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Tennis Strategy #18 Time/Space And Court Position

Another aspect of pressuring time and space is to change your court position to distort the court, change the timing, influence your opponent’s shot selection, and take away their favorite shot.

When I played basketball, one of my favorite things to do was to discover my opponent’s favorite place to take a shot. As soon as I saw them moving that way, I would hurry to beat them to the spot, or at least get close enough to make it uncomfortable. This is your number one objective is to use time and space to make your opponent uncomfortable, pressuring them to work from a place or to a place that is not their favorite. You can win at least 5 more points in a match if you change your court position mindfully.

Playing Closer To The Net

You might decide for the whole match that you want to return from a position closer to the net. While generally playing a strong server, a returner might be two to five feet behind the baseline to return, you might want to be within a foot or two, and get inside the baseline to return second serves. When you do this every foot that you do it the time for that segment has a doubles effect. Not only did the ball not travel the foot that you moved forward, but it also did not have to travel the foot forward from your frame. (See Diagram). This is part of what makes this tactic so effective is that small incremental moves have more of an effect than the opponent may take note. Of course you have to weigh the effect of playing closer, because you still need to make a high percentage of returns. If this causes you to miss many more returns, then you will want to move to the furthest forward place where you can still make more than 70% of them. Great returners make 80% of their returns. 75% is a good target, and less than 70% means you are giving up too many free points. In one no-ad game to a max of 7 points, you will be giving up two free points, or maybe three the lower your percentage. It’s not pressuring when you don’t make the return.

A ball that is made in the court pressures time and space infintissimily more than a ball that does not go in the court.

Moving Up In The Rally

Let’s say your opponent makes a few strong shots which push you back deep, but then you hit a very deep shot to them, that’s a good time to go from a few feet behind the baseline to just inside it to take the next ball early. I have done this with my junior tennis players when we rally. At first I keep the ball going, building their confidence, then I start to hit with more pace and depth, until they can keep up, but when I suddenly move a few feet into the court, taking away time and space, changing the rhythm of the rally, then all of a sudden they miss their from the additional pressure. The amusing thing, and you may find this with your opponent, they don’t praise you, instead they blame themselves for missing. This is because players don’t necessarily account for the changes in how the ball is played based on relative court position of the opponent.

Taking Away A Favorite Shot

If you find that the server is hitting a lot of balls to the T and getting aces and forcing errors on your backhand in the deuce court, then you can move more to your left to take that away. This is for a righty. But if you are left handed, and the right handers wide serve is killing your backhand, move one foot over. Did it work? Still under pressure? Move another foot. What you don’t want to do is overreact with your positioning. Also, you don’t want to make it immediately obvious what you are doing. Take away that favorite serve, and now the server is forced to use their second favorite serve. In this way you might pick up a few % points in effectiveness. Later, you might move back to your original position, baiting them to hit that serve, their favorite one, but now if you are waiting on it, you might have a better chance of hitting it back. In some matches you may want to give space on one side or the other, and might find that you can dictate where your opponent will serve.

This one was just a fragment, since my 25 minutes of writing was up...


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