What's the best strategy against this type of defensive baseliner?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by HughJars, Jul 17, 2013.

  1. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    I play a friend very often, who's strategy is to work me from side to side with low powered top-spinning and deep shots. I wouldn't call him a pusher - he can play a very good attacking shot when needed. His 'go-to' shot is the cross court booming forehand, especially on short balls. Ive learnt to pick this now.

    He is very consistent, makes few errors (including off his serve). He also chases down balls very well and has a good lob. A has a fantastic return of serve - generally this is high and deep. I make a lot of mistakes returning his return - it just sits up.

    His backhand is purely defensive. Slice is ok. However, whenever I try to come into the net on his backhand, he picks it up early and lobs me well.

    Serve isn't massive by any stretch, but it goes in and never cracks under pressure.

    Overall I regard him as a very good player. He doesn't do anything massive that makes you think 'wow', he's just a very good competitor, consistent, hates making errors, doesn't get too emotional and knows how to win.

    My own game: I have a (relatively) powerful serve, can cover the ground quickly and can/like to do work at the net. My forehand is consistent. My weaknesses - overheads aren't good, my backhand is enough to keep the ball in play but not very attacking and I tend to try the big shot when it isn't there. I dont do well with slow balls either.

    Overall, I think it is a bad match up for me. And frankly - he is better than me. We play very competitive and long matches but it always comes down to him winning.

    Strategies I have previously tried is the serve/volley, except I get undone by his lob and return of serve.

    Ive recently read Brad Gilbert's book, and have been thinking about a new strategy to put together before we play each other again. At the moment, my plan is:

    - Serve to his backhand, always.
    - Hit to his backhand as much as possible, deep and slow
    - Take the pace off the ball and keep it deep as possible.
    - When going to the forehand, cover the cross court and make him try and play down the line.
    - Big serves are often ineffective against his strong return, and I get caught out of position a lot. Aim for a high %. Slower serves may frustrate him and be more difficult for him to work with.

    How would you play this type of player?
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2013
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  2. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    That opponent sounds really good. But from what you wrote, I'll relay some advice I got regarding how to play an opponent in a recent match of mine. Hit everything to his backhand. Unless you've already tried that and it didn't work. If so, then videos would be necessary for anybody to give you useful suggestions I think.

    Please post videos if you can, HughJars. Preferably from the back-centered court level perspective. You guys sound like good players. Would love to see the matchplay action.
     
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  3. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    How about bringing him to the net, and try the passing shot/lob? If he gets to the net in the middle of the court, hit the first passing on the body and finish with the second shot.

    Is there really nothing he doesn't like? Like running back and forth, net play, being pressured on serve, high topspin balls, slices, being pressured on the BH, ect.
     
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  4. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Deep and high top spin backhands he doesn't like. Then again, who does...

    Getting him into the net and trying to pass could be a good option. But how???
     
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  5. sunof tennis

    sunof tennis Professional

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    Short slices or even drop shots. Federer does that very well. Watch how he will hit a low, short slice basically forcing his opponent to the net.
    Sounds like you could work on your overhead. If you can drill some winners, he will be less likely to lob or at least worry about hitting a better lob.
     
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  6. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    Gustavo Kuerten. ;)

    1) Dropshot.
    2) Short, skidding slice to the backhand that flies off the court, something that forces you to slice back and go to the net since you don't have time to recover to the baseline.
     
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  7. andreh

    andreh Professional

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    You didn't mention anything about kick serves when you try to volley him. High kicker to the backhand side could work unless he's so good he can step in and take it early. It might get you easier volleys and get you closer to the net.

    As the others already said, rec players (assume this is rec level, albeit high rec level) often move well side to side, but not so well into the court. So short shots (keep them low so he can't tee off) that will make him need to step into the court. It might give you some free points on errors and might move him out of position for your next shot even if he doesn't follow up to the net (i.e., moves back to the baseline).
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
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  8. BlueB

    BlueB Hall of Fame

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    This is the key ^^^
    Kick serve into backhand.
     
