Understanding my own tennis game

So, you want your coach to tell you how to play the game. The answer is he or she can’t. What they can do is discuss with you what your strengths are and how you can combine those strengths to develop some unique plays.

In my last blog I talked about the various tactics of tennis and how important being a good tactician is to your game. (If you missed it Last Blog Here)
I also mentioned that there are 2 different components to being, a good tactician of tennis.

Those components are:

  1. Understanding my own game
  2. Understanding how to read my opponents game.

In this blog I would like to elaborate more on how to better understand your own game.
The first thing you need to understand is your game style. There are a few variations of game styles

  • Defensive Baseliner / Counter Attacking type Players
  • Attacking Baseliner
  • All court Player
  • Serve and Volley Player

In recent history most of the top players in the world have either been Attacking Baseliners or All Court Players and are very accomplished in defending and attacking.

The second thing is to understand the differing situations you are going to find yourself in tennis.
There are 3 compelling situations or modes of play within every point that define the tactics of our sport.

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DEFEND, NEUTRALISE or ATTACK

Understanding those situations is simple but understanding how you need to play in each of those modes is far more difficult. The decisions you make on which shots you select to play are based on your own personal psychology, your physical capabilities and your technical hitting capabilities.
When you add to that, the difference between defensive, neutralising and attacking modes of play often become blurred. The quality of defensive shots has improved dramatically in recent years and in many cases professionals will hit their defensive or neutral shots as hard as their attacking shots but into much larger target areas within the court.
When you think about these situations it is important to understand what key factors determine the mode of play your next shot should be
These include:

  1. Your Court position.Both in depth and width in the court.
  2. Your shot strengths and weaknesses Some shots you may hit well enough to play a more aggressive mode despite not being in the correct position.
  3. Your Psychology Whether you are a risk taker or more conservative as a player
  4. Physical Attributes Your physical strengths and weaknesses

Your court position is the single most important factor that determines your mode of play.
Generally speaking, the closer you are to the net the more likely you are to play an attacking shot and the further you are from the net the more likely you are to play a defensive or neutralising shot. Your own strengths and weaknesses play a big part in the mode of shot you play.

These areas can be based on many variables.
These variables include:

  • Ball speed
  • Type of spin, volume of spin, the bounce you prefer to get off the court
  • How much angle you prefer to hit
  • Which stroke you prefer
  • Whether you are a single or double hander
  • What shot you are encouraging your opponent to hit back to you

Your psychology always plays a part in what mode of play you prefer to execute a shot in. If you are a risk taker by nature you will generally be more aggressive in the way you play and the tactical style of play you use. If you are more conservative by nature you are more likely to take a more conservative approach to the way you deploy your tactics and play.
Your physical attributes will also influence your approach to tactical aspects of your game. Your stature, movement and strength all help determine the decision making process that will lead to your game style and tactical strategies.

All the above variables are what make each individual player different in the way in which they approach their tactical options and structure of play. There is no right or wrong way in how someone approaches the game but there is YOUR way and the success of YOUR way is based on melding your strengths from each of the above contributing areas to make your game style and strategic plans off that game style.

This is why it takes so long to master the game, and why you have to be able to adapt throughout the longevity of your career. It takes years and years of experimentation and match play / point play practice to master YOUR way of playing the game. This is the reason I place so much importance on playing more matches, practices sets and points, it’s also why you need to experiment with different plays in different situations against different players and styles of play, so you learn more about your game and what works for you.
Players! Try something different.
Most players try to win everything rather than practice and develop. Its ok to lose in practice providing you are using these practice matches to develop unique plays, trialling them against different players with differing styles and strengths to discover what works for you.

Here’s a few numbers for you. Most tour players have 4 – 6 different plays they want to roll out 70 – 80% of the points against their opponents on the day. The other 20 -30% of planned plays are variation plays to keep their opponents a little off guard.
Now not all plays go to plan so there are a number of points that you have to improvise on and adapt during any given point. However, the more you look to control the point the more likely you are to get more points played on your terms.

How many of you have a diary that you use for tactical reasons?

It should have your opponent’s name.
What are their strengths and weaknesses.

What surface you played them on. The type of ball used. The weather conditions. etc
What patterns of plays worked and didn’t work against them and patterns you would like to try against them the next time you play them. (6-8 different plays)
Talk to other players and coaches about possible opponents and makes notes. Get specific.
After a couple of years you will have information on a high % of the players you are playing and will be able to go into a match with far better preparation for that person. It’s like having a head start on your opponent.

Instead of coming to training and hitting tennis balls, come along to training with a tactical pattern of play you would like to practice and then discuss when it worked and didn’t work and how you would expect it to go against other players.

Discuss with your parents on the way home from a tournament what you would do differently the next time you play that person. What different plays you would use and why. Tell mum or dad what you thought were their weakness and strengths and how you would match your game up better the next time you play them. It’s time to start talking tennis. In particular your tennis.

Mum and Dad don’t talk! Just listen, remember it’s your child’s game not yours. Give them a chance to work it out.