How to Beat the Hacker
by: Mark Winship @ In
How many times have you seen the powerful, talented attacking
baseliner worked into the ground and out-witted by the defensive 'hacker'?
I know very few players, especially among the junior ranks, who enjoy
playing someone who chases down every ball and returns it high and slow
with very little pace.
So what's the problem? By all rights the attacking baseliner
should win hands down. They generally have much stronger shots from the
back of the court and a much larger repertoire of options available to
them. The 'hacker' (I will use this term to save me continually typing
'defensive baseliner' although I feel that it demeans what is often a
very effective tactical play) generally relies on being able to out-last
their opponent, forcing them to generate their own pace, become impatient
and just push too hard on that final ball.
If you find yourself in this situation there is something
that you can do that will double your success rate against the dreaded
hacker. Get to the net! I'm not suggesting that you suddenly chip
'n charge every short ball or drastically change your game style
to that of a serve-volleyer. Just an occasional foray that will
force your opponent to reconsider that high floating reply that
has been driving you insane at the back of the court. Many players
hit big booming groundstrokes into the corner or powerful first
serves that force their opponents to stretch and make a high defensive
reply, but then sit back on the baseline or even run backwards to
play it with another groundstroke. By which time their opponent
has easily regained their court position and successfully nullified
the attack so that the aggressive baseliner has to start all over
As soon as your opponent realises that you are not going
to approach the net they are given the green light to float high 'nothing'
balls on to the baseline when under attack. If you pick off some of these
with a volley or drive-volley and throw in the odd serve and volley point,
your opponent will have to hit a more forcing shot when pulled wide and
do something more with the return than simply chip it back into play.
You will quite often find that they are simply unable to do this as they
have built their game around presenting the aggressive player with balls
that have no pace, forcing them to go for a shot that is too risky or
too impatient. You don't even have to be the world's best volleyer. Nine
times out of ten your opponent will miss a shot that they were not comfortable
playing or present you with a high easy put-away volley.
An excellent ball to use as an approach shot against a 'hacker'
is a short topspin angle. This serves a dual purpose. Defensive baseliners
will tend to position themselves a long way back and a short angle will
drag them out of their zone. They are usually quite comfortable scooting
across the baseline but a short angled ball will force them to hit up
to your waiting volley.