If you’re a league player, no doubt you’ve come across a much stronger team on your court. In the warm-up, you can see that they are crushing the ball and moving well on the court. Yep…the opposing team has dropped their lines.
So what do you do? Accept it, and play like you’re going to lose anyway? You could do that… but just because they’re a stronger team, doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable.
You could stick to your usual game and just try harder try harder, but that probably won’t give you the win against a stronger team; however, you have a better chance at winning if you play a smarter game. Try these tactics the next time you come face to face with a seemingly invincible team, and win more matches!
Watch and learn.
You have 10 full minutes in your warm up, so spend it observing your opponents. Which player has a stronger serve? Does one player seem more experienced than the other? Is one of the players a lefty? Who loves the net?
Identify each player’s top strengths and weaknesses. After the warm-up, get together with your partner and compare notes, and develop a strategy that will magnify their weaknesses and minimize their strengths.
Assess your strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re studying your opponents, don’t think for one moment that they aren’t studying you. Talk to your partner and identify your own weaknesses and strengths. Develop a plan to ensure they can’t exploit your weak second serve or your partner’s inconsistent backhand.
For example, if you have a weak second serve, have your partner stand closer to the service line so they don’t get pummeled by the returner. And if that doesn’t work, take away the opponent’s target altogether by having your partner move back to the baseline.
Listen to your partner.
Doubles tennis is an on-court partnership, but that doesn’t mean it is between equally skilled players.
Many doubles teams have partners with varying experience and skill. That’s actually a strength, and one that many teams fail to use. Acknowledge that you’re not the best player, and turn to your experienced partner for guidance. And if you’re the experienced one, make sure to speak up and share what you know with your teammate.
Change up the pace.
If you have opponents who prefer to camp out at the baseline, smacking hard, flat balls, then chances are that they’re uncomfortable up at the net. Hit some drop shots and make them come in, and then lob to make them run back. Keep doing this and they’ll get frustrated and make the errors.
The same advice goes for opponents whose entire game is slow. When you face a team that lobs a lot and puts little pace on the ball, speed up your play. Taking their lobs out of the air with overheads and swing volleys will give them less time to react to the incoming shot and force them to hurry into their return. You can also do the 2-on-1 and relentlessly pick on the weaker of the two which will also force more errors out of frustration. These tactics will disrupt your opponent’s style of play and help you gain momentum in the match.
Change up your serve.
All players can fall into the habit of using the same one or two serves throughout a match, making them too predictable. It might also mean you’re missing opportunities to take advantage of any weaknesses.
Does your opponent love ripping cross-court returns of serve? Start serving toward the T and take away that cross-court angle. Notice how your opponent favors their forehand? Start serving to their backhand… and for added measure, add some slice.
Adjust your strategy.
You’ll learn more about your opponents as the match unfolds. No doubt they’ll adjust their strategy, which means you will need to do so as well. Don’t be afraid to try new strategies. You’ll keep your opponents worried about what you’ll do next :)
Play like you have nothing to lose.
…because you don’t.
What fab strategies are your favorites? Did they work? What do you think you could have done differently? Let’s discuss in the comments below!