When to hit down the line?

Ambivalent

Hall of Fame
Well, it's me again, looking for some advice to improve my game, strategically this time.

Modestly speaking, i have a good forehand that i can place in any direction, yet have a little difficulty with placing it with depth. My backhand is decent, more consistent and predictable than my forehand, yet weaker in pace.

Since i have established the foundation of placement, when should i go down the line? I have tried drawing my opponents with an agressive crosscourt forehand and then rushing up to hit the dtl forehand, yet this doesn't always work because i seem to end up hitting a service line forehand that is easily returned instead of hitting the winner. I tried hitting the unexpected dtl inside out forehand that Djokovic does, but i cant get it in enough.

So when is the right time to go dtl? Should i at all, or just spin all my groundies in crosscourt and hope for the unforced error?
 

Frank Silbermann

Professional
My usual practice is to hit cross-court if I'm near the sideline, but to make the opponent run if he gives me a ball nearer to the center.
 

dave333

Hall of Fame
You can go down the line anytime but its usually used during approach shots and when there is open court. Its not as safe as cross-court but can be more effective.
 

Bungalo Bill

G.O.A.T.
Well, it's me again, looking for some advice to improve my game, strategically this time.

Modestly speaking, i have a good forehand that i can place in any direction, yet have a little difficulty with placing it with depth. My backhand is decent, more consistent and predictable than my forehand, yet weaker in pace.

Since i have established the foundation of placement, when should i go down the line? I have tried drawing my opponents with an agressive crosscourt forehand and then rushing up to hit the dtl forehand, yet this doesn't always work because i seem to end up hitting a service line forehand that is easily returned instead of hitting the winner. I tried hitting the unexpected dtl inside out forehand that Djokovic does, but i cant get it in enough.

So when is the right time to go dtl? Should i at all, or just spin all my groundies in crosscourt and hope for the unforced error?
Hit DTL when you know you can come in or keep your court closed in case of a good reply. Also, make sure it is not a ball crossing your body unless you are well practiced.
 

Supernatural_Serve

Professional
I tend to go down the line:

a.) in a cross court rally when I get an inside ball (a ball to the inside of my position toward the middle of the court rather than outside of me toward the sideline)

b.) in a cross court rally when I get a short ball - one that I can hit an approach shot and attack the net

and the ball isn't filled with smoke and fire - not always the best time to try to change its direction.

otherwise, my instinct is to continue to hit the ball cross court looking to keep the ball wide of my opponent's position and deep (I don't want to give him the inside or short ball).
 

LuckyR

Legend
The answer depends on whether rushing the net is a goal for you or not. If it is, then short balls that can be spanked can be hit DTL and make for excellent approach shots.

If you are a baseline basher, then I would first concentrate on inside out shots (you mention they need work) since they are going to get you the most mileage.
 

Bottle Rocket

Hall of Fame
I'd say that you must master and be able to control your depth of shot much better. I think depth of groundstroke is one of the most important skills a tennis player must have. Against better opponents, a shot down the line lacking depth is a shot that is going to leave your court wide open, leaving an easy winner for your opponent. Against quicker and better opponents, a shot down the line, unless extremely aggreessive, can easily put you in a defensive position.

A deep ball down the middle is going to be more effective than a short ball down the line, most of the time. Unless you angle the ball really well on groundstrokes, a ball without depth isn't going to get the job done, whether it is crosscourt or down the line.

I don't think you should be hitting crosscourt until you draw an error, although being able to consistently do that is nice. You should go deep and crosscourt until you draw a short ball from your opponent, and then go on the attack. This is a proper time to go down the line and close in on the net. A winner can usually be hit to any area of the court once you've got a sitter mid-court.

The bottom line is that in a neutral rally, going down the line can get you in strouble as it leaves the court open for your opponent, and you will have much more distance to cover to reach that ball. Hit down the line when you're the aggressor.
 

