Shot selection strategy

letplaytennis

Semi-Pro
At what moment after your opponent returns the ball do you know where you're going to hit?

I know it is based on positioning of the opponent and direction of travel of the ball. Let's say you hit to his deuce side, he returns to the deuce side, do you hit down the line, down the middle, or return cross court rallies?

I've been caught off guard multiple times where I thought (or guessed) where my opponent would hit and I was wrong, either or at the last minute he would change where he would place the ball.
 
You probably want to check out Wardlaw's Directionals. Just google that and click on the pdf result. If you are playing high percentage tennis you'll decide whether you break the pattern based on the quality of your opponent's shot and where you will be when you make contact. Opponent's position probably isn't the main thing you should be concerned with. It factors in, but remember most of the time you are playing the ball, not necessarily playing the opponent. This obviously gets jumbled if you opponent has an incredible strength or weakness.

One other thing to consider is making sure you are recovering to the correct place. If you can picture it, you should always recover to the middle of the cone where your opponent's shot can go. This is the middle of the opponent's potential ball path from his hit point to each side of the court. This is different from the middle of the court. Picture a deuce side cross court rally where the opponent could go up the line or could go cross court angle. Your ideal recovery position would be a couple of feet to the right of the center hash mark.
 

M_k 87

New User
I try to decide on my next shot before they even hit the ball back to me. If I'm not sure what they'll do, I'll just stay in a neutral position and probably end up hitting a neutral shot back.

I practice patterns to take advantage of opportunities to win points. If I can see an opening to one of those patterns, I'll try to execute it. If it doesn't go as planned, I'll just react and plan for the next shot.
 
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am1899

Hall of Fame
Are we talking singles, doubles, or both?

For starters, you want to familiarize yourself with patterns of play and be able to routinely execute high percentage shots. Hitting shots “willie nilly” is unlikely to win you points consistently.

Beyond playing the percentages, shot selection can depend on all kinds of other variables - yours and your opponents strengths and weaknesses, how well (or not) you are playing on that day, what the score is for that particular point, conditions, etc etc.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
For me in singles I have a point I want to build so my shot selection is all designed to get me to the net a solid 80% of the time. I want to avoid a shot that does not help me with that.

So from deuce I am returning to their body or to the backhand cross court off the serve (or DTL on a 2nd serve) typically I am going to receive the next ball either to my backhand in the middle where I am now hitting to Ad court with a low slice and following it in so that I can take my first volley at about the T.

From ad side I am returning cross court back to the ad side (against a righty) until I receive a short ball then I am hitting a low approach shot and following it in.
 

dgold44

G.O.A.T.
At what moment after your opponent returns the ball do you know where you're going to hit?

I know it is based on positioning of the opponent and direction of travel of the ball. Let's say you hit to his deuce side, he returns to the deuce side, do you hit down the line, down the middle, or return cross court rallies?

I've been caught off guard multiple times where I thought (or guessed) where my opponent would hit and I was wrong, either or at the last minute he would change where he would place the ball.
Depends on factors : how inside the court you’re , your confidence , his weaker shot

In general you should only go down the line if your inside the court and the ball is not coming back super fast
But if your down line BH is not good then go CC
 

J B

Semi-Pro
I try to build the next shot into the shot I am taking. There are a lot of one dimensional players 4.0 and lower, and they are usually missing a stroke, IME the backhand. So I start hitting it back hand. If they have slow feet I will hit a couple close then hit short and cross court. If they charge the net like a bull ( my favorite) I pass and topspin lob till they are about to pass out from running. If they want to pound it I will oblige for a time then star changing the pace and depth. Its a vast difference to set up a winner, and trying to hit a winner on every shot.
The same tactics can be used against me and i have been finding that my "oh $#@$#@" balls that I get, i generally put over in the dudes strike zone... MEH
 

SavvyStringer

Professional
Doubles or singles?
Doubles I return cross court with top spin 90% of the time. Just swing big and try to hit the ball deep. I’ll lob if caught on a serve and have to and I’ll occassionally go dtl on a sitter to forehand or wide to back hand.
Singles forehand’s typically go cross court on return unless I’m chipping and charging where I just push it straight down the line. Backhands I just push in and deep. Singles is much more about making sure you make returns and make people play. Doubles I play with less margin because depending on net person competency you can just rip at them full speed and be rewarded on a ball that would typically hit the fence on the fly.
 

J B

Semi-Pro
Doubles or singles?
Doubles I return cross court with top spin 90% of the time. Just swing big and try to hit the ball deep. I’ll lob if caught on a serve and have to and I’ll occassionally go dtl on a sitter to forehand or wide to back hand.
Singles forehand’s typically go cross court on return unless I’m chipping and charging where I just push it straight down the line. Backhands I just push in and deep. Singles is much more about making sure you make returns and make people play. Doubles I play with less margin because depending on net person competency you can just rip at them full speed and be rewarded on a ball that would typically hit the fence on the fly.
good point, never hit at the net man unless you are lobbing it after driving the baseline player of fthe court.
 

Vox Rationis

Semi-Pro
Everyone has given you good responses so far. But I'll go ahead and answer you a bit more literally.

If you hit a successful attacking shot that puts your opponent in trouble, you most likely know what you want to do with the next ball before they even return it. (a.k.a. hit into the open court).

