Need help developing a singles strategy

Pitti

Rookie
Hi everyone! I've joined a local amateur tournament, and I find I have no main strategy, so I need some help. Here's an abstract of my technique:

- Serve: It's ok. Not the most powerful serve, but not weak either. I tend not to hit a very powerful 1st serve. I can vary its placement and spin. I usually make an ace or two, due to placement more than to power.

- Groundstrokes: FH: I usually hit it with not much spin, using something between an eastern and a slightly western forehand (depending on the bounce of the ball). I'm confident with it and can use it as a weapon to attack. BH: I play with a one-handed backhand. I also use an eastern grip which makes it flatter. If I don't see an easy ball I slice it, although sometimes the slice lets the opponent attack me. I usually play a slightly sidespin parallel slice on short balls to approach the net from the backhand side.

- Net game: I'm not very tall (175 cm). My volleys are decent and I have good reflexes. Some times they are a bit weak. I love angled "stop-volleys" ("drop-shot" volleys) Low volleys are sometimes a struggle. I don't usually miss half-volleys, although lots of times the resulting ball is very easy to attack. My overhead is not the best. I tend to hit it too back. When I focus and hit it correctly it's good. Not very strong, but good enough.

- Other shots: I usually have no problems hitting slightly top-spin lobs or drop shots. I also feel comfortable when hitting sliced smashes from the back of the court.

- Footwork: It's good, as long as I concentrate on it. Whenever I lose focus, it starts worsening.

So why am I asking this? Because the fun thing is that I feel comfortable playing almost everywhere at the court. I like to attack, but I can do so from the back of the court, attacking the net or serving and volleying. I usually play very close to the back line, and step in as soon as possible to try taking balls on the rise. I don't feel as comfortable when my rival makes me play defensive, but then I try to counterattack him.

Another relevant datum is that I usually play in hard court, either indoors (most of time) or outdoors. I sometimes play at an "artificial clay" court which doesn't let you slide, but is gentle on the knees and makes the bounce higher and slower.

What would you do in my situation regarding strategy?

Thank you!
 
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time_fly

Hall of Fame
Consistency is the starting point. Of course there are a million strategies but here are a couple things I have been working on lately:

I’ve been watching a lot of pro tennis lately, and one shot they use a lot that I think many club players ignore is the wide angle setup shot. Club players are taught to “keep it deep” and usually hit to the corners near the baseline. That’s a very effective shot once your opponent is out of position, but against a fast player it’s not enough to open the court. You need to get the ball going over the side line.

On the flip side, if you do face someone who plays the angles better than you do, try to push them deep behind the baseline near the middle to take away their angles. Then look to come to net.
 
@Pitti,

Tennis matches are usually lost with errors as opposed to won with winners. As a starting point, take Borg's advice: "I hit CC; sometimes, I hit down the middle." [or something to that effect].

Look up "Wardlaw's Directionals":


If you constantly play the higher % shot and your opponent constantly plays the lower % shot, you'll do well.

Also, consider the 3Fs: fitness, footwork, focus [ie mental toughness], and spacing [the distance between you and the ball]. These are foundational elements that will improve every aspect of your technique.
 

Pitti

Rookie
Consistency is the starting point. Of course there are a million strategies but here are a couple things I have been working on lately:

I’ve been watching a lot of pro tennis lately, and one shot they use a lot that I think many club players ignore is the wide angle setup shot. Club players are taught to “keep it deep” and usually hit to the corners near the baseline. That’s a very effective shot once your opponent is out of position, but against a fast player it’s not enough to open the court. You need to get the ball going over the side line.

On the flip side, if you do face someone who plays the angles better than you do, try to push them deep behind the baseline near the middle to take away their angles. Then look to come to net.
Yes, these are good ideas. I‘m improving my overall consistency although I still make millions of mistakes and unforced errors! Not having a very clear plan doesn’t help much either. I‘ll also try to improve my angles since it’s true they’re a weapon if used correctly. Thank you.
 

Pitti

Rookie
@Pitti,

Tennis matches are usually lost with errors as opposed to won with winners. As a starting point, take Borg's advice: "I hit CC; sometimes, I hit down the middle." [or something to that effect].

Look up "Wardlaw's Directionals":


If you constantly play the higher % shot and your opponent constantly plays the lower % shot, you'll do well.

