Tennis isn’t just about hitting a fuzzy yellow ball. It’s how and when you hit it that wins the game.
Many recreational players do well playing a mostly defensive, “patient” game. By this I mean there are long rallies in which no one really goes for a winner. The players simply keep the ball in play in hopes that their less-patient opponent will make the error.
If this describes you, then you’re not playing tennis, you’re playing the “waiting game”, and it’s holding you back from becoming a better player.
Fortunately, there is something you can do to ensure that YOU are the one hitting the winners – be more aggressive!
It’s true that playing aggressive tennis is risky, as you could potentially hit more errors. But – and this is a BIG but – if you can recognize the right time to make your move, the risk is worth it! And think about this – NOT playing aggressively is just as risky! Every ball you hit during a rally is another chance for you to miss or for your opponent to hit a winner.
So, whether you’re playing singles or doubles, be more aggressive, and win more points, and here are four great tips on how you can do it:
Hit with more topspin
This is the easiest way to keep from hitting the ball long or into the net. Topspin allows you hit the ball harder, and with a greater margin of clearance over the net. The risk here is that hitting with topspin is more difficult than hitting flat, and if you generate less topspin than you intended, you’ll probably hit long. So practice, practice, practice! Because if you do it right, the balls that leave your racket that have topspin will arrive at your opponent’s racket faster than if you had hit it flat, because they will lose less speed from when they bounce. And the topspin is more likely to make the ball bounce above your opponent’s comfort zone, resulting in a weaker return or maybe even an error.
Take balls early, on the rise
Instead of staying back and waiting for the ball to bounce up and then drop down and into your optimum strike zone, step in and hit it as it’s coming up from the bounce, using topspin. By meeting the ball several feet closer to the net, you’ll give your opponent less time to react, which has the same effect as hitting the ball harder. Not only that, but since you’ll be closer to the net, you’ll be able to hit sharper angles and get in to the net more readily, ultimately cutting off your opponent’s angles and setting yourself up to win the point.
Get to the net for easy floaters
Once you start anticipating when your opponent will pop up an easy floater, you’ll be surprised at how often you get a chance to move in and put away a sitter volley or overhead. For example, if you throw up a nice, deep lob, and your opponent has to run back behind the baseline to get to it, you can be pretty confident that she won’t be returning a winning passing shot. In this scenario – ALWAYS come in to the net. Another example is when you take the ball on the rise and hit a deep shot to her feet. Move in! She’ll be hitting the ball from down low, and there’s only one direction it can go from there – UP! In both cases, a passing shot would be nearly impossible – even for a pro. The only smart return choice is a lob, and as long as you have a decent overhead, the odds will be greatly in your favor. Failing to move up will allow your opponent to hit slow and high, and she’ll be right back in the point with a shot that she never could have used had you moved in.
Mix in some serve-and-volleying
The serve-and-volley game is not for everyone. Even among the world’s best, only a small minority are truly proficient. Fortunately for you, though, your opponent is probably not a world-class returner, either. Take advantage of her high, slow returns on your fast serve, and come in for the volley. Many players who can block hard serves back consistently can’t even begin to hit a decent pass or lob on the return, and if you force them try, you’ll earn a lot of easy points as they miss. Even if you’re only a half-decent volleyer, the floaters will be easy pickings for you, and you won’t have to come in on every point either, because if your opponent even thinks you might come in, she’ll be afraid to use her trusty floater return.
Follow these tips and become a more confident, aggressive player, and take your game to a whole new level! And don’t forget to check out our other posts for more strategies and instructional videos!
Good luck, and we’ll see you on the courts!