Developing Junior Players Ages 8-10: the Slice Approach Shot
In the first part of my series on developing 10u junior players, I covered the critical semi-open groundstroke footstance. That stance will allow 10u players to combat their toughest new challenge on the 60' 10u court: groundstrokes hit with heavy topspin that bounce up and away from them on the corners of the baseline. The eventual result of effective baseline play, will be a short ball hit by the opponent. Short balls ares hots hit that land between the service line and about halfway into the area between baseline and service line (aka. “no man's land”). The 10u player must now master a shot that wasn't really necessary on the 8u 36'court: the approach shot. Since the ball is still a very low compression ball (50%), it's far easier to make it bounce lower than higher. That's one reason why slice approach shots are the first type of approach shot I teach to 10u players.
Here's what a forehand slice approach shot looks like:
Now for the backhand slice approach shot:
At this point of development in the 10u player's game, both topspin and slice approach shots must be taught. I start with the slice approach shots on both sides for several reasons.
- Provides the greatest offensive advantage to my players
- Most opponents 10u players will face in USTA tournaments are far more comfortable receiving topspin shots than they are slice shots. It's what they face in their group and private lessons at a far greater frequency. By approaching with slice, my 10u players put their opponents in both an unfamiliar and difficult position. That is, hitting a low, skidding low compression ball on the run in the corner of the court. Few 10u players can consistently hit winning passing shots in that situation.
- It further develops the player's volley skills
- Volleys are slice shots, without the bounce. So the more practice the 10u player gets using slice approach shots, the better their ability will be to finish the point with the volley.
- Slice approach shots make passing shots difficult for opponents using a semi-western or western grip on the forehand side
- Most junior players at any age group are using one of these two grips. For the 10u players, who have little experience hitting passing shots, hitting a low bouncing ball accurately, and on-the-run, is low percentage shot, even if they've mastered a reverse follow through (not common at 10u).
- Forces the player receiving the slice approach shot to display a higher level of footwork competence to consistently hit successful passing shots or lobs
- Most 10u players are doing well to move to an approach shot, stop on balance, and get the ball back over the net. When facing a correctly hit slice approach shot, that's not enough. The player must also know how to lower their hips as they approach their passing shot point of contact, and then explode off the ground with leg power as the upper body launches the racquet through the ball. Few 10u players can pull this move off with any consistency