In 2018, is coming to net still the answer to beating defensive players?

#1
When one of my hitting partners and I play, it’s a classic battle of offense vs defense. You’ve heard the story: I hit bigger and am in control of most points, but he’s great at handling pace. Shots almost always end with me hitting a winner/forced error or with me making an error.
The classic advice would be to come to net. However, with modern racquets and strings, a lot of people can hit great passing shots. Also, a lot of more modern players just aren’t net players.

What are some other strategies for overcoming great defense in the modern game?
 
#4
slice a ball short on purpose to bring him in
rely on your passing shot

*assuming he has bad net play, since defensive players don't go to the net
If he isn't comfortable attacking or playing the net, hit short slices to make him uncomfortable. That will open up opportunities for you to hit your regular groundstrokes and have more success.
Good call, guys. I actually do use this strategy against him to some success. The only problem is we’re at the 4.5 level, so, even though his base is defense, he can attack if it’s not hit well.
 
#5
The classic advice would be to come to net. However, with modern racquets and strings, a lot of people can hit great passing shots.
I ignore my opponent's racquet and strings and test whether he can hit great passing shots. I'm in the upper half of 4.5 [if TLS/TR are to be believed] and a lot of my opponents cannot *consistently* hit great passing shots.

Also, a lot of more modern players just aren’t net players.
Well, there's only one solution to that...
 
#6
Good call, guys. I actually do use this strategy against him to some success. The only problem is we’re at the 4.5 level, so, even though his base is defense, he can attack if it’s not hit well.
I think the "poly strings so I can't rush the net now" argument is BS for the most part at levels 5.0 and below.

IME, most 4.5-5.0 level players don't have great passing shots and lobs (they don't get much opportunity to practice them). Especially compared to a couple of decades ago.

When I was playing singles HS tennis back in the late 80's/early 90's, I faced some wicked passing shots and lobs from counterpunchers and baseliners who honed these shots by frequently playing against S&V opponents. I don't see those skills that often now with my rec tennis partners and local tournaments (hardly anyone S&V these days, whereas in HS several of my toughest nemesis were S&V).

If you had a better net game, you would likely beat your opponent that you describe.

Are you telling me that when you hit a deep, agressive shot to his BH and follow to the net, that he hits passing shot winners > 50% of the time? :)
 
#8
The problem with this question is it depends on your strengths and weaknesses. The advice to come into net is sound, because defensive players do struggle with volleyers. The problem is it requires you to be able to volley. A 3.5 level player isn't going to suddenly thrash pushers by charging into the net. Pushers can't pass a good net player, they can lob or pass a bad one.

Volleying is an art form. My father learnt to play on grass courts and is an excellent volleyer. His big complaint about modern players is their footwork. Players don't pause and split step before coming into the net. They don't approach the right part of the net, they take too big a swing at the the volley.

I am a bad volleyer, so i don't attempt to beat pushers that way. Since I am a bit of a pusher myself and have high shot tolerance, I generally stay with them in the rally till I can see an easy put away.

Still that is what works for me, but it is no good for the OP unless they have high shot tolerance. So my advice is think about what you strengths and weaknesses are. Then you have to base your game plan on that. One thing that won't work is trying to blast the ball through a defensive player. As you have found, it will simply come back.
 
#9
I think trying to end points at the net is still a good strategy. Then again, I got destroyed by a very good female pusher in a match last night despite my attempts to control points at the net. I tried to hang in on baseline rallies but it just wasn't working...she scooped up balls I thought were clear winners and many points ended with me hitting an error. What worked for a while was S&V and closing the net at any opportunity, but even then she adjusted and started hitting some really nice, deep lobs.

Like Jolly said, consistency is one key thing to work on.
 
#10
Very topical guys. I went down 6 3 this week to a counter puncher. I was hitting pretty decent approach shots into both corners and he was coming up with some great passes. On the back hand wing he passed me down the line at least 4 times.

I am a crappy volleyer. And we had won the doubles so we had the team win which is why I was practicing my rubbish net game.

