What makes a great baseliner? The ultimate list

#1
I'm trying to compile a list of things you need to do to be the best baseliner. I don't know it all - please comment what I miss! (you don't need a 2handed forehand BTW)

What brought this idea on is that I played a guy today who is better than me, more experienced etc. Its like every element of my game he has slightly better, so theres nothing I can really leverage. I'm just trying to think as a purist here "how can i be better?". When I really fully committed 100% with my focus and movement, I was able to win some rallies. I didn't blast him off the court - i couldn't do that, but i could be focused enough for a little longer and try a little harder to break down his timing a little with the right shot selection etc.

I guess it was like, my 90% focus and effort could beat his 70% focus and effort. Or was it that he has just developed his focus and effort to be more enduring than mine? Maybe he was actually at 90% most of the time, and I was at 70% most of the time. Hmmm.

Anyway, heres a list with my thoughts:

General Alertness:
-Stay awake! Bounce on your toes like a boxer between points, caffeine or something before the match if you need it
-Eat some carbs/protein before hand & drink electrolytes so you dont burn out during the match
-Keep your feet active always
-Stay focused on the task at hand, don't think about that point you just lost... think about what you need to do to get this next serve in to give the opponent maximum difficulty
-Make every point count

Ability to read the situation:
-Do you need to be defensive (slice / lob) or can you attack?
-Do you need to get under the ball and spin it up (or slice it up with a more open face) or can you really crank it down into the court, or smack it flat?
-Is your opponent recovered in an optimal position and thus should you just hit a safe shot and wait for your opportunity later?

Technical Sequence For Topspin:
-Groove your strokes into reliable repeatable muscle memory habits (wall / ball machine / check it out on video and adjust)
-Fast unit turn aka before the ball bounces (ideally before the ball crosses the net!)
-Pushing off the ground with your legs as the ball rises up off the bounce
-Getting "the loop" into your stroke (making sure the head is below the handle during your swing and brushes up into the ball through contact to create da topspinz)
-Aiming towards where you want to hit (body orientation and moving your hand toward your target)

Technical Sequence for Slice:
-Groove your strokes on a wall or ball machine / check video
-Fast unit turn
-Align your body to where you will make contact, keep your body still through contact (unlike with the topspin shots)
-Keep swing compact. Try to let the racquet do the work.
-Aim towards where you want to hit it within the small 6" distance or so you swing for

General Tactics:
-Hit the ball deep unless going for an angle, or hitting a nasty low slice to bring them in (aka avoid hitting the ball to t..e center of the court)
-Try to set up more rallies to their weaker wing if they have one
-Do a quick evaluation of your opponent ... any glaring weaknesses you need to pick on? Do you know them well, and what you do better than them? At the bare minimum, focus on applying your best game plan.
 
#2
What level of baseliner are you talking about? What is your model, some pro players? Or a list of things you want to achieve/avoid, how you see your perfect match pattern?

After replying to those questions you should figure out how you gonna win points and how you can loose points and what to do to prevent it.
For example, there's a basher model for baseline game, like Jelena Ostapenko. One is supposed to hit shot after shot that is fast and skims the lines. Well, not realistic for most rec matchups.
There's a grinder model. Get fit, stay focused, ready to play long points, keep positive attitude to capitalized later in the match once your opponent is exhausted. Have bulletproof CC FH and BH.
Against higher level opposition you must take into account opponents options to counter your game. What if he goes to net? You need passing shots, as your basic deep high CC will be eaten from anywhere inside the court. What if you face a "pusher"? Need confident putaways after getting short balls, or all your point control by better baseline groundies will be useless.

So to round up, the foundation should be fitness, focus, consistent mental state and basic heavy groundies - CC to begin with, FH variety to move your opponent more.
And defensive groundies - both spinny drives and deep slices to reset/stay in point.
And passing shots and lobs - not something crazy, but a tool to pick when challenged.
And putaways for sitters - angled pushes and drives to the open court.
Basic net game with ability to put away easy volleys and OHs after you stepped into the court and attacked.
And serve that doesn't put you into defensive from the get go.
 
#3
What level of baseliner are you talking about? What is your model, some pro players? Or a list of things you want to achieve/avoid, how you see your perfect match pattern?

After replying to those questions you should figure out how you gonna win points and how you can loose points and what to do to prevent it.
For example, there's a basher model for baseline game, like Jelena Ostapenko. One is supposed to hit shot after shot that is fast and skims the lines. Well, not realistic for most rec matchups.
There's a grinder model. Get fit, stay focused, ready to play long points, keep positive attitude to capitalized later in the match once your opponent is exhausted. Have bulletproof CC FH and BH.
Against higher level opposition you must take into account opponents options to counter your game. What if he goes to net? You need passing shots, as your basic deep high CC will be eaten from anywhere inside the court. What if you face a "pusher"? Need confident putaways after getting short balls, or all your point control by better baseline groundies will be useless.

So to round up, the foundation should be fitness, focus, consistent mental state and basic heavy groundies - CC to begin with, FH variety to move your opponent more.
And defensive groundies - both spinny drives and deep slices to reset/stay in point.
And passing shots and lobs - not something crazy, but a tool to pick when challenged.
And putaways for sitters - angled pushes and drives to the open court.
Basic net game with ability to put away easy volleys and OHs after you stepped into the court and attacked.
And serve that doesn't put you into defensive from the get go.
Nice list.

