The Six Playing Styles Described

Anyone want to try to classify the top 10 men and women into these categories?
I might give it a shot later.

Personally, I am a blaster, but if my power game isn't clicking I go baseline machine, but I also throw in some spin doctor junk and can counter-punch effectively if I'm on the defensive.

So not all-court but somewhat well-rounded.
 
Would someone with a smaller figure be limited to certain playing styles? I just cannot see someone 5'7" blasting away with an opponent over 6'. Extra steps and arm length are also taken into consideration for court coverage.

Should us smaller guys resort to getting our PhD in Spin? Spin Doctor sounds very appealing after reading this post.
 
1. the angry pusher who believes in conspiracies
2. the fanboy that really only cares about his gear
3. the tormented nut that hits against the wall for hours mumbling to him/herself
4. the college player who did not find a job yet but will spend some free time destroying you
5. the perma-injured, always with a ready excuse
6. The people with better strokes that keep losing to inferior players.
 
6. The people with better strokes that keep losing to inferior players.
You rang? lol

Today I learned for sure that I am a counter-puncher. I'd never thought about this before, and lately I've had a creeping suspicion that that's what I am.

Some of the blaster stuff rings true, but I'm growing out of it. Fantastic read, this thread :thumbup:
 
Ah! The DARK ART of categorising styles of tennis play. I've mulled over this for many a decade and have come to the following conclusion.

Does the player play to WIN? Or does the player play to HAVE FUN?

The player that plays to WIN can be categorised into one universal style. That style will be familiar to fans of Rafa. It is that every tennis match is a problem looking for a solution. The player that finds the solution and plays accordingly to solve the problem wins the match.

The player that plays to HAVE FUN will be categorised by anyone and everyone (including the player them-self) and think that is important. But is it really? I think not ... others may disagree and that's fine too.

(Indeed, winning is often fun, but not all the time. And losing often doesn't matter if you are having fun, but not all the time.)
 
There have been numerous threads addressing different playing styles. But they’ve pitted one style against another ... or deeply analyzed a particular style. Here, we’re going to define all the different styles of play in one location. (At least that’s my goal.)

1 - Define and categorize the styles of play.
2 - Identify some Pros who exemplify the styles in question.
3 - Be prepared to defend your opinion with some logic.

Let’s see if we can arrive at some level of agreement ... and keep the flaming to a minimum.

- KK
I thought there were six steps. You only listed three.
 
“There are no pushers in the pro ranks. None. The Pusher tops out at the 4.0 level.”

Good players make a lot of balls.

It’s hard to beat a decent junior player. Why? They get to the ball and they make the shot, over and over. They often don’t hit very hard, and they almost never have an overpowering serve. But they compete well because of their consistency. Are they pushers? Well, what happens to these players? They soon get taller and stronger, and start hitting all their shots harder. But they don’t lost the instinct to hit the shot in. You no longer play them, because now they are really good players and they are simply out of your league.

What happens if an accomplished player plays someone from a slightly lower level? Even if the accomplished player has had a lay-off and hasn’t played much for a while? The better player usually wins 6-0, 6-1 or 6-2. The levels are close, but the scores are usually one-sided. Why? Because the better player has an instinct for consistency, so the lower player isn’t able to string together four points in each game; even when the lower player is serving.

Because of the tennis scoring system, games are long enough that consistency wins out. And the game is the unit of victory. It isn’t really like boxing, as some people say. Hitting the occasional knockout punch doesn’t lead to victory. Let’s say you can hit a hard forehand and get it in 50% of the time. What is the probability of making four in a row? 6.25 % .

Try this sometime, and see if your game improves: try to make every serve return. Make a mental note of the ones you miss, and why. I think this “tip” can improve the results of almost any player, more than worrying about how many bends are in your arm, whether you pat the dog, or whether you need to change your type of string…( the better the player, the less they change equipment. Pros rarely make a change. Why is this? You would think at their high level of competition, they would benefit from every slight advantage. But they stick with what they are used to, because their priority is consistency.)

And if you focus on making every shot, you can forget about bad line calls, the demeanour of your opponent, your own nerves, and all the other stuff that doesn’t matter. Players will hit winners by you, and it won’t bother you anymore. When you concentrate on making the balls you have a chance at, tennis becomes more enjoyable, and you start beating more opponents.

