Tennis For Seniors
Tennis Home
1 - The Basic Stroke
2 - Proper Court Position
3 - Defensive Strategy
4 - Offensive Strategy
5 - Serve and Return
6 - Situation Tennis
Racquets and Stringing

Tennis for Seniors
Author- Richard M. Berger
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Lesson 6, Situation Tennis

This chapter tries to solve the problems you run into in everyday matches. You will run into many situations where you must adjust your strategy to the situation you are facing.

Why do I so often lose to players who don't hit with pace.

reason--- Footwork. Never use the excuse that "they didn't give me any pace." The biggest battle on the court is for more time. When the opponent gives you more time, don't slow down. Hustle into position using good footwork. Execute all five elements of the stroke... Splitstep, hip turn, swing, follow through, and recovery. Take that extra time you have to set up perfectly on the ball, assess the openings in the opponents defense, and go for the best placement. The biggest mistake you can make against a pusher or no-pace player is to waste the extra time they give you.

Remember also that slow paced balls move differently than fast-paced balls. Instead of moving horizontally toward you, they move in a more vertical fashion. You will have to concentrate harder to avoid hitting the ball off-center on your racquet. Taking the ball at the apex of the bounce can offset this difference, because at that point, the ball is near stationary, and much easier to strike cleanly.

What can I do against teams that always take the net?

answer--- Your opponents are doing what every good doubles team should do. They are getting into the best controlling position, and controlling the point. When it's their serve, they serve and volley. When your team is serving, they chip and charge. They are beating you to the punch. Your best bet is to get into the best controlling position before they do, but if you can't, there are some tactics you can use to back them off and take control of the net.

The most obvious..... LOB. Just put up a deep crosscourt lob, and then both you and your partner advance toward the net. Be careful. The most obvious answer to a lob is another lob, so be sure to split-step near the service line as they strike the ball and be ready to hit an overhead.

If you do drive the ball, it's important to try to isolate the weaker player. You must also use more topspin to get the ball to dip down to their feet... something that can also be accomplished by taking a little pace off the ball. If you have been caught in the one-up/one-back position, try to direct all balls in front of your up partner, and work your way into the best controlling position.

Get your first serves in. These teams will be all over your second serve. Finally, don't try to over-power them from the baseline. A team who has achieved the ideal controlling position at net can cover all but a tiny bit of court down the middle and down each alley when their opponents are at the baseline. Everything else is theirs to put away.

I hate playing teams that stay back and lob constantly.

Simple solution--- Overheads and Angles. To explain.... This team has everything covered that crosses over their baseline, so your objective is to hit shots that don't cross over their baseline. That would be a simple task if we could just hit overheads from our ideal controlling position near the net. But by constantly lobbing, they are dictating that we take the ball from further back in the court. But we don't have to go all the way back behind the baseline. The best way to counteract their strategy is to drift back about half way between the baseline and service line and take their lobs out of the air and hit crosscourt overheads, and then immediately move back toward the net. (and don't forget that split step just as they hit the next lob.) If they manage to get a lob that goes over your head and bounces, try to get back quickly enough to take the ball high, and hit crosscourt into the opposite alley. On these shots, you don't have to hit hard. Hitting a little softer will allow you to hit a sharper angle and make them run even farther off court.

Against this team, you may have to drop back slightly from the ideal controlling position, because you are expecting a lob, and they are probably pretty good at keeping their lobs deep. You want to be able to hit overheads before the lob bounces, because from inside the court, you can hit bigger angles than you could if the ball had bounced and you had to hit from 10 feet behind the court.

How should I take advantage of a team that plays One-Up and One-Back?

The first thing that comes to mind when we are against a team that plays this way is that they should be easy to beat. After all, my partner and I are very good at volleying, we've taken lots of lessons, we know how to get to that "ideal controlling position". So why are they giving us so much trouble.

The truth is, yes, they are a weak team... neither of them has ever taken a doubles lesson, and they know very little about strategy. Nevertheless, they are racking up points against us, and we can't figure out why.

Granted, they don't take advantage of opportunities to come in behind their good shots, but they also are able to keep us from gaining the ideal position. They seem to get away with shots that they shouldn't have made, often just because the shot was so riducuously stupid that nobody would expect them to even try it. They also seem to be able to handle our best serve, and put it back into play low and deep, so our server can't effectively serve and volley and keep them on the defensive.

