Encourage Your Opponent's Unforced Errors
From Jeff Cooper,
Your Guide to Tennis.
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Part I: Mental Torture, Ethically
Tennis has such a strong psychological component, some players look at a match as a mental war. They'll try anything to upset their opponent: the glare, the sudden shoe-tying emergency, or the convenient temper tantrum. One well known female pro is reputed to have, as a junior, whispered to her opponents on change-overs, "Big b*tch"!
I think such tactics fail the ethics test. As far as I'm concerned, there's only one honorable way to unhinge your opponent: with your shots. Your opponent might get upset if you hit clean winners, but he'll get more frustrated if you make him miss what seems to him to be a perfectly hittable ball. When you win a point this way, you often win a few more as a bonus, because your opponent keeps thinking about the one he "should have had."
Here are my five favorite shots that tend to make opponents miss what seem to them to be easy balls:
1. true slice (sidespin) backhand
If you already know how to hit a backspin backhand, which is what most people mean when they talk about a "slice backhand," you should be able quickly to learn a trueslice backhand, which has sidespin. The advantage of sidespin is that it makes the ball skid left or right on the bounce. If your opponent isn't used to this, she'll find herself suddenly too far, or, better for you, too close to the ball just as she's about to swing. Either way, she'll often hit a weak floater or dump the ball into the net. Learn the slice backhand here.
2. high, deep topspin
During the 1970s, a new type of player emerged who drove everyone nuts. The "moonballers" hit virtually nothing but this high, deep topspin that few players could find a way to attack. When two pro moonballers got matched up for singles, individual points would sometimes go on for several minutes, eventually drawing boos from the crowd. In the pro ranks today, most players have developed effective countermeasures, so the moonball is less often used, but if you're playing below the pro ranks, your opponents might not have an answer. The moonball is a difficult shot to attack because it's deep and it kicks above the height at which most players can hit hard. It's also highly reliable, so you can keep hitting it until your opponent loses patience and risks a low-percentage shot. Learn the high, deep topspin here.
Part II: Alter Space and Time
3. heavy backspin
When you're forced to hit a shot that won't have any power or land very far from your opponent, you can still make your opponent miss by making the shot sufficiently unpredictable. If you're not hitting hard, it's pretty easy to hit a backspin so heavy that the ball nearly bounces straight up instead of continuing forward. The result will often be a major timing and positioning error from your opponent. He'll tend to swing too early and also have to reach too far forward. This usually makes him hit long if he connects with any power, or it will throw him off so much that he'll barely connect at all.
4. extreme slice serve
This serve has the same effects as the true slice backhand, but for many players, it's easier to execute, because serves are the one shot on which you have complete control of the ball.
It's also easier to hit an extreme angle with this serve than with most backhands. You can pull your opponent completely off the court with a well-placed extreme slice serve out wide, or you can curve the ball into her body. The "jamming" serve works especially well against tall opponents. This serve doesn't have much pace on it, so the receiver tends to think of it as "easy" when it can be anything but. Learn the extreme slice serve here.
5. bit-too-high lob
Some opponents will be too smart for this one, but most will fall for it even though they know better. When your opponent is at the net, and you just barely get to the ball, try throwing up a lob around 35 feet high. If you hit your lob nice and deep, you're right back in the point, but even if it ends up shorter than you hoped, you might still luck out. Many players forget how hard it is to time an overhead when the ball is accelerating downward from a significant height, and even when they remember, the temptation, mixed with a little overconfidence, is irresistable. They try to hit your overhead before it bounces, mis-time it, and hand you the point. 35 feet is about the right height not to be obviously too high to hit before the bounce. If you're way out of position, you might want to lob higher to buy more time, and although it's more likely your opponent will let the ball bounce, you might discover that his bounced overhead is another shot to add to your list of those he hates to hit.