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Dictator or Peasant? What are you on the court?
David W. Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
Consider the many shots available in tennis: Topspin groundstrokes, slices, drop shots, topspin lobs, angle volleys, topspin volleys, slice serves, flat serves, topspin serves, kick serves, deep volleys, defensive lobs, blocked shots, and a number of shots that could be considered trick, unorthodox, or unconventional. A player has potentially an unlimited array of combinations of these shots to make up a rally.
Taking a ball that we normally attack deep with and hitting a drop shot is an example of dictating play.
However, watch most recreational, club or social matches, and you will often see the same shots hit in the same situations time after time. Usually, any variance from this pattern is a result of an unintentional hit or miss-hit. Interestingly enough, when such shots occur they often are winners, which makes one wonder why not try to intentionally ‘change' the shot pattern once in a while?
When we start playing tennis, most players understand that they have limitations and, as such, only try to hit shots they are most familiar with. (And, they use a form that they are most familiar with too - a topic that I have talked about several times!) Generally, players don't attempt shots they seldom hit, or practice.
Then, there are those who break this mold, experimenting both in practice and in match play with shots they envision to be more effective or, at least, interesting to try! The paradox, however, in players trying different or more effective shots is that seldom use proper technique to increase the probability of success and with those shots. So, even in attempting some shots, the use of improper form will convince players—consciously or unconsciously—that such shots don't work or are simply not possible for them. They then simply go back to hitting the same old shots, over and over! Sound familiar?
Shot Making—or Shot Reacting?
Adjusting to lower balls by hitting a sharp angle instead of just popping it up can increase your likelihood of winning a point.
My reference to the title of this newsletter—whether you are a ‘dictator or a peasant'—refers to the intentional effort to change shot patterns during a rally. Some players only respond to opponents shots—not ‘dictating' any intentional change in a rally. Some call it ‘counter-punching' but, that phrase indicates an intentional response predicated on our opponent hitting a specific shot which we are looking for or are waiting for.
‘Dictators' are players who, obviously, dictate portions of the rally through the execution of shots that a) are self-chosen and b) don't necessarily fall within conventional shot selections (for that particular level of competition). In theory, the more skilled the player, the more options such dictators can draw from. It's like having an arsenal of different weapons when other weapons don't work. However, we often see even some skilled players rely only upon one or two playing strategies even though they have a much larger variety at their disposal.
Shot-makers at the U.S. Open
I watched Agassi mix in drop shots and sharp angled groundstrokes during his matches, especially against Blake and Ginepri. Federer, while not as flamboyant as some, is the master of the all-court game. Taking the ball early, changing the pace, spin, and depth, Federer seems to posses an uncanny ability to know when and where to mix in such change.
I believe the players who would benefit the most from learning to execute such diversity are those who are not among the pro ranks. USTA league doubles and singles players, high school competitors, social and club players, all could not only play more effective doubles and singles, but they would also enjoy the challenge and diversity such shot-making offers.
Practice and Implementation
Learning to hit with soft hands and a smooth, fluid stroke, can give you the touch and consistency on drop shots.
Unfortunately, the majority of tennis players don't learn to execute such shots. If they don't learn them, they can't practice them. Consequently, if they don't practice them, they can't implement them in competition.
Many players don't know how to hit a slice backhand drive or an effective drop shot from either side. It isn't that players can't learn to execute such shots. It's just they are not given the opportunity to learn or master such shots.
It would serve ALL players well to learn, practice, and implement drop shots, angles, and slice approach shots and to learn to hit different spins on their serve as well. Even something as simple as standing in different areas when serving could dramatically alter the look and feel of a match.
When playing opponents who like to play and hit shots from specific positions, chances are they are going to do it better than if they are forced to hit from some place else with shots that are not as comfortable.
Let's face it, how smart is it to take a short ball and hit it deep to players who, a) are already back, behind the baseline, b) are very accustomed to playing shots from this position, and c) are seldom under pressure from such shots?
Notoriously, we see players take a short ball and approach the net with a non-intimidating groundstroke, only to be lobbed back to their baseline? Obviously, the ability to hit an effective overhead helps, but we see opponents camp out on the baseline and retrieve overheads with defensive lobs until their opponents simply miss.
Being able to dictate a match by executing drop shots against those who like to stay back, or hit sharp angled serves, volleys or groundstrokes, all force opponents to adjust or change their own game, perhaps to something that is less comfortable or effective.
The hardest part will not be learning the shots, it will be executing them in competition. Just as when we first learned basic strokes, missing will be part of the equation. But, because we can always ‘fall back' to our old, familiar shots, players often fail to give such new dimensions to their game a chance.
I can only implore you to persevere. Continue to practice and implement these new techniques with confidence. Eventually you will not only master them, but find them to be a valuable and fun addition to your game - one that can lift you past levels you have been stuck at for years!
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
(Click link to purchase Dave Smith's book, Tennis Mastery, at tenniswarehouse.com.)
T1 Super Slow-Mo™ Videos
TennisOne once again brings you Super Slow-Mo™ Videos of your favorite players. This time it's women's forehands, including Elena Dementieva and US Open champion, Kim Clijsters. Click on the green button and you'll find them in your 'My TennisOne
' account. There's no better way to study the strokes of the pros than by breaking it down in super slow motion so watch and learn.
Skilled Tennis Achievement: Nature or Nurtured?
Many of today's top tennis players are blessed with athleticism and complementary genes, both of which have helped propel them to the top of their sport. Yet these players did not develop by themselves as in some kind of natural evolutionary process. Through a combination of opportunity, athleticism, Information, and desire, we can all reach our true potential. Dave Smith
The Eyes of a Champion
What is the secret to hitting the ball with control and consistency? Ask Roger Federer, he's definitely got it dialed in. You can see it every time he plays. It's in his eyes. He is one of the few professionals to truly understand how to use his eyes effectively on the court. You may never hit a forehand like Roger but you can learn to watch the ball the he does. Alan Chandronnait
Virtual Tennis Academy
Current professional tour coach, Heath Waters and wife, top 100 and former no. 33 in the world ranked tour player, Lindsay Lee-Waters, are proud to release the first predominantly all streaming video based e-learning tennis instructional website at www.virtualtennisacademy.com
Subscribers will receive personal video tennis instruction directly from Heath and Lindsay as well as mental coaching, sports performance training, and much, more from a hand chosen team of experts currently working with professional tennis players on tour. Now anyone in the world, no matter what level, can receive the same world class training the world's best tennis players receive right from the convenience of their own home.
Jeff Greenwald - Fearless Tennis
Feel you're playing tentatively and know that you have greater potential than you're demonstrating in tournaments? This one of a kind, double- CD audio program, FearlessTennnis: The 5 Mental Keys To Unlocking Your Potential, will help you compete with confidence, close out matches and is a great way to get the mental edge en route to a tournament.
Schedule Jeff Greenwald to Speak
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