sure all avid platform tennis players will agree on one thing: The
cerebral nature of the game is what makes it so great. Victory comes
with exploiting your opponents’ weaknesses while avoiding
their strengths. A “thinking” team can find ways to
grind out victories when seemingly outgunned and overmatched.
One must first look to the basics when trying to
determine the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents. From the
beginner to the advanced player, there are certain skills that serve
as the cornerstone of the game. A quick assessment of how well your
opponents perform the necessary shots/skills needed to compete at
a certain level can go a long way to the formulation of a winning
game plan. These core skills include the following: drives, lobs
(screens), volleys, and serves.
Starting with the warm-up, you should be scouting
your opponent’s execution of these basic, core skills. Listed
below are some things you should be considering:
Drives- What side does my opponent favor to drive from?
How is their control and placement? Are they able to use topspin
for control? Are they using the drive from the right spots and in
the right situations?
· Lobs/Screen Play- How well can my opponent
control the lobs? Are they consistent, with good height and trajectory?
Does my opponent appear comfortable when balls go into the screen
or are they blocking everything before it can get to the screen?
· Volley- Does my opponent appear comfortable
at the net? Do they volley with the correct grip, stance and court
position? For example, does my opponent volley predominantly with
a backhand, using a continental grip, or, do they prefer the “windshield
wiper” volley with the forehand grip.
· Overheads- How is my opponents mobility?
How well do they control the speed of the overhead? Are their overheads
hit with good placement and depth? Does my opponent use spin as
a weapon on short lobs?
· Serve- Check the placement, depth, speed,
spin and consistency of your opponents serve. Are they able to move
the serve around, keeping it deep? If not, look to attack the short
serve with an aggressive drive. After the serve, is my opponent
closing on the net covering the center of the court, or do they
leave the middle open for the drive?
Looking past the basic skills, how your opponents
function as a team is as important as how well they execute specific
shots. In addition to assessing the basic execution of these skills
listed above, you want to see how well your opponents how well they
work together throughout the point. Listed below are areas you should
Communication- How well are your opponents communicating?
Are they fighting over overheads? If so, look to lob up the middle
to exploit the lack of communication.
· Game Plan- Do your opponents seem to have
a plan? If so, what is it? What would be the counter to that plan?
Are your opponents willing to “work” the point to set
up their offensive opportunities? Are they playing with patience,
or playing as if there was a shot clock?
· Back-Court Positioning- How are my opponents
positioned throughout the point? Are my opponents shifting into
their offensive positions (return position) after hitting a good
lob? Do they tend to block the corners?
· Net Positioning- When my opponents have
the net, are they shifting with the movement of the ball? Are they
recognizing the various shots coming off of your paddle? For example,
are they sealing the net when you drive or dropping off the net
when you lob?
when assessing an opponents weaknesses look both at each player’s
individual skills as well as the team itself.
PLAN YOUR PLAY AND PLAY YOUR PLAN!
Good luck and have fun!
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