Almost every player has one side that is better than the other. Usually, a player’s forehand is stronger but as the level of play gets higher, many players prefer their backhand. Once you have determined which side is better, try attacking the weaker side with your first shot-either the serve or return of serve. Immediate pressure on their weaker side could result in a lot of early unforced errors. This should work pretty well until the player realizes that most of your first shots are going to their weakness. Once the good players are on to your strategy, you may have to play some first balls to their stronger side to open up the shot to their weaker side. Another good way to attack an opponent’s weakness is to hit your forcing or winning shot to that side. Even if the opponent is in position for that shot, it is less likely that they will hit a winner or reply with a shot that will give them control of the point. A player’s weaker shot tends to break down more under pressure so even if they are successful and hit some decent shots off of their weaker wing, be persistent. The more balls that are hit to their weakness, the more pressure there will be on that particular shot. Don’t forget to keep the opponent honest by serving or returning serve to their strength once in a while.

Players generally stand in the middle of the baseline to warm up before a singles match. However, it is rare that both players are standing in this position during an actual point. In singles, the server will be slightly to the right or left of the center of the court and behind the baseline. The player returning serve will be close to the singles sideline and could be either well behind the baseline, close to the baseline, or inside the baseline. There may be times when the players end up close to the middle of the court as the opponent is hitting the ball, but they will likely be a little to one side or the other depending on the last shot that was hit and the anticipated reply. Unless both players are hitting the ball right down the middle, they will not be standing directly in front of each other in the middle of the court near the baseline. All points start in a diagonal direction and tend to be played away from the middle of the court. Players can look incredibly good when standing in the middle of the court hitting back and forth during practice. The same players who look incredibly adept at striking the ball in this situation, often become much less impressive when an actual point is going on. The balls are coming from all different angles, at different depths, and are often hit away from the player. If you are practicing for singles without serving and returning serve, I recommend that you start with both players diagonally across from each other (both on deuce side or both on ad side) hitting balls to an area you would target in an actual point. It is very important to simulate what happens in a match when you are practicing. Position on the court often determines shot selection. Practice using the starting position you assume in an actual point to give yourself the the best chance for good results in a match.
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Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Professional, is a Tennis Coach with Traveling Tennis Pros in Tucson, Arizona, the Director of Annacone TennisMyHamptonsPro and First Serve Tucson.  Steve is also a Volunteer Assistant Coach for the University of Arizona Women’s team. For questions about private tennis lessons, group clinics, or tennis coaching, please go to our Tennis Lessons Tucson, Arizona page or contact us.

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