What do you guys think of the idea of slicing down the middle as an approach shot? Idea being to keep the ball low and give him no angle to work with
 
#11
Very topical guys. I went down 6 3 this week to a counter puncher. I was hitting pretty decent approach shots into both corners and he was coming up with some great passes. On the back hand wing he passed me down the line at least 4 times.

I am a crappy volleyer. And we had won the doubles so we had the team win which is why I was practicing my rubbish net game.

What do you guys think of the idea of slicing down the middle as an approach shot? Idea being to keep the ball low and give him no angle to work with
I think some players are great at getting to the ball and hitting well, so unless you really stretch them they'll feel very comfortable passing you. Slicing down the middle, approaching with into-the-body drives - both may mess their confidence. Anyway, variety in approach game is great in terms of not giving the opponent clear forsight of what'll follow, and not letting them find out their way to play your net rushes. So if you decide to seek success near the net, test some options and see if they can deal with them. And the net rusher's mantra - get ready to be passed a lot.
 
#12
If you want to overcome great defense you need to find the chinks in the armor or get better at offense. If you pay careful attention you may find that you have opportunities to come in to net that you aren't taking. Also, defensive players can get a bit comfortable moving back, so take advantage of that and make sure you absorb any slack by moving in closer and opening up better angles when you can. It might help you to have someone watch you play this person. They might see things you don't. I think it's easier to pick up on things when you're watching a match rather than playing one. When playing I sometimes only realize things after the match.
 
#13
And full credit to the guy. I have a pretty strong serve and forhand and everything came back.

I can out rally him on the baseline but it's bloody exhausting and frustrating. Dropping and passing also worked but I was trying to practice my crappy net game because I need to develop that for our team doubles
 
#16
When one of my hitting partners and I play, it’s a classic battle of offense vs defense. You’ve heard the story: I hit bigger and am in control of most points, but he’s great at handling pace. Shots almost always end with me hitting a winner/forced error or with me making an error.
The classic advice would be to come to net. However, with modern racquets and strings, a lot of people can hit great passing shots. Also, a lot of more modern players just aren’t net players.

What are some other strategies for overcoming great defense in the modern game?
What you didn't address Imo is the most important issue. In a match like yours where you are well matched up, points will be won (instead of lost thru attrition) mostly by the player more effective with the 'mid-court' attack shots. Good execution with the mid-court attacks will either win points straight out or set up the opportunities like at the net that even avg players can close out.
 
#17
I think trying to end points at the net is still a good strategy. Then again, I got destroyed by a very good female pusher in a match last night despite my attempts to control points at the net. I tried to hang in on baseline rallies but it just wasn't working...she scooped up balls I thought were clear winners and many points ended with me hitting an error. What worked for a while was S&V and closing the net at any opportunity, but even then she adjusted and started hitting some really nice, deep lobs.

Like Jolly said, consistency is one key thing to work on.
If your opponent is retrieving shots that are normally winners and you duff the next shot, it's because you assumed you'd won the point. Going kamikaze to the net isn't the answer, rather, the answer is to continue to hit those shots that are normally winners and then take the net for an easy volley. Keep yourself from taking the outcome of the point for granted until it's clear for sure.
 
#18
I think the "poly strings so I can't rush the net now" argument is BS for the most part at levels 5.0 and below.

IME, most 4.5-5.0 level players don't have great passing shots and lobs (they don't get much opportunity to practice them). Especially compared to a couple of decades ago.

When I was playing singles HS tennis back in the late 80's/early 90's, I faced some wicked passing shots and lobs from counterpunchers and baseliners who honed these shots by frequently playing against S&V opponents. I don't see those skills that often now with my rec tennis partners and local tournaments (hardly anyone S&V these days, whereas in HS several of my toughest nemesis were S&V).

If you had a better net game, you would likely beat your opponent that you describe.

Are you telling me that when you hit a deep, agressive shot to his BH and follow to the net, that he hits passing shot winners > 50% of the time? :)
This is a great point. It's not like I'm approaching and getting passed 20 times per match. It's usually like twice and then I'm scared off from doing it. I should make him prove himself more.