Personally im trying to copy wawrinka: hit a few slices till i get a shot with enough time i can start topping, then ramp it up from there.

I found there were very few weak replies, so i kinda had to take some risks topping on neutral-fast balls. My forehand can topspin with less timing issues than my 1hbh, but not super aggressively.

Maybe i need some more heaviness and drive behind my forehand - i felt it couldnt hurt him. He was just too fast. The most i could do was hit it really deep and make it awkward for him.

It seemed my best stratergy was just try to out-focus him
 
#4
Nice list.

Personally im trying to copy wawrinka: hit a few slices till i get a shot with enough time i can start topping, then ramp it up from there.

I found there were very few weak replies, so i kinda had to take some risks topping on neutral-fast balls. My forehand can topspin with less timing issues than my 1hbh, but not super aggressively.

Maybe i need some more heaviness and drive behind my forehand - i felt it couldnt hurt him. He was just too fast. The most i could do was hit it really deep and make it awkward for him.

It seemed my best stratergy was just try to out-focus him
In my opinion, competitive adults (not aging, not overweight) are generally rather fit, fast and ready to fight. While shot quality is not high enough to consistently bit those fitness and fastness. So you either really wait for weaker ball (or an UE since him trying to take some extra risk) while maintaining quality of your rally shots, which requires good focus and patience and easy switch to take control off such weaker ball. Or you find some route to put him into less comfortable position without dropping your margins, which usually takes more intention for the shots - angles, I/Os to press the backhand side, moving him around. Work through the point, earn your advantage. Don't expect to make some magnificent shot in each point which will give you the edge.
 
#5
I was just reviewing video for another thread on Sampras. He often bested Agassi in baseline exchanges. I think he was able to do this because of his vastly superior movement. It wasn't his strokes(though I like his strokes very much). He also had interesting tactics from back there. Slowing down rallies with slice when needed and then suddenly injecting pace out of no where.
 
#6
I'm trying to compile a list of things you need to do to be the best baseliner. I don't know it all - please comment what I miss! (you don't need a 2handed forehand BTW)

What brought this idea on is that I played a guy today who is better than me, more experienced etc. Its like every element of my game he has slightly better, so theres nothing I can really leverage. I'm just trying to think as a purist here "how can i be better?". When I really fully committed 100% with my focus and movement, I was able to win some rallies. I didn't blast him off the court - i couldn't do that, but i could be focused enough for a little longer and try a little harder to break down his timing a little with the right shot selection etc.

I guess it was like, my 90% focus and effort could beat his 70% focus and effort. Or was it that he has just developed his focus and effort to be more enduring than mine? Maybe he was actually at 90% most of the time, and I was at 70% most of the time. Hmmm.

Anyway, heres a list with my thoughts:

General Alertness:
-Stay awake! Bounce on your toes like a boxer between points, caffeine or something before the match if you need it
-Eat some carbs/protein before hand & drink electrolytes so you dont burn out during the match
-Keep your feet active always
-Stay focused on the task at hand, don't think about that point you just lost... think about what you need to do to get this next serve in to give the opponent maximum difficulty
-Make every point count

Ability to read the situation:
-Do you need to be defensive (slice / lob) or can you attack?
-Do you need to get under the ball and spin it up (or slice it up with a more open face) or can you really crank it down into the court, or smack it flat?
-Is your opponent recovered in an optimal position and thus should you just hit a safe shot and wait for your opportunity later?

Technical Sequence For Topspin:
-Groove your strokes into reliable repeatable muscle memory habits (wall / ball machine / check it out on video and adjust)
-Fast unit turn aka before the ball bounces (ideally before the ball crosses the net!)
-Pushing off the ground with your legs as the ball rises up off the bounce
-Getting "the loop" into your stroke (making sure the head is below the handle during your swing and brushes up into the ball through contact to create da topspinz)
-Aiming towards where you want to hit (body orientation and moving your hand toward your target)

Technical Sequence for Slice:
-Groove your strokes on a wall or ball machine / check video
-Fast unit turn
-Align your body to where you will make contact, keep your body still through contact (unlike with the topspin shots)
-Keep swing compact. Try to let the racquet do the work.
-Aim towards where you want to hit it within the small 6" distance or so you swing for

General Tactics:
-Hit the ball deep unless going for an angle, or hitting a nasty low slice to bring them in (aka avoid hitting the ball to t..e center of the court)
-Try to set up more rallies to their weaker wing if they have one
-Do a quick evaluation of your opponent ... any glaring weaknesses you need to pick on? Do you know them well, and what you do better than them? At the bare minimum, focus on applying your best game plan.
Hard work, determination, technical ability on not just groundies but all shots, physical strength, speed, anticipation, mental strength, tactical awareness, problem solving, appropriate coaching, support and money.


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#8
The biggest thing thats off when im really having a bad day from the baseline seems to be that im hitting the ball late or that my footwork is very lazy.
I’m the same sometimes - it’s generally down to concentration, focus and physical condition. There are just days that you’re distracted, mentally tired and/or physically under par. I find that going back to basics one ball at time and hitting high percentage helps in those situations. And the occasional outburst is also satisfying.


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#9
The biggest thing thats off when im really having a bad day from the baseline seems to be that im hitting the ball late or that my footwork is very lazy.
Maybe this is just all there is to it!!!

Just gotta be 100% focused and with the right technique + focus (footwork+notbeing late) and you should be able to compete with anyone
 
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