As USPTA tennis professionals, we are often asked questions about strategy. What shot should I use when this happens? When should I try this tactic? I have put together some tips to help singles players better understand how and when to use certain strokes in order to achieve the best tactical benefits.
Each player should try to hit at least two or more consecutive shots in play. Let your opponent miss before you try to hit winners.
Modern tennis requires the forehand to be a weapon. Sixty-five to seventy percent of the court should be covered with the forehand, and the backhand should be consistent to provide solid support.
Hitting down the line is a much higher risk. The court is shorter, the net is higher and the recovery more difficult. Only hit down the line after hitting a well-angled crosscourt shot with the intention to put the ball away, and remember, this only happens 25 to 30 percent of the time.
When your opponent hits a slower-paced ball directed to your backhand, run around any time it is possible to hit an attacking forehand. Forehands from the backhand corner disguise the hitter’s intended direction. Hit either inside-out (crosscourt) or down the line. It also offers a higher possibility of hitting another forehand when the ball comes back.
When your opponent hits shorter balls bouncing in the mid-court area, you should consider the speed and the bounce of the ball and decide:
1. When the bounce is lower (knee high), you should opt for an approach shot (following the direction of the shot to the net). The key to a good approach shot is depth. It is easier to cover the court behind an approach shot down the line.
2. A crosscourt approach is only advisable when it forces your opponent into a long lateral run. When the bounce is higher (between hips and shoulder) go for a put away shot with a hard flattened drive.
3. Depending on your opponent’s position, a drop shot can be a good choice, but only after you have established a deep down the line approach shot.
Adding these concepts to your game will get you to the next level. Remember to be patient, as some of the ideas will be easy to implement, while others may take more time or instruction. Try these tips the next time you play singles.
Geoffrey Jagdfeld is USPTA Eastern President and currently Tennis Director of Solaris Sports Clubs. He is a USPTA Elite Professional and USTA High-Performance Coach who serves as USTA Junior Team Tennis League Coordinator for Westchester. He is the Head Coach of the Men’s and Women’s Tennis Teams at St. John Fisher College, and played collegiate tennis at Michigan State University.