As a working tennis coach, it is common-fare for me to watch hours of competition each week. Without a doubt, a player’s stroking deficiency affects his ability to implement solid strategy during match play. In other words, even though the doubles alley is left wide open and it is clear that the opponent should place his shot in that direction, too many times recreational players simply cannot find the mark. Here are a few stroking problems that I am referring to:
• Player ‘pokes’ instead of strokes the tennis ball.
• When the player sets up for the stroke, he fails to turn and bring the hips and shoulders into the stroke.
• The inexperienced player uses the wrong footwork with her groundstroke or volley.
• The player squeezes the grip so tight she cannot create power.
• The serving player uses the wrong grip and she cannot put spin on the ball.
• The one-handed backhand stroke lacks sufficient shoulder turn and cannot create power.
• The volleyer steps and hits at the same time; always losing key balance.
• The groundstroke player fails to understand proper timing thus is not able to be accurate.
• Due to excessive nerves, the player fails to breathe out during contact.
Whether I view the best players in the world or I watch a league match, most points end in an error; if players wish to eliminate early mistakes, it is crucial to have solid fundamentals. To me, the biggest obstacle for intermediate tennis players is their failure to anticipate what the opponent is going to do. When we are unsure of our opponent’s intentions, we prepare late and are unable to implement our offensive skills. If a tennis player sees the ball late, he must resort to a defensive stroke.
On the other side of the coin, when a tennis player is able to anticipate, he often turns early and thus is able to have more options. Believe me, if your foes are aware of your early preparation, they will either be intimidated or at least held at bay. One of the many reasons players step and hit at the precise time is due to their inability to understand their competitors. If a tennis player wishes to be a great volleyer, he must be cognizant of his opponent’s options: If we move in on a crosscourt approach shot, be fully aware of the angles. If the team moves in on a down the line shot, the foes might return the favor with a reply near the alley. If the opponents do not possess good ground strokes, watch out for the lob.
As you evaluate your opponent’s stroking ability during warm up, focus in on his stroke development and this will enable you to put together a solid game plan. Now, if you ever play a team that has outstanding ground strokes, quickly observe the court movement. If the team resists coming to the net, set up a strategy to bring this team forward and force them to volley. And if all else fails and you are completely perplexed, start lobbing and slow down the tempo. If you are a player who wishes to improve, visit your local tennis professional and get to work. Good luck!
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.