Geezer Guy

Hall of Fame
... I have tried drawing my opponents with an agressive crosscourt forehand and then rushing up to hit the dtl forehand, yet this doesn't always work because i seem to end up hitting a service line forehand that is easily returned instead of hitting the winner. I tried hitting the unexpected dtl inside out forehand that Djokovic does, but i cant get it in enough. ...
You answered your question. You already KNOW when to go down the line. The problem is that you cannot do it effectively. Hitting a series of cross-court shots drawing your opponent wider and wider, then hitting down the line is a good tactic. You just need to get better at it.

This is something you can do with a practice partner, or a ball machine. With a ball machine, set it up in the forehand corner, aimed cross court. Hit several cc shots, trying to get the ball to land in bounds, but wider than the machine. Then take a few cracks down the line. Don't try for a perfect ball - just aim for a 5 foot x 5 foot square in your opponents extreme backhand corner. (Hope that makes sense.) This is a tough shot (therefore low percentage) because you're changing the direction of the ball, going over the higher portion of the net, flirting with the sideline and baseline. But, if you practice you can hit it fairly consistently.

Reverse the scenario for hitting inside-out down-the-line forehands. Also, I like to throw in a few dropshots while I'm working on this.
 

In D Zone

Hall of Fame
Well, it's me again, looking for some advice to improve my game, strategically this time.

Modestly speaking, i have a good forehand ......

Since i have established the foundation of placement, when should i go down the line? I have tried drawing my opponents with an agressive crosscourt forehand and then rushing up to hit the dtl forehand, yet this doesn't always work because i seem to end up hitting a service line forehand that is easily returned instead of hitting the winner. I tried hitting the unexpected dtl inside out forehand that Djokovic does, but i cant get it in enough.

So when is the right time to go dtl? Should i at all, or just spin all my groundies in crosscourt and hope for the unforced error?

You are doing everything right.... follow your game plan.

Here are some quick tips >

Understand the strenght of the ball coming back at you.

If you opponent hits a heavy return/ with pace - move forward and meet the ball early and push the ball (short compact swing) hitting it down the line. Basically, you are using and diverting the energy of the ball back to the opponent.

For normal baseline return - easiest way is to hit DTL shot with a topspin. WHy? You need to add some air time to your ball especially if you are going long. Topspin offers is a higher % shot, guarantee to go long, the ball will spin out with a high bounce making it harder for your opponent to catch.

If you are pulled to the net - calmly move in, adjust your footwork and body stance similar to hitting an inside out, eye fix on the ball, apply only a half swing and use your footwork to explode forward when hitting ball.

Hope this help.
 
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ChocolatePie

Semi-Pro
I go down the line a lot of times when I want to hit a winner. I will still hit down the line just not as much. If the opponent is anticipating cross courts then I will hit down the line.
 

K-LEG

Rookie
I know this has nothing to do with where you place the ball but here's some things you should DEFINITELY think about.

1. Put enough topspin on the ball so the ball bounces to the opponents shoulder level. This will cause them to cough up a bad shot because it's not really in their preffered strike zone.

2. If you really want to change your pace, make your opponent have no clue what shots coming next, try some flat shots once in a while.

3. Just move the ball around the court in a strategic way. Not to hard, get them in the corner for example, then they'll probably think your going to hit it to the other side but don't, just hit it back to them.
 

Bagumbawalla

Hall of Fame
If by "down the line" you mean hitting over the higher part of the net, just a few feet from the sideline, then there are numerous time when it is OK to hit this shot.

Remember, however, it is, not a high percentage shot.

Normally, use it when your higher percentage options are taken away from you by the opponent. By higher percentage shots, we mean-- hitting over the lower part of the net, hitting crosscourt along the longest axis of the court, hitting back the way the ball came from, hitting up the middle-- not necessarily in that order.

So, hit up the line if the opponent takes the net and it is your best passing shot.

If in doubles you see the net man poaching and/or you want to "keep him honest".

You drive the opponent wide and the best placement is down the line for a winner.

You are, yourself, pulled wide and your choice is a weak/floating crosscourt or a down the line placement.

As a change-up shot to your opponent's weaker side.

As an approach shot.
 

