Tactical tennis is about playing smart tennis, which is a game of strengths and weaknesses. Every tennis player should use tennis tactics and strategy to outsmart their opponents.
Tactical tennis is one part of the game that is different than working on technique or stroke mechanics.
A complete tennis player must also focus on tactical tennis in order to win more matches, especially against those keen opponents at the club level.
Many people who play tennis love the sport because it requires more than athletic ability–it also draws on mental acuity as well.
Tennis can actually become something of a chess match as the games progress, each opponent planning a strategy of attack and preparing for countermoves. Others liken tennis to a boxing match, where adversaries feel each other out early in the match, then make continual strategic adjustments as the fight continues, mano-a-mano.
How to Use Tactical Tennis to Your Advantage
Whatever analogy you prefer, you need to learn a bit about tactical tennis if you want to win more matches and perhaps advance up your club’s ladder or your region’s standings.
Tactical tennis will simply add to your already-formidable physical abilities, although it must be said that many unforced errors are from “too much plan, not enough execution.” That said, understanding tactical tennis will give you an advantage over most opponents that you will encounter.
As you gain experience playing, you will become better and better at tactical tennis, eventually reaching the point where you are more than one shot ahead mentally as you slug it out in a rally.
That is a cool level to reach, to manipulate your foe as you wish, setting him or her up for difficult situations where he or she is more likely to fail. It also increases your chances of hitting a winner as you think ahead and do your best to move your opponent out of position.
For those who want to think ahead and devise shot combinations that will fluster their challengers, we offer up five combos that form the heart of tactical tennis:
Tactical Tennis Tip #1 – Hit Short On Purpose:
Hit a shot short enough to draw your opponent 10 or more feet forward into the court, preferably a low ball that is hard to handle.
This presents problems because the shot hit while running in is one of the toughest in tennis. If he or she succeeds in getting your short ball, he or she will often fail to sprint back to the baseline.
That’s when you hit the next shot deeper and at least eight feet to either side of your foe. Such moving up and back of an opponent can be extremely helpful to winning rallies.
Many players can hit shots hard when they don’t have to move. It’s a different story when they have to hit on the run. And, of course, the less fit your opponent, the more you will want to make him or her move.
Tactical Tennis Tip #2 – High and Deep to the Backhand:
When you have a ball that you can put a lot of topspin on, a forehand in your wheelhouse, for example, hit it deep and high to your opponent’s backhand so that it will kick above the shoulders. This presents a very difficult shot for your challenger. It is very hard to generate pace on a ball above the shoulders on the backhand side. The result is often a high, floating ball that is easy to put away at the net.
This shot is especially effective, because when your shot kicks high, your opponent will be looking up and to the side as he or she hits the ball, so he or she won’t see you moving in to volley. Thus, a decent shot by your foe becomes fodder for your volley smash. In general, deep shots to the backhand, followed by a rush to the net, will often work against many players.
You don’t want to overuse this tactic, or your opponent will simply run around all backhands. In the midst of a long rally, though, it brings a nice change of pace and an element of surprise. It is not high risk unless you are a poor volleyer. “Deep to the backhand, up to the net” is not a bad credo for any player that is looking for a simple mantra in tactical tennis.
Tactical Tennis Tip #3 – Run Your Opponent Around:
Do you want to get your opponent running a zig-zag, spending precious energy tracking down your shots?
Try this classic strategy in tactical tennis: hit to your opponent’s “side pocket”, the outside corner of the service box, then hit the next ball to the opposite side OR behind your opponent as he or she hurries back to the center of the court. Either strategy is a winner.
Either you put a ball far away from your opponent and make it extra-difficult for him or her to reach it, or you hit a shot that is against all of the momentum that he or she has, making it almost impossible to get.
The only danger of this shot is if your foe gets to your first wide shot and hits it with even more angle than you put on it.
That will happen from time to time, but you will win most rallies with this sequence, if executed properly.
Tactical Tennis Tip #4 – Drop shot and Lob Tactic:
The classic drop-shot/lob combo has worked for decades, and it can work for you, too.
You will need to have a good drop shot to make this strategy feasible, but with a little work, you can develop a killer drop shot.
Again, you are forcing your opponent to run in and hit, which is one of the more difficult shots in tennis. The only danger with this short shot is if you do not get the lob over your opponent’s head. If not, he or she will have a field day smashing volleys back at you after you have drawn him or her in.
Your adversary will grin every time that you hit a drop shot, knowing that you will follow that with a weak lob that he or she can crush.
Obviously, for this piece of tactical tennis to work, you need to hit a solid lob, one that lands no more than four feet from the baseline and does not rise too high (giving your opponent much more time to get back and retrieve it).
The lob does not have to be a particularly hard shot for you.
Practice a bit and soon you will be putting them within a foot or less of the baseline, making this strategy more effective than ever. And talk about fatigue! Your opponent will probably have hihe or sher tongue hanging out after a few of these drop shot-lob combos. Don’t snicker too loudly as you watch him or her suffer.
Tactical Tennis Tip #5 – Use Your Slice Backhand:
One final combo that might be a little tough for you to pull off is the sidespin-slice backhand followed by a rush to the net. As you come towards the net on a short ball, try to slice it and bring your racquet towards your body, creating a side spin as well.
While your opponent is busy trying to figure out if you are going to continue to the net, he or she will be too distracted to watch the strange bounce that is about to give him or her fits.
When the ball both dies on the court thanks to your slice, and it spins just a bit away from your antagonist, the result will be either a soft ball that you will gobble up at the net or an unforced error.
Other Tactical Tennis Tips
Apart from these shot combinations, there are many other things that you can do that will contribute to excellent tactical tennis. Another strategy that you should try is changing up speeds on your serve. In baseball, pitchers try to fool batters by not only making the ball move up, down or sideways, but by changing their speeds from time to time. You can do the same with your serve.
When you have a sizeable lead on your serve, try a very soft first serve with lots of spin. Many times, your opponent will be so stunned that he or she will be late in running up to return it, and the result will be a very weak return or unforced error.
Different Tactical Tennis and Combinations
Also, if you have a nice lead while serving, hit your second serve just as hard as your first serve. You have a lead and can take this risk. The result many times will be an ace or service winner as your opponent wonders where you got your new second serve.
The combinations and possibilities of tactical tennis are almost endless. These five shot combinations will come in handy during your next match. Varying your serve will also help you to win many easy points. Between these two strategies, you will gain enough of an advantage to surely triumph the next time you play, perhaps even to best a player that has more skill than you.
Tactical tennis can be the great equalizer of talent, which means more wins for you.
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