When Patrick Rafter won the US open in 1998, he made 5 unforced errors in the final. John Isner and Ivo Karlovic are in the top ten in first serve percentage. Are these players a type of pusher, since they lead in consistency?

Consistency wins at all levels. Maybe all successful players have a little pusher in them? There are soft pushers and hard pushers, and then there are players who get beat.
 
I think you can make a case for a sub-category of the heavy-topspin baseliner (like Bjorn Borg was). Simply because of the way it wins. It is agressive and breaks down the other guy's game because he can't get his shots to roll over for him. Result -- Out, long...a lot. Also, when that starts happening, the heavy topspin artist can attack the net very easily. So this style of aggressive basline play is different than other aggressive baseline play. Frankly, I wonder why we don't see it used anymore. Any thoughts on that?
I followed Borg for a long time and while I understand that many would think he was a heavy-topspin baseliner, the truth is that Borg was more an All Court player. He could certainly volley very well. You don't win 5 consecutive Wimbeldon Finals in the late 1970s if you can't volley :)

If you analyse a lot of the big matches Borg played, Yes! he did play with a lot of topspin, but many of his ground-strokes landed mid-court around the Service line area. (Very different to Nadal, who was landing most of his 2 feet inside the Baseline.). Borg relied on topspin to generate very high bouncing balls on his opponents side of the court. The idea being to grind down the opponent rather than to push him far behind the baseline. Borg's style would not succeed in the modern era because the modern racquet tech would allow those shorter balls to be smacked away for winners.

It's easily forgotten that Borg was an incredible athlete. He had no peer in that regard. He is probably the greatest mover around the court of all time. And that was his main strength. At his peak, he could run down everything and he could outrun pretty much all of his opponents. In the current era, Djokovic is similar to Borg in that regard. But modern tennis tech. diminishes the movement advantage. (I dare say that if we were still using Wooden racquets, Djokovic would be even more successful than he is.). Borg's high fitness levels also played an important part in the Mental Edge he had. If you are fit and still relatively fresh deep in the 5th set of a tight match, you think a lot better, your decision making is a lot better, and your chances of success are a lot greater.

A lot of people view Borg as the supreme Baseliner because most people watching tennis prior to Borg coming onto the scene were used to watching Grass court matches. Wimbledon was always traditionally the really big game in Tennis. Grass was the dominant surface of the sport. Most were familiar with the Serve-Volley style of play. All of sudden, a blondish Swede appears on the scene and starts winning a lot of matches from the back of the court. It's little wonder that so many tried to label him the way they did. Interestingly, the "Base-liner" label was probably better suited to guys like Connors. He played from the back of the court a lot more than Borg ever did.
 
“There are no pushers in the pro ranks. None. The Pusher tops out at the 4.0 level.”

Good players make a lot of balls.
...
Because of the tennis scoring system, games are long enough that consistency wins out. And the game is the unit of victory. It isn’t really like boxing, as some people say. Hitting the occasional knockout punch doesn’t lead to victory. Let’s say you can hit a hard forehand and get it in 50% of the time. What is the probability of making four in a row? 6.25 % .

Try this sometime, and see if your game improves: try to make every serve return. Make a mental note of the ones you miss, and why. I think this “tip” can improve the results of almost any player, more than worrying about how many bends are in your arm, whether you pat the dog, or whether you need to change your type of string…( the better the player, the less they change equipment. Pros rarely make a change. Why is this? You would think at their high level of competition, they would benefit from every slight advantage. But they stick with what they are used to, because their priority is consistency.)

And if you focus on making every shot, you can forget about bad line calls, the demeanour of your opponent, your own nerves, and all the other stuff that doesn’t matter. Players will hit winners by you, and it won’t bother you anymore. When you concentrate on making the balls you have a chance at, tennis becomes more enjoyable, and you start beating more opponents.

When Patrick Rafter won the US open in 1998, he made 5 unforced errors in the final. John Isner and Ivo Karlovic are in the top ten in first serve percentage. Are these players a type of pusher, since they lead in consistency?