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  9. Dimcorner

    Dimcorner Professional

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    I played someone that is very consistent in just bunting the ball back the other day and was decent at net. Decent forehand and meh backhand.

    All servers were kicks (at least my attempt at it) to backhand side with a few in between to forehand wide to keep him honest. I also came into the net often, but not fast. He had a tendency to to a looping block so I just slowed down the approach and took it out of the air before fully getting to net.

    I actually like hitting overhead shots and I'm pretty good at it (years and years of competitive badminton) so I put quite a few of those away when he tried to lob. This put more pressure on him and he started overhitting his lobs so free points (yay!)
     
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  10. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

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    You don't mention your level, but I am guessing 4.0 or less because of your description of various weaknesses.

    I would say you are way overthinking this. He is playing solid if unspectacular tennis. What are you doing? Making a lot of errors apparently. Concentrate on staying in rallies, hitting deep, then when you get a short ball, pound it to his backhand and come in. If he is able to beat you consistently on lobs, your approach shots aren't good enough. They have to be a foot or so from the baseline with pace.

    Overheads are largely confidence. You have to be wiling to trust them. Think in terms of where you're hitting them from. Service line in, you should be looking for a short angle or high bounce it. Service line to baseline, go for deep corners. Baseline and beyond, just try to spin them in or run around and hit a ground stroke.
     
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  11. corbind

    corbind Professional

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    Two guys mentioned slice and drop shot and I'm the third to agree. The assets your opponent has sounds like an uphill battle. Are your sets usually 4-6 or 3-6 on average?
     
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  12. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Hey there! I'll take a stab at this for you.

    I perceived a common theme in your description, and I believe this to be a fundamental factor in your difficulty versus him: quality of shot (QoS). I'm going to go through your various statements, and comment.

    He's dictating play, meaning he's not under any pressure. If he can put the ball wherever he wants, while also varying his shot selection--as you indicate below--than your quality of shot is too low to put him under pressure.

    Key point. He's not playing that shot "when needed" as you suggest, he's waiting for the right opportunity to end the point. Since your QoS is something he's comfortable with, he can work your around until he gets a sitter. But, if your QoS is too far below his threshold, the ball doesn't even have to be a sitter for him to "decide to end the point."

    Remember to add "versus me" in your head when considering his game. If he plays in a league, and you really want to beat him, go observe during match play versus someone other than you.

    Once again, if he's making very few errors and also hitting winners, and you're returns are coming up short, we have a QoS issue going on.

    ^ This is his weakness.

    This means he's not under any pressure on your approach shot.

    How often do you break his serve? If it's not very often, then "massive" or not, doesn't really matter. You're not returning well enough to gain an advantage. My question here would be: how well can you attack his second serve?

    If I may be frank, I think you're underestimating your opponent. If he's making it look easy, then chances are he's thinking of the game at a higher level than you. One way to find out, is to just talk to him about his game. If you're friends, he won't mind revealing his thought process.

    Get him talking about his strategy, what's he thinking, and try to get an idea of how deeply he thinks about what he's doing. This will provide insight into what level he's on.

    Overheads are a specialty shot, happen fairly rarely, and at our level, aren't really a huge deal. You have a similar chance of winning the point whether you hit an overhead, bounce overhead, standard volley, or drive volley. You could miss every overhead in a match and that might only account for a few points--hardly a weakness worth considering at the top of your list.

    You weakness, as I see it, is this: "My forehand is consistent." I'd be curious to know what you think your Winner to Unforced Error ratio is. Is it close to 1:1? Is it much worse, 1:3 or 1:5? Or, as I suspect might be the case, do you rarely hit winners versus this opponent?

    Your backhand may be an issue too, but that seems easy to fix. Don't worry about hitting winners with your backhand until you can end points with your forehand reliably. Fix your BH super easily by just applying patience to it.

    The forehand seems to be the primary driver of the low QoS issue which is making beating your friend nearly impossible.

