In an other article, we saw the importance of knowing the difference between unforced errors and induced errors. We also looked at the importance of winning points by playing smart – working your opponent side to side and forcing an error on their side.
But what is the easiest way to get good results?
The answer to this question is as old as the sport, but very often I see players of all levels who do not seem aware of this very useful tactic.
Several years ago, some of which, unfortunately, I cannot remember (my memory of is not what it used to be) someone told me a tip that they had learned from one of the great Italian coaches (I believe it was Belardinelli, but like I said my memory has seen better days).
Often students would ask this great coach what they must do to win more points. He had a very simple answer: "Play where your opponent is not!"
Well, this simple little formula, which is easily memorized, contains the essence of tactical tennis!
I cannot count how many times I have seen players ignore this rule. I would see the perfect opportunity of hitting the ball into the open court, only to look on as the player hit the ball right back at his opponent, allowing the rally to continue! Countless games and matches have been lost simply by the fact that players wouldn’t hit the ball where their opponent wasn’t!
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Professional players are well aware of how important it is to dominate the game, and that's why they train hours and hours to hit the ball into the corners of the court. They know that this is where their opponent is least likely to be able to chase down a shot.
But what can us mere mortals, with our two hours per week of tennis, do to improve this aspect of our game? Well, there is something we can do!
Every time you play a match, simply follow this action sequence:
1. Look! This is very important. Simply observe where your opponent is before you hit the ball. This will allow you to put it into the open court.
2. Think! Make a decision that is based on where your opponent is, and not just your instinct. Tennis is a game of chess in motion.
3. Play! The shot must be hit only after you have completed the first two phases. Hitting a shot before assessing the situation is like moving your chess piece without looking at the whole board.
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It is also important to remember that power is not that much of a factor here. It is better to hit a slow, well-placed shot away from your opponent than to hit a powerful one straight at him.
That's it...tennis is simple enough to be able to make the right decisions during each rally and correctly execute the shot.
The moral of all this is that the placement of your shots is incredibly important, even more so than the power of your shots. If you can hit where your opponent is not, you will be able to dominate the game much more effectively!
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