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View Full Version : Better Anticipation thanks to the Wardlaw directionals!


Eric Matuszewski
08-21-2004, 04:52 AM
Directionals make it much easier to defend and give you more of a chance to get on offense by giving you "Anticipation" based on knowing what shots the other player can most likely make.

Here's a little tip that makes a big difference above the 3.5 level (where players have decent directional control).

Train yourself to automatically cover a position crosscourt to the spot you are hitting to immediatelly after the ball leaves your racket in groundstroke exchanges.

Because crosscourt is the more natural shot on "outside" stokes you will be guessing right a high percentage of the time and you will have to hit fewer shots "on the run".

You also "bait" the other player to take a low percentage shot which will give you more opportunities to get on offense when they do not hit it cleanly. (COD's are harder to hit cleanly and often "sit up").

One of the biggest differences between good baseliners and not so good ones is this little distinction that is very trainable, watch some pro tape of Max Mirnyi when he's pinned on the baseline and then watch some Ferrero footage and you will see the positioning difference.

Players who return to the "T" end up having to hit every decent crosscourt ball "on the run" which eventually kills them against good baseliners by creating short balls.

Work on this vigilantly and your opponents will think that you are some gifted mover when in fact you are just a smarter mover.

JohnThomas1
08-21-2004, 05:28 AM
A good player won't see you cheating every time and take advantage? Even a measured safer shot would cause you much trouble due to the fact that you have given a couple of paces extra room? If a player has a weaker backhand is it good to open up extra room in a forehand crosscourt rally?

Just wondering :)

Eric Matuszewski
08-21-2004, 06:49 AM
John,

I'm glad you asked this question. Many others will ask the same one.

The question "what if he makes the down the line" is exactly what kills guys at the higher levels on the baseline.

Watch some tape and you will realize that at higher levels if a player has to take more than just 3 small adjusting steps to a ball then the player is "on the run".

More than 3 small steps and has much more trouble getting his or her weight into there shot. It becomes "defensive".

By not commiting to the crosscourt "outside" position, the player ensures that he will have to hit the next ball "on the run" (after taking more than 3 small steps after his split step).

There is always the chance of course that you are playing someone who is much more solid off the ground and can change direction on every ball you hit. In effect the better your strokes get the more ability you have to change direction on a ball given that it has the same speed depth and spin.

This shouldn't deter you from going with the directional positioning however since they are still more likely to make the outside no change of direction crosscourt shot on what they perceive is weak.

Your positioning should go to "what does this guy have the best chance of making". Rather than covering what is open or going to the "T".


Watch some high level or pro tapes and you'll get more confident in the system.

Then go out and try it and reap the rewards.

Best Wishes

vin
08-21-2004, 11:09 AM
Eric,

When in a cross court rally, you shouldn't recover back to the center of the court anyway. Are you saying to recover to a point that is even farther from the center then the position that would bisect the cross court angles? Does that make sense?

Let's see if I can draw it.

The x is where to recover to simply bisect the angles on a right handed forehand cross court rally.

|______|______|
````````x


You're suggesting something more like this in anticipation of another cross court ball?

|______|______|
``````````x

(The ' marks are just for spaces because the x's wouldn't stay where I wanted with regular spaces)

I like the idea ebout enticing your opponent to not play percentages. I also think your suggestion will result in more inside balls just based on your positioning. However, if you don't hit a deep penetrating cross court groundstroke, your opponent may have any easy time going down the line. So should your suggestion only be used after hitting a good groundstroke?

Eric Matuszewski
08-21-2004, 01:55 PM
Vin,

Bisecting the angle assumes that both shots (DTL and CC) are equally makeable. This is untrue because we know that COD's are harder to make. Therefore your 2nd diagram works to explain appropriate positioning after hitting a deep CC shot.

Once you hit a short ball the oppenent has a higher percentage COD if he decides to take it, but remember a COD is still low percentage compared to the CC.

If your opponent is not feeling confident he will go back CC on what you perceive as weak.

So, generally I would recommend covering the highest percentage shot which would still be CC.

If he goes DTL all is not lost. Simply do your best to cover it on the run and go CC. If you make it the sequence starts all over again.

DTL attacking sequences off of a short ball are by no means money in the bank so don't feel so insecure about someone hitting them on you, let them try and do your best to cover them.

Covering the highest percentage plays baits the other player into low percentage plays and gives you a chance to take offense when the ball is hit back to the high percentage.

vin
08-21-2004, 03:19 PM
Thanks Eric, that makes sense. I'm pretty fast and shouldn't have too much trouble getting most of the down the line shots, which I think is even more reason to cheat over to the cross court side as you suggest.