    There's a meta-game component to this as well. He knows how to win, expects to win, and is better than you. You're coming from way behind in this match-up, and I think the way to fix it is by putting him under more pressure by increasing your QoS.

    You may be thinking, "Dude, is this guy's advice to hit better tennis shots?! That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard ..." But yeah, it is, and no it's not! Haha.

    If you have long, competitive matches, but always lose, that means you're grinding long rallies until he hits a winner, or until you hit an unforced error. Yes, by increasing your QoS--by going for winners and hitting him heavy balls, with pace--your unforced error ratio will feel like it's going up, but it's probably not, they're just happening faster because you're not in super long rallies. What should be happening is this: the rallies will get shorter, and you will hit more winners. If you can manage to hit these winners when it counts: game points and break points--you have a chance to win the match.

    I'll parrot what others have said about the serve: definitely try a nice kick serve. If you don't have a kick serve in your bag, this is no small ask. It's a difficult and time-consuming shot to learn, but it's worth it. One of the effective attributes of the kicker is not so much the height (although that's important), it's the spin. The "kick" can make it slightly harder to time your wing and you might miss the sweet spot on the racquet and peter a weak return over the net--or even better--send the ball careeing out of play.

    My second serve is not great, by any means, but it's a decent kicker. Sometimes my opponent's racquets will actually buckle on my second serve, because of the spin. Give it a shot!

    TL;DR -- Increase your Quality of Shot and put him under pressure. I think slices and drops could be effective, but those will only take you so far. You need to be able to edge your way from a neutral rally, to an offensive position, and then be able to win the point with a winner.

    Hope this helps!
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
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  13. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    I'm not a huge fan of the idea of intentionally drawing an opponent into the net (unless his net game is a liability) especially in light of this info ^^^. When using a drop shot/short ball there's not a lot of room for error. Too short and it's in the net, hit it too deep or let it sit too high and he's got the ability to make you pay. Then, once he's up at the net, you still have to make that pass or else you are completely defensive even if he's got an average net game. Sure the tactic may pay off for you in isolated instances, but against a good player I wouldn't make it part of your main game plan. If you're in position to play a dropshot offensively you've got other options.

    I think you are on the right track about hitting a lot to his backhand, but one thing to be cautious about is overplaying the backhand. I see people do a good job of rallying to the BH side, getting the short ball, then they hit an approach to the BH and getting lobbed or passed because the opponent was already camped out in that corner and didn't have to move to get it. Work the backhand, but don't be afraid of hitting to the forehand. Eventually you have to hit it to his FH to keep him moving and to open up the BH side a little more.
     
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  14. maleyoyo

    maleyoyo Rookie

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    Since you seem to understand quite a bit about the game, I’ll suggest a slightly different perspective in determining the match up between players.
    The global approach to evaluate a tennis player consists of 4 main components in order of importance:
    1. Mental/Psychological
    2. Physical (physiology/footwork)
    3. Tactical
    4. Technical/Technique

    Since the mental aspect is top of the list, your goal is systematically break him down mentally employing components 2, 3, 4. The reverse is also true that you must understand how your game breaks down and make corrections (your weapon as your serve ineffective against him and that could also be a mental let down).

    From the technique standpoint there is not much you can change overnight with the exception of how you serve. How about no first serve, just two second serves (w/ faster swing) exclusively into his BH with a few first serves as a surprise when you are ahead?

    You can do a lot with tactics: hit your FH 70% of the time including inside out, inside in FH if you have them and don’t be afraid to get into a F crosscourt battle with him. Slice after a few FH or BH exchanges
    Attack his consistent second serve as much as possible with your FH. Make him hit a running BH as often as you can and come to the net.

    Physical: Most recreational players move well laterally but not vertically and that usually throws them off their games.

    If your goal is to win the match then you can pick and choose one or all of the above depending on your skill set and preferences. Most tennis players know all this but the key is do they have the mental discipline to follow through especially when playing the big points and adjust accordingly.

