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Hardscrabble Scramble
June 1997 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Know Your Shots

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Mike Whittington

Many times you will hear teaching professionals and television commentators speak about a certain player's weapon. We would consider a weapon to be a shot that we could hit offensively to either win or set up a point so that our opponent is either off the court or in a bad position to recover. Its great to have a shot that you can rely on in a pressure situation - the big first serve, the inside out forehand, and the low chip return are just a few shots that could be considered weapons by some players.

I think it is important to know what your strengths and weapons are during the match. It is vital that players not try to invent shots during match play but only execute those shots they've accomplished in practice. However, if you are walking away with a match it can be hard not to try that new kick serve you've just learned! How do we determine what shots have become our weapons.

Lets take the serve as an example. Suppose you are known for your big kick serve that you get in to your opponent's backhand. Every time you get the big kicker in to anyone's backhand you win the point. Wouldn't you consider that a weapon? But what if I told you in the same example that you only got in that serve once per game! That hardly shows any consistency with the big shot. If you hit an ace and followed it with three double faults would it be considered a weapon? Recently I charted a local doubles team in a match. I asked both players on our team what shot they felt like they hit really well and both players said forehand returns. They both had more winners on their forehand returns than any other shot they attempted. But they also both had more than double the unforced errors on the same shot! Was it really a weapon?

It may help you to have a match charted and find out where your winners and errors occur. In my opening definition of weapon I noted "shots that you hit offensively," but what if I had added "and consistently"? Would it have changed your idea of a weapon. Know what shots you are capable of hitting before going into any match and use the shots you can hit big, consistently, and under pressure as your weapons. You might just find a weapon you didn't know you had!

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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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