Keeping It Simple

There is a statistic out there that says that the player who last touches the ball in each point generally loses the match, which means that matches are won and lost on unforced errors; it means that if you can get the ball back in play one more time you have a high likelihood of winning the match.

With that in mind, however, how do you go about getting the ball back in one more time? How do you go about limiting your unforced errors? Easier said than done, that’s for sure.  The priority is to keep it simple.  There are so many options available when deciding about any one shot but most of them are far from realistic.

A good, if not great, rule of thumb is if your feet are behind the baseline hit your ball cross court and if they are inside the baseline then go down the line.

If you are behind the baseline then you are most likely not in an attacking position. Your aim, therefore, should be to build and construct your point or, if on defense, to neutralize the point. Hit the ball with heavy topspin, high over the net and deep in the court. Not only will this give you time to recover as the ball has a long way to travel to reach your opponent but you are hitting over the lowest point of the net, thereby taking it out of the equation. If you succeed in getting heavy topspin on your ball the high, kicking bounce will take your opponent out of their strike zone so even if you are hitting into their strength they will be unable to attack effectively.

Once you receive a shorter ball and your feet are inside the baseline your aim should be to take as much time away from your opponent as possible. Take the ball at the peak of the bounce and aim down the line. Geometrically, hitting down the line is the shortest distance the ball can travel before reaching your opponent thereby shortening their reaction time.

At all levels of tennis there is one thing that sets a player apart from the rest of the group: discipline.  Everyone can hit a ball over the net, some can choose what spin to put on the ball and where to place it but the one who will succeed, even if they don’t look the part, is the one who can mentally and emotionally see and follow a straight line. A straight line in terms of decision making – keep it simple, keep it high percentage; a straight line in terms of checking an extreme emotion – no giddy highs, no racket throwing lows; a straight line in terms of work ethic – run until the ball bounces twice, move your feet to get as perfectly balanced as possible and keep trying to find ways to make your game work for you on any given day.  Once you have established the game plan of hitting cross court when behind the baseline and down the line when inside the court then you have every right to break the rule and make an exception because at some stage your opponent will have figured out what you are up to.  I would still recommend hitting cross court on deep balls to get as much recovery time as possible but feel at liberty to go wherever you’d like on the shorter balls though again instead of going for a winner (which would make you the last person to hit the ball) taking time away from your opponent and having them miss is every bit as satisfying as hitting a winner. Why? Because you won the point!

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