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Hardscrabble Scramble
October 2001 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Finding Your Game Plan

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Mike Whittington

Having the right game plan can make a big difference in your match results. Most players just use what they do best on any given day. For instance, they know their forehand is stronger than their backhand and the same goes true for their opponent. So their game plan is to hit as many forehands to their opponent's backhand as possible. I even hear some players say their game plan is "just to get the ball over the net."

When putting your game plan together, you need to be aware of a few things about your game and about that of your opponent. It is a must that you know what shots you hit well and consistently under pressure. If you hit 20 forehand winners in a set but have 35 forehand errors your forehand may not be your "go to" shot while under pressure. It is important to know what shots you would really like to hit on important points. This goes for serves and returns and styles of play such as staying at the baseline, rushing the net, etc. If your best serve is a slice out wide then make sure you know that before the match begins.

As far as your opponent's weaknesses, I think it is important to evaluate their game during the warm-up. Give them a variety of shots and spins and see how they react. Do they automatically run around to hit forehands? Do they lob every high backhand? The warm-up is the time to find out about their style. Many times I've heard players mention that they figured out how they could win but it was simply too late in the match to use that strategy. Try to put together a strategy and game plan during the warm up and adjust throughout the match as needed.

Once you have determined the strengths and weaknesses of you and your opponent, see if anything matches up. For instance, if their backhand is weak does that fit into your wide serve plan? If they never seem to make good contact on overheads then your lob might be the shot of the day. But make sure you evaluate both you and your opponent's game. If my opponent has a very weak overhead but I have a very weak lob, it probably isn't a good idea to throw the shot in on a routine basis. You have to have confidence in your shots for your game to come together.

In your next practice session see if you can really nail down 2 or 3 shots or styles that you feel you are completely comfortable with in match play. The next time you play a match make it a point to have a definite game plan. That plan might change throughout the match but there is always some type of plan. Remember, a bad game plan is better than no game plan at all and I think you'll be surprised at how it can work. You'll also enjoy watching your plan in action when you are successful.

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Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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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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