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Developing a Game Plan

This is an excerpt from Tennis Drill Book-2nd Edition, The by Tina Hoskins-Burney & Lex Carrington.

When developing a game plan, players should keep in mind five basic offensive shots. When players develop each of the following shots, they will have a package of offensive strengths with which to build an overall offensive game plan.

  • Crosscourt shot. To get the opponent moving right away, players should start the point with a crosscourt shot. The opponent will have to run more, because a crosscourt shot can be hit at greater angles. The more the opponent must run for a ball, the less chance he or she has to get set and transfer weight into the shot and the greater the chance of a weak return. By hitting to a strength with a crosscourt shot, players may expose a weakness to the other side on the next shot. By returning the ball crosscourt when out of position, players will have four or five fewer recovery steps to take to get back to home base.

    Players should remember that the racket face controls the direction of shots. The ball will always go in the direction that the strings are facing, because the ball bounces off the racket at right angles. For example, when the racket face is facing diagonally across the net, the ball will go crosscourt. When the racket face is facing squarely at the net with the strings parallel to the net, the ball will go down the line.

  • Down-the-line shot. The opponent who hits down the line will have to move a considerable distance to get to a crosscourt return. If the player can return the down-the-line shot with an aggressive crosscourt, he or she has an excellent chance to win the point outright.

    On the down-the-line shot the ball travels a shorter distance and over a higher part of the net than it does with the crosscourt shot, so players must allow more leeway for error. They should hit this shot to change the routine of the basic crosscourt pattern, to hit at the opponent's weakness, or to hit behind an opponent who is running fast to cover the opposite side of the court.

  • Short shot. The opponent who has an aversion to approaching the net probably suffers from net jitters, the tennis version of stage fright. Players can take advantage of this opportunity by hitting a short shot to draw the opponent in to the net. Players may also want to return short if the opponent is pulling them up to the net and lobbing over their heads or aggressively passing them. Players who are not effective when pulled up to the net may want to bring the opponent to the net first by using a soft, short ball instead of an approach shot. When the opponent hits a short ball (weak shot) and players must move into the midcourt offensive zone to return it, they can play it as a drop shot, which tends to pull the opponent up and out of position. In addition, short shots following high floaters can be effective change-of-pace shots.

  • Passing shot. The most important principle in the use of passing shots is keeping the ball low so that the net rusher will be forced to hit it up, decreasing the opportunity to make an aggressive volley. Topspin balls drop faster than flat or underspin balls do. Therefore, players should know that most passing shots hit with substantial topspin are effective.

  • Drop shot. Players who are comfortable with all the preceding shots have collected a formidable set of weapons of court destruction. Now they should learn to use one of the smallest yet most powerful shots in tennis. The drop shot can be extremely effective when playing against a baseliner who refuses to come up to the net, or off a return of serve (second serve) as long as the server habitually stays back. Players can also try it off a short ball that the opponent hits to them. Normally, players return deep, which is what the opponent expects, so the drop shot can catch the opponent by surprise. The drop shot can also work well off the opponent's drop shot, as long as the opponent is reasonably far back or off balance. If the drop shot is not a surprise, it won't work.

Learn more about Tennis Drill Book, Second Edition.

More Excerpts From Tennis Drill Book 2nd Edition