    Good luck and have fun.
     
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  15. DirtBaller4

    DirtBaller4 Rookie

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    I would amp up my return game to his backhand hard and deep and keep the pressure up on his service game all night until you crack it.

    Step into his soft shots and aim for his heels.

    Make sure when you serve you are calm, cool, relaxed, and let the racket flow like a piece of rope. The looser you are the better you will serve. Keep hitting the serve to his backhand and force yourself to step into the court for the short returns for easy angle put aways.
     
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  16. RetroSpin

    RetroSpin Hall of Fame

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    I agree with most of this, but he wants to come to the net and said he was effective there. He can't come in if he doesn't trust his overhead. This guy is lobbing him silly, and apparently he isn't handling it too well. Getting this corrected has to be one of his first priorities.
     
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  17. pushing_wins

    pushing_wins Hall of Fame

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    why bother with strategy? learn to hit an overhead
     
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  18. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Thanks for all the great suggestions. I can see the possible merits of bringing him into the net, but I'm inclined to agree with Goran_Ace a bit - the margin for error/risk might outweigh the benefits. I'm not sure where the generalisation of rec players being unable to move backwards and forwards has originated from. A rec player could be an amazing athlete. My mate and I have both played a lot of football and moving around the court to get to difficult balls comes naturally to us. In fact we're always have a diving around on the grass!

    Sets are generally around 6-4 or 6-3. If I win a set its usually in a tie breaker or 7-5.

    Im thinking the kicker second serve on both serves, with an occasional big serve to keep him honest, on 'safe' points only (eg: 40-0) is something I'm going to try. And, as has been suggested, focusing on the quality of shot and reducing errors (my winners to errors against him is about 1:3 - higher than normal simply because he gets to everything. I think this alone puts pressure on my shots and increases the errors).

    Once I get a head of steam I will start going after his second serve. But for the first few games it will be finding my groove and playing the percentages.

    While I'm going to attack the backhand, I'm still keen to try and make him go for the FH winner down the line against his urge of going cross court to break down his confidence, as well as keep the ad court open somewhat.

    Can't wait to play now and let you know how I go!!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
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  19. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    The only reason the guy is able to lob him off every approach is because they are low quality approach shots. It's my opinion that focusing on QoS will pay off in the long run, as opposed to continuing to approach off LQ shots and hoping to hit a running-backwards-middle-of-the-court overhead.

    I like your attitude, and a 1:3 winners to UE ratio is not terrible, but something tells me it's probably worse than this.

    I agree that drawing him to the net is a bad idea, unless you have an awesome passing shot on both wings, specifically your BH.

    In my opinion, I would cover the line on your approach shot. Leave a small hole down the line, and a slightly larger hole Cross Court. If he can hit that CC Pass all night long--you can't win the match anyway, even if you cover the CC Pass (He'll just easily go DTL, which is a much easier passing shot anyway).

    Quality of Shot, brother. Go get 'im!
     
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  20. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Although my approaches aren't strong, I'd say the ability of him to get to difficult balls and the overall quality of his lob also has influence in why he lobs me successfully. And the quality of his own passing shots isn't spectacular - another reason. He lobs me at most approaches that he can get to cos that's a stronger shot for him in defensive situations.

    Staying at the baseline could have an advantage - he loves to drop shot and come in, but I have the pace to get to them and believe I can beat him in a volley to volley battle.. If I can suck him into this it could work - I use this tactic against less mobile or older players successfully.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
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  21. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    Rent a ball machine - and hit lots of overheads. Then hit good approach shots where possible and make him lob you. You should be able to punish people for lobbing you. Just stay back a bit and wait on the lob - then crush it.

    I agree with TimeSpiral more often then not tennis problems come from guys not hitting good enough shots. Your strategy is sound but your shots aren't good enough.
     
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  22. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Well at least I got one bit right!
     
