View Full Version : Game plan vs tall guy with a big serve

01-21-2009, 12:01 PM
Tonight I will be playing my first round match against a guy who is 6'2 or 6'3. I hear he's got a pretty booming serve but pretty weak groundstrokes. He's really thin (more of a karlovic build than a safin build).

His strengths: Big serve, long reach.
His weaknesses: Weak groundstrokes, backhand in particular. Poor mobility (due to height).

My strengths: Big serve, fast, solid groundstrokes (better on forehand side).
My weaknesses: Poor backhand return (generally just chip/slice it back against big serves, although it does tend to work). Not a great volleyer.

My plan is to:
1) Serve at his body. Tall guy + heavy racquet (hes using a k90) = handcuffed. I think this is a better plan than trying to stretch him out since he's got superior reach.
2) Hit to his backhand. I've been told by people who've played him that he is lucky to string two backhands together.
3) Dropshots when he's back (again, exploiting poor mobility) and low slices (more difficult for tall players to return effectively, right?).

Would appreciate any and all thoughts and suggestions.

01-21-2009, 12:19 PM
I would not serve at the body too much. In my experience, a bigger and less mobile player likes everything hit at them.

If I was you, I would grind that guy out. If you are having problems on the return, stand back 10 feet more, and make him win points from the ground. I like the idea of low shots and drops shots. If you can, I would add some sidespin to that slice because some of the big guys have bad foot work and cannot compensate. Also, if you think his conditioning is poor, do not hesitate to lob as well, particularly over the backhand side, when in trouble because he will fade from backpedelling. Also, take something off that ball and move him side to side with low flatter/slice balls, even if you need to take pace off the ball. Even if he is getting to the balls at first, it does not sound like he could keep up with the extended rallies.

01-21-2009, 12:22 PM
Hi, I'm a big guy (6'5) and seriously, a series of low shots make me contemplate crying!:-( Especially If he's at the net, try get his shoelaces.

01-21-2009, 12:23 PM
does he serve and volley? because if he does against your backhand return you may be in trouble. but i would focus in just getting the return back pretty deep. then play the points out at the baseline and try to hit a lot to his backhand.

01-21-2009, 01:25 PM
Chip or block returns deep with good preparation, and just look to get the rally going. If his serve is really that big, it can be chipped or blocked once you get the timing -down the lines to get him leaning right off the serve.

Obviously, focus on serving and hitting groundies to his backhand.

01-21-2009, 02:12 PM
Hi, I'm a big guy (6'5) and seriously, a series of low shots make me contemplate crying!:-( Especially If he's at the net, try get his shoelaces.

I second that.

...and would like to add the advice of trying everything to throw off the rhythm of his serve. If you are good at reading serves, do that; if not, try standing in different positions when returning serves, including staying back on first serves and steping up on the second, and perhaps running around your backhand side-in anticipation-to hit a forehand return. If you miss, don't worry; you are simply trying to prevent him from getting into the rhythm.

I once watch a match between Gilles Mueller and Domink Hrbaty in Washington DC. Mueller, the tall man with big serves, dominated Hrbaty in the first set, but the Hrbaty did something during his service return that annoyed Mueller--he started moving around, which is perfectly legal (the ref confirmed that it's legal when Mueller complained). Anyhow, it drove Mueller crazy and he ended up losing the match.

01-21-2009, 02:19 PM
All very good advice, but maybe not always applicable.
We all have certain weakness'es and strengths. So does the opposition.
During warmups and the first several games, we probe for their weakness'es while trying to hide our own.
Our brains are supercomputers, so we store each shot in its special location.
We try to bring out our best against what we perceive as their worst. That's how we win.
Tall guys. Hit hard into the body until they comfortably knock it off.
Stretch him to see movement. Hit into body for same.
Most tall guys volley well (maybe not halfvolley), and cover the passing shots really well, so deep, high topspin lobs when they move in.
But it's just an excercise in probe, repost, mask, and counterpunch, so take it as a learning experience.

01-21-2009, 04:46 PM
I figure a guy who's 6'3 or so has his groin above the net, so I say draw him to the net, then nail him in the groin. That'll destroy his concentration...among other things.