Consistency wins at all levels. Maybe all successful players have a little pusher in them? There are soft pushers and hard pushers, and then there are players who get beat.
Great post! And I agree 100%. Just a month ago, I totally changed my mentality for the game. Before that, I was always focusing on technique, results, striving to hit harder etc. Well, then I took a couple of videos in a row. Instead of analysing my hitting form (like I had previously done) on the vids, I analysed all the typical reasons why I missed a shot. I tried to get rid of those errors the next time I played, and it was surprisingly easy to do! I paid zero attention to form, zero attention to what opponent was doing. All focus was on avoiding the things that made me typically miss shots. And if I missed a shot, I tried to figure if I did the same error as on the video. Well, guess what: I'm on a 10 match winning streak, and some match videos actually prove that I outhit opponents also on winners compartment. Simply: I've become a much better player, just by changing my mentality and nothing else!

Indeed, consistency and avoiding (unforced) errors is 90% what this game and its point system is all about. Avoiding errors doesn't mean pushing, it doesn't mean not hitting winners. What it simply means is tons of court coverage and percentage play, and that ain't bunting. But I'll be honest: Now I hit only like 0-5 topspin backhands in the 1h ladder matches. I either runaround the BHs, or hit slice, because videos proved how often I missed topspin BHs! Well, I still haven't faced an opponent who could've consistently punished me with hitting slice only on BH. One opponent tried S&V, but stopped as I was able to slice returns into the feet. Another opponent rushed the net, but I was hitting DTL slice passes easily. So no reason to change a winning formula if your goal is to win.
 
Thanks Torpan. I like the way you think. Percentage play ain't bunting.

I believe that when you enter a competitive match, you walk on court with the shots you own, and you have to try to utilize them as best as possible.

There is always a question of how hard to hit, how aggressive to be. I find for myself the best thing to focus on is making each shot; and I don't bunt either. My best shot is my serve and I constantly probe, rushing the net, chipping and charging, sometimes too much...but even at net, you are in an aggressive but still defensive position. Meaning, a good volley can be a conservative or reactive shot, setting up a point-ending shot.

Slicing the backhand, running around the forehand...I think you are on the right track. Hundreds of years of tennis tradition can't be wrong... :)
 
Indeed, consistency and avoiding (unforced) errors is 90% what this game and its point system is all about. .
I read somewhere that, for all players ranked ~500 and numerically above (which means all rec players, even very serious ones), that unforced errors are the primary predictor for the outcome of a match. Tennis scoring rewards consistency.

I still blast away, even knowing this, but I am learning:p
 
C

Cenarius

Guest
The again How is called a player who rush to the net on both service and return games as primary game plan?
 
1. the angry pusher who believes in conspiracies
2. the fanboy that really only cares about his gear
3. the tormented nut that hits against the wall for hours mumbling to him/herself
4. the college player who did not find a job yet but will spend some free time destroying you
5. the perma-injured, always with a ready excuse
You forgot this:

6. the guy who wears the shorts with no ****ing pockets
 
what style do u think Federer is
Undoubtedly the all courter, since he has no preset style but prefers to change up his strategy depending on his opponent.

The only player that elicits from Federer the exact same strategy is Nadal, and that strategy is "shank the backhand and lose meekly", which is a shame because he's capable of far more than that.

Nowadays though, it seems that Rafa is beating Fed-error even in this department. This guy Nadal is tenacious and never knows when to give up, geez...
 
Nice explanations on styles of play, however classifying pros as this style or that I disagree with, this classification fits unclassified players mostly, tennis Pros use the style that wins points and when it does not they change there style on the fly, there is also Moonballers-Chris Everett used this very successfully.

Cheers
3Fees :)
 
tennis Pros use the style that wins points and when it does not they change there style on the fly, :)
Actually, the top Professional Tennis players use the style that helps their opponents to lose points.

There is a subtle difference between winning a point and not losing it :)
 
Nice explanations on styles of play, however classifying pros as this style or that I disagree with, this classification fits unclassified players mostly, tennis Pros use the style that wins points and when it does not they change there style on the fly, there is also Moonballers-Chris Everett used this very successfully.

Cheers
3Fees :)
Are you thinking of Tracy Austin? Chrissie wasn't a moonballer. She was just rock solid from the baseline.
 
People are probably going to disagree with me... but I speak as a former pusher.

I think counter-puncher is the highest step in the pusher evolutionary ladder. The evolutionary path is: Pusher => Junk-Baller => Counter-Puncher.

2.5 to 3.5) A pusher just gets the ball back. Zero weapons.
3.5 to 4.0) A junk-baller gets the ball back with varying spin and placement.
4.0+) A counter-puncher can get the ball back by hitting a strong forehand stroke.

