Tennis Tips for Beginners: Focus on Depth

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Depth before direction.

There are many different singles strategies that can help win you matches depending on your opponent. However, simplifying singles tennis strategy to depth before direction can radically help your club and junior players win more matches. Too often mistakes are made by players looking to pull the trigger early in the point on a change of direction play without first earning a shorter ball. Most commonly, going down the line from a deep cross court ball accounts for more errors than almost anything else on the tennis court. Watching the professionals, it is clear that the most successful players in a tournament understand that they need to establish depth first in the rally before they attack with direction. Points at the highest level end in the first 4 shots 70% of the time, so how do you get depth early in the point?

The 1st serve

The first serve is your best chance to earn a short ball right away from your opponent. Rather than looking for aces and service winners, be smart with your serve and use it to set up the next shot. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the masters of this. They use their 1st serves (their biggest weapon) to set up their forehands (their second biggest weapon). When they use the 1st serve and the forehand back to back they win around 80% of the points. Pretty solid strategy! Take a page out their playbook and use your serve as a depth weapon then attack direction with your favorite shot. Not everyone has a Milos Raonic missile, so work on your accuracy and movement on serve and win more points.

The 2nd serve

At all levels of the game, if you make your first serve into play you generally win 70-80% of the points. If you have to hit a second serve you win between 40-50% of points. Check the stats at the Aus Open. Players are having a good day at the office if they win 50% of their second serve points. What can you do to maximize your winning percentage on second serve?

  1. Get the ball to your opponents weaker wing
  2. Jam the body to generate a shorter ball
  3. Stay aggressive on your 2nd*

*Finishing a match with no double faults isn’t necessarily a good thing. Obviously a double at the wrong time can be fatal. But being more aggressive with your second serve will win you some free points and keep your opponent out of an offensive groove.

It is much tougher to get short balls from your second serve so you have to be more patient to start the rally. If you cant get something shorter from the 2nd. Forget about direction and work on length first!