I went to my local WTA event to see the current level of first round play, among seasoned professionals inside the top 100, and also those that play the qualifiers. There were a few things that really stood out in the matches I saw.
Intensity Is Strategy
The most important part of of the day was the wide variability in effort and intensity by every player I saw. This points to another strategy, and it should go without saying, but being mentally and emotionally ready for each point is a way to win. If you have the best plan in the world, the strokes to match, and the relative weakness in the opponent, but are not bringing all of your effort, concentration and emotional energy to the points, then you are handing a lot back to them. Every player will be helped by using the 16 second cure to reset their heart, mind and soul before every point, and come up with at least a sketch of a plan for how to play. One has to empathize with the strains of professional tennis, because players have to fly around the world, live in hotel rooms, and can become quite tired, injured and burnt out. Summoning the same effort that someone might if they play more casually is not always easy. One thing you will often see from players who are legitimate threats to win a grand slam event, is that the early 250, and 500 point events prior to that event, they may be working on an aspect of their game, training hard physically, and they might not have the energy or their game tuned in the early rounds, but still, there they are expected to perform. Their strategy is to build momentum as they get closer to the major. They will want to peak at 1,000 point events, and the grand slam events, where there are more points, prestige and prize money to be had. In contrast most players are simply trying to stay on tour, win a round or two, so that they can continue to improve and tour.
Nobody Is Perfect
Another thing I noticed was that few players are extremely well trained for the return that comes back at them, even at the pro level. It shows how effective that can be, because one would assume that if the player and coach know that returns right at them create an immediate pressure, that there will be a lot of practice of serving, followed by hitting the +1 shot under pressure. This is not what I see on the practice courts, I don’t see a lot of professionals practicing S+1, and I believe the reason is that their is a lot of resistance to the notion of how important it is to winning.
The one combination I saw the most was that of hitting a ball slightly crosscourt up the middle of the court, followed by a more angled shot to the same side, unless there was a bigger opening on the other side. This was a great source of creating forced errors, weak replies, and the occasional winner. A very high percentage of winners that I saw were the unplanned variety, very few times did I sense that the player was going for a winner and got it, instead, they were going to force their opponent, but hit a better shot than they intended, passing the opponent untouched.
Innovative, Intervention Or Crutch?
Taylor Townsend stands in nearly a doubles serving position, and I think it's a very interesting thing to look at, because it creates a strange dynamic for the returner, and it most likely helps Taylor not have to recover for S+1.
Interesting And Very Good
Also, I got some good video of Sakkari’s forehand with the newish forward cocked wrist, and her pretty nice stretch bend style backhand. Go to my YouTube to see that video.
Every tennis pro should spend a little time at their local professional event, as a way to connect with the local tennis community.
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