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Hardscrabble Scramble
July 2002 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Style Matters

Mike Whittington Photo
Mike Whittington

Do you ever pay attention to the playing style of your opponent? What about his/her grip or backswing? If you watched Wimbledon this year you probably noticed a completely different set of names advancing through the draws than just a month ago at the French Open. Why the difference? The grass at Wimbledon provides for low, skidding bounces which require quick hands and reflexes on groundstrokes. For players that have big looping backswings this can be the worst possible surface. Now think back to the styles of many of the players in the French Open. They had full long strokes and they had plenty of time to execute them because of the slow red clay.

What can you as the club player learn from this? I think plenty. Every grip and style has its advantages and disadvantages. When you formulate your game plan against an opponent do you notice how they are holding their racquet? A full western grip is great for topspin and for high bouncing balls but can be difficult on low slices. So if you play a player with an extreme Western grip, why not give him/her some low slices to see if they are capable of making a grip change. What about a player with a long high backswing? At my club we have a player with just such a swing. If the ball lands at the service line he nails it. If his opponent hits close to the baseline he is always late on meeting the ball out in front. So it would be a good game plan against this type of player to hit much deeper.

As a competitive player I was a serve and volleyer. I loved coming to the net and looking back. I was probably doing it to make up for a lack of consistency with my groundstrokes. If someone gave me some power and let me hit volleys I loved it. Smart players would keep me pinned on the baseline and forced me into a style I didn't like. Good players can pick up some of the strengths and weaknesses for their opponent simply by looking at the way they hold their racquet and execute a few shots.

Another great example is serving in mixed doubles. Men often hate for the ball to be returned by the woman in mixed if she is a weaker player. Admit it guys -- we want the power! A player that just blocks that return back will often be able to watch a big forehand fly out on the next shot. Some people just believe it's hard, harder, and hardest until a winner or error is hit.

The next time you play a match take a few minutes to learn about the style of your opponent. Have you ever finished a match and said "if I just had hit to his (or her) backhand I would have won!" Why not figure those things out before the match. Take a closer look at their style and you'll be winning more points with very little extra work.

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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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