The way you use targets on court will change slightly based on what kind of style you play. The more powerful a player you are, while you still need targets, the precision you will need is not the same as the player who is playing a movement game. The power player makes up for a lack of perfect accuracy with ball speed. The pressure movement player won’t be as effective when missing a target by just foot two or three. A three foot difference in the placement of a shot can make a much larger effect on how much the opponent moves. Some strategies rely more on power and variety of shot, others on the accuracy of shot to create the effect. Short in the court, or cross court approach shots are a recipe for disaster, just as going for a wide serve in the deuce court, but instead placing the ball right in the forehand wheelhouse can be just as bad.
Now we will break down some of the specific nuances of targeted play for each major style.
If you're trying to overpower your opponent you're also not going to hit as much spin as other game-styles. You're also not going to slice the ball much you're also not going to do these other things you're you're you know you because you're overpowering them so those other tactics take away from that now, you mainly want deep corner targets, but this is where announcers say “(Player Name) hits to big targets”, which is a statement that I don’t think adds much to the understanding of how a tennis match is won. I teach that you want a bullseye in the middle of your big target, because the more specific your aim, the better accuracy of shot you will have. Serves, of course will require you to be more more precise than groundstrokes, because of the smaller space given to hit.
Time and Space
Depth and angles are more important to this style of play. The time and space player may have an element of power, but more precision than a pure power player. Part of the reason you play this game is that you create offensive opportunities by playing closer to the net, and what you might lack in pure power, you make up for in playing precisely into target areas that put pressure on the opponent, exploiting openings to force errors and the occasional winner.
Attacking With Depth
For instance, you will hit a deep approach shot which keeps your opponent back, forcing them to move sideways or backwards, then go for an angled volley winner into the open court on the opposite side of the court. If your approach is short and the opponent can move forward closer to you, to take the ball on the rise, then your opening for a winner will be greatly diminished, and you might find yourself under much more pressure. The better the approach the more pressure on them, and shorter the more on you.
Drawing Them Into A Tight Space
If you want to draw your opponent to net with a purposely short shot, to bring them in off balance, but you hit it a bit too deep, they might be able to pounce on it, and do more with their shot than you bargained for. It bears a reminder that you should first try to solve your execution problems, before changing tactics, and take your time before making a strategic switch. If two or three of your major tactics that support your strategy are not working, then it’s time to move to a different way to win today’s match. So if you normally like to draw people forward, but that opponent handles it easily four out of five times, you might want to abandon that strategy for the day, unless you can quickly diagnose what is wrong.
You may find that when you hit the ball at the opponent, that it forces errors. Some players really love to hit reflex shots and they love to create power from the center of the court, so they seemingly eat up a shot that is hard for another player to swallow. It might be a matter of hitting more precisely to their non-hitting hip.
There are two main objectives for the pressure movement player to enforce on their opponents. You want to make them have to travel the furthest possible distance, and you want to slow your opponent down to make it more difficult for them to cover the distance. For the first objective your targets should be as far apart from one another. Deep corner and short angle shots to the opposite side, or vice versa create long diagonals for the opponent to travel. Drop shots and lobs also work great for this.
It’s valuable to also slow your opponent down, and increasing the amount of reaction time they must use. When they use more time for that, then they have less time to move. Hitting the ball right at them can achieve both of those objectives, trapping them in the middle of the court. When the other player is forced to move out of the way of the ball in the center of the court, it can stop their momentum in their ability to move to the outside. You can get them stuck in inertia, using much more time and energy to get going again. ‘Wrong footing’ the opponent, placing them in tight spots to turn quickly also creates a mental decision-making aspect, which is time consuming. While that split decision of thinking is performed, for that tenth of a second, the player is not moving. Cumulatively this can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the match, and the effectiveness of your ability to move them around and make it more difficult. On the other hand, if you are overly predictable, then the opponent’s movement problem is less complex.
Serving Target In A Nutshell
You will want to start most points with a corner or wide serve to pull the opponent off the court.
Your chief objective as a disrupter is to not give the opponent a shot that they like, so it’s actually more about where you don’t hit, than where you do. It’s good to practice keeping the ball out of the middle of the court where the other player will have an opportunity to move forward hitting a comfortable forehand. The better you can move your shots intelligently and accurately to almost every corner and area of the court the better for keeping them off balance and out of rhythm. Being able to hit places on the court while also changing speed, spin, and the height of shot will only enhance your ability to frustrate them.
You will have the simplest targets, but the better you can get at keeping your balls deep to the corners, and up the center of the court, the less offense you will face. If you are going to drop shot, and you should, the accuracy is also very important, because if you can draw your opponent into also playing a retrieving game and away from their normal game, then you can be the spider that said to the fly “welcome to my web”. Since you are not hitting as hard, a premium should be paid to balls that are closer to the baseline, yet safe enough that you are not making a lot of errors, so 3’ to 5’ inside will be great. When Agassi started playing the ball very deep all the time, he forced his opponents into getting desperate to try to end the point, not that he was a retrieving baseliner, but he makes a good example of the level of control. Like the disruptive player, you will also gain a lot by practicing keeping the ball out of the center of the court.
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