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Hardscrabble Scramble
June 2000 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Finish 'Em Off!

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Mike Whittington

Have you become a more aggressive player than you were a year ago? If the answer is yes, then I assume that you are finding ways to attack and get to the net more than you used to. There are many advantages to being at the net but are you taking advantage of them? Your goal in getting to the net is to put pressure on your opponent and force an error or to put the ball away quickly. Keep in mind I said quickly! While getting to the net can be a very offensive move, you don't want to get to the net to continue to hit volleys and get the ball in play. It is time to win the point when you are at the net!

Now, of course, I'm not saying to go for the winner on the first shot. However, I am saying that your game plan once at the net is to find the shots you can put away as soon as possible. If you don't put the ball away, you are opening yourself up to be passed or for your opponent to go over your head with a lob. Many times when beginning or intermediate players work their way to the net, they are satisfied that they are there and feel their plan is complete. However, just getting to the net is only half the battle. You might actually find that although you are becoming more aggressive and getting to the net faster, you are losing more points. This could come from the fact that you are hitting weak approach shots, weak first volleys, or you are rushing to the net on shots that you can't hit with depth, control, and pace. If you remember my article "The Shot Before the Shot," you'll note how important each shot leads to the next. To become a good net player you have to set yourself up for easy volleys and overheads.

To become a more aggressive player you will need to set yourself up AND put those balls away. One of the main things I see in my lessons is a player that hits the good approach or first volleys and then gives the ball right back to the opponent for a passing shot or lob. Work on the one-two punch, the set up and put away. Prepare early for overheads and have good balance for volleys and you'll find yourself having more opportunities to put the ball away. In fact, I would have to say that overheads are one of the shots that beginning and intermediate players struggle with in their game. So what good is it going to do this sort of player to get to the net? They work hard, come in aggressively, and then dump the overhead! Work on finishing off your points by getting set up early and using angles. The more confident you get, the easier these shots will become in match play. Learn when its time to go for the winner and when it is time to play it safe. Being able to make these adjustments from offensive to defensive shots will really improve your game.

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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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