Singles strategy

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by tennisguy2317, Aug 11, 2018.

  1. tennisguy2317

    tennisguy2317 New User

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    I have mostly been playing doubles but I am playing my first real singles match. Here is a breakdown of my level (no rating):

    Strong 2 handed back hand
    Strong semiwestern forehand
    Floaty-ish slice but can sometimes keep it lower
    Decent volleys
    No overhead
    Hit two spin serves for first and second

    How should I go about playing this singles match as I anticipate playing a strong opponent. In terms of groundstrokes I should be able to keep up. Typically I am pretty much a pusher in that I can hit strong groundstrokes if necessary but I prefer to return serves with a slice, slice forehand usually during rallies, and utilize backhand to dominate point. I tend to grind points out but I’d like to start finishing them faster.

    My question is: how much effort should I be putting into my groundstrokes. I find that I am very consistent in practice hitting my grounstdokes with the same effort as I’d put into a winner but it’s hard for me to mentally prepare myself to do that in a match even though I know I’m capable of doing it. Should I just play my grinderish game style and hit down the middle or try and dominate with groundstrokes.
     
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  2. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    It's good that you have this mental inventory of your game: you know what your strengths and weaknesses are.

    Next step is to observe your opponent during warmup and see if you can pick up on his Ss and Ws [some might hide them but you'll only know that when the match starts].

    Ideally, you want to use your strength to attack his weakness. Classic example would be a lefty hitting CC FHs to his righty opponent's BH [of course, the righty will be trying to do the same thing].

    In your case, your consistency is your strength so that should be your Plan A. Hopefully your opponent is less consistent and he ends up making more UEs than you. You could take more risk but why if Plan A is working? Your ideal opponent is probably a big hitter who is inconsistent. Your nightmare opponent is someone who is more consistent than you are.

    As to your style question, don't make it an "either/or": try both and see what kind of results you get. Be flexible: what you thought was your plan A might morph as the match progresses [say your opponent initially is more consistent than you and you up the power to try and control the point and you make more UEs but then in the 2nd set he starts getting tired].
     
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  3. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    No overhead? You seem too experienced for that answer. Especially since you play lots of doubles.

    I had a regular opponent, who when he found out that my overhead was erratic, gave me nothing but lobs. If your opponent discovers this, your net game is pretty much ruined. Find somebody who you can practice overheads with. This will probably mean you'll have to reciprocate. Or, if you can rent a ball machine, you can set them to give you lobs. Also, when you're alone, launch the ball high into the air with your racquet, let it bounce, and then smash it.

    Finally, we get used to thinking of overheads as being hit with ballistic power from watching TV. Trying to overpower the shot can lead to mishits. Make sure it goes off the sweet spot and is hit deep, and you'll have good results.

    You say "No overhead", but that must be something of an exaggeration. Try this. During the warm up, point up and tell your opponent that you'd like to warm up your overhead. They are easier to hit when you're expecting them. Sometimes, you'll hit them well enough in this warm up so that your opponent decides not to lob you during the match!

    Good luck!
     
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  4. xFullCourtTenniSx

    xFullCourtTenniSx Hall of Fame

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    Can we get a bit of your physical capability specs as well? Knowing your toolset is great, but there's also the issue of what can your legs do and for how long. A friend and I are really quick around the court, but we haven't done much exercise in recent years so we can't keep it up for as long as we used to.

    Being faster around the court without losing balance (while having the endurance to keep it up) means that grinding points out should inherently favor you, especially if you beat your opponent in one of those 3 specs.