Bungalo Bill
08-21-2004, 04:48 PM
John,

I'm glad you asked this question. Many others will ask the same one.

The question "what if he makes the down the line" is exactly what kills guys at the higher levels on the baseline.

Watch some tape and you will realize that at higher levels if a player has to take more than just 3 small adjusting steps to a ball then the player is "on the run".

More than 3 small steps and has much more trouble getting his or her weight into there shot. It becomes "defensive".

By not commiting to the crosscourt "outside" position, the player ensures that he will have to hit the next ball "on the run" (after taking more than 3 small steps after his split step).

There is always the chance of course that you are playing someone who is much more solid off the ground and can change direction on every ball you hit. In effect the better your strokes get the more ability you have to change direction on a ball given that it has the same speed depth and spin.

This shouldn't deter you from going with the directional positioning however since they are still more likely to make the outside no change of direction crosscourt shot on what they perceive is weak.

Your positioning should go to "what does this guy have the best chance of making". Rather than covering what is open or going to the "T".

Watch some high level or pro tapes and you'll get more confident in the system.

Then go out and try it and reap the rewards.

Best Wishes

I don't know if we can just pass this off to watching more "high level" tape. The pro game is a very different game than the game we play.

The Wardlaw Directionals are not something that is clearly followed in the pro game. Like I have often said, Wardlaw Directionals are a "foundation" for the structure of smart rallying. Your ability to go beyond the Directionals will have to happen when you play better players.

Professional tennis players will, can and often do change direction on a ball that is deemed "difficult" for a club player to change direction on (outside ball). They have to be able to do this, otherwise they will get killed on the court.

For instance, in advanced play, sometimes a ball that is hit crosscourt, looks like it will cross in front of a player only for the player to JUMP backwards and on an angle to get the ball to his inside and send it up the line. The other thing, is at times the pro will simply send it up the line on an outside ball they can control. Some pros are better than other pros at handling a ball hit up the line as it crossed in front of them. This could be because they are very strong have excellent timing or both.

You can compare "shot" difficulty to the sport of diving. If you saw me on the high dive of the Olympics (indeed a sight to see), you would probably see that my level of difficulty is much much lower then professional divers or TRUE Olympic divers. In fact, if you saw me dive you would probably see me go in feet first and make a big splash with no rotational movements at all!

Additionally, professional doubles defies Wardlaw's directionals all the time. Many shots that should technically go crosscourt are sent down-the-line from a moving netman or other reasons. The main reason is professional tennis players have excellent timing and excellent control of the racquet face. That is why I find humor and frustration when club players want to hit whippier strokes when they cant even hold a fixed wrist through the shot on a consistent basis.

What I am gathering Eric is saying is if a player hits the ball down the line and you are able to get to the ball due to your recovery position sooner than your opponent gets to his proper recovery position due to the longer distance your opponent has to travel, you will be in a position to get him on the run when you send the ball crosscourt.

The trouble I have with this "simplicity" is the ball that is hit up the line is an inside ball to you. It is more natural for you to hit the ball back up the line vs. hitting it crosscourt if you follow strict Wardlaw Directionals. Also, we are assuming the person that hit the down-the-line shot is unable to recover quickly. We are also assuming you will be able to send a strong crosscourt shot by using your backhand stroke.

Recovery position has a lot of elements to it. Your conditioning, your ability to recover WHILE you survey the court and your ball, your knowledge on where to be to place yourself in the MIDDLE of your opponents possible replies, and your ability to be able to perform the split step just BEFORE your opponent hits the ball. These things also apply to your opponents ability to recover from the shots he chooses to make.

Court position during recovery is ALWAYS based on where YOU hit the ball. So your opponent, if he is smart, (and they get smarter and faster the higher you go up in levels) will also be doing the same thing making this thread more difficult to discuss then we realize.

The pros use Wardlaw directionals primarily for these reasons:

1. The change of direction shot is primarily used to change the strategic matchup.

2. Lengthen the rally/point.

3. Play defense.

4. If a shot combination did not work, often a pro will neutralize the point, use the Wardlaw Directionals to work their way back into another shot combination plan.

5. To play high percentage tennis or defensive tennis against an opponent that is stronger then they are or as part of their style (counterpuncher).

6. To disguise a shot towards a higher percentage shot (opposite use of the Directionals) and go with the "technically" lower percentage shot to keep the opponent guessing.