Also, the points will often be lost because I either a) just make an error off of the approach or b) flub the volley. The other big thing is the approach shot. I've got to make sure it's solid enough that I'm not just a sitting duck.
 
#19
That's the thing about this guy he hardly ever misses deadly accurate. One of those guys who is very good at controlling the racket face even if he is out of position and off balance.

I mean seriously some of our baseline rallies were going 20 + balls. That's why I'm trying to get to the net I don't want to be in that kind of War of attrition.
 
#20
One of one of the things I have noticed with the players who are better than me is that often they actually use a lot less power. They are feeding the net guy slow wide slices. And they use the same slow wide slices in rallies to make the opponent really scramble. I very seldom see them use power until there is a sitter.
 
#21
After 10 years in the wilderness that I returned to tennis scene. I was an invincible S & Ver.

I’m struggling at the moment because I need to stay fit and healthy, plus I had to change my new forehand and serve to prevent my old wrist injury.

I’m 40. I have seen a lot of players who are using oversized racquets. I hated it. I stick with midsize racquets.

I kept losing to the power baseliners. I have a lot of injuries but it’s getting better.

2 weeks ago, I just beat a coach in the fast 4 matchplay 4-0. He was a good player and he was a power baselines and lost to me as a S&Ver. Didn’t expect to win lol.
 
#22
When one of my hitting partners and I play, it’s a classic battle of offense vs defense. You’ve heard the story: I hit bigger and am in control of most points, but he’s great at handling pace. Shots almost always end with me hitting a winner/forced error or with me making an error.
The classic advice would be to come to net. However, with modern racquets and strings, a lot of people can hit great passing shots. Also, a lot of more modern players just aren’t net players.

What are some other strategies for overcoming great defense in the modern game?
One great strategy, particularly for weak volleyers that don’t know how to get their weight behind the volley is take the opposite approach.

Angle off one of those limp volleys. You know the ones, they sort of just lie there. It isn’t the polish of a drop volley, it’s not pretty, but it’s damned effective.

Just a limp-weak sauce volley in the opposite service box from where your pusher is camped.

Forget about all that Edberg-Federer stuff.
 
#23
Below 5.0 2018 tennis is the same as it was and the net is the safest way to end points. To win consistently on baseline winners you need a lot of practice hours.

Even rec players with "modern strokes" usually don't have the footwork to hit all that great passing shots on the run. If you hit to them they will pass you but if they have to move not so much.
 
#24
When one of my hitting partners and I play, it’s a classic battle of offense vs defense. You’ve heard the story: I hit bigger and am in control of most points, but he’s great at handling pace. Shots almost always end with me hitting a winner/forced error or with me making an error.
The classic advice would be to come to net. However, with modern racquets and strings, a lot of people can hit great passing shots. Also, a lot of more modern players just aren’t net players.

What are some other strategies for overcoming great defense in the modern game?
Only weak players go to the net when they dont have to. When you go to the net you are losing control over the point. Everybody talk about winners but most points in tennis are in defence. The greatest difference between Murray, Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Wawrinka and other players is in defence. If you play against a good defender(it means that he can perfectly play passing shots) there is no chance to beat him going frequently to the net. You have to beat him using angles and power. If you cant generate great speed and angles you are just losing.

I call my style "active defence" and I cant remember when I lost to player who played serve and volley.
 
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#28
Only weak players go to the net when they dont have to.
Define "weak" [are you talking a certain NTRP/UTR or do you mean relative to the opponent or something else?].

Define "when they don't have to": under what circumstances would you say one "has" to come to the net [ie the most extreme example would be a well-hit drop shot but even then, someone could pick it up and then try to retreat. That would be terrible tactics but it's still possible.

I come to the net "when I don't have to" because my net game is better than my BL game [something you failed to consider]. Whether I'm "weak" depends on what scale someone is using to judge me.

When you go to the net you are losing control over the point.
I never necessarily had control to begin with. At best, I was neutral.

Going to the net forces the issue in the same way hitting a great GS does: it puts the opponent in a position where a neutral shot [the most common] is no longer optimal, either because I'll be in a position to put away a volley or because he got pulled out so wide that it makes sense to go for a great shot into a corner.