AceofBase

Rookie
For the best way to hit a DTL is to hit it deep with a mid to full swing and dont full swing. Full swing when hitting across not straight. That's one way to help me remember how to hit a DTL cause when i hit a full swing DTL its land out most of the time (giving easy point away). Same to hitting down the alley.
 

AngeloDS

Hall of Fame
The problem with down the line is if you don't hit a good shot, they have a good angle cross court which puts you in a bad position.

However, my general rule for hitting down the line is if you can't step inside the baseline to hit the shot. Don't go down the line.
 

Ambivalent

Hall of Fame
Hmm, yes, this is going to need some work. My current style of play is consistent topspin groundies while occasionally leaning in on my backhand for the dtl winner. For some reason, although my forehand is more explosive and has much more pop, my backhand is MUCH more consistent when i'm going for the winner, and flatter and deeper too.
 

35ft6

Legend
During a match on TV, a college coach said that yes, hitting down the line is low percentage and shouldn't be attempted haphazardly, I'm paraphrasing here, but when you're INSIDE the court, good things happen when you change directions and go down the line.

So in his opinion, the percentages go up and it's better to go down the line when you're inside the court/when the ball is short.
 

Bungalo Bill

G.O.A.T.
During a match on TV, a college coach said that yes, hitting down the line is low percentage and shouldn't be attempted haphazardly, I'm paraphrasing here, but when you're INSIDE the court, good things happen when you change directions and go down the line.

So in his opinion, the percentages go up and it's better to go down the line when you're inside the court/when the ball is short.
Good stuff, it seems that you and Angelo are in agreement.
 

Tennis_Monk

Hall of Fame
You can Hit DTL when you really feel like it. Tennis is a game that lets you be adventerous. So dont be afraid to go for your shots (even if they go against convention sometimes). Sometimes results can be surprising



However if you playing a percentage game, you should follow the tips mentioned above.
 

The Gorilla

Banned
if you hit with 2 feet net clearance or more you probably aren't going to hit the net, It's more the fact that if you hit the ball more to the left than the right it's going to be out, as opposed to hitting crosscourt where you have a huge margin for error, to the left and right.This smaller target is what makes it a lower percentage shot in terms of the chances of it landing in, there is a larger chance of it being a winner if it lands in however, so you have to weigh the odds up as best you can based on how you're playing at that paticular period of time, on how confident you are, and how proficiant you are at that shot.
 

shindemac

Hall of Fame
DTL doesn't have to be about hitting winners. Even if you don't get a winner, it could still be "successful" if it draws a weak reply that you can volley or hit for a winner. But a bad DTL shot can put you in an even weaker position. That's why you can't be haphazard about hitting DTL shots. Not only does he gets greater angles, but running down a xcourt shot that's moving away from you is much harder.

The other use of DTL is to switch to a more favorable rally. Assuming you both hit xcourt off both wings, you may want to switch to bh to bh since you said your bh side is more consistent and hope that you can draw an error more easily. If he wants to switch back to FH rallies, that could be an especially difficult shot for him, and if he continues bh to bh rallies, it should be in your favor.
 

Geezer Guy

Hall of Fame
... The other use of DTL is to switch to a more favorable rally. Assuming you both hit xcourt off both wings, you may want to switch to bh to bh since you said your bh side is more consistent and hope that you can draw an error more easily. If he wants to switch back to FH rallies, that could be an especially difficult shot for him, and if he continues bh to bh rallies, it should be in your favor.
Very good point. When you're in a FH XC rally, hitting DTL to switch to BH is fairly easy and safe. But in a BH XC rally, hitting DTL is harder (for most people, anyway).
 

Mahboob Khan

Hall of Fame
1. On a deep/difficult ball, hit cross-court;
2. If you want your opponent to run more, hit cross-courts
3. If you want to open the court, hit cross-courts
4. On easier/shorter balls, hit down the lines
5. After you have opened the court with a cross court shot; hit down the line.

You said that your down the line lands short:

Delay your contact a bit .. let the ball-strings meet in the sweetspot .. hit through more .. with reasonable amount of topspin .. and you will get depth.

By the way, after you have hit a forcing cross-court that places your opponent really really wide, then short down the line is more effective than the deep down the line!
 
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