Using Strategery

Some players just like to “wing it” when they go into a match; but others (like me!) like to think about who they are playing, their style, their strengths and weaknesses … and what to do about it.

Changing Strategery

(The word “strategery” was used in a Saturday Night Live sketch, which satirized the performances of George W Bush and Al Gore during the first presidential debate for election year 2000.)

One of my tennis pleasures this summer has been playing singles vs. world ranked Gordon Hammes (US World 85s Team).  Regardless of the number of years attached to him, Mr. Hammes is a supreme player and competitor and does ending up besting me on a given day.

What Did You Do?

Gordon is a crafty lefty, with an excellent topspin, cross court forehand and he can run like someone 20 years younger.  So I came out one match with a “strategery” of hitting looping topspin forehands deep into his backhand side and making him take the ball high up (like Nadal does to the Fed on the opposite side) and then drop shotting when he was deep off the court.

I dominated that day; but the next time we played, my strategy was ineffective because Gordon had decided to play inside the baseline, take my looping shots in the air, and be closer in to get any attempted drop shots.  And, HE dominated the day.

The counter to THAT strategy would be see him edging in and hit my shots down the line, deep to the corners.

One of the basic sayings I learned in high school physics: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  So, I think players need to THINK on the court and always answer Hank Irvine’s question: “What did you do about it?”

How about YOU … are you a planner or a reactor?

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10 thoughts on “Using Strategery

  1. Three thoughts: “always change a losing game”…and ” never change a winning game”….and finally, get Doug Welsh as your partner!!!

    Scoot, all good … especially the last one! thanks, george

  2. I totally play by instinct and don’t even like to be told about the opposition
    I like to figure it out as I play
    Doesn’t mean I always win but enjoy the challenge

    Gail, that is the other side of the coin! thanks, george

  3. My belief is that those who wish to wing it are building an excuse — akin to not studying for a big exam. John Wooden said, “If we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail.” That said, tactical preparation has many dimensions. Surely, it helps to know the opponent’s strengths, weaknesses and how your tools match up. So give that some thought — even five minutes — and trot out appropriate tactics. But they’re not always as simple as “hit to his weaker backhand.” At a certain level, weaknesses are nuanced. Weaker backhand might mean the person can rally proficiently with it, but can’t pass. Or weaker on low balls, or high balls, or better on the run than down the middle, etc. But then, as the match unfolds, be open to what might be happening and adjust accordingly. But again, in the big picture, I think people who eschew any kind of pre-match preparation are building a form of comfort for themselves, in many ways akin to players who don’t pay attention to the score.

    Joel, you are one of the best “thinking tennis players” i know! thanks, george

  4. Strategy is much of what is fun about competing for me – physical chess! 25 years ago I played a sectional finals (45 clay) against John Curtin. His game was serve and volley, chip and charge using his excellent anticipation/reading of passing shots to play defensively at net initially and then win the point. I confidently mentally prepared and executed a successful strategy of taking his shots on the rise, early and passing him before he could get close to the net. Worked like a charm for 1 and a half sets until all of a sudden he stayed at the baseline and blooped deep balls to me. He won a close 3rd set. We have had many matches since and he wins most of the time. I really enjoy his cerebral approach to tennis, he has my complete respect.

    Winder, a perfect example of his answering the Question! thanks, george

  5. Always good to know your competition and be able to react during a match. Just tough to do sometimes, changing your strategy and convincing yourself to move more to cut off shots.

    Howie, thinking and doing are different activities that don’t always match up! thanks, george

  6. my first instinct used to be serve and volley (on both points, clay or no clay). since im in the 75’s that option seems to be not so effective (ha). During points, my strategery used to be get to the net as soon as i could. Now, since the USTA moved the net further away from the baseline, that stategery doesn’t work as well.
    I have a very good friend who i play a lot of singles with. he loves to classically “hit” the ball, when i try to play this game with him , it is very challenging. So getting him out of his rhythm is the best way to play him (drop shot , lob, mixing up shots).
    2 different games. The first one is more fun to play, the second one is a “winning” strategery.
    Playing tennis depends on your goals. These days, it seems the priority should be to get exercise, and stay healthy.

    Joe, AND have fun. And part of that is playing the kind of game that you enjoy, rather than defaulting to one that can get you a victory, but is not who you are. thanks, george

  7. So, what happened in the *next* five matches?? 🙂 Love trying to figure it out with a similarly skilled opponent.

    Always go home from a tournament with *great* ideas about what needs to be worked on with the ball machine. Opponents have been *wonderful* about painfully pointing those areas out during play.

    I recall going to the trouble of asking Mr. Hammes how to pronounce his name. 🙂

    Kevin, and most of the top players are very happy to give you advice, if you ask them. thanks, george

  8. If you play in a tournament and you don’t know your opponent you have to wing it.
    Every week I am experiencing that right now playing tournaments in Germany; but if you know your opponent of course you go in with a game plan.

    Willy, and if i were you, i would ask around to find someone who knows or has played this new opponent. But, that is me. thanks, george

  9. George,
    Good topic. Having a game plan helps me decide which strategic options, offensively or defensively, I will use against an opponent. Going into a match, I like to have some idea of
    the strengths and weaknesses of the person I am playing. I like to use the warm-up and the early stages of the match to plan my strategy.
    Once I come up with a plan, I’ll stick with it for a few games. If I’m able to exploit my opponent’s weaknesses, I don’t make the mistake of over doing it. I keep it unpredictable. Basically, I keep strategy simple, don’t be afraid of taking occasional risks, don’t doubt yourself, and no hesitating.
    When the match is close in score, play with percentage shotmaking. If the main plan fails,
    I think of slowing down, not rushing, especially on my serve. I need to hit first serves. Or be aggressive by serving and volleying. I also change my thinking pattern. I
    forget about the match, the game, and even the score. Just focus on one thing, the next shot to be played. Try not to press and go for too much. Find whatever works, and stick with it. Sometimes, you can trick the brain into concentrating more productively.

    Glenn, good plan! Thanks. George

  10. I’m really late for this but I have been thinking about it a lot so I will just throw this in there. Yes that’s the fun of it! It’s a chess match on a tennis court and it’s so exciting to outsmart the opponent. It’s great when your partner is on the same page and you can strategize together. There are so many strategies but I find one as an example that is not used that often is serving Australian. It’s fun because I found that most people on the ad are not comfortable returning Australian and oftentimes don’t even get the return back especially a hard serve to the backhand. That’s one of the hardest shots in the game if you try to hit that return down the line against a hard serve. The fun part though is what it opens up because these new angles are created for the server. Keeping one’s eye on the returner’s partner. I also have my partner cover the middle and also the lob. Then I will usually get a forehand and usually not that deep and I can fire it down the middle left of the center of the court.If I nail the shot the returner can’t get over to return it. My favorite shot which they never expect is to the alley on the left side of the court . And then the easiest one is a topspin lob to the left deep corner of the court which is bliss when done correctly. Anyway its just one of so many strategies which brings such fun to the game for me. I’m not smart enough to be good at chess so I prefer the tennis version.

    Dave, good to hear from the Philippine Forehander! and yes, thinking can be fun. thanks, george

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