01-21-2009, 05:03 PM
Yeah, that's the ageless strategy, until tall guy decides to approach shot deep to your weaker backhand, and then it's GONE !!
You need more than one counterpunch, so probe and bank, recall and inovate.
I'm average height, played tons of guys over 6'4" and lots under 5'6". Regardless of height, it's the determined tough guys who are hard to beat.

01-21-2009, 09:23 PM
Well, I'm back.
I lost 5-7 7-6(4) 6-10 (super tiebreak).
I think I would have won if we played another set (I was up 3-0 in the first set, should have won that too), but I made a couple stupid mistakes (double fault and sailed volley) during the super tiebreak and it was all over.

Still, it was a good game. Ironically, my serve ended up being bigger than his and I had like 6 aces to his 1 (but then again I serve about 115-120). Gotta work on that second serve though, I gave him too many free points and it failed me in the super tiebreak when I needed it most.

In terms of tactics...
- It was easy to chip his serve back (it was probably around 100mph with decent but predictable action). He eventually started S&V'ing but I had a few (somewhat lucky) returns that scared him away from approaching too often.
- my serves out wide on the deuce side were the most effective and flat body & DTL slice serves on the ad side were most effective. he has a tendency to camp on his backhand side so it was surprisingly easy to stretch him out on the forehand side.
- groundstrokes were apples and oranges; if we got into a baseline rally I would win 80% of the points (the other 20% would usually be as a result of a stupid mistake on my part rather than a winner on his).
- low slices were good at first but dangerous once he started reading them because he would usually get to them and approach; then all of a sudden there is a 6'3 guy at net and the pressure is on me.

01-22-2009, 02:52 AM
Look at the Simon Vs Guccione match at the Australian Open 2009. That should give you a few hinters.

01-22-2009, 03:58 AM
I had a tall chap (6'6) with a big serve last night, and to top if off he was a lefty! It was just painful. I lost 6.4 6.4.

The only thing that seemed to work well were low sliced balls short and trying to pin him in the back of the court by always going deep otherwise, i.e. move him in and out. He was serve and volleying a lot though so it was tricky, I just aimed the return at his shoelaces as he was coming in. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes not. If he stayed back I tried to pin him there and then drop the short slice to bring him in and hope for a short ball I could then pass him with.

01-22-2009, 04:42 AM
Vary your depth, pace, direction and spin of shot. In other words, get him moving around the court as much as possible and not getting used to any one particular choice of shot.

Exploit the backhand, but dont go exclusively for it. Obviously, on an approach shot target the BH (if court positioning allows it) but dont hit 10 shots cross court to the BH in a normal rally. Changes of pace will work more effectively on his backhand though.

Constantly jamming an opponent on serve will make them move back to give themselves more time, but that means more balls get back to you. Have a ratio of 2 body serves to a slice/kicker/etc. out wide to keep him constantly thinking.

On returning try and exploit the fact it may take him longer to recover from serves, so try going behind him on the returns (even though your returns may not be that damaging or penetrating)
ie. if he serves wide on the ad court, go cross court (with angle) on the return. After the serve his momentum is moving from the ball, giving you more time and taking time from him.
Finally, dont be tempted to stand back on every serve if he's bombing them. If you manage to get a 0-30, 15-30 etc take advantage by playing aggresively and taking the game to him by standing up the court on the return. Try to win the point, instead of trying to not lose the point. Its simple advice i know, but i always try and remember it


01-22-2009, 08:49 AM
You did good...
But practice your second serve until it goes in 47 out of 50, and you only miss from boredom. Don't be giving away free points. You should stroke fully thru on each and every second serve, know where you want to hit it, and really extra carefully watch the ball.
Topspin lob !!! All you two handers and SemiWestern guys.... TOPSPIN lob. Just aim it over the backhand side. You determine this during warmup...you know he's lefty or righty, so topspin lob only on the backhand side !!
Tennis is a game of probe, reposte, thrust, and parry. You use all your best tools against most of his weaker tools, and try to avoid constantly hitting to his strengths.