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Tennis Strategy #40 My Story Of A, B and C Game

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over,

expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

Being realistic by objectively observing what is really happening can help you to become more effective. Part of the power of The Inner Game Of Tennis and Visual Training for Tennis is that you get much more in touch with what IS, rather that what your ANXIETY distorts. When we understand our relative strengths and weaknesses, we then get to work to develop one strength, and bolster one weakness at a time. It’s probably better to reframe the problem of helping weaknesses, by calling them aspects of improvement.

My Origin Story

When I started playing competitively on a regular basis at the age of 23, I was solely a retrieving baseliner. I hustled down a lot of balls to get just one more ball back. My motto was something I heard from Jimmy Connors, “Give the other player another chance to choke”. I learned the hard way, what a difficult method that was for winning. Also, Jimmy had some amazing attacking skills, in the return game, and he could knock off one volley to end a point. At this early point of returning to the sport that I had played on and off since I was 11 years old, I hadn’t taken the time to learn much. I did attend a tennis camp in the summer of my senior year of high school. Hopefully this story makes this content more relatable to your own experience, as I was not a high and mighty pro or D1 college tennis player. I have had many, if not all the struggles you might face. Now after 34 years of coaching, I think I have seen almost everything. In my early days of competing again, I didn’t have a coach, so I also had not developed any weapons. If you want to move to 4.5 and beyond, you will need to develop a weapon or two. Strong and/or pressuring shots allow you to win points, instead of always waiting for opponents to lose them. That means you are actually playing to win, instead of playing not to lose. It’s a bit ironic for me to say that I am playing to win, while running around afraid to miss. Learning to force errors is the way to go. And when the opponent misses, and you can say “I did that”, then you know you are having an effect on the match. We will dig much more into the data behind forced and unforced errors. Another problem with my former way of playing, was that I didn’t really have a way of coming back in a match, if I was behind, I had to hope I could wear them down with my excellent speed and endurance. Later, a friend of mine coached me for about an hour, and I will tell more about that soon.

Have The Right Ingredients

If you are going to play a power game, the number one ingredient you will need to pull that off is a powerful serve, because you want to start the speed game from the very beginning of the point and not wait. Avoid giving your opponent a chance to execute their game plan, by keeping your foot on the gas pedal all throughout the match. If you don't have a big serve, then don't play a power game. If you think you are playing a power game, but the majority of your serves are heavy spin serves, then you are not really playing a power game. Early on, when I first meet a player, I try to get acquainted with what my pupil’s abilities. Early identification of how their personality interacts with the major strengths in their physique and skills provides a pathway for building their A game. Before they start playing any formal match play, we work together to develop their primary strategy, if you do that from the beginning then you can create a much stronger foundation from which to compete. It usually starts as a conversation, about whether they have the tools to be a power player, and if they don’t, then I want them to select one of three styles of play, out of the five available:

1. Overpower The Opponent

2. Pressure The Opponent’s Movement

3. Pressure The Opponent’s Time and Space

4. Disrupt The Opponent’s Rhythm

5. Run Down Every Ball.

Any Given Day

On any given day you might be able overpower the opponent, simply because they are significantly at a lower level than you, and routine shots for you seem too fast for them. So, it’s also ok with suddenly and unexpectedly being the power player. They may say, “Wow you hit the ball so hard”, even though you know that it’s all relative and that their are many more players out there who hit the ball harder than you.

Become Technically Sound, Then Efficient

As you go up the levels, you will need to develop more power, and more shot tolerance to powerful shots, even though it may never be your primary strategy. This is why I endorse as the place you should go for your technical fundamentals, and I don’t teach technique in my books, because it’s a topic that has been completely over taught, with a lot of very confusing and conflicting information. You might watch one video that says do this one thing, and another which says the 9 keys to a forehand, while another says do these 3 things like Federer, but they having conflicting information. What do you do then? But I digress. Now back to the strategies. There will be a day when little you do on court seems to work, you may have to resort to option number 5, which is the hardest way to win: Run Down Every Ball. So, it is a valid strategy, but I call it the last resort, you can gain much more from having that in your back pocket as a B or C game, rather than your primary strategy.

Develop At Least Three Ways To Play

When you are playing 4.5 and above, you will most likely out of the five strategies, minimum you can have two that you prefer, and retrieving can be your third option. This way you will have at least an A and a B game and #5 can be your C game, but it’s far better to the development of more skills you can have an A Game, B Game and C Game. For instance, at the end of my competitive career as a very good 5.0 player, I mainly serve and volleyed my way to a Pressure Time and Space Style. If that wasn’t working, I could shift to Disrupting My Opponent’s Rhythm, and finally in a worst case scenario, I would Run Everything Down, that was my D game. I did not prefer to play a movement game, and I never really had the brute power to overpower another player well enough to draw forced errors, but that fact that I hit a lot of spins allowed me to serve and volley better with a very good kick serve and drop volleys, and also to disrupt players rhythm which fits well with my personality to want to frustrate others.


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