October 21, 2017
I often see recreational tennis players looking for the technique that will give them the best looking shot. They often describe this shot as fast, a few inches over the net and to the corners. Their quest for this perfect shot leads them to a path of self destruction. Now this is a point that many have heard over and over but I want to consider something a bit different. Instead of describing the perfect shot in terms of where on the court it is hit, let's relate it to your opponent's strike zone and go from there. Here's what I mean....
Let's Play Baseball
I loved baseball as a kid, especially the position of the pitcher. It wasn't about the speed of the ball but rather the location that got the player out. Think like a pitcher when playing tennis. Start with the question of: "where do most players like to hit the ball?" The common answer to this sounds something like: "between the knees and shoulders." Just like baseball. The ironic part of this is that the "perfect shot" in tennis tends to bounce right into a player's strike zone. Maybe there's a better way...
Defining The Perfect Shot
So let's define the perfect shot as a shot that gets outside of the player's strike zone. That would mean you need to hit a ball that stays low (aka slice) or that bounces high (aka top spin). If done consistently, your opponent would have a much more difficult time hitting a clean ball. They would have to either hit the ball on the rise (high risk) or back up and hit the ball as it bounces down into their strike zone (less danger to you). Either way you're in a good position!
Creating The Perfect Shot
To hit a ball outside of someone's strike zone, one has to be more observant of what is going on with their opponent on the other side of the net. Does your opponent like the ball low or high or neither? The more you can see the struggles from you opponent on a low or high ball, the better you can exploit their weaknesses. It's very similar to a baseball player. For example, if I know my opponent hit's a lower percentage ball when I give them a slice, then I should be hitting a lot of slices! Same for high balls in regards to top spin. Keep an eye on where your opponent is hitting the ball and see if you can change this so that they are hitting more balls out of their strike zone, creating weaker balls for you to exploit.
Have All The Shots In The Book
For you to be able to be a "pitcher" in tennis, you will need to be able to hit all the shots that will disrupt your opponent's rhythm. This means you need to have the ability to hit a high top spin shot, a slice and a flat ball. All of these shots will help you keep your opponent off of a rhythm and make it harder for them to execute their shots.
Trouble Learning New Technique?
Check out this video to help you understand what it takes to learn new technique, especially as you get older.