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Nailing the Basics Part II

Great drills for improving point play
By: Simon Grieve

'Nailing the Basics Part II'
By Steve Jarrett Kent Boys U18 County Cup Coach

Recently a tennis commentator repeated a quote that emphasises a very good point, ‘Simplicity is Genius’. When you play the ‘Game’, in simple terms you must work out how to beat your opponent. Normally in tennis it is a question of getting one more ball back than your opponent and by reducing your errors you will make youself much more difficult to beat, simple eh!
I call the following the 5’s. They are simple points that may make a big difference to the way you play or coach the great game of tennis.

The 5’s

5 Singles Tactics:

1. Get the ball in – The most successful tennis players get the ball in between the lines more often. Just look and Federer and Nadal, they rarely miss the court and as a result are the top two players in the world.

2. Make your opponent run – Become aware of your opponents position and hit to the spaces. Remember it is harder to return the ball when your opponent has made you run after it.

3. Maintain a good court position – Recovering to the correct position each time will enable you to get to the next ball more easily. Have a look at the pro’s effort to get back into the best position after they hit their shots. Remember the end of one shot is the beginning of the next

4. Use your Strengths – Firstly you must identify your strength. Again looking at the pro’s game they are very aware of their best game style and they will play to it whenever they can. Just picture Sampras teasing his opponent to hit to his awesome running forehand.

5. Find a weakness – A tip passed onto me by a former coach was, ‘if you are not sure what ground stroke your opponent prefers hit a ball down the middle and watch which one he/she chooses, forehand or backhand’. Another way to identify weaknesses is remember which shot they played when they make an error, then play it there again and see if they make another error.

5 States Of Play

1. Serving – This is the one shot we have complete control over. LOOK OVER THE NET and use the ABC’s (Alley, Body, Centre). Select the position that will cause your opponent the most discomfort.

2. Returning – With tough serves return them into the big space cross court, with easier serves (2nd serves) step up and try to put pressure on your opponent. Down the line returns give your opponent less time to react.

3. Both player at the back of the court – Keep it simple, if its tough go back cross court if its easier you can choose either direction, behind the player or into the space.

4. Opponent approaching the net – If the approach is deep and they are close to the net, lob. If the approach is short, pass them. If the approach is down the middle use the two ball passing method, make them struggle then pass.

5. When approaching the net – Approaching down the line will enable you to cover the angles quicker. Make sure the cross-court approach is good because you will have to cover more court to cover the angles.

5 Scoring Formats Designed To Get The Brain Working In Training.

1. You must win two points (mini points) in a row to win one point (one proper point). This is designed to emphasis winning consecutive points, often a concentration issue.

2. First to four points wins the set and best of three sets. This drill highlights that you can still come back if you lose the first set, a great drill for children who often drop their heads early on.

3. Three shots in before the point starts. Emphasis on being solid and constructing points.

4. Two unforced errors in a row and you lose the set or game. This puts the emphasis on being solid and concentrating.

5. If opponent hits a clean winner they win the set or game. Often we let balls bounce twice that we could possibly get to. Its essential that you chase every ball because it shows your opponent you will never give in. It may also make them try too hard in the future when they go for a winner, this may indirectly make them make more unforced errors.

I hope these drills and thought processes help you with your coaching or playing. Next month I will cover the 3’s.

Steve Jarrett is a performance tennis coach and tennis manager of the Tonbridge ITI Centre. Steve played competitive tennis at University of Texas, Pan America and has been the Kent boys U18 County Cup Coach for the past 11 years.

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