Bottom-line, the level of play by the pros go way beyond the Directionals - way beyond. They can and often change directions on difficult balls. The pros are more into shot combinations then Directionals this is very evident in doubles play.

The Wardlaw Directionals are to be looked at as a shot selection strategy for up and coming players - a foundation for high percentage play. There are elements "reading" elements to see as your opponent makes a shot but it isn't as important as your or their ability to recover off your or their shot.

Recovery positions are based on the shot YOU hit and can be used with your high percentage shot selection strategy as you grow (Wardlaw Directionals). You eventually want to go beyond the Directionals (especially when you start knocking on the door of being a 5.0 player) when you get better at controlling the ball, and are stronger and faster.

Eric Matuszewski
08-21-2004, 05:01 PM
Bill,

you bring up something I have wondered about.

I've created a modification or addition to the directionals that seems to work better (this may be Wardlaws original intention anyway and not my discovery at all).

I like to tell my players that as a general rule...

"Hit crosscourt when on the run"

reasons...

1) You are more likely to be late when trying to hit DTL on the run and miss wide. (noticed this about a hundred times at Junior tourney and Pro levels).

2) It gives you more time to get back into the point.

3) You automatically make the other guy have to change direction again if he wants to stay on offense. (better chance of getting the point neutral again).


If you know the guy likes to come in alot make sure to keep it low as well. (this makes it more likely he will have to hit up on the first volley giving you another chance).

Bungalo Bill
08-21-2004, 05:07 PM
Vin,

Bisecting the angle assumes that both shots (DTL and CC) are equally makeable. This is untrue because we know that COD's are harder to make. Therefore your 2nd diagram works to explain appropriate positioning after hitting a deep CC shot.

Once you hit a short ball the oppenent has a higher percentage COD if he decides to take it, but remember a COD is still low percentage compared to the CC.

If your opponent is not feeling confident he will go back CC on what you perceive as weak.

So, generally I would recommend covering the highest percentage shot which would still be CC.

If he goes DTL all is not lost. Simply do your best to cover it on the run and go CC. If you make it the sequence starts all over again.

DTL attacking sequences off of a short ball are by no means money in the bank so don't feel so insecure about someone hitting them on you, let them try and do your best to cover them.

Covering the highest percentage plays baits the other player into low percentage plays and gives you a chance to take offense when the ball is hit back to the high percentage.

This is where I will disagree. You always want to position yourself in the middle of the choices someone has to hit to irregardless of the diffculty of THEIR shot. Not every shot is going to be a groundstroke, some players have an excellent drop shot!

Recovery is NOT based on the shot they are going to hit, but on the shot YOU hit! If you hit down the line, you will have to recover slightly past the center mark which makes the recovery time longer. You have to get there BEFORE they hit the ball or at least to be able to perform your split step to unwieght your feet to move in any direction. This is why hitting down the line is risky from a recovery standpoint.

This theory of positioning yourself on the difficulty of the shot from your opponents view soon changes as you play better players. The difficulty of shots diminish. They will do more with the ball.

Recover to the center of their choices.

Bungalo Bill
08-21-2004, 05:29 PM
Bill,

you bring up something I have wondered about.

I've created a modification or addition to the directionals that seems to work better (this may be Wardlaws original intention anyway and not my discovery at all).

I like to tell my players that as a general rule...

"Hit crosscourt when on the run"

reasons...

1) You are more likely to be late when trying to hit DTL on the run and miss wide. (noticed this about a hundred times at Junior tourney and Pro levels).

2) It gives you more time to get back into the point.

3) You automatically make the other guy have to change direction again if he wants to stay on offense. (better chance of getting the point neutral again).


If you know the guy likes to come in alot make sure to keep it low as well. (this makes it more likely he will have to hit up on the first volley giving you another chance).

Well I wont disagree with hitting crosscourt while on the run and your examples. But I think your deifnition here is that the player can get his hips into the ball and it will not be a one segment shot. he also can keep his balance fairly decent on the crosscourt shot.

However, if it is a one segment shot we are talking about, the player will have no choice but to hit a lob or to try for a very thin margin down the line winner as this will usually be the end of the point. The wrist can come into play for this desperate shot if they want to still hit it sharply crosscourt. But you and I know this is a shot that requires practice.

Since the ball you're describing is an outside ball then I fully agree with you as the shot combination may not have taken place yet. If this is part of the shot combination strategy (i.e, scouting report indicated your player had the better and faster footwork of the two), then the player simply has to recover to the middle of potential replies and keep the crosscourt strategy matchup going.

