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Hardscrabble Scramble
March 1996 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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What Side To Play?

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Mike Whittington

Picking the side of the court (ad or deuce) you will play is a very important pre-match decision in any tennis match. This time of year it is a decision that should be agreed upon very early in the season so that both players can get valuable practice and match experience on the side they will play in actual competition.

So how do you determine what side of the court is best for you? Most people make the decision based on having forehands down the middle or taking the side that will most likely put them hitting their favorite shot the most. But there is a more important question that must be asked in determining your position. "What side of the court do you have the strongest and/or most consistent return?" Although you might have a perfect forehand volley on balls down the middle when playing the ad court, you may never have the opportunity to hit that shot if you don't set it up with a good return of serve. The serve and return of serve are the two most critical shots in tennis. Most points at all levels will be set up in an offensive or defensive way depending on your ability to hit these shots.

Picking sides of the court is usually one of the factors considered when choosing a doubles partner. I usually prefer to put the more consistent player in the ad court. It gives me added confidence to know that on the big points that player will more than likely get the ball back in play and at least give the opponent a chance to make a mistake. This certainly is not a must but only a preference. Several teams like to have the flashy player in the ad court in hopes that they will get hot and rip the big winner on the crucial points. You must keep in mind that unforced errors greatly outnumber winners at almost all levels.

Remember that the return of serve comes before that first groundie or volley. Practicing a reliable serve and return of serve will decrease those unforced errors and make you a better player under pressure.

For help on picking your side of the court or for any help with your game, please see your U.S.P.T.A. professional.

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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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