To me, it is all pushing. It is a mindset. All three archetypes focus on trying to make the opponent take bad shots. All three feed on the frustration of their opponents. All three like their opponents to bring the game to them... as opposed to vice versa.

Right now, I'd classify myself as a junk-baller/spin doctor/chopper. I have a decent serve. I have great placement, varying depth, lots of crazy spins, mad defense. Once I get a big forehand topspin shot, I'll be a counter puncher.
Hi, Mightyrick

Very glad to see your old post, very interesting. Wonder if it's possible to classify
the other 3 styles: Baseline, All Court, and Attach the Net, based on NTPR rating?

Seems to me that All Court players are 5 and 5+, Baseline and Attach the Net can
be lower to 4.0. Not sure if this make sense.

Thanks
 
Last edited:
6 - Pusher tennis players win by relying nearly exclusively on their opponent's unforced errors. They block, bunt or poke the ball with the goal of “just getting it back.” Pushers aim for just beyond the T in their opponent’s back court. This target gives them the largest margin for error.

They give you no power, no pace, no depth or placement. They just "get it back.” The strokes of the Pusher are never full and flowing. They have little ability to employ topspin. Any “passing shots” the Pusher hits are hardly intentional. (But they never act surprised when a shot of theirs becomes unreturnable.)

Pushers have unshakable psyches. Mind games and insults about their lack of “real” tennis ability have no effect on them. (They tell anyone in the Club about the times they beat the local High School “hero” in straight sets.) Pushers are completely aware that tennis competitors are not scored on “style”. They care only about the “W / L column.” Pushers are content with the fact that they will never be at the top of the 4.0 ladder; they know most Club payers don’t advance beyond 3.5 ... and since they are in the upper third of the 3.5 ladder, they are content.

Pushers are some of the friendliest and most outgoing members of the Club. They are always willing to help fill-in to complete your doubles court (which usually elicits groans from the other two players on your court).

There are no pushers in the pro ranks. None. The Pusher tops out at the 4.0 level.

Believe-it-or-not, I distinguish two types of Pushers....

6 a. - Soft-Ballers, as Pushers, have excellent court sense. They never seem to be out of position. Your efforts at blasting winners come floating back to land just beyond your service line. This Soft-Baller may be athletic from success in another sport, such as basketball, football or baseball. They may not have pretty strokes, but they know where to position themselves to give you the least likely angles of success. When you are begrudgingly shaking hands with them after they’ve embarrassed you again, you usually notice they are hardly even sweating ... which only “adds insult to injury.”

6 b. - Retrievers, as Pushers, move around the court like water bugs, getting to your best “winners” and floating them back again. Their foot speed is remarkable and they seem never to tire. Your frustration at not being able to hit winners against the Pusher Retriever only seems to refill their tank” for more.

They even have the temerity to smile throughout this match which is ripping your guts out. You try hitting even bigger winners -- or “wiping that smile off their face” with your display of power -- and they *love* this in you. They delight in watching your mind disintegrate as your very best shots just keep on coming back.

Back in the Clubhouse, they really “twist the knife” by offering to buy the beer with that SAME SICKENINGLY PLEASANT SMILE ON THEIR ROTTEN FACE!!! The Pusher Retriever makes you seriously think about taking up some other sport from which you will gain more fulfillment. Something like ... catching javelins for the Track Club. Sheesh!!!

- KK
Very interesting thread! Thanks KK and FiveO. This breakdown makes sense and is very understandable.

I always viewed Sampras as an all-court player, but he certainly had preferred styles and seldom found a need to depart from them. Whereas Federer is the model all-court player.

I think you can make a case for a sub-category of the heavy-topspin baseliner (like Bjorn Borg was). Simply because of the way it wins. It is agressive and breaks down the other guy's game because he can't get his shots to roll over for him. Result -- Out, long...a lot. Also, when that starts happening, the heavy topspin artist can attack the net very easily. So this style of aggressive basline play is different than other aggressive baseline play. Frankly, I wonder why we don't see it used anymore. Any thoughts on that?

Kathy K
www.operationdoubles.com
This is such a great post, Captain Karl! Those pesky pushers ARE everywhere... and they ARE such nice people. Drives me crazy, lol!

Anyway, I discovered a few months ago how to finally beat the "champion" pusher at my club. Let's call him "George" to protect the innocent :).

He's a solid 3.5 and just like Captain Karl described, everything came back with little/no pace, depth, or spin.

