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From Placement to Power - Not Power to Placement
by Scott Baker

I have said it many times, "Who doesn’t like to hit the ball hard?" I know I love to! However, what fun is it to hit the ball hard only to consistently miss the court by a considerable margin? Well, I can answer that question for you, it is no fun at all!

When I first started playing tennis I liked to "try" to hit the ball hard landing maybe only half of my shots in the court. Then I got hooked up with a larger group of league players who were considerably more experienced. They were very consistent players and because of my tendency to place importance on power instead of placement, consistency was not my strong point. Why they let me come back the following week, I will never know. They would move me around the court with good placement and wait for me to hit the error, and errors I hit. After a couple of weeks of losing my matches I had to step back and look at what I was doing wrong. I was going for too much power off of my shots and not enough control. So I decided to try their game of placement and control. I slowed my shots down and worked on placement. Within a week or two I was keeping up, within a few months I was winning. What I had done was concentrate on my placement and as I got more confident with my placement I started hitting the ball harder as I got better.

It is much easier to develop power after you’ve developed placement as opposed to developing placement after you have developed power. In other words, once you develop placement your power will follow. You will get stronger on the court, your strokes will be more fluid and your confidence will build. Eventually you will start hitting the ball harder and harder. It may be so slight that you don’t even notice it, but your opponents will.

I feel that placement and consistency are far more important than power. If you cannot hit the ball in the court where you want, in key situations, your game will suffer. More times than not I will defeat an opponent who goes for too much on his/her shots and hits a lot of unforced errors rather than a player who moves me around on the court wisely and waits for me to hit the error. Hitting without good placement is sloppy tennis and will get you in trouble against the better players.

If you are a power player who likes to hit the ball hard and doesn’t care where the ball lands, take heed! Slow down, learn proper placement, and let your power follow. Eventually you will get to the point where you can hit the ball as hard as you like and you will be able to aim the ball as well as keep it in the court with better success. By being able to combine these techniques, you will dictate more points and be in control of more matches, making you a much better tennis player. Let’s take a look at some of the key advantages of being able to place your shots.

  1. Better shot selection
  2. Easier to wear your opponent down
  3. Higher percentage of passing shots
  4. Pulling your opponent off of the court
  5. More dictation of points
  6. Lower percentage of unforced errors
  7. Attacking your opponent’s weaker side.
  8. More matches won!

Please do not think these tips refer to just your ground strokes; serves, volleys and overheads also fall into this category! Serves may be a little different in theory, I know a lot of players who just hit it hard and don’t aim the ball and still are successful. However, the players who can aim and hit the serve hard do even better!

In architecture some argue that the form of a building comes before the function, and some argue that function comes before form. That is an argument that will go on until the end of time. However, we are not designing a building, here we are designing tennis players. For this subject matter there is no argument, you must work on your placement first and let your power follow! In the end you will be a much better tennis player for taking the time to learn placement in lieu of power and let the power naturally follow after the placement.


Scott Baker is the webmaster of Tennis4you.com. For more instructional articles visit Tennis4you.com and check out instructional articles from 13 different sources, drills, links, newsletters and much more.

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