Why you need lots of ‘clubs’ in your tennis bag
Tennis is played on a rectangular court where balls are hit over the net and hopefully in a place which either troubles your opponent or stops them from taking control of the point. We hit crosscourt, down the line and sometimes straight down the middle and in any given point we may be defending, attacking or more neutral . We hit deep in the court and just over the net. We hit soft, medium and hard and hit the ball with different shapes over the net such as a rainbow shape and laser beam shape.
I summarise the target areas into 6 hitting zones. Target zones which act as the goal of each individual shot. Then its the art and science of stringing these individual shots together to find success. This is otherwise known as point construction and it will be always adjusting depending on you and your opponents strengths and weakness.
However many players are more one dimensional and their patterns of play predictable. They may just hit rainbow shape crosscourt balls or serve to the same spot every single time. This can made them susceptible to tactics that may upset their preferred plan. A player loves hitting heavy topspin with loopy balls then can be exposed with low slice shots. A player who hits every backhand down the line could be exposed by attacking their backhand, closing into net and covering the line.
So the answer to all of this is that you will have your favourite style of play but you must have options. You must have lots of ‘clubs’ in your bag. A backhand for example is multi dimensional:
- Heavy topspin crosscourt to the corner (high bounce)
- Flatter down the line to the corner (attacking)
- Rally ball topspin or slice to the centre (neutralising point)
- Low topspin crosscourt angle (taking them off the court)
- Slice crosscourt to the corner (floating slice)
- Slice crosscourt angle (sharp chip staying low)
- Slice down the line (fading towards the sideline after the bounce)
- Drop shot
So the point is a backhand is not just a backhand. And a topspin or slice is not just a topspin or slice. What is the intention? What tactic will work best?
So from a coaching tennis perspective its very important to teach different shots as early as possible. Make sure your students have lots of ‘clubs’ in their bag and understand when to use them and why. As coaches we seem to warm more towards the topspin crosscourt rally ball for example which can look nice and consistent but don’t forget to teach the continental grip and let your student experiment with different shots so that as they face smarter players with different styles, they can adapt their game plan.