Tennis has changed. The balls are traveling much faster than ever before. Even at the club level, it is difficult to sustain a longer rally due to the lack of time in between shots. This change means that players need to be able to hit their shots from many different positions on the court.
Even though we see a lot of baseline rallies in professional tennis, the best players are capable of moving back (defending), moving forward (attacking), and simply holding their ground. Very often a player is recovering, and not quite where they would like to be prior to the opponent's next shot. This tests the ability of the player to hit balls from areas of the court that they are not always comfortable with.
Challenge yourself to hit some balls from well behind the baseline, right on the baseline, in between the baseline and the service line, and between the service line and the net. Practice hitting balls that take a normal bounce, half volleys, shots on the rise, volleys, and awkward high balls that are neither regular volleys or overheads. The player that can deal with all of these different positions on the court has a distinct advantage in today's game.
Keep in mind that it is going to be better if your opponent is the one that feels like they are hitting more balls from awkward positions than you. Learn to play your shots from all areas on the court and you will make it very tough for your opponent as the match goes on.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com throughout the Hamptons, NY. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (Tucson, AZ) for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at email@example.com