Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For, and Offering, Advice on the Sport They Love
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.
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This week's question from Gabrielle:
When I first started playing, I always had a fear of playing the net. Now that I’m more experienced, I have been trying to play more of a serve-and-volley game. My question is: How do I anticipate the ball more and stop running through it?
Please share your advice with Gabrielle by e-mailing Player@USTA.com and include your name and hometown.
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!
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Last week's question from Conner:
(Please note: There's no need to send additional responses to this question)
I know not everyone likes when their opponents hit “trick shots,” but I’ve been trying to add one into my game to changes things up a bit when the time seems appropriate. Does anyone have any advice on the best way to hit a "tweener"? Every time I try to hit one, it goes into the net.
From Ross, Bellevue, Wash.:
Well, Conner, I am a “tweener” expert, so to speak (not self-proclaimed). I win the point about 75 percent of the time I hit it. All my friends who have played against me have been passed at least once by my “tweener.” I have been hitting it for 25 years, but I call it the “Beaver Tail” because when you follow through, the racquet sticking between your legs looks like a beaver’s tail. My high school coach called it the “behind-the-ear-from-the-rear-in-the-mirror shot,” but that was a long time ago. I have taught it to my students for years, and it is a lot of fun, once the bruises heal. The secret is… shhhh, don’t tell anyone… when you hit the ball, it needs to be between your heels so that when you strike the ball, the racquet has already reached the bottom of its arc and its face is just starting to go slightly upward. The swing itself is fast and whippy, just like the wrist snap of the serve, and is hit with the continental grip -- also just like the serve. Happy tweening! Oh by the way…
Welcome to the beaver lodge, Conner!
From Coach Poppie, Palm Bay, Fla.:
The “Tweener” is not a trick shot. It is a highly practiced skill shot by high echelon players. Spend a little time learning to pass the ball more in order to get more lift. However, you will be miles ahead by mastery of an angular drop volley from anywhere inside the service area. Then you will be able to look at your opponent as he struggles or stalls on the return. The effect is long lasting. Think of it as “Ali” standing over an opponent with gloves raised high.
From Eric, Santa Rosa, Calif.:
Drop shots that are well selected and hit correctly are the best and most effective (especially on clay) of the "trick shots." Do not let the complainers confuse you. The folks complaining are usually your fatigued opponents.
The "side spin," wrong-direction slice makes a very effective addition to the usual soft but straight underspin drop shot. Instead of just hitting straight through for underspin, try a backhand slice that drags the strings hard from left to right.
The "drop volley" is deadly, as well, when your opponent is deep. Just catch the ball with soft hands at impact and aim away from your opponent’s position. Where is your drop shot hit from? Only on a ball that hits in the service boxes will allow for a clean winner. Other times you may try bringing a vulnerable groundstroker in on a ball bouncing deeper than the service line. This takes good judgment.
You can use a short, wide, low slice as an effective strategy against slower baseliners. Their power and comfort vs. standard groundstrokes may dictate that you bring them up to net (watch Federer's backhand slice on YouTube) where they are more vulnerable. Typically the slice wide and low is best hit when you know that:
A) Your opponent is slow laterally
B) They have an extreme grip that limits their accuracy vs. your slice
C) They are a "fish out of water" at the net
D) They do not backpedal well on good lobs
E) Their approach shots are not typically winners
The combo of dropshot with a lob over their backhand is the most under-utilized, but it is a highly effective tactic in club tennis and adult tennis leagues.
Everyone likes to FLEX their muscles on big groundstrokes and first serves, but if winning appeals to you more than ego tripping, just figure out early on if your opponent is either not "in shape” or just a slow and poor net player. If so, bring them in and either pass them, hit at their feet or lob over their backhand. Against this type, you do not even have to wait for a very short ball to start "slicing and dicing." Know your opponent and make them play a style that suits you and plays them out of their comfort zone.
Even if you lose the first set vs. a less fit player, you can win the next two sets easily if you have exhausted their physical reserves. Use these drop shots and lobs as your trick-shot weapons. Practice them every day that you play until you develop supreme confidence.
From Coach Ken, Highland Park, Ill.:
Tennis isn't just about banging the ball back and forth and going for winners. One shot that changes things is a huge topspin lob when the other player is at the baseline. Sometimes even use this as an approach shot. The drop shot from the baseline is tough but practice it. The drop shot takes a little swing going under the ball and using a lot of touch. Don't try to take a real big ball and return it with a drop shot. Practice with another player close up, hitting regular shots and drop shots to build touch. Also hit volleys like this; it will help your volleys, is a great warm up, and will help you get touch for the drop shot. When hitting from the baseline, take a misplaced ball and try a drop shot, and keep trying in practice or with a pro. Another trick shot would be changing the speed and spins of your first and definitely your second serve. This will really throw off the other's timing.