    If you're slower or have lower endurance, you want to take the initiative earlier. This doesn't mean go for winners, it just means actively look to make progress in improving your situation in the point with each shot. Push them a bit farther behind the baseline with each shot by getting the ball deep, then try to get them moving a bit side to side without encouraging them to change directions on the ball too much. You want to push them deep, move them to a corner (while keeping them deep), then when a short ball comes in you want to go down the line (not necessarily for the winner). Depending on how much you think you can hurt them with the shot decides your next move. If the ball was really short, you can hit it a bit more aggressively and come to the net behind it. If it was short, but you're still sort of close to the baseline, you hit it clean and deep, then move towards the center to prepare to get the next shot. They're unlikely to hit a good shot crosscourt (unless they're really fast or are really good at hitting the ball), so their most likely options are down the line and to the center (which you are now prepared to receive). If the ball is short, move them again (again focusing on going clean and deep, not necessarily hard, we want to be making this shot 19 times out of 20 at the very least). If it is really short, we go back to using a deep approach shot to the open court. If he hits a deep ball, go deep crosscourt and reset. At the very least, you forced him to expend much more energy than you have. If you try to execute this strategy while blasting the ball, that might not be true. But if you're only focused on swinging comfortably with control, it will take minimum effort while you are moving less distance with less intensity than they are, which means you can at the very least equalize one of your movement disadvantages. If both players are aggressive players, both of you will basically be using this pattern or something very similar, and who wins will basically be decided by who hits more deep balls (and if that number is equal, it will be decided by who hit more deep balls closer to the corner). Even a more conservative player can use this pattern to keep an aggressive player back while attacking their movement.

    I heavily recommend sticking to topspin forehands. If you have a strong semi-western forehand, why let that go to waste? Topspin gives greater margin for execution. Slice certainly CAN be used (look at Santoro), but the level of execution required to make it work is higher, as well as the tennis IQ to know HOW to use it effectively. Some players do have issues with slice shots though, so feel free to test it in the warm up and decide whether it will give them a headache. Even if it turns out to frustrate them, don't rely on the shot as a crutch, use it at about a 4:1 ratio, focusing more on the topspin shots.

    How hard you need to hit the shot depends on what you can use to keep your opponent back with. For me, it varies from 50%-80% depending on how far back behind the net I am and how much topspin do I need to give myself peace of mind (technically up to 100% if I'm REALLY far back on a backhand, since I need more effort to send it deep as well as topspin to control it and keep it in). Priority #1 is always hitting a deep shot. Whatever level of effort is needed to consistently generate a deep shot with enough topspin that you know will always stay in the lines is what you should spend UNLESS you're looking to apply more immediate pressure. Going for winners though pace, I'm usually at 70%-90%, with backhand going up to 100%. It's hard to control 100% swings, and I usually go for winners through cheeky placement or approach shots (not that I'm necessarily trying to hit a winner, I'm just trying to hit a good shot, and it turns out to be a winner), which takes about 70%-80% effort, usually closer to 70%. On the high sitters I like to go bigger just because it looks flashier, and because it's a bigger error from an opponent to give that type of ball, which means you should learn to take advantage of it (whether you make it or miss it, you should look to hit this shot slightly better every time and look at it as an opportunity to improve rather than an opportunity to hit a winner or win a point/match, as this is the mentality that lets you improve quickly and helps you break bad habits).

    If you need as much effort to hit a consistent groundstroke as you do to hit a winner, that's a bit of a red flag. You can argue that the mental effort (in terms of focus) should be the same, but the physical effort isn't. Either you should be trying harder on winners or learning to get more with less on rally shots (again, through depth and control). More effort usually means more energy spent, meaning things go faster, meaning any small mistakes will be magnified (particularly those to do with positioning and footwork).

    I guess the next thing that needs to be addressed is using a serve in singles. In doubles, the bread and butter serve is to the T (since that allows your partner to get involved), with the body serve being the alternative and the wide serve being the changeup (assuming relatively equal returns from forehand and backhand). In singles, this is reversed. You go wide to pull them out of position, body to try and get the occasional weak ball, and T as a changeup to keep them from camping out wide. That is the generic strategy. For a more specific strategy, you should also pay attention to the type of return they tend to hit from each spot (you should do that anyway actually). There is a breakdown here: https://www.tennisplayer.net/public.../pro_patterns_serve_and_return_diagonals.html
    If you want a specific crosscourt rally to start the point off, this page has them listed. Some people break these patterns and have their own pattern (for example, on deuce court I hit most of my returns down the line from both wings and I tend to hit the inside out crosscourt forehand return from the ad side; basically most of my returns tend to go to the backhand because that's my favorite diagonal).

