Ever watch an NFL game? The coach is stalking the sidelines with a large color coded chart of plays handpicked for that day’s opponent, while the quarterback has a “cheat sheet” strapped to his forearm. Then eleven men get together to all get on the same page. These guys are organized! Unfortunately many tennis players take the court with little or no plan of action, just hitting the ball about and hoping for the best. >Here's how to put together a reliable "play" when you need it most.
Take count of your strengths and weaknesses.
The first part might just be the most difficult. You have to take an honest account of your personal skill set. What are your strengths? What are the shots that you can count on day in and day out? Honesty is of extreme importance here. Are your opponent’s forced to adjust to these strengths you possess?
What are your weaknesses? What shots give you the most trouble? This account should go further than shots too. You need to assess other things as well. Is your movement good, or a weakness? Can you last through a hard three set match? How is your concentration? All these varied skill sets are important in constructing your personal game plan. Obviously a player with no endurance and little concentration will have trouble with a grinder type game plan, and on the same line, you will have great difficulty carrying out a good “first strike” game plan if you have no obvious weapon.
Learn the 3 distinct parts of each point.
There is my lead in to the next consideration, the three parts of a tennis point. Understanding the construct of a point will help you devise a game plan that fits your personal skill set. Every tennis point starts with the obvious, the first exchange. One player is serving and the other is returning serve. This first exchange can often give one player control of the point. Many times the point won’t even get to the
The next part of the point is the rally, the true meat of every point. The higher the level the more important this part becomes. The serve is put in, the return is made, and then the point begins to take shape. This is the segment of any point that will most be determined by experience, or proper training. If you haven’t done your homework this part will be a challenge.
The third and final part of the point is the finish. While most points end with errors if you are 4.0 or better you must begin to WIN a percentage of points. Please don’t misunderstand, consistency permeates every level, right up to the very top, but there comes a time when you need to be willing to think offensively too. Now I will make a statement that is very important-you must affect your opponent’s decision making.
Make your play.
So here we go, with those three parts of a tennis point in mind, with an honest account of your tennis skills, you can now think of creating your very own game plan!
Tips for "First Strikers":
Let’s begin with a First Strike player. Obviously you need either a big serve or big return for this. By BIG I am not necessarily referring to pace. Spin can make a shot BIG. Accuracy can make a shot BIG. Sure, if you possess consistency, spin, accuracy AND pace that is great, but it is the first three elements that are most important. On the return side, a consistent return of serve can be a weapon. Every server hates to have to work for every point.
The goal of a first strike player is to get control of the point from the first shot. This is crucial to a
player that doesn’t move well. That first strike player puts you on the defensive immediately, making you chase the ball, so they don’t have to. This is the consummate big serve, big forehand player. Hit the big serve, get a short or inside return, and put you on the run with a big forehand. This is also an important play for a player with an obvious weakness, like a broken backhand.
Tips for "Rally Monsters":
For the player that wants to build around the rally part of a point that player needs a highly reliable
serve and return of serve. Obviously without that they may not get to the rally portion of a point. The rally focused player needs to be at a neutral status after the first exchange to be effective. This type of game plan demands a certain amount of fitness. Tennis players have become more consistent so if you are building a game built on consistency you need to have the fitness level to be able to carry out this plan, and have the mind set to do this.
Tips for "Finishers":
Then there is the Finisher. This player needs a big shot, a finishing shot that will put fear into his pponent. The typical finisher has the big forehand, and typical to this player, he is more than willing to do a lot of running to hit as many forehands as possible. That is a key element. You must have the aggressive mindset to hit a lot of your big shot, and continue to hit it big! This player will not get flustered after missing a few. This player needs to go down swinging!
This should get you started. The next couple times on the court focus on assessing your skills. Try a few things, maybe play a practice set as a First Striker, another as a Rally Monster, and yet another as a Big Finisher. Which feels more comfortable? Which suits your personality, and skill set?
This article was originally published on the VolleyCam blog: