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Hardscrabble Scramble
March 2000 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Play The Smart Shot

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Mike Whittington

It is 4-4 in the third set and your opponent has just served wide to your backhand. What shot do you hit? Do you go down the line? Hit a defensive lob? Regardless of the shot you choose, this is a time in the match that you should play the smartest shot, the high percentage shot. The smartest shot would be whatever shot you feel like you can control the most. It would be the shot that you have executed successfully in practice or a match.

So you think you always play the smartest shot? Let me give you an example. Suppose you are playing doubles and you get that wide serve to the backhand. And let's say that the server's partner decides to poach on this point. The alley is now wide open. Do you go down the line for the winner? Is this a good option now? At first glance you might think, "go for it, it is wide open." Let me throw in a few more variables to consider in addition to the open court. Your backhand also happens to be your weakest shot. In addition, the tough serve has taken you off of the court and you are now off balance. Based on this description of the situation, does the alley still seem as wide open? Another factor to consider is the difficulty in changing directions of a well placed shot especially when off balance and outside the court.

What would you consider the smartest shot now? You might be a very quick player with great reflexes so that you can adjust and take it down the line in time. Personally, it is too big of a point at a crucial time of the match for me to try anything too risky.

Many times in a match it is not a matter of hitting great shots, but more of knowing what is the smart shot at that particular point. You can become a better player by playing smarter rather than harder if you can learn to handle these situations. Realize when you are in trouble and hit the safe shot, the higher percentage shot. To me that is the smartest shot. If you are up a set and two breaks, then you can afford to be more daring and maybe go for that down the line passing shot. But when the pressure is on and the match is tight, the smartest shot is the one you know, rather than the one you think you can execute.

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This column is copyrighted by Mike Whittington, all rights reserved.

At the time at which he wrote this column, Mike Whittington was a USPTA pro in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he served as director of tennis at the Hardscrabble Country Club.


 

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