Offense vs defense - What is more important?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by BCTennis, Aug 31, 2013.

  1. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

    Dec 27, 2012
    Hi fellow tennis players,

    I am a 4.5 junior player.
    I played a match today against someone who is probably slightly worse than me. He is a big guy and has a great serve and decent forehand, while having a very unreliable but not terrible backhand.

    Usually, I would have defeated this guy with a fairly competitive score. But today, I lost 6-4, 7-5. I was a little disappointed with my strategies in the match.

    Then I thought about my strategies today and realized that I played very defensively. I was holding a lot back when I started falling behind, and I was just trying to out-rally my opponent, and I didnt go for winners when I was facing some break points.

    I used to be a very aggressive player. I would approach the net at every opportunity, regardless of the score. However, since I suffered a terrible lost in a tournament semi, my coach has instilled in me the idea that "the best defense is the best offense" Thus, I started working on fitness and became great at defense.

    As I started getting better at defense, I started hugging the baseline and was content to just out rally my opponent.

    But after today, I am not sure what works better: defense or offense. Obviously its good to have both, but in your opinion, what is the thing that makes the bigger difference?

    Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

    Thanks for your time
  2. PhrygianDominant

    PhrygianDominant Hall of Fame

    Apr 9, 2012
    I think you should take my comments with a grain of salt, because you are probably much greater player than me. However, I will say that when we make adjustments like you did, we tend to over adjust. I think this is just your normal learning cycle, after immersing yourself in a new skill, it is normal and probably beneficial to go a bit overboard as you did. I got the impression that you went from one extreme to the other, and now you are seeking your happy medium.

    If that is the case, you know what to do.
  3. corbind

    corbind Professional

    Oct 18, 2010
    Chicago, IL
    Tracking to see how it works out.
  4. TahoeTennis

    TahoeTennis Hall of Fame

    May 19, 2009
  5. Roberto_spin

    Roberto_spin Rookie

    Oct 22, 2012
    Have you seen Isner lost against Kohlschreiber yesterday at the US Open? Isner lost because he was too defensive and let Kohlschreiber make the points and he did. It's classical: there are more examples on topranked players who got afraid/or didn't play aggressive. Actually looking at those matches you can learn a lot.

    So an aggressive way of playing, knowing your strengths, weakness opponents (Brad Gilbert: every player has a combination to crack) and a mental toughness are more important things to work on than being offensive or defensive.

    And as said: during rally you need the skills to switch between defensive-neutral-offensive...
  6. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

    Feb 11, 2011
    I agree. just pushing the ball back is not enough at some level. you do not need to hit winners but you need to hit forcing shots to force your opponent to go bigger than he can and make errors even as a defensive baseliner.
  7. dknotty

    dknotty Semi-Pro

    Apr 23, 2013
    Personally I think there's a lot to be said for moving into the net after you've hit an offensive shot. That having been said, knowing when you're having a lousy day and are not able to play offensively consistently is important as well.

    Rafa said it recently at the US Open:

  8. BCTennis

    BCTennis New User

    Dec 27, 2012
    Thanks guys for the tips. Yes I do agree that I shouldnt stick to one extreme or another. I think the balance will start feeling more natural as I gain even more match play experiences. But generally speaking, how do most players play when they are facing break point? Yesterday I converted a pathetic 3/16 break points.(partly because of his big serves)
  9. PhrygianDominant

    PhrygianDominant Hall of Fame

    Apr 9, 2012
    If I knew the answer to this I would win more.

    To be honest, I play the same, just worse.
  10. Moz

    Moz Hall of Fame

    Sep 3, 2007
    This is a really good answer. It takes a lot of experience at any particular level (and more so when moving up a level) to dial in your aggressiveness correctly.

    Keep working at it and you'll find the sweetspot with regards to defence / offence for each opponent type - then you'll improve and have to go through the whole process again at a higher standard of play!
  11. Zachol82

    Zachol82 Professional

    Dec 8, 2007
    If you have the skills to be offensive, for example if you play someone much weaker than you, then be offensive. Offense is always a better choice. It dictates control and rhythm, defending does not.

    Obviously, playing offensively is different from playing foolishly. If your opponent has a good serve and you're not able return it consistently, then play defensively when returning serves.

    Many mistake "offense" as hitting as hard as they possibly can. That's wrong. Playing offensively simply means that every shot you make is with the intention of making your opponent defend.

    Many also have problems with the so called "pushers" because they're not being able to put these "pushers" on the defense. Hitting the ball as hard as you can but having that ball land short and moving toward your opponent is NOT an offensive shot for goodness sake.

    If your opponent is far back at the baseline rallying back and forth with you and you all of a sudden pull a drop-shot to make him run to it and possibly get out of position is an offensive shot. If your opponent is at the net and you're blasting balls straight at him and he's getting them all back, then that's not an offensive shot, lobbing the ball deep and making him chase it and give a weak reply IS an offensive shot.

    As a general rule of thumb:
    Offense = forcing your opponent to defend.
    Offense = forcing a weak reply because your opponent is out of position.
    Offense = setting up for another offensive shot.
    Offense = you're dictating the flow of the exchange, you're doing something so that your opponent only has the option of putting the ball back into play and not much else.
  12. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Mar 31, 2008
    That is right...just pushing it back does not qualify as good defense does it.

    Imo this is why counter punchers are the best players. They lead with excellent
    defense, then counter with some smart, high % counter attacks.
    They force you to play at or above your best to beat them, but look for every
    Smart chance to beat you.
    Great Defense wins Championships!,
    but not with a total lack of offence.

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