Also, consider the 3Fs: fitness, footwork, focus [ie mental toughness], and spacing [the distance between you and the ball]. These are foundational elements that will improve every aspect of your technique.
True, I haven’t won any of my two matches... due to my unforced errors!

These directional rules look definitely interesting! I’ve watched a couple of vídeos about them and I think I’ve understood how they work. I’ll try to use them (if I can remember them and rapidly identify outside or inside shots) tomorrow morning in my match! If not, I’ll just use that simple Borg’s tactic and hit cross court...

Thank you very much.
 

Tattooedracket

New User
Keep the ball as deep as possible with consistency. If you can hit a ball deep enough that it’s still rising past the baseline, and work the corners you’ll win a lot of points, which translates into more games one. It really is, at least for most levels making fewer mistakes than your opponent.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
True, I haven’t won any of my two matches... due to my unforced errors!

These directional rules look definitely interesting! I’ve watched a couple of vídeos about them and I think I’ve understood how they work. I’ll try to use them (if I can remember them and rapidly identify outside or inside shots) tomorrow morning in my match! If not, I’ll just use that simple Borg’s tactic and hit cross court...

Thank you very much.
The directional rules are pretty simple. If you are deep in the corner, go CC. If you are deep in the middle change directions on the ball. If you are inside the baseline, attack to open court and come in. If you follow that strategy combined with the "when in doubt, hit to the BH corner" you'll generally do well.
 

n8dawg6

Legend
Keep the ball as deep as possible with consistency. If you can hit a ball deep enough that it’s still rising past the baseline, and work the corners you’ll win a lot of points, which translates into more games one. It really is, at least for most levels making fewer mistakes than your opponent.
this, and make sure you can put away short balls/lobs. doesnt do much good if you can force weak returns but then cant seal the deal on a short ball and get lobbed or passed while youre outta position. do as i say dont do as i do
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
this, and make sure you can put away short balls/lobs. doesnt do much good if you can force weak returns but then cant seal the deal on a short ball and get lobbed or passed while youre outta position. do as i say dont do as i do
I'm not sure you have to put away short balls, but you do have to make sure that, if you don't hit a winner outright, the next ball back is a putaway.
I play lots of guys that try too hard to put extra oomph on the short ball and send it into the back fence. The attacking shot needs to a) stay in the darn court and b) be in an uncomfortable spot. Just hitting a ball back to the opponents wheelhouse is asking for a pass or a lob.
 

GeoffHYL

Semi-Pro
Decide early where you are going to hit your shot, and focus on making good contact with the ball. This should cut down on your unforced errors. As you gain experience you will figure out how to construct points, what works for you, and how to figure out your opponents weaknesses. I like keeping a written log with some notes on what went well and what didn't for each time I play. I can review this information and see if I have trends in weak areas that need specific work.
 

ShaunS

Semi-Pro
First, I'd recommend that you take stock of your game, and figure out what your "best" shots for winning points are. Do you have things you feel comfortable hitting that regularly put you at an advantage? If so, see how you can play points to present those opportunities most often. I also like these as a way to get "in a groove" when I am struggling.

If you constantly play the higher % shot and your opponent constantly plays the lower % shot, you'll do well.
There's a lot of good, specific advice here, but that is the most crucial thing. Keep in mind that sometimes your opponent may be so good at dealing with your "best" shot that it's not a good idea. Conversely, even though it may seem counterintuitive, that means you may face players who you're going to give them their "best" shot because it's inferior to yours.

For example, best practice is usually going to be serve to the opponent's weaker side, and that's more often their backhand. However, if you're struggling to get the ball to their backhand effectively, you might be better off giving them your best serve to their forehand (probably better off going body, but let's keep this simple). The point is that tennis isn't a solo sport. It won't be 100% hitting your best shot or 100% hitting to their worst shot. Instead, you get the challenge of figuring out what gives you the biggest advantage against each opponent.
 

Pitti

Rookie
Well, I played that match on Saturday against a 65 year-old player and I tried to broadly apply the directional rules @S&V-not_dead_yet , @Dartagnan64 and other users mentioned. My rival was way more consistent than me and let me lose by my own unforced errors (2/6, 5/7). The directionals were a bit of a disaster at first, but I got better as the match progressed. I could see that even at the end of the first set I was making my opponent uncomfortable by hitting crosscourt again and again and trying to do so with a bit of pace. I even won some "free points" because he didn't expect the ball there again. I'll try to use them again in tomorrow's match and see if I can reduce my mistakes.

