Although skill level, style of play and amount of experience all play a part in deciding any tennis match, getting the upper hand can be as simple as having more shots in your repertoire. If you're looking to step up your game, adding some new weapons to your arsenal can help you overcome better players. If you play at an intermediate level, you may already have some of these in your locker - they just need to be honed. More of a beginner? Add these to your arsenal of shots and take the step up.
We've chosen to illustrate the following shots with some highlights from the big man himself, Roger Federer. Enjoy.
The Flat Serve
While for many, the serve is simply a method of starting a point, adding variation to this shot is a sure-fire way of ensuring you remain on the front foot. Although spin serves are undoubtedly one of the most effective shots in tennis, with a ball that lands deep in the service box unlikely to be returned in an aggressive manner, there is nothing better than a fast, flat serve, that “jams” the opponent. No matter what level of the game you are operating at, a flat serve directed at the receiver is likely to cause discomfort to any player, resulting in a weak return.
Target your opponent’s hip as a point to aim at, generally on their weaker side. This will put you in the ascendency and allow you to take a step forward into the court, anticipating a short ball to attack. Of course, this type of serve can't be used on every point, as opponents will be able to run around the ball to compensate. However, making use of such a weapon every fourth or fifth point is certain to provide you with some cheap points throughout a set.
The Clean Winner
Finishing off a point is often the most difficult part of tennis for many players. Setting up an opportunity for a winner with accurate and penetrating ground strokes is all well and good. But if you can’t put away the final ball you are unlikely to challenge at a higher level. Professional players make it look easy, but this is the result of hours and hours of practice.
This is the problem for many players, in that the majority will never practice such a shot. The key is to get yourself set for a shot as early as possible, often hitting the ball with less pace, concentrating more on accuracy. Even if you do not hit a clean winner, you enhance the likelihood of forcing your opponent into an error.
The Drop Shot
Although not as effective on hard courts, the drop shot can help you to win plenty of points on clay or grass. For some, the drop shot comes as a result of running out of ideas against a tricky opponent. However, by following some simple rules concerning such a shot, you can improve your success rate. The first of which is to only utilise the drop shot when you are inside or around the service line, with shots hit from deeper generally allowing opponents time to react and hit a winner.
As well as this, it’s vital to apply a certain amount of backspin on any drop shot, with sidespin an added bonus. If spin is applied to the shot, even if your opponent does manage to chase down the ball, their next shot is made that much more difficult. Tactically, make sure to throw in a few drop shots early on in a match, rather than in desperation when trailing to an opponent.
If you enjoy attacking the net, the stop volley is another extremely effective tool to use in both single as doubles. Relax your wrist when playing such a shot, ensuring that you are as close to the net as possible to avoid unforced errors. Staying at the net once you’ve played a drop volley will ensure you can take full advantage of your opponent’s upward return.
The topspin lob is perhaps one of the most underrated shots in tennis, with many seeing it as a defensive tool. It is actually an offensive stroke, allowing you to regain time during a point, as well as the ability to return to the centre of the court. Even if your lob does not end up as a winner, opponents will find it extremely difficult to hit an aggressive return, with sliced, short shots often coming off the back of a lob. As a result, rushing to the net following a lob is an effective play, with a high possibility of a relatively easy put-away.
When facing an opponent who likes to volley, the topspin lob can be a clever tactic in order to keep them away from the net. In both singles or doubles, interchanging passing shots and lobs will keep them guessing, creating uncertainty within their game, rather than yours. Of course, lobs are not only for overcoming net rushers, with many players at beginner and intermediate level gaining success through putting in successive “moonballs”. Although not the most attractive or exciting tactic, they certainly do the job against certain players, as well as frustrating the life out of opponents.
The Backhand Slice
This shot has vastly become one of the most important shots in the professional game, with the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro and Serena Williams utilising the backhand slice for differing reasons. However, this shot can act as a key weapon at all levels of tennis, with the spin on the ball and lower trajectory ensuring the ball stays close to the ground, making it difficult for opponents to generate pace on the return.
The slice is often used as a method to return to the centre of the court and regroup, but it also causes uncertainty for an opponent. With the ball staying so low to the ground, opponents must quickly make a decision on whether to return with a slice of their own, or to try and seize the initiative and play an attacking stroke. Both are easier said than done, with the slice proving particularly effective against taller players. Although it’s mostly the backhand wing that utilises the slice, many players at club level will also use it on the forehand side, as a method of moving forwards in the court, or as a defensive shot.
Developing these shots into your game will quickly help you to achieve better results. Variation is often effective against beginners and intermediate players.
Feeling inspired? Want to take your game to the next level with any of the shots above? I offer performance coaching in the Kingston and Surrey area - get in touch today to book your session!