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In the first of a new series, Ana's coach David Taylor offers advice to recreational players
Very simple tactics at a low level are to attack the open court. A player’s weaknesses are often accentuated when they’re on the run, so if you can get them moving you should be able to exploit the flaws in their game. For example, a lot of club players have a weak backhand, so try and get them running to that side. You’re going to get a weak reply from their weakest shot, and hopefully you’re going to be able to counter that with your strengths.
Another simple tactic would be to hit drop shots if you see that your opponent doesn’t move so well. And if you play someone who is aggressive, often it’s good to mix up the pace of play, giving them a high ball then a short ball, for example. Often they can get upset when their rhythm is interrupted.
The great thing about the serve is that you can really set up the point. Don’t think of it as how to start the point, instead think of it as how to set up the point to win it. If you have a big forehand you should think about how you can use the serve to maximise your forehand on the first shot. Often you see club players just using the serve to start the points, but recreational players should try and think more about what they’re attempting to do with each serve.
The biggest mistake I see in club players regarding the net game is that often they will start to come in but then stop around the service area, which is called “no-man’s land”. That just gives the opponent so many options to win the point. I’d offer two simple pieces of advice: first of all choose the right time to come in, and secondly, when you do come in commit yourself to covering the net. A lot of club players don’t like to use the net: it is an underused resource. Almost every player hates an opponent who attacks the net, but not many people do it.
I’d recommend the basic grips. Ana has a very conventional grip for her forehand that I would recommend to anyone. We’ve referred to it as semi-Western but it’s sort of between an Eastern and a semi-Western, which is where the ‘V’, made by the thumb and index finger, is to the right of the centre. Anything with the palm of your hand, or the meat of your hand, behind the racket is good to prevent injury. It’s also good for the novice – so you feel like you’ve got something behind the racket.
If you want to play a one-handed backhand I’d favour the Eastern grip, where the knuckle is on top. Or if it’s a two-handed backhand I’d go for the Continental grip for the right-hand, which is the serving grip, and the left hand is a semi-Western or an Eastern.
You can vary the other grips but with the serve I think you should be a little more strict and really use the Continental grip. A lot of players have the same grip for their serve as their forehand, and they can get into trouble when they progress because it’s very limiting. If you have normal strength in your wrist you should definitely use the Continental grip for the serve. Learning it is a great head start for your tennis.
For this side of tennis I’d recommend Brad Gilbert’s book Winning Ugly. It’s great for the average player and very easy to understand. He gives advice like, “when you’re ahead, pretend that you’re behind.” Obviously that’s designed to make sure you don’t relax and allow the other player to come back.
Interview by Gavin Versi
Photo: Stephanie Morel
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