Much is made of the word ‘consistency’ and many salutes are given to the player who can extend a rally, but is that really the best way to win in tennis? The retriever is the person who simply runs around and hits one more shot back. For my money, I would choose winning that way over losing in any other way, on any day of the week, but it comes with a cost. This style requires the greatest expense of energy. This player will have to be supremely fit, and even so, when they meet someone who is equally fit, but plays an offensive and intelligent style, they will be at a disadvantage simply because the other player will be assertive in the match. The so-called ‘counter punching’ baseliner is actually more of a pressure movement or disruptive type of player.
This type of player is fairly non-aggressive, because they worry about getting their serve in, and they are afraid to double fault. It has also been drilled into their head not to miss and every error is a mistake on their part. Players like this will probably also blame themselves when the opponent has hit a great shot that forced an error on them, rather than give credit to the one on the other side, for their great shot. These people are much happier to be extremely patient, waiting for the opponent to miss, than to take any proactive steps to make them have an error.
Low Risk, High Percentage
Playing this style means getting in a very high percentage of first serves, more along the lines of 70%, because your second serve is more likely to be victimized. Interestingly Michael Chang served around 72% of his first serves in and won 65% of the points, compared to Boris Becker at 52% of first serves in and 80% first serve points won at times when he was really feeling it. In reality Michael Change was as effective on serve as Becker because of his very high serve percentage, and that he did not have to defend second serve as often.
It’s important to have a very reliable topspin or kick serve, although a slice serve can also be a higher percentage play than a full on flat ball. In order to play the serve with maximum defensive effect, you will need to move the ball around in the service box to keep the opponent off balance, but if you are doing that anyway, it makes more sense to adopt the disruptive style of play. Instead, many players use a vague strategy of just getting the ball in the box, or serve right down the middle of it.
Even so, you will still want to attempt a flat serve or two per game to make your opponent have to respect that, and it will create a better change up to your other serves. If you hit the same spin all the time, or the same location, then your will find that your opponent starts to get a bead on that and takes advantage of your predictability.
The Safest Play
One of the best practices for the retriever is to keep the ball cross court. Discover if your antagonist loves or hates angled shots, balls where they are standing still for the shot, high or low balls. Some players really love to get out on the move, others like to stand and crush the ball. You will want to give them their least favorite.
There is a high percentage of high school and college players who simply spin their serve in and start grinding from the first shot to the last shot without much more on their minds than that. The sad thing in college is that the grinders have the longest matches, and while they may be there at the end when it all comes down to their match, more often in Division 1 is that they don’t often get to finish their match, because the outcome has been assured.
A mind is a terrible thing, when it’s wasted. ~ Dan Quayle
What I am doing is trying to get you to consider playing one of the four other styles that can easily beat that player. Although, if you have been playing this way, it’s quite a reach to think that you will suddenly become a power player, overnight.
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