catch up to the ball before it bounces a second time.

At The Net

The principle is even greater playing doubles at the net. Did you ever notice how close the Bryan brothers are to the net when they hit their put-away volleys? Granted they are still quicker than the average senior tennis player, so they can move back to cover the lob, but their angles are extreme.

But if you are near the center service line and volleyed 12 feet from the net, you could hit a 40 degree angle on your volleys. But for every three-foot stride you moved forward, you could increase that angle by 10-12% … and take your opponents way off the court.

The math is complicated; but the message is simple… (like in life) KEEP MOVING FORWARD.

What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “Getting Bigger Angles

  1. The math makes a lot of sense, but the closer one is to the net, the less time there is to react to hard shots driven at the person. This may not matter to younger professionals, but it does to senior players whose response time is slower. The benefits of the more acute angle must be weighed against the drawbacks of the slower reaction time.

    Doctor Fenster… not a problem for you!!!!!!!! thanks, george

  2. When I was playing high school tennis back in the 1960s, the pro that was then coaching me made exactly this point. But he did not do it mathematically. He simply had me try to hit angles from different positions back from the net, always moving forward and backward. It soon became apparent that the only way I could consistently hit the sharpest angles, whether by ground strokes or volleys, was by getting closer to the net. It was almost possible to hit the ball at a 180 degree angle relative to the net by standing almost on top of it. I never forgot this demonstration and it single handedly improved my win loss record playing high school tennis immeasurably after I learned it. To this day it frustrates the hell out of me to be paired with a doubles partner who refuses to close the net to take advantage of the angles. I think that all of the excuses people mount to avoid the obvious strength of this move (“I can’t cover the lob if I am too near the net.” “I am afraid of the ball being hit at me.” “My volleys are the weakest part of my game.” Etc.) are just that – excuses. If more people executed this simple move, they would put away many more points and win more frequently than they would ever suffer the occasional loss of point by being lobbed over, having a ball hit right at them, or flubbing a volley. It is REALLY hard to miss any volley when you are a foot away from the net and all you need to do is poke the ball over the net with as sharp of an angle as you can hit.

    Marty, right on! One of my goals this year is to be “a factor” at the net… and that only comes by closing in. thanks, george

  3. I’m not totally in agreement ..or perhaps better..missing in my opinion is that your FEET set up your angles. The pros are so good at getting their constantly moving feet to set up their angles… Most of the time moving forward after that shot is a natural next step.

    Marc, yes, but if your feet are 15 feet behind the baseline, you are not going to create big angles. thanks, george

  4. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No. It’s a lob. The flaw in the plan when a super senior closes too aggressively.

    Bill, ALL strategies have their limits when old age is a factor! thanks, george

  5. It seems to me that fear of being lobbed, which is not an illegitimate concern for senior players who are less mobile than when younger, can be a bit of a red herring for those who make a habit of practicing coming to the net. That is, if you hit the ball right at an opponent when you are barreling into the net indiscriminately, yes you are bound to get lobbed. So, the simple answer is don’t do it.

    I am not an advocate of trying to run to the net on every shot and at all cost. As older players, we need to be more careful about the situations when we do approach the net, but this does not mean not approaching the net at all.

    For example, coming in off a short and sharply angled volley — what Martina Navratilova calls a “newt” volley — is less likely to encounter a high and deep lob than approaching from a conventional up the line approach shot or a deeply placed first volley hit from no man’s land. Why? Because the short and often sharply angled “newt” volley forces the equally senior player with slower legs on the opposite side of the net to unexpectedly have to move forward and reach out to stab at a dying ball in front of him — kind of like having to cover a surprise drop shot — and that usually results in a weak hitting stroke where the ball is either hit as a difficult half volley or it is flicked upward not very high at at a height and location where the incoming net rusher will have plenty of time and opportunity to smash an overhead or high volley winner.

    By contrast, most accomplished players who are camped on the baseline can hit many options when their opponents come into the net following an approach shot or deep first volley, including hitting very good and deep lobs with disguise. But this does not mean to stay back and not try to get to the net at all when playing against such a player. It means sneaking or coming into the net in stages. That is, try to move forward into a spot just a tad deeper than the service line and then split step there. If the return is reachable via hitting another volley, do it. But if the opponent has hit a lob in response to your approach, you are not so close to the net that you should not be able to hit an overhead, bounced or in the air, from that position.

    If the volley is well placed — deep and into a corner, for example — then move in a few steps further for the next shot — no closer to the net than the middle of the service box — and split step again before going after the next volley, which should be hit with as much sharp angle as possible from this position to go for a winner because ideally you are almost on top of the net. On the other hand, if the overhead is flubbed, then retreat back to the baseline or in the direction of where the next ball may be hit by the opponent to hit a defensive shot and start the maneuver of trying to overtake the net from the beginning.

    In other words, if you are a senior player who likes/ wants to get to the net, it can still be done with little risk of getting lobbed over but you have to learn how to “work the point” more to get to the net than a younger and faster player would. If you take the approach process in stages, you can still move forward and use the greater proximity to the net to take advantage of the superior angles that exist there for you next shot. Constantly staying back near the baseline will certainly expose you to less risk of getting lobbed, but it reduces tennis to a defensive war of attrition and who is going to make the first mistake instead of taking advantage of opening up the angles to win points outright on offense, especially in doubles where it really counts.

    Marty, good stuff! thanks, george

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