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Singles tactics for tennis

Understanding the why, where and when of tennis
By: Rob Antoun

Establishing a clearly defined game style by using specific tactics is a key goal for every tennis player. As a coach, in order to help shape this game style, it is important to be familiar with the most commonly used tactics in tennis and how they apply to each of your players.


Every successful player uses repeatable tactics that maximise their own strengths whenever possible. The best players don’t necessarily use a wide range of tactics - they simply execute a few extremely well! Therefore, you must be able to ‘paint a picture’ of how your player plays best - and focus your attention together on making this happen. Without a doubt, having a clear tactical focus will help each player develop the confidence and competence required to achieve their goals in tennis.


 Agassi Backhand



A player’s game style represents everything they are on the court. In other words, it is their tactical ability, technical ability, physical ability, and personality all rolled into one. Often referred to as a player’s ‘signature’, a game style is not something that can be altered immediately. Instead, it is a constantly evolving tennis identity that each player ‘grows’ into over time.


Case Study: players with strong groundstrokes who attack mainly from the back court possess ‘aggressive baseline’ game styles. Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova are good examples of this type of player. They are physically strong, their technique allows them to produce power and control, and they are prepared to take risks in order to dominate their opponents.



Each player uses specific tactics within their own game style. Tactics are simply the decisions that a player makes during every rally – i.e. why, where, and when to hit the ball (compared to technique which represents the ‘how’ to hit the ball). These decisions, when repeated often enough, culminate in a clear and successful method of play.


Case Study: the aggressive baseliner uses tactics based around strong groundstrokes that are hit with the intention of dictating the play. For example, Andy Roddick commonly uses the serve and groundstroke attack tactic. He hits an aggressive serve and looks to follow this up with a forehand hit from almost anywhere on the court.



Patterns of play represent the actual sequence of shots that are used to execute each tactic. These patterns can be altered between points and matches without the player changing their tactics. These shot selection decisions will be based upon such factors as the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, match conditions, court surface, etc.


Case Study: Andy Roddick will vary between hitting the serve down the middle and the serve out wide when using the serve and groundstroke attack tactic. The serve out wide allows him to create more space to hit his second shot into, whereas the serve down the middle allows him to use his inside-out forehand more often. In other words, he changes his patterns of play while using the same tactic.


We recommend that the best way to study singles and doubles tactics is to break them down into the five playing situations in tennis – i.e. when serving, when returning, when both players play from the baseline, when approaching and playing at the net, and when facing an opponent at the net. This download looks at the key singles tactics used in each of the five game situations:

To download this 28 page manual for the amazingly low price of £4.99  click here. IMPORTANT! Upon completing payment you must click the 'return to procompare' link for the manual to be downloaded.


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