What kind of tennis player, you ask? I am talking about the kind of player that only possess one of the two basic baseline strokes. Usually, it’s the forehand – the safer stroke – and that player will do anything to avoid hitting his weaker shot.
To be honest, most of us have a favourite shot and sometimes go out of our way to hit it, but the players I am talking about are almost obsessed about not hitting backhands. I have played against many of these player at every level, and I have realized that most of approach playing them in a fundamentally flawed way.
How do we do this? We attack their weaker shot – their backhand. This may seem logical and natural, but when the chips are down, it is the worst thing you can do. The fact is, that these players are used to avoiding their backhands, and are incredibly quick to run around that shot and hit a forehand.
The result is that it is very difficult to actually engage their backhand. What you are really doing is playing into their hands and giving them the exact shot they want! Playing to the backhand gives your opponent the perfect opportunity to engage in their favourite pattern of play, which is: move left and run around the backhand, then hit a forehand.
It is important to remember the following in these situations: playing to your opponent’s backhand is playing his game. And by playing his game, you are asking for trouble. The best way to attack this sort of player is actually to attack his strength: the forehand.
Hit to his forehand to get him moving, and then when he is over on that side, attack his backhand. This will force him to actually hit a backhand, which will then turn the rally in your favour. This is by far the best (and sometimes the only) way to engage an opponent’s backhand on a consistent basis.
You will break his rhythm and favourite patterns of play as well, which is a great benefit to your chances of winning. If you do manage to force him into playing a backhand, and are skilled at the net, it is a good idea to sneak in and try and finish the point with a volley.
Often you will even manage to draw a forced error, foregoing the need to a volley in the first please. So, the moral of the story is: attack the strength to expose the weakness!