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Hardscrabble Scramble
January 1999 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Boring Can Be Better

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Mike Whittington

If you are like most players, your unforced errors far outnumber your winners. So it stands to reason that most players should consider working on reducing the number of unforced errors they hit as opposed to trying to hit big winners. In many of my lessons I'll see a player with beautiful strokes that never seems to miss many shots in practice. However, when they get in a match their whole game seems to fall apart and they no longer try to produce those pretty strokes. Instead, they overhit and try to muscle winners in rather than waiting for the right time to hit the winner.

If you are one of those players who can't seem to take their practice court to the actual match, here is a little tip you might try. Think of dividing your half of the court into thirds. You will have the area near the net, mid court and the backcourt. When a ball is hit from one corner to your backcourt, hit the ball back to the same area it came from -- don't change directions! If your opponent hits you a ball in mid court you have more options and can hit to either corner (preferably to an open court or a weakness). If you receive a very short ball its time to go into the attacking mode. If you get these three areas confused you'll find yourself overhitting and forcing winners rather than waiting for the right shot. For instance, your opponent is in the ad court and hits a very deep shot to your forehand. The down the line shot might be wide open but changing directions on a deep ball can be very difficult. Of course you will be tempted but you need to have the open court AND you need to be in a position to have balance and be able to hit an OFFENSIVE shot. Remember you don't want to attempt an offensive shot in a defensive position a majority of the time. That is where the errors come from usually.

Sometimes the boring shot back to the area the ball came from can be your best bet. It's not flashy but it does keep you in the point longer and then hopefully you will get an easier ball later in the point. This is one of those tips to help you play smarter not harder. Think about the type of shot you can hit in certain situations and positions on the court and play the percentages. Usually the person or team that changes directions first off of a very deep ball is the one that loses the point. Try playing the percentage shot on the deep ones and let me know how it works for you. I think you'll be smarter, safer, and more successful.

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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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