    So the generic strategy to serve wide and keep the ball deep and to the side until you get a short ball to change the diagonal and rinse and repeat until they give you a short ball or tire out and give up on the match. If you're going to target a weakness, you use the above link to pick a serve to set up a diagonal you want and then do your best to safely keep the rally in that diagonal for as much of the match as possible. For example, if you want a backhand diagonal, you serve out to the backhand (T on deuce or wide on ad) or jam them on the forehand side. Then you use the previous grinding strategy, but instead of changing the direction on a semi-short ball, you try pulling them with a short angle shot and go down the line only on a short ball that allows you to consistently close the point out.


    If you're looking to go into singles long term, I recommend improving your overhead, reducing the effort you need to hit a deep, controlled rally ball, and working on serve placement. Ending rallies faster comes down to being able to use the serve to set up a weak ball and being capable of consistently hurting the opponent directly off the first shot, basically skipping to phase 2 of the generic singles strategy I posted above where you put them wide and deep to get a short ball. As you get better, you skip directly to phase 3, where the return is short and your first shot is an immediate setup to ending the point. The reason I recommend improving your overhead is so that serving and volleying becomes a legitimate tactic for you, and potentially an additional win condition on its own. It's also an additional tool to end the point immediately, similar to a putaway volley or a big forehand off of a short sitter. At the very least, you want to start off by getting to the point where if you get an overhead, you will not lose your aggressive position when you hit it, which means you aren't giving up so much pace for consistency that you are hitting it so weakly that the other guy can hit a solid shot; at the very worst he's giving you another overhead of similar or lower difficulty, meaning you can either progress forward or at least wait for him to make an error. This is also huge for doubles because the key winning strategy in doubles is to be a consistent wall at net with your partner and end the point the instant you're given a high ball (whether it be a high volley or overhead). If you can't hit an overhead, the opponents can always reset to neutral by hitting a semi-decent lob (not even a decent one, just a little past the service line). At that point, you're having long rallies rather than points that usually end in 5 shots or less. As you go higher up, that number gets bigger just because both sides will be good at being consistent while not giving up an easy to finish ball, but it's still a bad situation for the team that doesn't have 2 at net since it's easier for them to mess up.
     
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  5. styksnstryngs

    styksnstryngs Professional

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    If you're playing singles for the first time, stick to the basics-mostly topspin, especially in neutral rallies or when you're in control. Move them around the court, as well. Slicing is fine but it takes a lot of experience and tennis IQ to be able to use effectively, which you obviously don't have considering this is your first singles match. Also, relax, this is I assume a very low stakes match.
     
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  6. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    Way back in the 70's, Vic Braden said that to beat most players, all you needed to do was hit down the middle and deep. By hitting down the middle you take away any angles they might otherwise get. And if it's also deep, they can't hurt you from back there.

    It doesn't get much simpler than that.
     
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  7. Dragy

    Dragy Semi-Pro

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    What if you face a decent volleyer?
     
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  8. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    If you're hitting deep, they really can't get to the net.
     
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  9. Bender

    Bender G.O.A.T.

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    Gave you a like because a single measly like for this much effort is unfair...also I like your post in general.

    Going forward, I would suggest making more references to "sureshs", "fedr", and "mury goat" for more recognition.
     
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  10. Dragy

    Dragy Semi-Pro

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    If all you do decently is deep down the middle, they just step in no matter what. S&V, C&C.
    Also, it’s not that easy to just hit deep DTM when on the run to the corner or rushing forward to pick a shorter slice. If one still manages to hit good depth off any incoming ball, chances are he’s a decent player and can also hit variety, sometimes for better result than just deep DTM.
     
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  11. kramer woodie

    kramer woodie Professional

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    As I school the kids who like to crush the ball trying to blow their opponent of the court, at some point everyone, if they practice diligently,
    will have close to same physical abilities. When that equality of ability is reached, there is only one way to win. You have to become
    mentally tough. Learn to move your opponent deep and side to side. Look for short returns to move in on and put away. Construct your
    points to achieve a high percentage winner. If you don't hit the winner clean revert to being a grinder until you can create another short return.