If it's more of a neutral rally or they have good retrieving skills you'll decide as the ball is traveling towards you after you've observed their recovery/positioning and considered the difficulty of your options.

If the opponent commits to a direction too soon, you might change your aim at the last second after they move.

If you go into a match with predetermined patterns you want to follow (i.e. forehand, forehand, backhand approach, come in), then you've probably decided which pattern you'll go for before you've even served.

The better you get, the more instantaneous all these thoughts are. Getting caught off guard going the wrong way is a part of tennis. It means you are in a position where you have to guess which way to go (a.k.a. opponent has the upper hand) and that you either guessed too soon or you guessed wrong. It happens at all levels of the sport.
 

Dartagnan64

G.O.A.T.
At what moment after your opponent returns the ball do you know where you're going to hit?

I know it is based on positioning of the opponent and direction of travel of the ball. Let's say you hit to his deuce side, he returns to the deuce side, do you hit down the line, down the middle, or return cross court rallies?

I've been caught off guard multiple times where I thought (or guessed) where my opponent would hit and I was wrong, either or at the last minute he would change where he would place the ball.

Most players follow routines, so you need to get a sense of that. If they are a "hit to open court" player then they are the easiest to predict. If they are Wardlaws directional players then they will generally hit back in the direction the ball came in unless you give them a short ball. If they are "hit to the BH" always players then you can guard that side preferentially. A few players, mostly junk ballers, will be unpredictable. Keep them deep so they can't use their best junk.

As far as knowing where I'm going to hit, I basically decide as soon as I determine the pace and direction and spin of the incoming ball. If it looks like a wheelhouse ball I'm going to rip a FH DTL. If it looks like a low short ball, I'm going to hit slice to a corner and come in. If it looks like a moon ball, I'll moon ball it back to the BH side. If it's a hard shot that puts me on the defensive, i'll likely lob or float a deep slice to get back into the point.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I've been caught off guard multiple times where I thought (or guessed) where my opponent would hit and I was wrong, either or at the last minute he would change where he would place the ball.
If this happens too often, stop guessing and leaning in that direction. Just split step and be ready for anything.

Sometimes, I'm just so far out of position that I have to guess. But that doesn't sound like what you're describing.
 

Cindysphinx

G.O.A.T.
I play doubles.

I often have decided what I’m going to do before the point starts. For example, I might decide to serve wide to the deuce court and then follow it in. Next shot will be between the two opponents, one of whom has been taken off the court.

Or I might decide before the service truck that I will take my return over the net player and follow it in. I find that having a preset plan helps me focus and is far better than striking the server with no idea what I might do next.

I will even go so far as to decide that I will hit 3 Cross Court balls and then treat the next one as an approach. Most of the time, I can make that work even if the ball is not a short ball. There’s something about deciding ahead of time what to do that helps me focus.
 

Spanglish72

Rookie
"You probably want to check out Wardlaw's Directionals."

Unless you're playing a lefty...

Hitting cross court BH rallies to a Lefty FH is usually suicide, just ask Federer.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
At what moment after your opponent returns the ball do you know where you're going to hit?

I know it is based on positioning of the opponent and direction of travel of the ball. Let's say you hit to his deuce side, he returns to the deuce side, do you hit down the line, down the middle, or return cross court rallies?

I've been caught off guard multiple times where I thought (or guessed) where my opponent would hit and I was wrong, either or at the last minute he would change where he would place the ball.
It depends on the opponent. When I have a fitness advantage, my goal is to keep them moving. Usually it is by hitting left and right predictably to maximize the ground they have to cover each point. The default is also to lob if they come in, since running down lobs burns lots of energy. If they are moving fast to recover position, I'll occasionally change my mind and hit behind them.

If I lack a fitness advantage, my decision is made later based on the opponent's weaknesses. Most players have a weak bh, so I tend to hit to their bh side a lot. But some of these players position themselves leaving much more of the fh court open. Once in a while, usually on a short ball, I try and hit wide to their fh side. Often my best approach shots are to their bh side when they need to move a lot to get to it, but their bh side needs some space for this to work.

Lazy footwork by an opponent can also change my shot selection very late. If I catch them behind the baseline, I'm going short with a drop shot. If I catch them in no man's land I'm going deep right at them.
 

letplaytennis

Semi-Pro
I looked through some youtube videos and read some of the recommended material on directionals. Makes perfect sense.

One stroke I was stubborn about hitting was the BH slice. If Federer has been hitting 30-40% of his BH as a slice, I should too. I've been keeping away from a slice as I thought it was testing my manhood and going for the DTL winner or CC winner even if out of position, making it a 50/50 whether the ball would land in.

Played a bit on Wednesday and incorporation this strategy has helped.

 

Off The Wall

Semi-Pro
At what moment after your opponent returns the ball do you know where you're going to hit?

I know it is based on positioning of the opponent and direction of travel of the ball. Let's say you hit to his deuce side, he returns to the deuce side, do you hit down the line, down the middle, or return cross court rallies?

I've been caught off guard multiple times where I thought (or guessed) where my opponent would hit and I was wrong, either or at the last minute he would change where he would place the ball.
You’re asking two questions: When do you know where you are going to hit the ball? And, when do you know where your opponent is going to hit the ball?

First one: Refer to Wardlaw and other posters.
Second one: You won’t know until they hit it. If you have the time to recover after your shot, you set up in the center of your opponent’s shot options.
 
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