So, in that sense, the balance of a BL rally is destroyed. I don't know if I'd call that "losing control".

However, no matter what phrase is used, it's often a successful tactic for me.

If you play against a good defender(it means that he can perfectly play passing shots) there is no chance to beat him going frequently to the net.
I've never played against anyone so good that he can perfectly play passing shots every time. The key is, how well can I pressure him? The better he is, the better he'll be able to execute passing shots. The matches I've lost were where his passing shots were better than my net game. Still, even with this terrible strategy, my singles winning % is about 60%.

Also, being a good defender while the other guy is on the BL can be different from being a good defender while he's at net. I've played guys who could out-rally me but when I come to the net, their effectiveness drops and their error rate goes up. Yes, I get passed; sometimes, a lot. That's the way I choose to play the game based on my strengths and weaknesses.

You have to beat him using angles and power. If you cant generate great speed and angles you are just losing.
I don't need great ball speed to win if I'm in a good position at the net. You're only looking at it from one viewpoint.

I call my style "active defence" and I cant remember when I lost to player who played serve and volley.
All that means is that your passing game was better than their net game, not that coming to the net is universally a bad strategy. I will readily admit that when I lose, that's usually the case.
 
#29
He plays on that dreadful synthetic grass too, I spend minimal time at the baseline on that stuff.

J
I am forced to play on that fast surface during indoor season and of course I dont go to the net because I control all rallies from the base line. But my opponents also usually dont go to the net because it is not effective. They have problems to prepare atack because I return really well from both sides and play precise passing shots. Mayby it is because I play two handed forehand and two handed backhand.
 
#32
All important tournaments in Poland are played on clay. We all know that on fast surfaces there is no real tennis. Wimbledon is the best example.
You see, I truly like tennis. I have my strengths and weaknesses but I play singles, doubles, and mixed on fast and slow hard courts, clay and grass, indoor and outdoor. I like hitting topspin and flat, like slicing and volleying, I grind, attack, dink, lob, play mini, drill, whatever there is to do, I'll do it.

I'd never say something wasn't real tennis. Grass court is a fantastic test of shotmaking, power and touch, you have to be versatile to succeed.

J
 
#33
Define "weak" [are you talking a certain NTRP/UTR or do you mean relative to the opponent or something else?].

Define "when they don't have to": under what circumstances would you say one "has" to come to the net [ie the most extreme example would be a well-hit drop shot but even then, someone could pick it up and then try to retreat. That would be terrible tactics but it's still possible.

I come to the net "when I don't have to" because my net game is better than my BL game [something you failed to consider]. Whether I'm "weak" depends on what scale someone is using to judge me.



I never necessarily had control to begin with. At best, I was neutral.

Going to the net forces the issue in the same way hitting a great GS does: it puts the opponent in a position where a neutral shot [the most common] is no longer optimal, either because I'll be in a position to put away a volley or because he got pulled out so wide that it makes sense to go for a great shot into a corner.

So, in that sense, the balance of a BL rally is destroyed. I don't know if I'd call that "losing control".

However, no matter what phrase is used, it's often a successful tactic for me.



I've never played against anyone so good that he can perfectly play passing shots every time. The key is, how well can I pressure him? The better he is, the better he'll be able to execute passing shots. The matches I've lost were where his passing shots were better than my net game. Still, even with this terrible strategy, my singles winning % is about 60%.

Also, being a good defender while the other guy is on the BL can be different from being a good defender while he's at net. I've played guys who could out-rally me but when I come to the net, their effectiveness drops and their error rate goes up. Yes, I get passed; sometimes, a lot. That's the way I choose to play the game based on my strengths and weaknesses.



I don't need great ball speed to win if I'm in a good position at the net. You're only looking at it from one viewpoint.