Eric Matuszewski
08-21-2004, 07:50 PM
Players should not find themselves in positions where they are hitting many "one segment shots" barring the circumstance that their opponent is at a FAR superior level than they are.

Good posture (shoulders waiting in front of hips, which puts weight up on balls of feet) and good split step habits are paramount in making sure players get into less situations where they are hitting "one segment" (slapping at the ball with their hands) shots on the run.

If a player is doing this more than three times a set (barring large level difference or a horeshoe up the @$$ of the opponent) then movement technique needs to be re-trained.

Bungalo Bill
08-21-2004, 10:20 PM
Players should not find themselves in positions where they are hitting many "one segment shots" barring the circumstance that their opponent is at a FAR superior level than they are.

Good posture (shoulders waiting in front of hips, which puts weight up on balls of feet) and good split step habits are paramount in making sure players get into less situations where they are hitting "one segment" (slapping at the ball with their hands) shots on the run.

If a player is doing this more than three times a set (barring large level difference or a horeshoe up the @$$ of the opponent) then movement technique needs to be re-trained.

LOL, you are not making any sense on this one. You described a player hitting crosscourt shots "on the run". It seemed by the way you positioned your post that you were asking for input.

I think we need to be clear with our tennis terminology. "On the run" to me is a defensive situation. The ball is being hit to the defensive zones of the court and the player has very little time to get set and is most likely hitting most of their shots without the luxury of taking split steps or shuffle steps and are by definition "on the run"!

If you were asking a question about whether hitting crosscourt "on the run" is a good idea - then I gave you my response. If your talking about a normal crosscourt exchange, I would respond differently.

At all levels it is possible for players with equal skills to hit quite a few one segment shots. It depends on so many other factors besides footwork. Shot selection choices, weapon matchups, game styles, serve strength, return of serve strength, footspeed, etc.! So I disagree that it is only a footwork problem!

So I have no idea what your talking about in your post above about a player hitting "on the run". If you're trying to inform me on how often a player should or shouldn't be in a tough situation - then your telling the wrong person.

Eric Matuszewski
08-22-2004, 04:21 AM
Seems like my effort to be concise became to confusing.

Lets try again..

With "one the run" I'm describing the situation of trying to cover the ball the other guy takes DTL. This will probably take more than 3 steps to get to the "power foot" (same foot as whichever hand is doing the pushing, and the one which will be used to initiate reaction forces from the court surface).

If the DTL has been hit exceptionally well or the defender is late in his first step then it's possible that the defender will be forced into a "one segment shot".

My interperetation of "one segment shot" is that the defender is being stretched out so severely and is under such time pressure that all he can do is slap at the ball with internal arm rotation or (worst case) wrist flexion.

Even an on the run fully closed stance forehand can get its torque from from hip flexion.

So it's hard for me to imagine a player being forced to hit "one segment shots" very often.

If this is the case the players split step/ movement habits should be retrained.

Let's not get caught up in the minutia on this one.
The point is Wardlaw positioning is a good place to start when trying to cover the court better and entice errors.

Does anyone else out there have any questions on this?

Bungalo Bill
08-22-2004, 02:20 PM
Seems like my effort to be concise became to confusing.

Lets try again..

With "one the run" I'm describing the situation of trying to cover the ball the other guy takes DTL. This will probably take more than 3 steps to get to the "power foot" (same foot as whichever hand is doing the pushing, and the one which will be used to initiate reaction forces from the court surface).

If the DTL has been hit exceptionally well or the defender is late in his first step then it's possible that the defender will be forced into a "one segment shot".

My interperetation of "one segment shot" is that the defender is being stretched out so severely and is under such time pressure that all he can do is slap at the ball with internal arm rotation or (worst case) wrist flexion.

Even an on the run fully closed stance forehand can get its torque from from hip flexion.

So it's hard for me to imagine a player being forced to hit "one segment shots" very often.

If this is the case the players split step/ movement habits should be retrained.

Let's not get caught up in the minutia on this one.
The point is Wardlaw positioning is a good place to start when trying to cover the court better and entice errors.

Does anyone else out there have any questions on this?

OOH, OOH, PICK ME TEACHER, PICK ME! LOL!

A one segment shot is simply a shot that the player cant get their hips into the shot real well or not at all. It can happen on a wide ball a down the line ball a service return etc. The shot is hit with mainly their arm.

That is all it is. There are many situations that are outside of a "Custard's Last Stand" effort that a one segment shot is hit.

I am not getting caught up in minutia. You asked a question and I answered the question.