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.