One of the biggest reasons Roger Federer is able to challenge for Grand Slams and remain one of the best players in the world at 37-years-old is because he uses his position on the tennis court to control the point.
Although he sometimes gets pushed back when his opponent hits a deep offensive ball, Federer hits most of his shots from inside, on, or just behind the baseline. In fact, he played a match this week against Filip Krajinovic at the Miami Open and hit over 90% of his shots from one of these three positions. By adjusting your position based on your opponent's shot, especially when they do not hit the ball deep and hard, you can reduce the amount of running necessary to play the point, take time away from your opponent, and use the pace that is already on the ball to increase the speed of your own shot.
It is tempting to stand further back to give yourself more time and to allow for a bigger swing at the ball. However, unless your opponent is spending more of the match standing way back than you are, it is likely that your shots will get weaker as the match goes on and you will spend a lot of time trying to run down your opponent's shots. Only a few players in the world are capable of winning the match when they are running significantly more than their opponent, so use your position to control the baseline.
Don't be afraid to go back if you are in trouble but try to recover that ground on the next shot or two to make your opponent feel the pressure from your court positioning and to keep control of the baseline.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com in East Hampton, NY . Steve is also a tennis professional at Ventana Golf and Country Club in Tucson, AZ. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at email@example.com