Which is Better?

Life – and tennis – is full of CHOICES… should you “go for it” or be sure to “get it back in play” one more time?  In my opinion, sometimes offense is correct and other times not.

Which is Better?

Drop shot

  • Going for a “really good” dropper but hitting it short into the top of the net or being conservative and hitting it high over the net that the opponent can easily get to and probably put away an easy winner?
  • In my opinion (even though I don’t do it!) it is smarter to get the ball over the net; because your opponent may not get there, may miss the next shot, or may give you something you can still hit.

Second serve –

  • Going for a strong second serve and just missing or poking it in so your opponent can crush the ball?
  • In my opinion, I say go for the bigger second serve rather than a ball they can crush at you or your doubles partner.  This sends a message that they have to be ready for something with pace on it and cannot just sit on the return every time.

Second serve return

  • Seeing the easy serve sitting there and attacking but missing or being conservative and just getting it back in play?
  • Again, in my opinion, go for the offensive shot; because, even if you miss, you have sent the message to the server that you will be attacking their second serve … which will put more pressure on them next time or force them to take something off their first serve to be sure to get it in.


  • Hitting it hard for a possible winner or being sure to just get it back in play, even though the opponent will probably get a shot at it?
  • In my opinion, in this case, I vote for the conservative of getting it back in play; because most likely, the opponent will still end up hitting a defensive shot and giving you another chance to put it away.

What do YOU think on these (or other “choices”)?

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6 thoughts on “Which is Better?

  1. Too much worry about the “outcome” this way in my humble opinion … the process is where the fun and juice is anyway …. results are just consequences of certain actions … and some “out- comes” are outside of our control regardless of “choices”.

    Looking forward to the annual trip updates . Could you maybe Share some of the “tips and hacks” people attending use to keep going despite age and injuries ?

    Safe travels !’

    Marc, correct… most errors are worries about outcome! Thanks, george

  2. As always, very interesting and thought-provoking, George. One highly significant factor in all of these choices: the score. As an example, I will aim my first serve quite differently at 2-2, 40-love than I would even at 4-4, 40-love. Along with this, no matter what the set score, 15-30 is a whole lot different than 40-love.

    See you soon at Newk’s and look forward to sharing the tennis with you and reading your pieces.

    Joel, I agree: we all play with more freedom when winning (or losing) big. Maybe we should play that way all the time! thanks, and see you on Sunday. george

  3. To help with these choices I generally try and employ a stock trader’s mentality on the court in competition as “risk on” or “risk off”. I also try to work with the score as it relates to these shots, so if I’m at 40-love or even 40-15 I’m more inclined to put risk on with a drop shot, or an inside out winner forehand for example. We are all familiar with the opponent who attempts to crunch the first serve (missing 80% of the time), and then following up with a soft floating second serve. I want to send a message with my return that there is a price to pay for that! Great stuff George!

    Jim, thanks, george

  4. George, I think your comments about which shots to choose, and why, are generally correct but everything needs to be tempered by an additional degree of self-awareness that you do not mention. Basically, as tennis players, we need to be mindful of what we can and cannot do at all, and what we can do but are not always so good at, on the tennis court. A healthy dose of self- honesty about our strengths and weaknesses is in order.

    For example, I am generally much better on my forehand than my backhand on drop shots, which is odd because I have a reasonably good natural backhand slice on groundies. But on droppers, I usually hit the dropper with more accuracy, more spin, and lower/ closer to the net on my forehand, and it goes in more often on that side as well. Don’t ask me why – it’s contrary to logic I know – but that is me. So, on a forehand, I might actually feel the better shot – for me – is to try for the “really good” dropper on my forehand instead of the more conservative high over the net dropper that you recommend. OTOH, I would probably agree with your shot selection if I am attempting to hit a backhand drop shot.

    I don’t disagree with your recommendations for hitting second serves and second serve returns. What you recommend is close to what I already try to do. But just like the above, you need to be mindful of what you can and cannot do – well, if at all. If, no matter how hard you try, your second serve is nearly always a cream puff, then wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on trying to get a high percentage of first serves in so you aren’t even put in the position of having to decide to go for a big one versus lobbing in a grenade for your second serve? Just sayin’.

    Marty, thanks… and i will watch out for that forehand drop shot next week! george

  5. As Joel said, the choices one makes throughout a match should be influenced by the situation and the score. In your first scenario, take into consideration the score, where you are in relation to the net, and your (be honest with yourself!) ability to execute the dropper successfully. Don’t try to emulate Fognini. And if you choose to be conservative, hit the ball high and deep, which is usually always a good play.

    Second serve – Take a little less of the ball by hitting a kick or slice and help to produce racquet head speed and spin by snapping your wrist. Don’t be a wimp or think to yourself, “I better be careful and swing slowly because I might miss.” Think that and you will miss.

    Second serve return – Yeah what you said.

    Overhead – I agree that being conservative will often give you another chance to win the point. Best to find an angle and be conservative power-wise than just swing away hard. Footnote here: I have had students tell me “But the pros swing like crazy and bang their overheads.” And I tell them “Yes they do because they can. You can’t.”

    Alan, good stuff! thanks, george

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