The mental game of tennis has gained a tremendous amount of attention in recent years. Judging by the articles in this great publication, not only sports psychologists, but tennis professionals as well are becoming more interested and knowledgeable in this field. That being said, it is time to start using our increased mental awareness in our match play to use strategies that make sense. In this article, I am offering some advanced match play strategies that may seem simple.
This article is for players who have realized that they have to overcome themselves first in order to solve the puzzle that the opponent brings to a match. If you have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, a calm mind can make the difference in overcoming a strong opponent.
In every match between two individuals, there are continued subliminal messages being sent. Some of these messages are obvious and are also part of basic match strategy. For instance, if your opponent is a slow mover, you will make him run. You are trying to tell him, "You are slow!" Some of the more advanced strategies in tournament play however, might not be so obvious to you, but if we continue this simple way of thinking, perhaps they should be. Keep in mind that underneath the strategies resides a mental dialogue!
Examples, what to do if:
Your opponent is extremely fast
Don’t make them run! Most players who are very fast also hit their best shots on the run. They are good at countering your corner shots into aggressive shots into your corners, thereby changing control of the rallies.
►Strategy to use against a fast opponent (based on a simple way of thinking to calm your mind): Rally more through the middle of the court as to not make the match a track meet. Usually, these players feel comfortable covering a large amount of territory. Don’t take the bait. If the court looks like it is wide open, it’s probably still better to hit right to them or behind them.
Your opponent has a huge forehand
Most players who have a great forehand probably know it. They know it because their opponents are always avoiding that side of the court and they are very comfortable hitting offensive shots with that wing.
►Strategy to use against an opponent with a huge forehand: Hit hard and deep to the forehand side early in the rally! This way, you will avoid the forehand that really hurts, their inside-out forehand. This will also open up to the backhand side of the court if you wanted to really pin your opponent in that corner later in the rally. Remember, your opponent’s forehand from an offensive position is a weapon, be sure to test their forehand as far as passing shots are concerned as well. It has been less battle tested for sure!
Your opponent is a defensive specialist (pusher)
By far, this is the easiest strategy to learn, and the most frustrating type of player to face. These players are usually very patient to wait it out, and feel very comfortable around the baseline in long baseline exchanges. They usually absorb your pace of play.
►Strategy if your opponent is a defensive specialist: Hit shorter, softer and lower shots. Force these players to leave the comfort of the baseline and show their ability (or inability) to come up with unusual shots. Hit short slice shots off of their serve to create a shorter court to hit in, and try to trap them into no-man’s land or even make them come to the net!
I hope this made you think a little.
Tonny van de Pieterman
Tonny van de Pieterman is a tennis professional at Point Set Indoor Racquet Club in Oceanside, N.Y.. He was recently named USTA Tennis Professional of the Year for the USTA/Eastern-Long Island Region and helped the Eastern Section win this year’s Talbert Cup. He may be reached by phone at (516) 536-2323 or e-mail Tonny@PointSetTennis.com.