I've played "George" at least 30 times, and had won MAYBE 5 times. But this last Wednesday I think I had a revelation... anyone reading this who struggles with beating pushers may find this interesting. There are 3 things that helped me...

1. I watched a few youtube videos and one of the guys said to try playing in front of the baseline... seems weird, but if you think about it, "George" never pushes the ball much past the service line.

2. Instead of trying to hit the ball very HARD... I focused a lot more on using angles to pull him out of the center of the court. I realized that George has a really tough time when he's on the run. Generally overtime I pulled him wide, he pushed the ball into the middle of the court... and I could ping pong him back to the other side of the court.

3. Once I got him REALLY far out of position... I just snuck in and never had to hit a particularly great volley (which is good because my volleys aren't that great yet).

This tactic really befuddled George. And I beat him 6-2, 6-2 Wednesday. It'll be very interesting to see how he adapts, if at all for the next time we play. It was just so satisfying to finally "figure it out" (at least I Hope I have).

I'd love to hear if any of you have tried these things, and if you have any other tips on beating the "George's" of the world. lol
 
Stumbled across this posting and great job by Captain Karl. He could with this posting update wikipedia on this particular topic. Pushers have great conditioning and love to run side to side so moving them with sharp angles isn't a very high percentage shot. I know a lot of players who hate playing them and don't respect their game but one can learn quite a bit from them. Playing pushers require patience and keeping a good health perspective and having a dropshot would help greatly. I find pushers don't know what to do when you pull them into the net.
 
You rang? lol

Today I learned for sure that I am a counter-puncher. I'd never thought about this before, and lately I've had a creeping suspicion that that's what I am.

Some of the blaster stuff rings true, but I'm growing out of it. Fantastic read, this thread :thumbup:
You are basically Murray... Now as long as you don't act like him I'm fine with you, but as soon as you start acting like that cracker I'm going to start hating.

Murray's old plan was and still is to get into a slow rally and then blast a winner off his backhand or forehand. Either that or he is waiting for a passing shot.
 
Some very good information here. Lately I've been attending some coaches conference and there's been a lot of talk of how the game styles have evolved with the changes in surfaces and in particular the polyester string technology and athlete development and what seems to be emerging now is a mix of styles based on the the players individual mental capacity and personality style. I think players seem to be moving foreword a little more now to the net but there is a different take on it compared to say a Rafter in the 90's. The counter puncher now is so capable in all of sudden becoming aggressive and ripping a winner from behind the baseline hence their mental characteristics seem to influence how they play. Last night I was watching Nick Kyrios engaging in a defensive rally and with his care free attitude just loaded up on his right foot and hammered a cross court winner that nobody expected, but that's how he plays.
 
This thread needs a bump considering that there are threads and comments that state that pushing exists at the highest levels of the game. Just no.
Well obviously Murray doesn't push the ball. XD. I just don't like the guy. He needs to play more aggressive, I think the later part of 2016 he started doing that and that was good, but before then... Lets just say Murray wasn't the most "inspiring" tennis player.
 
Hey everyone. I am new to this forum and this is my first post. I am from Gold Coast, Australia. I played tennis a lot as a junior until about 17. I then stopped tennis completely for at least 10 years. I came back to tennis casually last January and fell in love with it again. 12 months on and I am hitting 5-10 hours per week and playing Australian Money Tournaments (AMTs) for fun and fitness and to see how high I can get my australian ranking. One thing I struggle with is my playing style so this post was interesting for me. I feel I am confused when I play at the moment. The coaches at the centre where I train are constantly telling me I am a grinder because when we do drills I can sort of hit the ball in all day. However, I find in matches when I play to hit the ball in I am too defensive and if the rally goes for quite long (15 shots plus) I find I lose most of those rallies as my shots aren't deep enough or hit with enough force. So I find when I play with the mindset of hit the ball in it doesn't help my game at all.

When I play matches more aggressively I feel I play better. If I was to analyse my game I would say one of my big strengths is return of serve, especially coming forward and returning a hard first serve back just as hard. I have great hand eye coordination. Hitting the ball on the rise in rallies is a strength. In rallies I am comfortable going down the line often and can do it quite consistently with decent power. I hit the ball fairly flat with not a lot of top spin. My serve is not big as I am only 5 foot 10 or so. However, I do get my fair share of 1st serve free points and my 2nd serve is quite soft but has decent spin and I rarely double fault. My reflex volleys are pretty good however I don't have huge success approaching the net. I feel I play best when I am thinking attack and win points. My defence is not that strong. What playing style do you think I am best suited to? I feel if I know what style it will help me to play better when I have a clear picture in my mind of what I am trying to do.

