Pressures for Treasures
When You Shoot Familiar Shots for Recognized Patterns with Your Well Known Form, Both Moving and Swinging…
You need stress tolerance where you’re always willing to fight the good fight. Like Billie Jean King says, play with concept in mind that “Pressure is a privilege”. Relish in it.
You need shot tolerance in rallies to be patient enough to run down more balls and wait your turn for your shot. Those shots are your high % play. Make your challenger have to move and hit more balls when you can’t hit a put-away shot. To move the challenger tactically, go for:
(a) pacey shots deep to the back corners;
(b) no pace carved ceilings that pin them deep against the back wall;
(c) deep target ceilings (at spots behind the row of lights) that pull them back faster than they may be prepared to retreat;
(d) high Z’s, from mid and front court, pulling them back in a panic mode;
(e) touch shots with slice (much like off-speed lob serves) angled along the sidewalls towards the back corners; and
(f) sidewall shots that “pinch them out of the play”, when they get themselves stuck up against a sidewall.
Play in Attack Mode
Play with serious thought, patience and in an alert, assertive, attack mode. When you recognize a familiar attacking pattern of play, capitalize, as the serve-return situation quickly transforms into rally play. Don’t try to hit yourself out of trouble by just bludgeoning the ball. Placement rules. Power is a double edged sword. Hit hard when:
(a) you’ve pushed the challenger up;
(b) you’re serving to pressure them, with plan in mind to attack their weak return; or
(c) you get on top of their serve with your placement rules return when looking to pass them by with sheer force of shot.
—> Return serve playing high level keep away. For that tactical, early serve return, that’s often the moment to take the ball down the wall from deep court.
—> In rally play, shoot down the wall very selectively. The only other time to clearly go down the wall is when you’re up in the middle of the court along a sidewall, in the catbirds seat, and you’ve got the challenger pinned behind you on the far sidewall. Even then, hit a cursive “i” DTL pass that ideally angles to and wallpapers the sidewall on its way back to the near, rear corner. Even then, hit and move to not be in front of their running return try. In other situations in rallies, you risk having a shot from deep court along a sidewall cutoff by the challenger, as they cut in front of you. Then you may be boxed out, as they scoot in to shoot from in front of you, never to budge again.
Pick Shots Situationally
Be a selective shot picker. You don’t have to pull the trigger from everywhere in the court. It’s a matter of “when” to shoot vs. “how” because, when you see it’s the right time, then you’ll know how because it’ll be obvious what angle is open, what corner of the court is best put under your attack and what action your stroke must produce. Of course “why” is because winners attack and wishful shooters battle in a continuous catch-up mode. Do attack judiciously when the moment is right, like when it’s time to go for a shot like a cross-court pass, as the challenger blankets your DTL. And include in that when to wrap your WAP (wide angle pass) around um at those times when the challenger is more centrally located and you’re up closer to the middle of the court.
Patience Pays Off
Avoid going for broke too early. However, be assertive. You can’t impose your game upon the challenger by not pressuring them at all. You must apply pressure to keep the challenger moving side to side and back and sometimes up. Pull them back when they’re up. When you read you can, shoot low because you see they’re starting very deep or you’ve got a situation that you feel confident in shooting low because you recognize its similarities to past patterns. Then push them forward, while being intent on not giving them a re-kill situation. One facet of low targeting is apropos force. You don’t have to blast a pinch or howitzer a splat. The harder you hit your intended sidewall kill-shot, the further back you could send the ball into the center when it comes off the front wall. Use sidespin out into the sidewall and Topspin and smooth, fluid, complete stroking form. You don’t need to hit the ball like you’re cranking your top-speed drive serve. Play with power with a purpose.
Play from a Bird’s-Eye View
Pretend like you’re hovering up above the court watching yourself play. Like a video game, pick your shot placements that are both doable and take advantage of yours and your challenger’s both current and potential positioning after they could relocate or scoot as you shoot. Also, on the other side of the ball, make sure you “scoot as they shoot!”. By moving to the open court and also by hiding in their blindspot you’re making them have to guess where you’ll be next.
