The following post is an excerpt from Championship Tennis. For more information: The Tennis Parents’ Bible.
The first step in strategizing is being able to identify the four styles of play, aggressive baseliner, retriever, net-rusher or finesse player. A player can practice spotting these styles by visiting the courts and taking the time to observe every player there. While observing, the player should mentally categorize those players into their preferred approach to the game.
When performing this exercise, I often ask students questions such as, “OK Kelly, what did you notice about Zoe over on court6?” This training exercise helps players begin to learn the process of opponent classification.
Opponent match-ups are fascinating. How can Michael easily beat Steve, but Steve handles Mark, yet Mark whip Michael? Like the childhood game of rock-paper-scissors, a particular style of play in tennis often matches up more favorably against a specific opposing style.
• Just as rock is beaten by paper, an aggressive baseliner’s nemesis is the steady retriever.
• Just as paper is destroyed by scissors, a steady retriever is overwhelmed by a solid net-rusher.
• Just as scissors is defeated by rock, a net-rusher is often conquered by the aggressive baseliner.
A player who wins the first set handily should be on the lookout for a probable shift in the opponent’s style of play. If the opponent is well schooled, she will likely go to plan B. The best players are comfortable with the strategies and tactics needed to dismantle any of the four common opponents. Establishing a basic protocol for each style in order to deprive opponents of their favorite weapons assists greatly in the physical, mental, and emotional battle.