Rallying against my hitting partner who plays rather flat

djokopova

New User
I am wondering if anyone on this forum can give me some tips.

I've been playing with my hitting partner for almost 4 years now. We just usually "rally", i.e. he likes to hit winners past me occasionally so he rarely allows any rhythm.

I like to hit with moderate spin. I use hurricane pro or rpm blast for my strings. My balls have good depth -- they usually land past the service line and at times they're close to the baseline. Because of the spin I put on the ball, they don't bounce too low when they reach my partner. When I accidentally put more spin than I should, the ball can bounce ~4 ft off the ground making it an easy winner for him once he hits it flat.

My hitting partner uses natural gut crossed with luxilon strings. As you may expect, the shots are rather flat. His ball (even when we're only feeding) usually lands before the service line or if it's past it, it's usually closer midway between the service and the baseline or simply closer to the service line. The problem is that moreover, his balls bounce at most 3ft; they're usually low and short. In addition, he doesn't have a good backhand but he can get away with defensive shots on that wing which land way close to the net.

As we are only "rallying", i.e. not playing with serves, etc., it's gotten to a point where it frustrates me at times that there's just no rhythm playing baseline to baseline. Because his balls tend to be shorter than usual, I have to keep going inside the baseline and bending low to hit his shots (sometimes I end up spinning the balls out) and then move back quickly to the baseline because he tends to blast a winner past me.

I understand that I can improve my movement and I am trying to do that. However, because of the depth of my shots, he rarely has to move in the same manner as I do (i.e. going in and out the baseline -- he can just move side to side). On the other hand, his shots make me move in and out the baseline and move side to side which causes me to commit so many errors.

Does anyone have any tips on how I can play with my hitting partner so that I don't get frustrated with myself for having so many winners blast past at or for committing so many errors (netting the ball or spinning it out)? Since I want to rally, I am reluctant to develop a net game as I want to improve my baseline game. Are there any tactics that I can employ to disrupt his rhythm so that I can control the rallies better?

Some advice appreciated!
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
I am wondering if anyone on this forum can give me some tips.

I've been playing with my hitting partner for almost 4 years now. We just usually "rally", i.e. he likes to hit winners past me occasionally so he rarely allows any rhythm.

I like to hit with moderate spin. I use hurricane pro or rpm blast for my strings. My balls have good depth -- they usually land past the service line and at times they're close to the baseline. Because of the spin I put on the ball, they don't bounce too low when they reach my partner. When I accidentally put more spin than I should, the ball can bounce ~4 ft off the ground making it an easy winner for him once he hits it flat.

My hitting partner uses natural gut crossed with luxilon strings. As you may expect, the shots are rather flat. His ball (even when we're only feeding) usually lands before the service line or if it's past it, it's usually closer midway between the service and the baseline or simply closer to the service line. The problem is that moreover, his balls bounce at most 3ft; they're usually low and short. In addition, he doesn't have a good backhand but he can get away with defensive shots on that wing which land way close to the net.

As we are only "rallying", i.e. not playing with serves, etc., it's gotten to a point where it frustrates me at times that there's just no rhythm playing baseline to baseline. Because his balls tend to be shorter than usual, I have to keep going inside the baseline and bending low to hit his shots (sometimes I end up spinning the balls out) and then move back quickly to the baseline because he tends to blast a winner past me.

I understand that I can improve my movement and I am trying to do that. However, because of the depth of my shots, he rarely has to move in the same manner as I do (i.e. going in and out the baseline -- he can just move side to side). On the other hand, his shots make me move in and out the baseline and move side to side which causes me to commit so many errors.

Does anyone have any tips on how I can play with my hitting partner so that I don't get frustrated with myself for having so many winners blast past at or for committing so many errors (netting the ball or spinning it out)? Since I want to rally, I am reluctant to develop a net game as I want to improve my baseline game. Are there any tactics that I can employ to disrupt his rhythm so that I can control the rallies better?

Some advice appreciated!
I just move in and then back - it's a good workout. Though my main hitting partner usually hits his shots with depth and he hits slice, flat or with topspin. If someone hits it by me, no big deal. Everyone has to practice hitting out and sometimes those are winners.
 

Slicerman

Semi-Pro
The main issue sounds like your partner is just very inconsistent. Flat shots have the tendency to land short if they're hitting the ball at a downward trajectory with not much racquet head speed, especially on a slower court. If you don't want to end up following the short balls to net then you should just float some slices back to your partner, which will give you time to back up behind the baseline. Something I noticed when hitting with flat hitters is that you may need to match their shots with your own flat shots. May occasionally need to crouch down to do it, like Angelique Kerber or Radwanska.
 

ChaelAZ

G.O.A.T.
I am wondering if anyone on this forum can give me some tips.