Stroke with Your Swing Tempo
Use both touch and torch swing tempos or speed changes. Have an internal time clock where you get ready right on time to match either tempo, including compact mechanics when needed. Too early prep and you lose your swing tempo. Without tempo you swing less effectively, and you place the ball less precisely. Time your strokes so, as the ball is arriving, you’ve fluidly looped into your backswing. Then right as the ball is entering your contact zone transition without a hitch or delay into your down then arcing out downswing that flows like melted butter through contact when collaborating all of your instinctive…
(a) muscle memories;
(b) eye-hand coordination; and
(c) movement and body position magic of your racquet face by using your skills of proprioception, like how a cat could jump off a bureau and land on its paws in completely dark room.
Through training and study, empower yourself to power the ball. You needn’t come out of your shoes or leave the ground or swing your front leg out around in front of you as you swing. Ideally turn and face into each striking stance. Even if you can’t full on face the sidewall, turn your shoulders to face the sidewall. Optimally assume either a partially closed, half a front tennis shoe out closer to the sidewall striking stance or a partially open, half a shoe trailing the back foot stance. From those partial, staggered stances, the object is to drive forward into your bending front knee and glued down anchor front foot. Practice hitting from your closed stance. Also emphasize taking lots of swinging reps from a more open striking stance where both feet point slightly forward because that more front wall facing position is such a common situation you find yourself in when in the midst of fast-paced rally play. Open stance stroking is practiced so little and it’s usually performed with mediocre form. For an open stance, without practice, it’s very difficult to place the ball on the racquet side of the court because an open stance promotes cross-court angles from across your body swinging. From the foot further from the sidewall push to the other closer foot. Then rotate out off that weighted back foot.
Shots from Spots, with Shot Selection –>
Rely on yourself and where you are in the court positionally. Rely on selections from your known range of what shot to shoot based on deciphering this pattern that you quickly observe, as you read the bounce of the ball, while factoring in action, like spin on the ball, and its angling around the walls and where you’re at. Have “shots for spots” throughout the court from along both sidewalls at 3 spots and up through the middle at different court depths into shot angles based on…–> varied contact heights –> challenger’s anticipated court location while factoring in their potential movement –> and your responding to the ball’s incoming angle and action = your pattern experience which gives you depressurizing flexibility to make quicker, surer shotmaking decisions, with far fewer unproductive shot choices or shot shaping misplacements, i.e., you don’t miss good picks and you don’t force shots you can’t make.
Example of Moving Stroking Form —>
In training and then practice games and ultimately in the competitions, groom, groove and own an attack mode forward move when going forward and to your right or left. Take a transfer step up by taking a little approach step to get behind and beside each ball you’re playing and attacking. Step up first on your back foot for that stroke, as you say to yourself, “Backhand” or “Forehand”. Pull along and post on front foot, as you turn partly sideways into your “semi open stance”. Load up on your back foot with your prep going on above it, as you begin your compact looping backswing…then…choose staying open or closing your striking stance…step up or touch down on your front foot and then rock right back and complete your racquet lift. Coil up your legs, torso, and shoulders with that little final move from front to back foot. As the ball is about to reach your movement-keyed contact point just up ahead of you, un-spring your legs and then uncork core. Use that body spring to catapult your shoulders and begin to unbend your spiraling arm as you flow thru your swooping, arcing down and out arm, wrist and racquet into their whip-cracking endings. To ensure body pivot, keep turning your body outwardly and climax covering the ball with your racquet face (as it comes up almost even with your shoulder) powered by the motion of your forearm and overlapping wrist. SNAPPOW! Continuously flow your racquet thru while moving up thru the ball. Keep turning your arm, hand and racquet face over thru and on after contact as you brush over the ball. Finish strings down pointing to the court. Follow-through low first toward your wall target. Then swing on around you until your shoulder joint stretches. Always finish landing on your front foot. If momentum carries you sideways, allow the back foot to swing out to the sidewall. That’s okay. Directly after contact and follow-through push from front to back foot, as you quickly determine your best escape route maneuver (with cross step with far foot your fastest way especially to move a longer distance). Get into your best case coverage based on your shot placement, while you remain in attack mode. And…when there is one, find a way to move and attack that very next ball, too. Key on playing aggressively, even with your defensive or keep-away shot placements. Dictate play and play within your high tolerance levels for fast paced stress and shot control of balls anywhere in the court.