Thanks and great to be part of the forum.
 
Hey everyone. I am new to this forum and this is my first post. I am from Gold Coast, Australia. I played tennis a lot as a junior until about 17. I then stopped tennis completely for at least 10 years. I came back to tennis casually last January and fell in love with it again. 12 months on and I am hitting 5-10 hours per week and playing Australian Money Tournaments (AMTs) for fun and fitness and to see how high I can get my australian ranking. One thing I struggle with is my playing style so this post was interesting for me. I feel I am confused when I play at the moment. The coaches at the centre where I train are constantly telling me I am a grinder because when we do drills I can sort of hit the ball in all day. However, I find in matches when I play to hit the ball in I am too defensive and if the rally goes for quite long (15 shots plus) I find I lose most of those rallies as my shots aren't deep enough or hit with enough force. So I find when I play with the mindset of hit the ball in it doesn't help my game at all.

When I play matches more aggressively I feel I play better. If I was to analyse my game I would say one of my big strengths is return of serve, especially coming forward and returning a hard first serve back just as hard. I have great hand eye coordination. Hitting the ball on the rise in rallies is a strength. In rallies I am comfortable going down the line often and can do it quite consistently with decent power. I hit the ball fairly flat with not a lot of top spin. My serve is not big as I am only 5 foot 10 or so. However, I do get my fair share of 1st serve free points and my 2nd serve is quite soft but has decent spin and I rarely double fault. My reflex volleys are pretty good however I don't have huge success approaching the net. I feel I play best when I am thinking attack and win points. My defence is not that strong. What playing style do you think I am best suited to? I feel if I know what style it will help me to play better when I have a clear picture in my mind of what I am trying to do.

Thanks and great to be part of the forum.
Counterpunching could work for you.

Since you say you can hit the ball back all day, but are not good enough to outright win matches with it, but have weapons, you just need to find a way to play defence until you get an opportunity to switch to offence. Murray is probably the best example out of the Big Four. Rafa is more of a passive-aggressive player in that every shot he hits is a safe aggressive shot, even if his defensive skills are some of the best the sport has ever seen.
 
You will find it hard to find example of either classic serve/volley types in todays game and almost impossible to find chip/chargers in today's game.
Watch a Wimbledon match from pre 2000 and one post and watch the grass wear out on the baseline instead of the service "T".
They changed the grass. Old grass slippery low and fast. New grass, more like clay. Purpose slow down the serve and create some rallies. Totally changed the grass court game. Want to play on old grass go to the Newport Casino club(Hall of Fame). Want to play new grass try to sneak on Brookline in Mass
 
I’ve put a lot of thought into this. Here’s my best shot at this -- garnered from over thirty years of playing, teaching and coaching tennis. Tell me what you think.

I describe the styles of play with Major Categories ... and Subcategories. Some of these groupings may surprise you, but please read through it before you fight me. Of course, I’m open to different views ... so long as you can support them.

<Edit> I am removing the examples of Pro Players from my descriptions. I agree with those who have suggested this creates confusion, rather than clarity. (Look at Roddick: When I made this guide he played quite differently than he has the last two years. He's just one example of a Pro NOT being a "pure" example of a style anymore....) </Edit>

My Major Categories of Playing Style are:

1 - Attack the Net
2 - Baseline
3 - Counter Punching
4 - Junk-Ball
5 - All Court
6 - Pusher

1 - Attack the Net should be pretty self-explanatory. This player constantly presses, probes and exploits the slightest weaknesses they uncover. They push forward and try to finish the large majority of their points with winning volleys. They relentlessly pressure you to try and come up with your best passing shots or lobs. They put you on “constant defense.”

What I expect might ruffle some feathers is how I consider S&V to be a subcategory of Attack the Net. The more I thought about it, the more I like this manner of codifying the styles. (I’ve observed many players who S&V ... on “offense”. But when Receiving, they are baseliners. Maybe they lack confidence in their Returns, so the attacker becomes a more patient Baseliner....)

1 a. - Serve & Volley

1 b. - Chip & Charger

1 a & b ^^^ “ought” to be self-explanatory. If they are not, let’s get more detailed.