I've been playing with my hitting partner for almost 4 years now. We just usually "rally", i.e. he likes to hit winners past me occasionally so he rarely allows any rhythm.

As we are only "rallying", i.e. not playing with serves, etc., it's gotten to a point where it frustrates me at times that there's just no rhythm playing baseline to baseline. Because his balls tend to be shorter than usual, I have to keep going inside the baseline and bending low to hit his shots (sometimes I end up spinning the balls out) and then move back quickly to the baseline because he tends to blast a winner past me.

I understand that I can improve my movement and I am trying to do that. However, because of the depth of my shots, he rarely has to move in the same manner as I do (i.e. going in and out the baseline -- he can just move side to side). On the other hand, his shots make me move in and out the baseline and move side to side which causes me to commit so many errors.

Does anyone have any tips on how I can play with my hitting partner so that I don't get frustrated with myself for having so many winners blast past at or for committing so many errors (netting the ball or spinning it out)?
One of the main people I hit with is exactly the same. He is inconsistent because he *tries* to hit hard and flat all the time. Even if we are warming up with some mini tennis, which is supposed to be cooperative, loopy, easy strokes, he is hitting harder and flatter ever shot. I kinda got used to it and just take the practice with him different, as I am just going to be handling inconsistent placement, no rhythm (as you mention), and I can't hit out hard because he just can't move enough to get to balls. So I mentally accept he will be running my ass around without purpose and I will take whatever rallies I can develop by hitting down the middle to him. Yeah, kinda sucks, and when I get with people that do well with cooperative hitting it gets ridiculously good, but you gotta be able to handle all types of players, so I just figure he is someone I need to manage. When things get too frustrating I end up hitting less with him.

One trick I have found when he is just inconsistent and spraying is to break out "zone cones" to try and hit to certain areas. I present it as my needing to practice, but it helps him focus ALOT more!
 

djokopova

New User
Thanks for all your replies so far. I am not sure how you define inconsistent but I don't have that impression of him. He's consistent in that he doesn't make so many errors -- because I cannot always hit flat winners against him, he doesn't have to put much racket head speed when he returns the balls at me. In a sense, compared to me, he doesn't frequently net the ball or hit it out. In fact, he has good defensive skills. When I try to move him around, even when I target his backhand side which is almost non-existent, he can get away with a "short slice" on that wing (not a dropshot) that lands just past the net! It's a bit frustrating to have to run toward it.

In fact, I asked my tennis coach a few years back: How can I put away short balls? I thought that if I can do this, my hitting partner would regret hitting his shots short. My coach said: if you're rallying, why do you have to do that? He has a point ;) but he doesn't share the definition of my hitting partner's rallying.

@Slicerman: Yes, when he hits winners straight at me (not angled like inside out), sometimes if I'm way behind the baseline and I have time, I can return it to him flat and occasionally, he won't be able to return it. I'd have to almost squat as you say -- like how Kerber and Radwanska do it but then it gives me less time to recover and be ready for the next point in case he can hit it back.

Bottomline, I think my partner's shots make me work harder on my movement which subsequently affect how I hit.

Please keep the responses going! I love reading the suggestions. I really appreciate it.
 

movdqa

Talk Tennis Guru
If you want to practice putting away short balls, work on hitting the ball as if it were a putaway. But aim it back at your opponent to keep the rally going.
 

zalive

Hall of Fame
First, gut mains/poly crosses is a spin oriented string bed which will generate even bigger spin (and power) than a full bed of poly, with everything else being the same. It's proven by TWU that gut/poly hybrids with gut on mains displace the most and generate most spin. It's not a flat hitter's typical string bed.

Second, bounce height will depend not only on RPM's but also on a ball trajectory - if ball doesn't peak high, there won't be a high bounce even with decent topspin on it. Now why I tell this, I suspect he might be using some more topspin than you think, but clearing the net low, so ball won't bounce high. Instead it will dip in the service box. You can do similar with no spin (or even backspin sliced) balls but net clearance has to be yet lower.

Looks like he's practicing topspin balls that pull the baseliner up in front, out of his comfort zone behind the baseline, and get him into the NML. Which is interesting tactics.

You can attack those by lowering the net clearance yourself (can be done with decent topspin) and attack the corners (or hit the angle), but using some pace. It's somehow easier and more natural to clear the net lower when you contact the ball low. In which case shortened distance with you being inside the court is not working in his favour, he has a harder task reaching your next ball.

You can as well practice approaching the net. Why not when you're constantly being invited by those short balls? In case on very short balls and defensive slices you often have no other good alternative than approach the net. This is what he practices as well: balls which invite the opponent to the net.

I don't think bad about this, this is a specific practice which you can use to learn and practice new shots. And the reason why you lose these exchanges is because your hitting partner has a better control of depth of his shots, so he uses the court more effectively and makes your footwork a harder task. While you use the width of the court, he uses both width and depth.