Against these players, you must challenge them to think about their shots, rather than just let them keep hitting hard shots cross-court. If they are returning well enough to challenge your serve-and-volley game, you might try the Australian Formation. That way, you shut off their ability to hit low, hard returns back across the lowest part of the net. If you have practiced the I formation, you should try that also. The idea is to avoid those long cross-court rallies, and the Australian Formation also gives your server a better chance to work in to the net.

If you get into a crosscourt rally with their deep person, don't be tempted to try for a winner down the line. This type of team has a tendency to crowd the line, leaving no room in which to hit. Instead, try going for the cross-court alley to pull the deep player off court, and get your net-man involved in the play.

Another tactic to break up a cross-court deep-to-deep ralley is to hit a drop shot right after a deep drive. This give you time to move in and be ready for his scrambling return. Again, don't forget to split-step.

When receiving serve from this team, you should try lobbing the return over the net player. Certainly the server will be able to get the ball, but by lobbing, you have given yourself enough time to get to the net and be ready for an overhead. Remember to split-step. You don't want to be caught still moving forward when the server puts up the inevitable lob.

If you don't lob the return, try to place it as wide crosscourt as you can while still leaving a little margin for error. Don't try for a winner, just make the server take the ball from off-court, and if you happen to make a shot that challenges the server, move right in so you can handle the sharp cross-court reply.

Whatever you do, avoid hitting hard returns or ralleys to the deep player. There is a reason why he is staying back, and it's probably because his strength is hard ground strokes. Do what you can to make him run, including hitting soft and short. Use the angles as much as you can to make him run, and do your best to take the net so he has less time to react to your shots. Once you have taken the net, you've taken away his best shots, and left him with nothing to do but lob, so be ready to put away an overhead. Just be alert so you are ready to retreat to cover it. And don't forget..... split-step!

Why do I always lose my serve?

When it's your turn to serve, you start the point on offense. If you are losing your serve, it is either too weak, or you are allowing your opponents to gain the offensive position. Senior's don't often have a serve that is powerful enough to follow to the net. You may be better off waiting for your second, or even third shot to move to the net. It's silly to throw in a weak serve and try to get close enough to the net to volley the return. You're better off giving yourself more time by letting the ball bounce and taking it a little early, thus taking advantage of your own forward momentum to carry you forward, as well as put a little extra pace on your second shot. Don't be tempted to just stay back there forever. You still have to strive to get to that ideal court position, whatever it takes. If your serve doesn't give you the opportunity to move in, watch more closely for other opportunities to improve your court position. You might also try working on techniques to attain better placement of your serve. A well placed serve often opens up opportunities for you and your partner to put away your next shot. Good placement can also catch the receiver off guard, causing a weak return. Once you can place the serve well, you will be able to vary your serve and keep your opponent guessing.

Who should cover the lob when both partners are at net?

Short answer: Both players.
Many doubles players believe that it is best to cross-over to cover lobs that go over your partner's head. But if each player takes responsibility for lobs to their own side of the court, it gives them the best chance of executing an overhead smash before the ball bounces. In any event, as soon as the opponent puts up the lob, both players must react and move back toward the baseline. Once it is obvious who will take the overhead, their partner must get into the best defensive position. Point to remember.... The best defensive position depends on whether or not the partner can take the ball before it bounces. You must take into consideration how difficult the return of the lob will be for your partner.

Check List - Are you doing all of these things correctly?

  1. Turn Your Hips - Turning your hips and shoulders helps you get your racquet back into the right position, and it gets you ready to move in the right direction. Turning your hips gives you the correct foundation for a solid two-handed backhand.
  2. Move Your Feet - You must have quick feet. Get quickly into the correct position to hit the ball, and then make adjustments as it approaches you.
  3. Watch the Ball - It is crucial to watch the ball all the way to your racquet.
  4. Follow Through - The follow through is important. It gives you control over the direction of the ball.
  5. Keep Your Head Up during your Serve and Overheads - Keeping your head up helps you watch the ball all the way to the point of contact.
  6. Step Into Your Volleys - Stepping into your volleys helps you get your hips turned, and puts a lot more punch into your volleys.

You probably have other situations on court that give you trouble. If you take some time to think about what is going on when you are struggling, you can find a strategy to improve your situation. In any match where you are having trouble, consider these four factors:

  • Your opponent's weaknesses
  • Your team's strengths
  • Your opponent's strengths
  • Your team's weaknesses
Make a determined effort to take advantage of your strengths and your opponents weaknesses. At the same time, try to avoid your opponent's strengths, and guard against them taking advantage of your weaknesses.

Next: Racquets and Stringing