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  23. mykoh

    mykoh Rookie

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    low slice out to his forehand, run around a hopefully short(er) reply and hit a forehand to his backhand, approach.

    if that works, low slice out to his forehand, run around a hopefully short(er) reply and hit a forehand DTL, approach.

    i dunno just rambling here.
     
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  24. Lukhas

    Lukhas Legend

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    ^Low slice to BH. If the BH is really defensive, he won't have to worry about him ripping it. And especially from a low slice out of all shots...
     
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  25. mykoh

    mykoh Rookie

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    or since you say he hits low-powered (slow i assume) deep spinny balls, try stepping in out of the blue mid-rally and taking 1 or 2 of them on the volley, then recover back to the baseline. it'll take time off him and increase your chances of a short reply.
     
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  26. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    So he plays the offensive drop shot well also? Let's recap. He has ...
    • Reliable serve
    • Heavy FH rally balls
    • Powerful forehand winners
    • Defensive BH slice
    • Reliable and offensive BH lob
    • Reliable FH Pass
    • Athleticism--gets to everything
    • Offensive drop shot
    Please don't take this the wrong way, but it sounds like you're getting out-classed. But that's not a bad thing. Chances are you will not be able to win this match until you "level up" a few aspects of your game. There will always be people playing on a higher level than you. Take this opportunity to really try and take your game to the next level.


    I want to focus on this. Getting to the ball is only one part of the equation. Ostensibly, your opponent should be able to get to every ball that's not a clean winner. Placement is definitely part of QoS, but it's not the only thing. If he moves, get's to the ball, hits a BH lob winner, then "getting to the ball" is not the deciding factor. Sure, every once in a while he should be able to dig up an amazing lob winner, but if he's constantly hitting lob winners your shots just aren't putting him under any pressure.



    Lob winners and passing shots are not easy shots to hit. Put some mustard on that ball, vary the spins and heights, and take mental notes. Find QoS patterns that make him uncomfortable, and build on that. Since you don't win your matches versus him, consider each match purely practice (until you level up). Pick the shots or aspects of your game you want to level, and go for it. Don't worry about winning or losing (not just yet, but soon hopefully!).


    I like this approach, but I would advise caution here. He's not really pushing the ball, he's hitting with topspin, and has demonstrated that he can hit passes and winners. When I see my opponent step in from the baseline I immediately go for the shoelace pass.

    But you're right. This tactic can work if you see the moonball go up. Step in, volley, and watch him scramble. Don't retreat unless you hit a horrible volley. Stand your ground and volley the next ball too. If you hit a great volley (read: he has to run and/or stretch), come in a little more.
     
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  27. Greg G

    Greg G Professional

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    Good advice TimeSpiral. Quite applicable to my own issues. Thanks for the tip on quality of shot :)
     
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  28. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    This tactic is worth a shot:

    Aim for a nice big target, step in close to the baseline and swing fast through the ball in a controlled motion. You are aiming for a CONSISTENT, fast, somewhat flat shot. The goal is to steal all your opponent's time by hitting heavy shots on the rise, without resorting to risky low margin angles

    Watch Berdych on this point, he is playing against Djokovic - a defensive baseliner who rallies very consistently, and can pull of brilliant winners out of no-where.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=tW-JVzTR6DA#t=64s

    By staying near the baseline, and repeatedly hitting flat shots at about 70% power into safe targets, he is able to get a weak shot he can hit a backhand winner off of.

    This plan needs a lot of patience and mental strength. If you start hitting at more than 70% or so of your max power you will begin to miss too often to win points, and if you fall back too far behind the baseline and begin hitting weaker you will let your opponent control the point. It is worth a shot though.
     
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  29. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    Taking the ball on the rise is a good shot to have in your bag, on both wings. But I take issue with your classification of Djokovic as a defensive baseliner. Come on, now!

    Taking shots on the rise is not easy, and not really a 'strategy' per se, but it is a valuable tactical play to use from time to time.
     
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  30. GoudX

    GoudX Professional

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    True about Djokovic, his attacking baseline game is also ridiculous, however as his defense is arguably the best on tour, a tactic that works against his defensive play will work well against lesser defenders.