You can try to lower the net clearance and hit similar balls yourself. Practice session like this is an great opportunity, since you're obviously not obliged to hit cooperatively (in other words, different than him).

Oh, one more thing...slice that lands just behind the net indeed is the drop shot by a definition :)
 

Slicerman

Semi-Pro
Thanks for all your replies so far. I am not sure how you define inconsistent but I don't have that impression of him. He's consistent in that he doesn't make so many errors -- because I cannot always hit flat winners against him, he doesn't have to put much racket head speed when he returns the balls at me. In a sense, compared to me, he doesn't frequently net the ball or hit it out. In fact, he has good defensive skills. When I try to move him around, even when I target his backhand side which is almost non-existent, he can get away with a "short slice" on that wing (not a dropshot) that lands just past the net! It's a bit frustrating to have to run toward it.
I used to hit with a friend who is very similar to this. Only knows how to hit flat and doesn't have a backhand, only a slice that lands short (doesn't actually know how to hit it deep enough for a baseline rally). I would consider your hitting partner as inconsistent because he can't really control the depth of his shots. Doesn't matter if he makes it over the net or keeps the ball in play, erratic depth is inconsistency. In this situation, if your intention is cooperative baseline rallying, then I would ask him to maintain a stable rally. Then maybe he will try or make adjustments to accomplish that goal. But if he's not following through with your request then you need to press the matter farther. Start punishing his short balls. Or stay behind the baseline and let his short balls bounce twice before you hit them, and just call out to him "no good, too short". There's only so much you should put up with. The frustration can build up over time if you don't make your point clear.
 

djokopova

New User
First, gut mains/poly crosses is a spin oriented string bed which will generate even bigger spin (and power) than a full bed of poly, with everything else being the same. It's proven by TWU that gut/poly hybrids with gut on mains displace the most and generate most spin. It's not a flat hitter's typical string bed.

Second, bounce height will depend not only on RPM's but also on a ball trajectory - if ball doesn't peak high, there won't be a high bounce even with decent topspin on it. Now why I tell this, I suspect he might be using some more topspin than you think, but clearing the net low, so ball won't bounce high. Instead it will dip in the service box. You can do similar with no spin (or even backspin sliced) balls but net clearance has to be yet lower.

Looks like he's practicing topspin balls that pull the baseliner up in front, out of his comfort zone behind the baseline, and get him into the NML. Which is interesting tactics.

You can attack those by lowering the net clearance yourself (can be done with decent topspin) and attack the corners (or hit the angle), but using some pace. It's somehow easier and more natural to clear the net lower when you contact the ball low. In which case shortened distance with you being inside the court is not working in his favour, he has a harder task reaching your next ball.

You can as well practice approaching the net. Why not when you're constantly being invited by those short balls? In case on very short balls and defensive slices you often have no other good alternative than approach the net. This is what he practices as well: balls which invite the opponent to the net.

I don't think bad about this, this is a specific practice which you can use to learn and practice new shots. And the reason why you lose these exchanges is because your hitting partner has a better control of depth of his shots, so he uses the court more effectively and makes your footwork a harder task. While you use the width of the court, he uses both width and depth.

You can try to lower the net clearance and hit similar balls yourself. Practice session like this is an great opportunity, since you're obviously not obliged to hit cooperatively (in other words, different than him).

Oh, one more thing...slice that lands just behind the net indeed is the drop shot by a definition :)
Wow that's some technical stuff. I don't think know if my hitting partner is thinking along those lines when he hits the shot, i.e. I am not sure if that's his tactic.

Re his string: I have no idea about this but he told he that he wanted to hit flatter hence the string combination. He's also using 17 gauge (supposedly for more control on his part) with "string savers", stuff that you attach to the string, to preserve their quality. But you are right in saying that it appears to have more power especially when he puts in some racket head speed.

I find it so weird that before, my instructor years ago told me that above anything, depth of shot is the most important, followed by pace. I really thought that having good depth on my shots would trouble my hitting partner (and actually tennis commentators always bring this up a lot) but it seems that it doesn't.

Add to the above: one shot of his that really annoys me is his short angled cross court forehand. He need not strike it with pace but the angle it creates makes the ball land so close to the net, making it hard to retrieve when you're from the center of the baseline. Also, I'm convinced he hits rather flat (i.e. not much spin) because when he does try to put spin on the ball, it flies way up high and out of the court and you can really see the ball spinning. Sometimes when he attempts to hit a winner and it goes out, it hits right to the fence which is like 8 feet from the baseline because he doesn't put spin on it.

