When playing matches, if you were to limit your options in certain situations,
you will become a more decisive player.
During your practice lessons, if your coach gives you instructions before you
play a point and feedback afterwards, and guides you on how to create winning
shot combinations, you will find this very helpful. You should review ‘Patterns
of Play’ in this connection.
However, there is no substitute to learning how to win points in a real set of
tennis and your aim is to learn which shots to hit at the right time. When you
should go for a winner and when you should take your time and build the point.
You will find The Wardlaw Directionals of assistance in learning when to go
for a winner. (see directionals on main website).
I believe it is a very useful exercise to have as much practice as possible on
some clay courts, the game is different and you have to be patient and learn
to build your points, it is far more difficult to hit a winner.
You will need to drill your play and shots a lot so that when a situation presents
itself, you only have the need to select from a couple of possibilities, to have
too many options is often a failing point, as it creates confusion and the incorrect
The following drills exercise will assist you in your movement and decision
making. The drill has six stages of increased difficulty, take it to the level to s
One other point to keep in consideration is the height of the ball. i.e. is it above
or below the height of the net, in general above the net use a drive shot, below
the net use a slice, but this also depends on how far you are from the net.
We have a saying ‘Drive when you can – Slice when you have to’ in other
words always try to drive the ball, i.e. use an attacking shot.
FOUR TARGET DRILL.
Set up four targets at the following places:
Two deep cones about one foot inside the baseline and singles sideline.
Two cones inside the service boxes about 6 inches from either line.
Number the targets 1 – 2 – 3 –4.
Drill 1: Stand just behind the service line and get your coach or a partner to tell you which target to hit to before they feed the ball. The ball
should be fed directly to you so you do not have to make much movement.
Drill 2: Go back to the baseline, your feeder again tells you which target to aim for, but now gives you an easy feed near to the service line so
that you have to run and hit the ball.
Drill 3: Your feeder still makes the target decision before the feed, but you now start a rally. After a few shots (the number is pre-determined
by your feeder but unknown to you) your feeder hits a ball to the service line and you move up and hit to the specified target.
Drill 4: Go back to the starting position of Drill 1, near the service line. Now the decision of where to hit the ball is yours. Your feeder sends
an easy ball so you do not have to move much, but before you swing you must call out the target number.
Drill 5: Start at the baseline. Your feeder hits an easy ball near to the service line and you have to run to hit it. Before swinging call out the
number of the target you are aiming at.
Drill 6: Back to the rally situation. Wait for a short ball from your partner, move up and call out the target number you are going for.
Having said everything above, you will still need to make things happen. Try not to become tentative when you start competing. Defensive
play may win you some matches, but you will not move to the next level. Try to think aggressively and attack your opponent’s weaknesses.
Keep an eye open for patterns your opponent uses in certain situations, perhaps when you have them under pressure, by knowing their
responses you can often take advantage by being in the right place on court. You will be surprised at how many players react the same each
time they face a specific problem.
Hit To the Open Court.
By now you should have developed your tennis technique and skills so that you can consistently control your shots over the net and into the
court and place the ball where you want to.
You are now in a position to put the ball away from your opponent. They cannot cover all possible angles at the same time so there will always
be openings and enable you to hit the ball out of their reach.
Try to force your opponent to run for the ball and make it more difficult for them to hit a good return; this gives you the opportunity to move
to the midcourt or to the net where you will have a great chance to win the point.
Hit Behind Your Opponent.
You will be surprised how predictable you and your opponent are in your shot selection, it is up to you to hit some forcing shots. As your
opponent begins to anticipate your shots and perhaps favour that direction, put the ball behind them when they are too far that way. They
will find it difficult to change direction quickly enough. This is particularly effective against a player who is very quick and over reacts also
when you have the opponent very wide and they are rushing back to the middle of the court.
Use Angles to open the court.
Learn how to hit some of your shots at an angle to draw your opponent wide, your next shot is then to a wide-open court.
Move Your Opponent around the Court.
Vary your shots by using speed, depth (short & long), placement and spin to un-settle your opponent. Try to make your opponent cover a lot
of court. Make them move and try not to let your opponent move you around, once you have got them running keep them at it; they will
possibly become fatigued and unable to reach some of the balls.
Don’t forget there is up and back movement as well as side-to-side.
Find Your Opponent’s Weaknesses.
Whilst you are doing your pre-game warm-up, see if there are any obvious weaknesses to your opponents strokes, then when you start your
game keep alert to any other weakness.
You should then try to exploit these areas, but be careful, if you continuously play on a weakness this also gives the opponent the chance to
groove their stroke.
Equally, if you find your opponent has a favourite shot then you need to work out a way to neutralize this.
Conditions affect your opponent as much as you.
You should practice and play in all conditions so that you become better acclimatised to adverse conditions. Sun, wind, temperature and
humidity all affect your play, but if you have a strong mind, you will let these affect your opponent more than yourself. Try to deliberately I
gnore any detrimental conditions
PATTERNS OF PLAY.
Good players develop their strategically sound tactics that they are able to put into practice in match situations, strategy that they feel
comfortable with and they therefore develop patterns of play for specific situations.
It is of benefit to a player to understand their patterns of play and to put these into practice regularly in their training sessions. It is important
to set up your practice sessions so that they have a meaningful purpose.
In setting up your patters it is necessary to understand the type of player you are or wish to become, the variations are:
Serve and volleyer
By establishing your patterns of play, you will become a better player, your play will improve.
Points in tennis are made up of a series of shots and when these are repeated they become a specific pattern. You need to find the patterns
that meet your type of game and then practice them so that they become as automatic as possible.
Tennis is a game of emergency and also of errors.
In all levels of play, 75% of all points are lost, this means that a player make a mistake, whether it is a forced or un-forced error, and the
opponents receives the point. Your task is to make fewer errors than your opponent, be more consistent and make your opponent take a risk
in their endeavour to win the point.
At every level of play, unforced errors play a significant part of the matches and these can be attributed to poor shot selection or techniques
that are not good enough.
Here are some thoughts on error reduction.
A/. It is imperative that all of your shots clear the height of the net and it is better to aim higher to ensure this; this ploy will also make the ball
go deeper and you want to keep your opponent at the back of the court.
B/. Do not go for risky shot, play the percentages. There is little sense in aiming for the lines or too close to the baseline. I know that at some
stages you will feel the need to force the play, but it is more rewarding to learn how to hit the ball harder and keep it in court. This will ensure
your opponent is under pressure.
C/. If you are in trouble during a point, possibly being forced back and out of position, play a lob back, this will give you extra time to recover
and get back into the point. Keep the ball deep and crosscourt to be effective.
D/. Movement to the ball, good footwork and early preparation with the racquet are key elements in making consistent strokes with control
Try to keep the ball in your comfort zone and to maintain your balance.
E/. Study the Wardlaw directionals which give the answers to changing direction of the ball.
There are five elements to tennis strokes:
They should be learnt and used in this sequence.
It is not my intention in this document to give specific patterns of play; there are good books available and I would highly recommend
“ Tennis Tactics – Winning Patterns of Play” by the U.S.T.A. this can be purchased via my website.
To give an idea about basic patterns – review the following:
Serve to the “T” to reduce the angles – and hit to either corner.
From the serve – return deep crosscourt
Serve and hit behind the opponent. etc.,
Serve wide to open up the court – and then hit down the line
If you have any specific questions, please send me an email.ng: