| By Steve Annacone
Photo credit: Vicheslav

If you watch professional tennis these days, it is pretty obvious that many points in both the men’s and women’s game are played from on or behind the baseline. The game has become extremely fast, the players are better athletes, and the equipment is very conducive to more points being a battle from the baseline.

I have never seen a ball I didn’t like to move forward on. My mantra is: “Try not to let too many balls bounce and get the ball back to my opponent as quickly as possible.” My brother Paul played professional tennis (very successfully) like this for more than 10 years. The game has changed and the idea has to be adjusted.

Move in to the net gradually
When you are trying to be aggressive and move forward to attack the net, go a little at a time. Focus on hitting your shot well, and then take a few steps forward towards the ball. Try to time your split-step so that you are stopped and balanced just before the opponent is about to strike the ball. Regardless of where you are, this will make it easier to react to the opponent’s shot. After the ball is hit, react to the direction and repeat the same process again. Plan on hitting three or four shots each time you play a point, even if your second shot is a volley.

The key to the success of this strategy is to be committed to it—being stopped and balanced, further back in the court is much better than being closer in and off balance. Gradual movement forward is the key to success when attacking the net in the modern game. I think you will see more and more players moving forward in this manner, and many of the best players in the world already do as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all use this idea. The next great player might just be the one who perfects this method and advances to the net more than anyone else.

Steve Annacone

Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis (http://www.annaconetennis.com). For details on lessons and camps at Sag Harbor Park Tennis and throughout the Hamptons this summer, please contact sannacone@aol.com or management@annaconetennis.com