I actually envy it when I see other guys just rallying with each player standing 3ft or so from the baseline. That's sort of how I want to play tennis recreationally!
 

zalive

Hall of Fame
Wow that's some technical stuff. I don't think know if my hitting partner is thinking along those lines when he hits the shot, i.e. I am not sure if that's his tactic.
Possibly spontaneous but if he hits often like this with good consistency, it's surely not random.

Re his string: I have no idea about this but he told he that he wanted to hit flatter hence the string combination. He's also using 17 gauge (supposedly for more control on his part) with "string savers", stuff that you attach to the string, to preserve their quality. But you are right in saying that it appears to have more power especially when he puts in some racket head speed.
It makes a difference whether gut is on mains or on crosses. Gut mains / poly crosses is a spinny combo often used at the tour. Poly mains / gut crosses is not a spin oriented combo since gut crosses are not slick so no snapback - perhaps this is what he actually uses?

I find it so weird that before, my instructor years ago told me that above anything, depth of shot is the most important, followed by pace. I really thought that having good depth on my shots would trouble my hitting partner (and actually tennis commentators always bring this up a lot) but it seems that it doesn't.
Well this is not quite pro tennis stuff, but when the opponent is behind the baseline, any ball bouncing short plus low can create havoc. Slices and flat hits especially since they bounce so low, but even topspin can be made such with low clearance. Actually sometimes tough to get to the ball before bouncing twice because it has its pace which takes away time from you. What I found so far is that certain setups help me hit such balls. Particularly, smaller head plus denser pattern in the hitting zone. Such produce flatter, lower trajectory ball with good predictability. Unlike spin friendly round head 98-100'' designs which naturally produce a loopier trajectory ball. Which racquet does your hitting partner use?

Add to the above: one shot of his that really annoys me is his short angled cross court forehand. He need not strike it with pace but the angle it creates makes the ball land so close to the net, making it hard to retrieve when you're from the center of the baseline. Also, I'm convinced he hits rather flat (i.e. not much spin) because when he does try to put spin on the ball, it flies way up high and out of the court and you can really see the ball spinning. Sometimes when he attempts to hit a winner and it goes out, it hits right to the fence which is like 8 feet from the baseline because he doesn't put spin on it.
Yeah described shot (one that goes out) should be completely flat, thought not all shots are necessarily shot. I use an angled FH shot myself though with bit of topspin, it's an excellent weapon against a baseliner who likes to stand bit behind the baseline and can run down anything. Like you said, huge pace is not necessary, the distance you have to run to catch this one is big. Try to practice this one yourself, use the topspin but control the net clearance height, it must not be big. Pace moderate for starters. These sessions are great opportunity to practice such stuff, your partner should not mind it at all since this is what he does.

Anyway, one indeed can hit a spinny low trajectory ball. Topspin doesn't have to be huge when you control the net clearance height.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I would say you're getting the better practice: you're forced to move like you'd have to in a match while he just moves laterally. Who is going to be better prepared for a match where all bets are off? You.
 

Jamesm182

Semi-Pro
Do specific drills that give you both targets to aim for, he might not be aware he is doing this , and a target or visual aid might make him realise what is happening and enable him to fix this, or at least actively stop this from occurring. Ie place a marker down between the service box and baseline , and see who is the first person to get a score of 20 past this etc etc. Once you involve your imagination there really are quite a lot of possibilities.
I would also try to hit with other people too so your patterns of movement and anticipation against this particular person don't become a habit for when you play other, different people.
 

Jamesm182

Semi-Pro
Do specific drills that give you both targets to aim for, he might not be aware he is doing this , and a target or visual aid might make him realise what is happening and enable him to fix this, or at least actively stop this from occurring. Ie place a marker down between the service box and baseline , and see who is the first person to get a score of 20 past this etc etc. Once you involve your imagination there really are quite a lot of possibilities.
I would also try to hit with other people too so your patterns of movement and anticipation against this particular person don't become a habit for when you play other, different people.
 
D

Deleted member 23235

Guest
i find flat hitters incredibly difficult to have long rallies with,
BUT much more valuable in terms of learning, than someone who consistently hits a shoulder height topspin ball, that falls right into my strikezone :)
you need both. the guy that can easily groove your stroke, and the guy that will force you to adapt your stroke to a ball you don't normally like to hit.
i'd probably hit with the flat hitter 2/3 of the time.

when playing against flat hitters, and slicers, i find that lifting the ball higher than usual (think 6ft+ decent topspin), will tend to give you more higher balls in return, that are moer likely to be in your strike zone. eastern fh grippers and conti slicers, tend to find high balls more challenging.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
My wife is very similar to your description. Flattish hitter with balls often at my shins at the baseline. No rhythm. It is what it is. My advice is learn to slice. These hitters are great for slice practice. Find a topspin partner to practice topspin with.

And if it really annoys you, drop shot every short ball. If he is fine hitting winners on your topspin balls you can drop shot his short flat shots.
 
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