We live in a world where resources are limited and people are increasingly trying to find ways to squeeze more out of less. In a tennis match, there are a multitude of opportunities to extend rallies, points, games and sets to get as much as you can out of your time on court. Just like the "green movement," the “yellow movement” has three R’s: “React, Respond, Recover” by concentrating on these actions your tennis game will reach its maximum efficiency.
Tennis is almost entirely a reactionary sport. The only shot that is not a response to your opponent’s action is the serve. Everything else requires you to anticipate, place yourself as best as you can, and then move to attempt to position yourself for the best possible “Response.” Despite the racket in your hand, tennis is a lower body sport and footwork could never … I repeat … never, be overemphasized. The key to a good reaction is the spilt step, a short hop into a neutral-ready position that equally allows you to react to any shot. Now, I could go on for pages and pages about positioning, but to put it simply: (1) a split step should occur so you land at the time your opponent makes contact every time your opponent strikes the ball, and (2) as soon as you hit a shot, you should try to move back toward the center of the baseline, stopping to split step as your opponent responds to you.
Based on how well you “React,” you have different options on how to “Respond.” The better position you get into (ball in an ideal strike zone, opponent off the court, closing in to take the ball early) the safer it is to play more aggressively (faster flatter ball, quick court penetration, lower net clearance, down the line or short/extreme angle). You have gained the upper hand and it less risky to play to win. When you are in a more worse off position (ball outside of strike zone, behind the baseline/uncomfortably on the run, opponent closing in to take the ball early), you should play more defensive safe shots (more spin, higher net clearance, deeper bounce, more cross-court, slower movement through the court). It is very difficult to win a point from these scenarios, and it’s a low percentage play, so these defensive shots allow you to stop the bleeding and improve your court positioning to fight your way back into the rally. Each point in tennis, when played well, should be a tug of war where a point is earned and not given away.
A tennis match is not just about one shot. In fact most points in tennis are not about one shot. Unless the serve is unreturned or the return is a winner, a tennis point is a carefully-constructed attempt to be the last person to hit the ball in. Many players struggle with positioning which causes them to “go for broke” (try to compensate for poor position by attempting a winner that is nearly impossible). If you want to get the most out of your tennis, you need to play the ball smart when you are out of position and work hard to get back to where you are comfortable on the court.
It may not be possible to win every match, but that doesn’t mean you ever have to lose. Use the three R’s and get the most out of your points, and in the end, victory will be sweeter and even in defeat, you should have a sense of pride knowing that your opponent has earned the win.
<p>Daniel Kresh is a USPTA-certified tennis professional who recently accepted the positions of director of junior tennis and assistant tennis professional at the Three Village Tennis Club in Setauket, N.Y. He is also the assistant professional at The Port Jefferson Country Club at Harbor Hills. He may be reached by e-mail at <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.</p>