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April 1998 Article

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Honestly Assess Your Game, Know Your Limits!

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John Mills, USPTA

The foundation of sound tactical play is knowing one's limits. This can be accomplished by honestly assessing one's game. But understanding one's limits is only half the foundation. A player must be willing to play within those limits once they have been established.

However, good tactics don't mean one should play conservatively or timidly all the time. A player must learn to play up to one's limits as well. When there is an opportunity to play aggressively (go for it!) and hit with authority - do so. Just as it is tactically sound to play consistently, it also is sound to play forcefully when the opportunity presents itself.

Jim Courier and Andre Agassi are aggressive baseliners with relatively weak volleys, so their singles stretegy is based on a powerful groundstroke game. Their groundstrokes give them the widest range of options.

They have defined clearly the strengths of their games and use them while avoiding the weaker aspects.

There are strategic limits to various shots. For example:

  • A serve without spin hurts the margin of error, which leads to double faults, or a doomsday second serve.

  • Topspin shots are low percentage approach shots (unless they are clean winners), as are very poor percentage volleys, or no-percentage drop shots.

  • Slice groundstrokes are low percentage passing shots.

    A player's weaknesses must be worked on to widen their strategic options. The limits of one's stoke mechanics restrict the variety of strategic options, but adding new strokes to your repertoire can widen those options.

    For example:

    • Adding topspin to groundstrokes allows more effective passing shots and topspin lobs.

    • Underspin or slice adds safety to groundstrokes allowing the player to hit deeper and produces a more effective approach shot.

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      This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

      John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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