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Tennis Strategy #45 The Disruptor

Better to be a jack of all trades, than the master of only one! ~ Unknown

Disruptive Player Rules of Thumb

Part of the reason you have chosen to become a disruptive player is that you don’t have the power, aggression, foot speed or patience to pull off another strategy. But another important reason is that you have the necessary Schadenfreude to enjoy the misery that you place your opponents into. You might lack supreme power, have a decent net game, have the ability to hit a wide variety of spins, and have decent speed, but not enough to be a pressure movement player. Your job is to keep your opponent out of their comfort zone. Your semi-powerful shot will be a surprise, as will your net attack, drop shot, lob and all the other subtle ways you will change things up in your game.

Avoid Rhythm Or Predictable Shots

As a disruptive player you mostly want to avoid hitting two shots in a row the same way, if you fail to mix up your shots enough, then you aren’t going to change the timing and location of contact enough for the other player to take them out of their game. For instance, if you slice similarly twice in a row, a good player is going to take the second ball doing a bit more with it. Stronger players will take that second one on the rise, because it wasn’t as much a surprise as the first one. Once you see that your opponent has begun to read what you are doing, because you fell into some kind of pattern, that’s the time to pull something out of the bottom of your bag of tricks.

Know The Parameters

In order to play that strategy you need to hit mostly different shots every other ball. Go higher, lower, faster, slower so you will need to be able to change the angle of your racquet face, swinging at different speeds with different size backswings. In addition, you will want to change the type of spin you hit, from a few topspin drives, to a dipping shot, looping, short angle, as well as different slices and flatter balls with minimal spin. Develop as large and arsenal of shots as you possibly can. You also want to avoid hitting two topspin drives in a row, because most players will capitalize on that as well. You mostly don’t want to be the player supplying the power of shots, make the opponent generate it.

Some Gum In The Works

By virtue of the fact that you are the one playing chess out there, you will do a lot of quick unconscious decision making about what to hit next. This style probably requires the most brain power. Also, you could be slightly more error prone because of the wider variance of shots you hit, and stroking techniques you use. The more dramatic spins also come with some risk of mishitting a ball. So, you could be a bit more error prone than the player who simply plays the safest possible strategy, but your goal is to create many more errors in your opponent. If you are not creating opportunities for forced and unforced errors, then you will want to play another style. This might seem paradoxical, because my working definition of a forced error is when the opponent causes it. But some of your shots are not causing errors, but they might tempt opponents to be impatient, go for too much, or mistime their shot because of a lack of focus, and all of those lead to unforced errors. It’s a tricky distinction. Ultimately, when your foe gets frustrated and starts creating their own unforced errors, then your plan is really coming to fruition. Even so, you need some controlled aggression in your game, because you can’t wait for them to miss, always, you want to force them into errors, and you can do that with subtle and distinctly different shots.

Widest Variety Of Services

When it comes to serving, you also will want to maximize as many of the 24 possible serves as you can, while realizing that just because you can hit it, doesn’t mean it’s effective against that opponent. This style of play will use the widest variety of spins, placements and speed changes to keep the opponent from getting a bead on their returns. By necessity, know which serves you are not proficient enough to hit confidently in a match. Make sure you practice all the different types of serves you want to hit. In addition, you will want one, two or three types of serves that you don’t use until it’s game point in a vital game, to close out a set or match. I like an off speed flat serve to the backhand in the deuce court, or a slice that jams the player at the T, in the ad court I like a slow high bouncing kick serve as a first serve, or a slice to the T as a shot that I almost never hit, but there it is and it catches them off guard. The element of surprise should always be on your side. If it’s not, again, a sure sign that you will need to play a different way to win. It will be an interesting occasion when the opponent is not off balance, but still loses to you.


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