Watching tennis on television can sometimes cloud your judgment. You watch the likes of Roger Federer and Justine Henin hit the ball in incredible ways with such ease that you assume you can do the same thing. You’ll usually find that it isn’t the case. Your forehand lands in the fore court, your backhand hits the back fence, and your volleys are more like set up shots for you opponents. It’s almost not fair.
The good news is that you can still add some of these elements to your game in a way that doesn’t put you at risk for tons of unforced errors. It’s true; the pros have been playing tennis much longer. You don’t have their training. But the good news is that anyone can use the tennis tactics they use. The even better news is that you can do it with the tools that you more than likely already have.
Let’s look at all the shots that you have and how you can amp them up to have greater success on the recreation courts.
The forehand is usually the bread and butter shot. It’s probably the easiest shot in tennis to hit. In this day and age, there are many pros whose games are built around a big serve and a big forehand (see Andy Roddick). Usually, the problem isn’t that people can’t hit the forehand with topspin or pace. The problem is that people go for the lines. Big no-no! You honestly don’t want to aim for the line, especially during a tense situation in the match. There’s no margin of error for that.
Yes, hit with pace, but aim for a foot inside the line. Besides, the best line to aim for is the baseline. Most recreation players have trouble returning shots that land near the baseline because their footwork isn’t the best. At the least, you’ll push them back and force them to give up territory.
And please, don’t ever neglect the hard struck forehand up the middle of the court. It does wonders. Footwork is the Achilles’ heel for many people. Tennis is a game that uses your legs and feet. If you don’t know what to do with them, you won’t do well. Hitting a shot up the middle means that they have to pick a shot and move out of the way. Just make sure that the shot is deep when you do it, or you’ll be giving your opponent a short ball.
Finding someone with a good backhand is scarce when you’re playing club tennis. You’ll find two handed backhands galore, with a few one handers. Whether you hit with one hands or two, here’s the issue: make it consistent. The shot doesn’t have to be a world beater; it just has to get the ball back. Most people will aim for the backhand for a weakness. Learn how to hit the shot consistent and deep with confidence and your results will improve.
Also, learn how to hit a good slice. The type that stays low and bites the court. That shot is under used in tennis, and it forces the opponent to get low to the shot. Again, the more you make your opponent do, the more chance they’ll make a mistake. It’s great to have a big weapon to fire away at your opponent, but sometimes it’s little things like a slice that make the difference.
A slice is good for defense as well. For example, if you get pulled wide and your opponent approaches the net, a low slice at their feet will throw them off big time.
Coming in Part Two:
The Serve and the Volley