There’s more to playing a match than simply going out on the court and bashing tennis balls back and forth.
Even the most basic understanding of good tennis strategy can help you probe weaknesses in your opponent’s game, construct points so that you’re getting to play more of your favourite shots, and keep you alive in points longer – all of which can help you win more matches.
Following are some basic strategic tips, in both singles and doubles, that focus on the four key areas of the game – serving, returning, baseline and net play.
- The serve is one of the two most important shots in tennis as it starts the point for one player
- The ideal singles serving position is a step away from the centre mark along the baseline on each side
- The server has the option to serve out wide, at the body or down the T, and can use a flat, slice or topspin serve
- Serving down the T limits your opponent’s opportunity to return the ball using angles. Using a strong slice serve on the deuce side is a great way to move your opponent out of court, and you can also achieve this result with a kick serve out wide on the ad side.
- The return is one of the two most important shots in tennis (along with the serve) as it starts the point for one player
- The returner should stand on the baseline when returning serve
- The most consistent return is to limit directional change – this means to return the ball back in the same direction it comes. Changing the direction on the return is encouraged on a slower second serve.
- If you are playing on the baseline, hitting balls deep in the court and with top spin is the most consistent approach and will limit your opponent’s ability to dictate play
- If you are in trouble and find yourself defending, hitting the ball deep and crosscourt is your best option
- Hitting the ball deep and down the middle of the court can reduce the chances of your opponent creating angles
- If you hit an aggressive shot and have placed your opponent in a tough position, step into the court and look to play another aggressive ball or transition into the net
- Attack on balls where your opponent has placed you in a strong position, your contact point is optimal or your body is in a balanced state. Defend when you are off-balance or have been stretched out wide
- Transition into the net if you have hit an aggressive ball and have placed your opponent in a tough position
- When at the net you should look to close in and finish the point
- The server should ideally stand halfway between centre mark and doubles sideline
- The team should communicate prior to each serve so both players know where the serve is going and where to move next
- The server should try to serve deep, so as not to place their partner at net under pressure
- The server’s partner should stand in the middle of their box and move in the same line as their partner’s serve
- The server’s partner should move to cover the down-the-line return if the serve is wide, and look to poach if the return is crosscourt. If the return is a lob over the server’s partner, players should change sides, with the server’s partner heading to the opposite service line
- The net player should always look to poach and volley directly between their opponents, or hit at their feet
- The returner should stand on the baseline, try and take the return early, and work hard on making every return
- The net player should stand on or just in front of the service line, half way between the centre line and the singles line
- The returner can hit crosscourt, down the line, or down the middle if the server moves in, or a lob
- Returners should try to return at their opponent’s feet if the server moves in, or if they want to come into the net after playing a return, the best option is to return crosscourt. If the server stays back after their serve, the returner should hit the ball back deep and cross court to keep the server back. If both opponents close in on the net after the serve, look to return down the middle as this is their most vulnerable spot.
- If the return is strong, the partner at net should quickly move forward, looking to poach or hit a strong volley; if the return is poor, the net player should move back to prepare for a strong poach or volley from their opponents
- If either returner is struggling with their return, both players should stay back at the baseline so as to not place the net player at risk
- All players should be looking to move forward and play from the net
- Players should try to play every volley out in front of the body, while the body is moving forward
- Angled or fancy volleys should only be played if your opponents are well out of position, otherwise these types of shots can place you in a vulnerable position if not executed perfectly
- Communication and positivity between partners is an important element of doubles