John McEnroe Tennis Academy
  | By Joe Arias

Today’s tennis equipment makes it possible to make shots never thought of years ago. Regardless of playing style, the modern tennis player can harness the power of today's racquets and strings to make a tennis ball do things never thought possible, while keeping the ball consistently on the court.

There is a difference between hitting a ball and playing a ball. How many players say they can hit the ball all sorts of ways, but don’t know what to do with it? This creates the need to learn the nearly endless variations of tennis strategies and tactics. Because of the constantly changing circumstances in a tennis point, applying these strategies can be difficult.
The “Directionals” is a decision-based system of play where every shot has a tactical purpose or aim hitting biomechanically sound shots. The result is fewer errors, more winning points, instinctive reaction, and most importantly, focus on the ball. This system is commonly known as “Wardlaw Directional’s,” named after Brown University Coach Paul Wardlaw, who refined the technique and made it into a teachable system that provides a basis for decision-making.
The Directional’s is a shot selection strategy allowing a player to understand when the best time is to change or not change the direction of the ball. Because decisions are based on the ball crossing or not crossing the body, this system easily helps you decide whether it is a good idea, or not, to change the direction of the play. Many players—including good players—make mistakes by trying to change the direction of the ball when it is too good a shot from their opponent and the ball is not in their comfort zone.
If there is any possibility that you will be unable to control the ball that is coming to you, and then the obvious hit is back to where it came from, this technique will allow a certain margin for error as the return is a right angle hit. There are some changes of direction that are natural and allow the natural rotation of the hips and shoulders.
What makes this even more sensible is that Directional’s focuses on the relationship between the ball and the player, not the ball and the court or the opponent. This helps keep your focus on the ball and how best to control it.
I use Directional’s whenever I play and coach, and I’ve made this remarkable system a basis for teaching and training players personally and Suffolk County Junior Tennis League training programs.

This fantastic system has changed the way I look at playing and coaching tennis, and I’m sure it can do the same for you.

Joe Arias

<p>Joe Arias is the director of tennis and head tennis professional of the Port Jefferson Country Club, founder and executive director of Suffolk County Junior Tennis, and is a certified USPTA Pro 1 and USTA High Performance Coach. He may be reached by phone at (631) 360-8047, by e-mail at or visit</p>