Thank you everyone for your advice.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
Strategy is about using your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses while exploiting the opponent's weaknesses and avoiding their strengths. My greatest strength is my mobility, and my weakness is my racquet skills. This makes me a pusher most of the time: get to the ball and get it in. If the opponent has average to lower mobility, I also try and move them around - side to side and front to back - but not so aggressively as to require precise shot placement - which I don't have and would increase my UEs. If the opponent has a weak BH, then I pick on it. And so on. If my opponent is better at my game than me (mobility and keeping it in), then I need to change it up - frequently having success with S&V and otherwise looking for chances to come to the net.

I tend to be skeptical of the idea of developing a strategy in a vacuum- without due consideration of a specific opponent. Your strengths and weaknesses are only half the information.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
Strategy is about using your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses while exploiting the opponent's weaknesses and avoiding their strengths. My greatest strength is my mobility, and my weakness is my racquet skills. This makes me a pusher most of the time: get to the ball and get it in. If the opponent has average to lower mobility, I also try and move them around - side to side and front to back - but not so aggressively as to require precise shot placement - which I don't have and would increase my UEs. If the opponent has a weak BH, then I pick on it. And so on. If my opponent is better at my game than me (mobility and keeping it in), then I need to change it up - frequently having success with S&V and otherwise looking for chances to come to the net.

I tend to be skeptical of the idea of developing a strategy in a vacuum- without due consideration of a specific opponent. Your strengths and weaknesses are only half the information.
Problem is that most of the time in league or tournament, you don't know your opponent well. So opening with a strategy of sticking with high leverage, high percentage tennis will put the odds in your favor while you work out what your opponent likes and dislikes.

Everyone should try to develop the "strength" of hitting deep shots CC. That's tennis 101. If you can do that then you can follow Wardlaws directionals and force a lot of errors. Directionals are all about minimizing risk while maximizing force/leverage on your opponent. You are free to go away from those simple directional strategies as your skill provides, but for most advanced rec players in the 3.5-4.5 range, directionals provide a framework to base a high percentage game on and then adjust based on skills and opponents weaknesses.

For instance, I have a good FH off of inside balls. Can take it DTL as well as hit it inside out to the CC corner. I will work a point until I get that inside FH, and use it either way no matter the directional rules. If the opponent has a weak BH, I'll hit it CC. If he's hiding out there expecting the CC, I'll take it DTL. So my strategy hinges off of playing directionals until I get that FH inside ball.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
I could see that even at the end of the first set I was making my opponent uncomfortable by hitting crosscourt again and again and trying to do so with a bit of pace. I even won some "free points" because he didn't expect the ball there again. I'll try to use them again in tomorrow's match and see if I can reduce my mistakes.
Sounds like he was expecting the usual rec player strategy of "hit to open court" and then was surprised when you hit it back from whence it came.

I think the general thing to remember about the directionals is to use them from behind the baseline and to save "hit to open court" for when you get inside the baseline. I love when my opponent hits to the open side DTL from way back. I just hustle over there and whip a CC to the wide open court he's left for me. Point over. Never go DTL unless you are sure you can easily end the point.
 
Never go DTL unless you are sure you can easily end the point.
When I get pulled way out of court laterally and my opponent is sitting CC just waiting for me to float back a weak CC shot that he can attack, often the only way to neutralize the point is attempt something DTL, despite the higher risk. I'm not going for a winner; I just want to break his rhythm. If I get it [usually a squash shot] deep enough, I'm quick enough to recover so that I'm not completely vulnerable to his next shot [usually].

If he knows I never go DTL unless I'm trying to end the point, he'll never move from his CC perch. The positional advantage will be his.
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
When I get pulled way out of court laterally and my opponent is sitting CC just waiting for me to float back a weak CC shot that he can attack, often the only way to neutralize the point is attempt something DTL, despite the higher risk. I'm not going for a winner; I just want to break his rhythm. If I get it [usually a squash shot] deep enough, I'm quick enough to recover so that I'm not completely vulnerable to his next shot [usually].

If he knows I never go DTL unless I'm trying to end the point, he'll never move from his CC perch. The positional advantage will be his.
I'll generally put those more back to the middle rather than risk opening the court. Not fast anymore ;)
 

Pitti

Rookie
That's interesting insight. I still have to try directionals again in a match. Last day it got cancelled, so I hope this week I will be able to try them again competitively!
 
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