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Tennis Strategy #44 Unconventional Net Approaches

Drop Shot Approach

When you drop shot your opponent, you also want to take a position closer to the net, so that you can volley away their reply. This is is where “Guard The Line First” also comes into play. You also want to be far enough back that it’s not easy to lob you. Ultimately if you can bait the other player into going cross court then you will have a wide open court in front of you.

Instead of thinking of the drop shot as a winner, think of it more as an approach shot that can allow you to win the point at the net. It’s not as much of a pressure time and space move if the opponent does not have to run into the net for your shot. The additional benefit, is that you won’t net as many drop shots if you WANT your opponent to get to it. Guard the line well enough that the opponent cannot easily steer the ball past you down the line. If you are just a few feet inside the service line, only a perfect lob can get over you. If you are just enough to the side to guard everything but a perfect down the line, then you will also find that anything less than a perfect cross court drop shot will be something you can retrieve and have a full court open in front of you. If the opponent does execute a relatively perfect shot, applaud them, because it won’t happen often enough to give them an advantage. If they do happen to be so quick and skilled up close that they win the majority of the points, then you will want to remove this tactic from your menu for the day. What you will find is that the player who initiates the first good drop shot will have the upper hand in the point.

Moon Ball Approach

When you play an opponent who hits lobs, or high deep loopy shots, they can make it difficult to find opportunities for conventional approach shot. You can use what they give you, and there is a fun hidden advantage presented to you when the opponent makes these shots. You can hit the ball just as high to them or higher. Make sure it’s a deep shot in the last 5 feet of the court, then you can run into the net, while the ball is in the air for maybe two full seconds, which is quite a long time in our sport to move forward. Most importantly, come in with your racquet high, because its highly likely your next shot will be an overhead or high volley. Get close enough to the net so you can close out most volleys, but stay far enough back that you are keeping the play in front of you. Taller players can get inside the service line, shorter players should stay behind the service line. Shorter players though can capitalize on greater quickness to move forward to pick off volleys. Taller players will hit more volleys, shorter players will hit more overheads due to relative ball height compared to their person. One of the tricky aspects of this play comes when the opponent tries and ill advised passing shot from over their shoulder height, or if they miscalculate their lob and the ball lands very short. You can find yourself in some strange positions, moving very fast forward, so be open minded and have plays practiced for when the ball barely comes over. It can be an embarrassing error when you are not ready for those balls, and make a mistake on a ball where at the very least you should stay on offense, but in most cases can swat away a winner, or finish with a drop shot winner. At any time that you find yourself within five feet of the net, the preferred shot will be a nice drop shot. The moon ball approach is not often used, and can leave the other player truly demoralized, especially if they have been playing moon ball tennis to frustrate their opponents.

Short Angle Approach

You can also hit a slower speed, heavy topspin shot that lands within two feet of the singles sideline and inside the service box on the opposite side, following your shot into the net. That does mean that you will come in on an angle toward your shot, and it’s vital that you face your opponent. You will want to face toward the contact point of the opponent, so that you can easily move laterally to get the obvious down the line shot. The mistake people make is that they face the net or the open court they want to hit, and then the opponent hits an angle they can’t reach on one side, or they jam you on the other side. Facing the opponent exactly gives more time on the short side, and takes away angle from them on the other side. You may even need to contact a ball outside the doubles alley, because the smart shot is to try to hit the ball that is not inside the lines until it lands. The tempting shot for them is to hit cross court, so you must be ready to read, react and attack that ball at a 90 degree angle. Moving to the ball at the closest thing you can get to a right angle is the fastest way to get to the ball. Avoid making angled approach shots against someone who is better at making angles themselves. This, like the approach on the backhand to the forehand can be fairly effective, and if more than 50% effective it also creates more uncertainty for opponents. You might even find that the element of surprise nets you a few easy points early on in it’s usage.

Setting A Goal For How Often To Come In

If you are really going to pressure time and space, you should set a goal for how often you want to come to the net. It may take some time to build up the confidence to come in more often, to take away time and space. At first, you might want to set the goal of coming in once per game, because that is easier to measure than 5 times in a set, and also it doesn’t let you off the hook. When you commit to one approach per game, you either did it, or didn’t do it. If you have a number of times you wanted to come in during a set and match and kept forgetting to do so, you most likely will come in less than you intended, as is the pattern I see with competitive players I coached. You won’t be able to say to yourself “I will come in twice next game to make up for it”. Practice matches are essential to learning how to come in without the real loss of a point that counts for something. It’s easier to be more ambitious for how many times to come in, because while you might feel some pressure to win points, it’s not the same as that in a first round tournament match. Once you gain more confidence , and begin to win more than 60% of the points, you might want to up that to coming in at least twice per game. The more often you come in, the more comfortable you get, and the more data you get as to your relative success.

SwingVision Is Your Friend

This is where using SwingVision comes in handy, because you don’t have to have someone chart your match, and you can have the A.I. take your stats for you. When you get real data about what really happened in the match instead of what you hoped it would be or perceived it to be, then you might find yourself a little shocked at how few times you came in to volley.


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