Tennis players will find that the higher the level of play, the harder the players will hit. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be an occasional heavy hitter on say, the 3.0 level. The difference with those players is that while they can successfully smack the ball, they can only do it once or twice successfully before making the error.
When battling any big hitter, there are things you can do to throw your opponent off their groove and neutralize their power:
Slow Down The Pace.
Most big hitters prefer opponents who also hit hard because they can use that player’s power to increase their own, but if that’s not your game, DON’T DO IT. You will end up making more errors and literally frustrate yourself into a loss. Instead, take some pace off of the ball and use good placement instead. Less pace and better placement will force your opponent to generate their own power which will end up causing them more errors and frustration.
Use Placement Over Power.
Placement is key, because, if done well, there is no need to hit hard. In singles, if you can hit deep and keep your opponent at the baseline, it will create more distance between you, which will not only force them to create even more pace, but it will also give you an extra second or two to react to their shot. What you should do is:
- Hit the ball deep. If you can hit deep and keep your opponent at the baseline, it will create more distance between you, which will not only force them to create even more pace to cover the distance but it will also give you a little more time to react to their shots. If you slice, the bounce will stay low and out of their wheelhouse.
- Hit short, angled slices. This will force them to move forward and hit up on the ball, and because they are closer in, they won’t be able to hit hard.
- Keep them moving side-to-side. This is usually a good strategy because your opponent will be moving sideways and won’t really have an opportunity to really prepare for their return, much less to step into the ball and take a big swing.
Regardless of placement, your opponent can still get lucky and rip it back, so always be prepared, just in case!
Avoid Their Comfort Zone.
One of the best things you can do against power hitters is to avoid hitting the ball into their “comfort zone”, the spot where your opponent would naturally swing their racket and get a good piece of the ball. Hitting the ball with little spin and having it land a couple of feet behind the service line so that your opponent can step into it is DEFINITELY hitting into their comfort zone.
Spin is GREAT against a power hitter and you should use every chance you get – especially the slice. Slicing the ball keeps it low and forces your opponent to have to either hit up on it or slice it back, making it tougher for them to return it hard. Likewise, using heavy topspin and hitting deep into the court makes it more difficult for your opponent because the spin will make the ball bounce higher and out of their zone.
Handle Your Returns Of Serve.
This shot is one you can’t control at all, so you need to be ready to react. The problem with big serves is that you don’t have enough time to take your normal backswing to return the ball, so you should just block it back. As long as you keep it deep, you should be able to stay in the point.
One thing to know is that you can’t just block the ball down the middle of the court every time. A good player will recognize this pattern and start coming into the net after their serve for an easy volley. Instead, mix it up by also blocking the ball back to their backhand or down the line, as well. Lobbing is a great option too, but make sure it’s deep in a corner. Whichever you do… keep ’em guessing!
Remember To Prepare Early.
If you’re returning a hard groundie or serve, blocking is a great option, however, you can still swing at it for a successful return. Just make sure you take smaller backswings so you’ll have enough time because, by the time you take a large backswing, the ball could already be past you. As soon as you see which side the ball is coming to get your racket back to that side immediately. This will reduce the mental stress of feeling like you’re being rushed to hit the ball.
All of these strategies can be difficult to do when your opponent is firing bullets at you. I know from experience that it’s tempting to try to match the power of your opponent, but if that’s not your game, you’ve got to resist because it can cost you the match. Instead, just try to remember to use spin, placement and most importantly patience, and you can stay in the point long enough to take the advantage and win!