    Be Patience!!!

    Short returns allow you to hit sharper angles with a greater percentage of success. Again, you have to out think, out strategize, your
    opponent. One other thing to keep in mind, the more you Move Your Opponent, the more you have to be prepared to move!!! Why? Because you are presenting your opponent angles to hit winning returns of his/her own.

    Aloha
     
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  12. xFullCourtTenniSx

    xFullCourtTenniSx Hall of Fame

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    Honestly, I think a tl;dr and a flowchart would've gotten more likes because it'd be easier to digest.
     
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  13. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Dude, you're playing your first singles match. Forget strategies. Strategies should be the last thing on your mind. The more serious you are, the more nervous and forgetful you'll become.

    If you are serious about this match, forget about winning. Think earning an experience and how well you measure up against your opponent. A win, if happens, is a bonus.



    Things you can prepare right now, if you're serious, is to train your fitness. Regardless of skill level, if your running, hitting feels like against a 10 years old, strength-wise -- you'll come out ahead. Remember Kramer being the best the first time in his Karate class?

    Forget about reading your opponents, or planning to hit in a certain way/style. If you're able, you wouldn't be asking with this post. It's difficult to read opponent, especially force your hitting to exploit their weakness; it's also difficult to suddenly change one's way of hitting.

    Your best bet is to hit the way you enjoy and do best. If you can't do what you usually do best, you certainly can't do what's needed differently to win.
     
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  14. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    A tip that can make someone instantly better is to hit several feet over the net.

    Tennis is a lifting game. Your racquet goes low to high so that the ball has an upward trajectory. Not a horizontal one.

    Nobody's perfect. So you'll hit balls long as well as into the net. But the ratio of long balls to net balls should be quite a bit larger than one, say 4:1 or higher. When I watch rec players, I notice they hit into the net over and over. They must have a concept that the goal is to hit balls that just skim the net. This is incorrect. When both players are back, you want a ball that lands deep, near the baseline, and a 'net skimmer' just won't cut it.

    So if you miss long, oh well. But if you miss into the net. Boy, you really missed it.
     
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  15. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    This is generally a good concept applicable to majority of rec players.

    I find that more players are afraid of hitting long than hitting into the net. Or is it because of nerves, strength, out of position (techniques really), but fact is they hit more into the net than long.

    This is why I tend to advocate that developing power is harder than placement (all in recreational context here). It seems like everyone knows how to hit the ball into the other court but very few can crank up power in a meaningful way.

    Anyway, back to Steady's suggestion, it's a pretty good concept to track a ratio. Don't play willy nilly if you want progress. (I hate that about my group. They never seem to progress or change.) Be conscious of results and have bars for measures and tracking.
     
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  16. S&V-not_dead_yet

    S&V-not_dead_yet Legend

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    Sure they can:
    - when he's serving: hitting middle and deep will only present a putaway opportunity
    - anytime during a rally. If I know my opponent is only going to hit middle and deep, I can move forward because I'm confident I won't get passed and take the ball on-the-fly.

    Obviously, Braden was envisioning a BL rally.
     
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  17. ByeByePoly

    ByeByePoly Legend

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    Give me dtl and cc or give me golf ... down the middle good in golf.
     
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  18. thehustler

    thehustler Rookie

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    Make your opponent uncomfortable. Keep them guessing. Vary your returns in depth, location, pace, just like you would with your serve and your strokes. Get in a hard hit rally then take the air out from under the ball and watch the errors fly. Attack an obvious weakness. Yet keep your game simple and don't do more than you know you can do.
     
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  19. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

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    the problem is how you see your inventory of shots....

    I need to know how good is your rally Fh vs your attack Fh....do you know when to use either?
    same for the Bh, slice and overhead. get the point?
     
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  20. moonballs

    moonballs Hall of Fame

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    I know 9/10 times the opponent will step to the left and hit a forehand to my backhand in those situations. So when I have a neutral rally in the middle I prefer to hit a strong cross court so I close down the angle he can hit to my backhand. Of course he is welcome to take the risk going down the line.
     
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