The Middle Ball Follow-Up Shot


The most common strategy of attack I see among junior tournament players I see is an age old tactic: hit the forehand to the opponent backhand.  More specifically, hit the biggest topspin forehand you can hit to your opponent's backhand.  Because of this very predictable attack, I spend a lot of time training my players to work on a two-shot response that not only defends this attack, but can win the point in just one more shot.


The idea of using a big topspin forehand groundstroke to attack an opponent's supposedly weak backhand is a very good one.  ATP & WTA Pros use it to great effect every day of the year.  However, what I see USTA junior tournament players (and even the Pros sometimes) do on this play is to use too much topspin.  The result is the ball lands shorter in the court, typically just past the service line.  That's when there's an opportunity for my player to use two shots to win the point. 


The first shot is a topspin backhand drive down-the-line.  If you're a fan of Wardlaw's Directionals, you'll remember that based on Wardlaw's theories, hitting down-the-line off of a ball coming in from cross court is a low percentage shot...but not if the ball is landing anywhere from the middle of no man's land and shorter.  At that point, even a heavy topspin shot becomes high percentage.  So I spend a lot of time training my players to move forward, take that incoming forehand attack on-the-rise, and drive the ball deep down-the-line.  The usual response is an attempt at a cross court forehand that lands somewhere in the middle of the court.  That's when the second shot comes into play.


I see a lot of junior tournament players at all age groups and levels who can hit a good down-the-line backhand.  I do not see a lot of these players make the right follow up shot.  Once the middle ball is produced, and your opponent is recovering from a corner, the chance to win the point outright is there.  A topspin forehand drive to the opposite corner will seal the deal.  Far too many players I see will send this ball back cross court, or even worse, back down the middle.  Both of those shots are likely to extend the point and give your opponent more chances to use that big forehand that started this whole sequence.  Follow up the damaging down-the-line backhand with an immediate attack to the opposite corner, and the point will be done.  Even if the opponent tracks down the second shot, an easy volley/overhead will finish it for certain.  Here's ATP #1 Novak Djokovic to show off this deadly 1-2 response to an attack to his backhand:


Novak Djokovic Backhand-Forehand 1-2 Punch


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