    The strategy I was suggesting was to hit big and early, aiming far within the lines. Defensive players are trying to get you to miss by being over ambitious in power/placement, or they are trying to get you to back off and hit weak shots to the middle so they can control the rally from a slow ball.

    Executing this tactic correctly will stop the defender getting unnecessary misses and easy put aways. Playing against moderate pace shots hit flattish to the centre will force him to take risks to keep the ball deep, so he will either start to miss himself, or he will give you easy put aways.


    Naturally this requires the player to have more strength than his opponent or much better ball-striking, so this tactic may not be the best move for OP.
     
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  31. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Another loss - but positives to be taken...

    Double post...
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2013
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  32. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Thanks again for the fantastic advice - most of it I have tried to take on, and will continue to do so - we try play each other a couple times a week. The last few posts I had not seen before playing him yesterday morning.

    Conditions were cool (8 degrees celcius), moderate swirling breeze. Sunny for the most part. We both were coming back from being away for work/vacation and had not touched a tennis racket for over a week.

    Scoreline:

    6-4, 6-3, 7-5

    I felt I prepared well for the match. Gameplan was down pact. Got to the courts 15 minutes early to warm-up the serve. The quality of the balls was poor and the conditions were keeping them low and slow.

    Going into the match, I was focusing on getting just second serve kickers in with little pace for pretty much the duration of the first set, and warming into things. We both held serve up to 4-4, but I think my ploy cost me in the long-run. I wasn't hitting through the serve, and inhibiting my action a lot. Ive realised that I serve best when I dont try to hold back, and just let it flow. I was eventaully broken in the 5th game, and my serve never recovered, which hurt.

    I kept focussing on htting to his backhand with deep topsin shots. I felt I executed this as I would of liked, but he was managing to either get around on to his forehand, or play really effective and low backhand slices, which, given the balls were keeping really low because of the conditions and quality, they just werent bouncing and I couldnt get to them.

    Second set, we traded breaks up to 3-3. My serve had fallen to pieces. I made a minor adjustment to my game plan, and started wrong footing him by going hard at his forehand, and made a few winners. Later in the set I also decided to attack his slice (which was killing me) by getting to the net when going to his backhand. This also meant hitting flatter to it so he couldnt get inside out. I made several winners on the volley, and he made a lot of unforced errors. In fact, this tactic broke down his backhand completely nearly everytime - so thats one positive to take away from the match.

    Third set I tried to get back into my normal serving rythym after being broken twice. Things improved slightly, a started to hold my serve, get some forced errors and aces off it. Came back from 0-4 down. But, like Ive said, his consistency with his shots and serve won the day. You can have the perfect day hitting groundstrokes (which I definetly didnt do), but youre never going to win serving total garbage.

    Positives:
    - identified a major weakness of his when attacking the net on his backhands. Slices break down.
    - Approach shots were on form
    - felt happy I could stick to my game plan.
    - net game was ok
    - felt in control of my groundstrokes for the most part

    Negatives:
    - if I dont have any serving momentum from the early part of a match, I find it hard to get it back, and its a gamebreaker
    - too many unforced errors off return off serve, and his return of serve.
    - backhand slice was awful
    - I hate playing in the cold
    - Not being able to train has a big impact on my game

    Overall, I was pretty damn disappointed with my game. But, hey its rec tennis, I still had fun, and tomorrow is a new day!
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2013
    #32
  33. TheBoom

    TheBoom Hall of Fame

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    Based on what you have said I would say that you should pretty much know how what to expect him to hit.
    Advice-

    if he gets a short ball to the forehand or even an attackable ball immediately cheat for his cross court shot, this will make him feel a little more pressure.

    Dont go for too much on the return, just because a serve isnt powerful doesnt mean you should wail on it every time. I would atttack it once in a while but mostly try to pin it at his backhand side

    any reasonable chance you get run around your backhand. Maybe hit a backhand or two cross court so he gets into a rhythm of cross court and immediately start running around as he hits his shot.

