In many games, athletic and otherwise, patterns tend to surface. Recognizing these patterns can be used to your benefit. By recognizing patterns that arise, you will be able to respond more quickly. Not only will you be able to respond more quickly, but you will also be able to implement these patterns to the detriment of your opponent. There are several patterns that you are more than likely already familiar with in tennis. To name a few, most people are familiar with a pattern of serve and volley and chip and charge, but there are other less intuitive patterns that every player should familiarize themselves with.
A pattern in tennis is a series of events that seem to occur repeatedly. In tennis, information is imperative. As soon as the ball is struck, you have a short time to decipher the direction, depth, power and spin of the ball. At the non-professional level, it is difficult to develop a great deal of variety, since no one has the time to be good at everything, so it follows that the non-professional will stick with the things that he or she does well.
Being that our opponents are sticking with what they do well we can assume that their movements, shots and strategies will repeat themselves. The sooner we pick up on these patterns, the faster we can process the information it provides, and the sooner we can react to these patterns. These patterns can include someone repeatedly running around their backhand, consistently hitting only a slice serve, or solely hitting a drop shot when given any short ball.
Let’s take the last example into account. Consider you are in a match and you recognize a pattern surfacing … a pattern that whenever you hit a short ball to your opponent, they only hit a drop shot in return. We can assume, after recognizing the pattern, that this will occur a majority of the time. You can then exploit this by hitting the ball short on purpose to solicit the drop shot. Knowing that the drop shot is coming, you can move in to counter and hit a winner either down the line or hit an easy lob over your opponent. The point here is that by recognizing any pattern, you no longer need to problem-solve on the fly. Rather, you can cause an event to occur and then control said event to your benefit.
Patterns can also be created in order to defeat your opponent. Imagine that you recognize your opponent does not like hitting a forehand on the run. To take advantage of this, you could kick-serve to their backhand on the ad side to open up the court for a cross-court forehand, where your opponent will need to hit a forehand on the run. It seems like a minute thing, but if your opponent does not recognize this pattern, they will not be able to do anything about it. Now you know with certainty that you will be winning all of the points on the ad side of the court.
Using pattern recognition, you can elevate your game to the next level. Pattern recognition is used in chess, boxing and soccer, so why not tennis. See events repeat themselves to make your life easier on the court. Use pattern recognition to take time away from your opponent, and then create a pattern to take advantage of your opponent’s liabilities. Be well and play safe.
Miguel Cervantes III
Miguel Cervantes III teaches at Carefree Racquet Club and privately outdoors. Miguel specializes in teaching beginners, training juniors and coaching doubles. He may be reached by e-mail at UnderstandingTennis@gmail.com.