2 - Baseline is the most prevalent broad category of choice for the last 15 years. Almost all the WTA players are in this category -- as are most of the ATP’s clay courters and even several ATP pros preferring hard courts. These players stalk the baseline and rarely *choose* to come to net.

2 a. - Blasters, as Baseliners, may have a big serve and a big forehand ... or just a reliable serve with big ground strokes. Blasters pound the ball into the corners ... down the line ... inside out. They jerk you from one side to the other putting you in the position of constantly being on the defensive. Any ball is fair game for them to “go for broke.” Most points against Blasters are over in less than ten shots; usually from the Blaster’s winner ... or unforced error.

2 b. - Machine Baseliners are the steadiest opponents you’ll ever meet. They may not have any single stroke which is their “big weapon,” but they relentlessly hit with pace ... running you from one side to the other ... sometimes even prolonging the points to wear you down in the end. They don’t seem to miss. They don’t seem to tire. They demoralize you with their stamina.

2 c. - Soft-Baller Baseliners are tireless players with excellent footwork and anticipation. They always seem to be where they need to be to cut down your angles of attack. You cannot get them to engage you in a power exchange. They seem to absorb all the power of your shots and redirect it with good deep placement, but they won’t give you any pace to work with. You must always supply your own power. This player exhausts you ... physically and mentally.

2 d. - Retriever Baseliners are quick and tireless. He believes he can get any ball back and becomes a “human backboard.” They rely on your misses, rather than any one “money shot” of their own. Their strength is that while retrieving, they keep you pinned to your own baseline. They have good depth and uniformly good pace on their strokes. They just don’t seem to work the corners or angles the way most baseliners do. If you are playing the baseline game yourself, you are in for a long day against the Retriever.

This style rarely exists beyond the club level. In my area, most of the top HS Girls -- and many JV Boys -- play this “war of attrition” style.

3 - Counter Punching players are always looking for the opportunity to *instantly* switch from safe defensive tennis ... to ripping winners. They can “change gears” with a single shot. Their passing shots are “thread the needle” accurate against those playing Attack the Net. Their drop-shots and lobs are deadly. Counter Punchers can detect and exploit the baseliners’ inadvertent openings ... and end the point with one “high risk” down-the-line winner ... or fool you with a short-angle inside-out forehand winner.

Opponents playing both Attack the Net and Baseline tennis are fooled into thinking “He can’t keep that up the whole match.” When do these opponents realize their error? Unfortunately, when -- befuddled -- they are shaking hands at the net and congratulating the Counter Puncher on a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

4 - Junk Ball players can drive the “purists” among us into the Nut House. These players never allow you to get into a rhythm. They vary the height, depth, angles and quantity of spin so much your “strokes” fall apart ... right after your brain explodes. Junk Ballers seem never to be out of breath and play high-percentage tennis when it comes to “court position.” When you do manage to get them on the run, you learn they are also very quick on their feet.

4 a. - Spin Doctor players are the highest developed of the Junk Ballers. They stroke the ball with pace (when they wish) but also with crazy slices, side spins, topspins and some spins we don’t yet have names for. Spin Doctors keep you off-balance, wrong footed and clumsily compensating for their shots by altering your own strokes. They are serious threats to both players who Attack the Net and Baseliners.

Most players would rather have a root canal than play these guys. Their tennis seems as much “psychological warfare” as it is “real tennis” competition. While Spin Doctors’ opponents frequently “lose their cool” during matches, the Doctors themselves tend to be some of the most unflappable players you will encounter.

4 b. - Chop Shot-er Junk Ballers are found all over the Recreational and Club levels of tennis. These players have mastered the Chop Slice shot so well, they rarely bother hitting a flat or topspin shot. Chop Shot-ers can put their chopped slice deep, short, angled and lobbed. They are very good at “working the wind” with their chops and can run the 4.0 and below opponent into the ground with their accurate shooting.

Chop Shot-ers play very good “position” and rarely have to run for your silly attempts to blast them off the court. When you do succeed in running them, you sadly discover they are some of the quickest players afoot. They love it when you try to overpower them ... because they are masters at redirecting your power with their junk.

(A friend near the bottom of our ladder is 74 ... and proudly informs the 20- and 30-somethings on the ladder (after badly beating them) that the rest of us call him “Mr. Chop Shot.”)