    Its not much but basically if you try to do those things it will put him off balance and also put your strength against his weakness.
     
    #33
  34. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Thanks for the advice Boom. The short balls I gave to his forehand I did cheat for the cross court, making him go up the line, and he made some big errors on this. He loves that cross court big shot, and he got frustrated when he couldnt make it a few times, and ended up hitting it wide or long.

    The return got better as the match progressed, but started awfully. I tried to start attacking his second serve more, but it was about even in the end with this tactic, and looking back, I barely got any second serves such was his great conistency.
     
    #34
  35. TheBoom

    TheBoom Hall of Fame

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    Good to hear cheating over worked! If I were you I would just try to get the ball deep on his second serve whether blocking it or by taking a swing but just make sure you get the second serve in play! Second serves are gifts, they are a less forcing serve (generally) that you can usually have a pretty good look at if your anticipation is there. Look for patterns and make a plan with your returns. If he likes to slice out wide try to hit a short cross court shot in the service box to pull him out with. Everyone has certain patterns and the more you find the easier it is to beat opponents or at least get closer to beating them. Good luck!
     
    #35
  36. sundaypunch

    sundaypunch Hall of Fame

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    I have friend that I typically lose to 6-3 or 6-4. I generally win about one set every dozen times we play. He's a better player than me and devotes much more time to tennis. The simplest critique of our matches is that I can hang in rallies but have a very hard time pressuring him. He can pressure me or hit a winner on most any weak ball.

    I decided that I needed to develop some kind of weapon to get to the next level. A switch from an Aeropro to an 18x20 Blade (and a lot of practice) has allowed me to take the loop out of my FH when needed. I now can pretty regularly hit a big, flat FH from the baseline to either corner when I have time to set up for a neutral ball up the middle. Upon adding this one shot to my toolbox, I'm now winning about 1 of 3 sets from the same friend.

    The ability to pressure someone cannot be underestimated. If you have the time to devote to improving all areas of your game, go for it. If not, the biggest bang for your effort will probably be to develop one thing that can put him on the defensive.
     
    #36
  37. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    Make your overhead completely solid!

    Bide your time until you get a decent shot, then come into the net on his backhand. If you can pound away your overheads, he will have no answer.
     
    #37
  38. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Thanks NLB, Ive been working hard on my overheads this week. I play him again tonight. I plan to only approach the net on shots to his backhand that are decent, not every shot, especially ones that he can get around to his forehand on.
     
    #38
  39. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    Also, for the lobs that do get past you, you have to scramble back and reset the point. It's easy to get impatient and go for too much. It can be tiring having to go up to the net and back a couple times a point, but the odds are in your favor if you just stick with the plan.
     
    #39
  40. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    A rule of thumb that I use: if my opponent has to run to return my shot, I'm probably safe to come in.
     
    #40
  41. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Another loss, but getting closer...

    Hi all, played my good mate again last night.

    Thanks again for the advice.

    Scoreline:

    6-3 6-4 4-6

    I know the scoreline isn't right, but we wanted to play three sets.

    Night time, humid, no breeze, nice and cool.

    Again, my serve is still at a horrible low at the moment. Just not getting it in. It cost me that match. I need to really work on my second serve, cos its non-existant at the moment. Really disappointed about it. Barely held serve. In the last set when the set was on the line, I was even resorting to patty-cake serves, and thankfully I pulled through. I thank being disciplined to my game plan for this. Im still trying to get used to serving with my Extreme Pro 2.0 after finally ditching "old faithful" (have kept going back to it only to realise why you left it in the first place, and waking up with regrets - bit like an ex girlfriend.)

    My return of service was also very strong. It shook up his serve in the end. I was attacking his backhand off this at every oppurtunity.