All that means is that your passing game was better than their net game, not that coming to the net is universally a bad strategy. I will readily admit that when I lose, that's usually the case.
The best players(Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Murray) even on fast surfaces play from the base line. Of course sometimes they are forced to atack at the net but it is not their main tactics. They know that serve and volley is not effective strategy. Weak players are those who cant consistently play backhand and forehand. On fast surfaces to some level you can win even if you dont play tennis well but you can serve 240km/h. I think that we all agree that tennis on fast surfaces should be banned. It is not tennis. The only real tennis is played on clay courts. McEnroe, Becker, Sampras, Edberg never won Roland Garros because you cant win this great tournament without topspin backhand on at least average level. They played primitive tennis effective only on fast surfaces. We cant be surprised that Federer won Roland Garros only once. His technique is not too good.
 
#34
You see, I truly like tennis. I have my strengths and weaknesses but I play singles, doubles, and mixed on fast and slow hard courts, clay and grass, indoor and outdoor. I like hitting topspin and flat, like slicing and volleying, I grind, attack, dink, lob, play mini, drill, whatever there is to do, I'll do it.

I'd never say something wasn't real tennis. Grass court is a fantastic test of shotmaking, power and touch, you have to be versatile to succeed.

J
On clay Anderson, Raonic, Cilic, Isner have no chance to win because they play forehand and backhand only on average level. On fast surfaces they kill tennis. They serve 240km/h and get easy volleys. It has nothing in common with tennis. It is some kind of badminton played using tennis rackets. It is just different sport.
 
#36
On clay Anderson, Raonic, Cilic, Isner have no chance to win because they play forehand and backhand only on average level. On fast surfaces they kill tennis. They serve 240km/h and get easy volleys. It has nothing in common with tennis. It is some kind of badminton played using tennis rackets. It is just different sport.
But even Agassi with a forehand and backhand had success on grass, as did Lleyton Hewitt and Nadal, perhaps your flawed technique is to blame for your struggles more than the surface.

J
 
#38
Tennis, of course, originated on grass courts :)

This is where all the rules that we currently use for tennis comes from (1875 Rules of Lawn Tennis).

Maybe "tennis" on clay courts should be called something else?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_tennis
At the beginning they had tried to play tennis on grass but when better rackets were produced players like Sampras, Becker, Edberg, Cash, Ivanisevic, Federer saw that they didnt have to play tennis to win. It was enough to serve and volley. Since then real tennis is played only on clay.
 
#39
But even Agassi with a forehand and backhand had success on grass, as did Lleyton Hewitt and Nadal, perhaps your flawed technique is to blame for your struggles more than the surface.

J
After boring matches of Sampras, Ivenisevic or Becker they slowed down the surface at Wimbledon but it is still primitive tennis. There must be the reason why almost nowhere tournaments are played on grass. Nobody treats grass seriously. It is some kind of museum of tennis.
 
#40
At the beginning they had tried to play tennis on grass but when better rackets were produced players like Sampras, Becker, Edberg, Cash, Ivanisevic, Federer saw that they didnt have to play tennis to win. It was enough to serve and volley. Since then real tennis is played only on clay.
How about all the players who served and volleyed in the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's with wooden rackets? Was that not real tennis either? Is real tennis only played from the baseline on a slow court?

 
#44
We all know that the best players are from Europe and in Europe almost all tournaments are played on clay. There is great crisis of tennis in US and in Australia because you cant play real tennis if all the time you play on hard courts.
 
#48
The best players(Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Murray) even on fast surfaces play from the base line. Of course sometimes they are forced to atack at the net but it is not their main tactics. They know that serve and volley is not effective strategy.
And if I was playing against those Big 5, you'd be right: I'd get pummeled playing S&V [or anything else]. However, fortunately, I don't play against them. I play against 4.5s and the occasional 4.0 and 5.0 and S&V is still effective.
 
#49
My diagnosis is over in my case. Got coach to hit lots of short balls today. He said my approach shots aren't good enough they weren't carrying the guy off the court into the tram lines. And I'm hitting my short angled slices too hard they going too long and into the strike zone.
 
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#50
My diagnosis is over in my case. Got coach to hit lots of short balls today. He said my approach shots aren't good enough they weren't carrying the guy off the court into the tram lines. And I'm hitting my short angled slices too hard they going too long and into the strike zone.
sounds like you have a good coach.....
 
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