5 - All Court players are able to adapt their games to give them the best advantage ... against any opponent’s style ... in any weather condition ... however and whenever needed. They can Soft-Ball the Baseline Blaster. They can Attack the Net against the Junk Baller. They find what works best against the Counter Puncher that day and dismantle *that* game. The All Courter can blow some Baseline Machines off the court with an Attack the Net style. They can exhaust the Serve & Volleyer with Counter Punching.

At the highest levels, the All Courter may choose to play directly into his opponent’s strength. (Bill Tilden was notorious for this tactic. When asked why he attacked the other guys’ strengths, his answer was, “That way, once I’ve broken him down, all he has to fall back on ... are his weaknesses.”)

All Courters tend to be able to change strategies and tactics “on a dime.” They may, within a set -- even within a point -- switch from one pattern to another. They can keep you off-balance ... and unhappy.

<See next post>

- KK
I am mix of junk shot plus push plus counter punch
 
After all this time, I'm still stuck in the baseline blaster category :(

Edit: If I can just improve my topspin lob, and short slice, I should be able to counterpunch effectively as well, since I can pass pretty well...
 
There have been numerous threads addressing different playing styles. But they’ve pitted one style against another ... or deeply analyzed a particular style. Here, we’re going to define all the different styles of play in one location. (At least that’s my goal.)

1 - Define and categorize the styles of play.
2 - Identify some Pros who exemplify the styles in question.
3 - Be prepared to defend your opinion with some logic.

Let’s see if we can arrive at some level of agreement ... and keep the flaming to a minimum.

- KK

I once watched a match between Vilas and Clerc. Talk about a snorefest!
 
I always laugh when people call Nadal a pusher. A pusher is someone who just bunts the ball back with no technique at all, an absolute hack player who just puts the ball back in with nothing on it.
 
Well very simply I would say

Defensive playing style (Biggest ability is being good at breaking opponents serve) - Ferrer, Murray, Schwartzmann, 30% Nadal

Offensive playing style (Strong serve, and a lot of power in shots) - 70% Nadal, Del Potro, Cilic, Thiem, Kyrgios

Serve & Volley (Well a big server with great volley) - Isner, karlovic, Sampras, 30% Federer

All Court (Good at everything, yet not amazing on anything) - Djokovic, Chung, Agassi, 70% Federer
 
I've been gone for a few years(!). Interesting to see this discussion kept going. Thanks for all your comments.

Lately I've been attending some coaches conference and there's been a lot of talk of how the game styles have evolved with the changes in surfaces and in particular the polyester string technology and athlete development and what seems to be emerging now is a mix of styles based on the the players individual mental capacity and personality style.
I think string technology and training regimens have been the two biggest factors impacting players expanding their arsenals. I've always thought even the average club player had at least two styles of play. Lately I'm seeing players at my club who "suddenly" have three styles of play they can employ. (Which nearly makes them All Courters, IMO.)

I'll keep watching if y'all keep posting....
 
I've been gone for a few years(!). Interesting to see this discussion kept going. Thanks for all your comments.

I think string technology and training regimens have been the two biggest factors impacting players expanding their arsenals. I've always thought even the average club player had at least two styles of play. Lately I'm seeing players at my club who "suddenly" have three styles of play they can employ. (Which nearly makes them All Courters, IMO.)

I'll keep watching if y'all keep posting....
Welcome back!
 
I have also been gone a few years because I was playing a lot of golf, but now I'm back to playing tennis, and I think this is one of the best threads on TW. It was fun catching up. I have been playing again for about 9 months and it is so hard to get over the urge to not cream the ball into the net. My main opp is a spinner, and my other opp is a young dude who I taught, he runs like a deer and can chase down shots that I have already turned away from. Against both of these guys I have to learn to become more of a backboard and look for an opening, and when that happens just place a shot instead of trying to get the testosterone flowing. When I can do that consistently I will start creaming the ball!
 
There have been numerous threads addressing different playing styles. But they’ve pitted one style against another ... or deeply analyzed a particular style. Here, we’re going to define all the different styles of play in one location. (At least that’s my goal.)

1 - Define and categorize the styles of play.
2 - Identify some Pros who exemplify the styles in question.
3 - Be prepared to defend your opinion with some logic.

Let’s see if we can arrive at some level of agreement ... and keep the flaming to a minimum.

- KK

Years later, turned into a video from TW.

 
Top