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How to Beat the Hacker
by: Mark Winship @ In Touch Tennis

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 again!

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.

Good Luck!