    I can positively say the rest of my game out did my opponent. I stuck to my game plan for the duration of the match, and attacked his backhand at came into the net at every oppurtunity. I was relentless. His confidence on his backhand fell to pieces. And the lobs he put up I managed to get back - my overhead practice was paying off. My volleys were good (missed a couple but made a lot of winners). The shots deep to the court I returned with plenty of topsin and depth. I counted only one of his booming cross court winners all night, which gave him a big lift, but I didnt give him any other opportunities to play it.

    With my approach shots I continually went to his backhand. It worked well when I didnt hit it into the net or long. This needs work. I have to realise that a down the line approach shot to the ad court is a lot more risky than a cross court shot, and balance the risk when I have to by going cross court.

    As I said, I was bitterly disappointed with my service game. I made a few good winners on the serve and volley off the first serve, but my double fault count was astronomical. Back to work I go with this. The fact I managed to take a set with my serve so broken I felt was testament to staying disciplined to my game plan with my ground game.

    Its set to rain here for the next 5 days or so, so no practice or matches grrrrrr :evil::evil::evil::(
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2013
    #41
  42. DirtBaller4

    DirtBaller4 Rookie

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    It's always nice when a plan comes together and then works!

    I made my second serve my number one improvement priority about a year ago, and it has paid off big time. Now I have so much confidence I can mix it up and keep them guessing.

    On a good night anyway.

    I made the top spin serve to the back hand my go to second serve. When we would practice serves warming up, that would be all that I practiced.
     
    #42
  43. TimeSpiral

    TimeSpiral Professional

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    I'm enjoying this journal. How 'bout some video?

    Le me get this pet peeve out of the way, then I'll comment on your post: when reporting your own score, you always list your score first. Your scoreline should read: 3-6, 4-6, 6-4 (extra set). The moment I saw the score I assumed you won the match in straights, then lost the extra set.

    If you're reporting a match and it's not you, or it's specifically listed as NameA vs. NameB, then you align the scores respective to the order of the names. Okay, now that's out of my system ...

    We all know what it's like for the serve to break down: it's horrible. I've been playing all of my matches on my second serve for two weeks now. My 1st serve--a weapon, and a key component of my game--effing left me! It's frustrating ... I assume you're using a kicker for the 2nd serve (even though the patty-cake reference scares me a little bit). When the first serve is broken, badly, you're likely not to get it back right away, maybe not even for the rest of the match. Just hit your kicker for the 1st and 2nd serve. Whatever you do, don't pull back on the second serve. Decrease your swing speed too much, and the kicker flies long, or doesn't get enough forward momentum and dives into the net.

    Let's talk about your approach shot.

    Why do you feel the FH DTL approach is risky? It's probably the most common and effective approach shot. He really only has a few options, assuming it's a good enough shot to force a BH reply.
    1. CC BH Pass -- At the 4.0 level, this is potentially one of the hardest shots to hit with reliable consistency. You're not going to pass someone with a BH slice, so you better have a moderate pace, well placed, TS BH CC. A low quality CC BH Pass will be easy pickings for someone with a halfway decent BH Volley.
    2. BH Lob -- sounds to me like he favors this shot and you were doing well to break it down. Good work.
    3. BH DTL Pass -- Since you're approaching DTL, in theory, you're already covering the line, leaving a tiny hole for the "too good" winner. He hits this shot, and anything short of too good gives you a FH Volley CC to the open court.
    But if you hit a CC approach to the backhand (inside out FH or CC BH), this leaves the easier shot, the DTL Pass, wide open. If you rush to cover DTL, you'll likely not get there in time and have two holes: DTL and CC. Not good!


    I'm generalizing. If facing a lefty, this all changes (to some degree), or if your'e facing an opponent who has yet to develop a reliable TS BH shot.

    Or maybe I misunderstood you and you're saying: hitting the DTL approach is more risky than hitting a CC rally ball. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.
     
    #43
  44. HughJars

    HughJars Professional

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    Thanks for the comments!!!

    I guess I feel its more risky at times playing the shot from the perspective of making unforced errors. At times I feel that the risk of an unforced error > the risk of going cross court.
     
    #44

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