Reading opponent on the tennis court
By Marcin Bieniek
Playing a tennis match is a big experience every time we step on the court. It doesn’t matter how many years we play tennis new tournament creates new pressure and forces players to come up with solutions that will be effective on a given day. Between two competitive players not always wins the one who has better skills – wins the one who knows how to use particular situation to own favor.
Some people say that technical aspect of tennis is crucial and that solid technical basics are necessary to be able to compete well. Other people claim that because of individual form of activity psychological skills are priorities for players who want to be successful. If we ask fitness gurus about the most important skills in our sport they say that without physical preparation you can’t dominate. To increase own chances for winning player definitely has to possess all skills mentioned above but during actual match player can’t forget about tactical perspective.
Player who is able to analyze own situation and make proper decisions can easily beat even more technically-advanced opponents so it is important to grow this area to have big competitive weapon accessible at any time. To set up good strategy it is always better to get some information about the opponent before the match starts. With modern technological possibilities players can use internet to get previous results and even video footage of future opponents. This data allows to get to know rival’s strengths and weaknesses so player can prepare plan and step on the court with goals in hand. Unfortunately not always it is possible to get valuable information about next rival. Sometimes there is no info at all or matches start right after the draw is made. In these situations player can’t get to know his opponent but it doesn’t mean that the whole match will be played without any strategy. During the match player has a lot of time to get to know own rival and use this information to get advantage. Right from the first points player should pay attention to:
Serve and return patterns
Every point starts with serve or return. It simply means that 2 shots will be repeated many times during the course of a battle. Player should pay attention to opponent’s serve and return patterns. Does my opponent use flat serve or go for spin? Which direction does he prefer to use? While returning does he try to take a risk or does he focus fully on control? Asking these questions and looking for answers to them will provide knowledge that can give us advantage at the beginning of every point.
Every player tries to use own strengths as often as possible while at the same time to avoid own weaknesses. All these skills create game style that favors decisions that are made during almost every points. Some players prefer to stay on the baseline, others want to finish the point as fast as possible and there are also players who play tennis based just on hitting the ball in the court. It is not our job to judge rival’s style – our job is to recognize opponent style of play and use this information to our favor. Knowing that will help us to make own decisions that will allow us to execute our favorite strategy and limit opponent’s opportunities to execute his comfortable patterns.
Offensive and defensive shots selections
During every match both players are tested from offensive and defensive perspectives. Points create opportunities to step into the court and create pressure so we and our opponent have chances to be both in offensive and defensive situations. It is crucial to analyze opponent tactical decisions in these situations to get ready for particular responses and gain additional time for successful response. If we know that player likes to play drop shot we can position ourselves closer to the baseline to have shorter distance to cover. On the other hand if opponent hits lob balls in defense we can step forward and prepare drive volley to punish opponent’s soft response.
Preparation is the key. If you can do this before the match starts that is great. If you can’t don’t worry because you can still prepare for the next point with specific plan. Make sure you use time between the points not only to rest but to analyze opponent. Playing tennis covers only around 25% of a total match time so you have plenty of time to discover all the nuances that you need to advance to the next round.