Any tennis player who's either taken lessons, or done some off court learning, has heard this phrase (and countless variations of it) from a multitude of coaches in every form of media: be consistent! This is good advice to take. Just following that one phrase alone has taken players to the professional level...but there's a better way to get better at tennis. For tennis players of all levels to advance their games in the most efficient way, following the example of Roger Federer's 2017 Wimbledon victory will lead them not to just be consistent, but rather consistently play offense!
I attend coaching seminars for the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and United States Professional Tennis Registry (USPTR) regularly to hear the latest in coaching techniques. The vast array of approaches to coaching tennis always makes for great learning opportunities. In a recent conference, one presenter described how they trained high performance juniors to hit 10,000 groundstrokes in a row. It was at that point in the presentation I got up and got a 2nd cup of coffee. If this Pro was willing to feed more than 10,000 balls to a single student in one lesson, it was going to be a long morning! The point was made over and over: groundstroke consistency is everything. If you look at what Roger Federer has done at the Grand Slams this year, a different conclusion can be made.
The Wimbledon 2017 Men's Final was a lesson on why mere consistency is not king. At 35 years old Roger Federer dominated the tournament even more than he did at the Australian Open. He did so by seeking to do as much damage as possible on every shot from the very first shot of the point. Whether it's the serve, return, groundstroke, or even a defensive backhand slice, Federer's shots are designed to have the best chance of forcing his opponent into an off balance position. The second his opponent is off balance, Federer moves forward and ends the point quicker than any other player on tour. While Roger makes this strategy look like art, such maneuvers can benefit all levels of players.
Take a look at this highlight reel from the Federer vs Marin Cilic Wimbledon 2017 Final. The pattern in all the highlights is clear: Within 4 shots, Federer knocks Cilic off balance, moves forward, and hits away from him.
If you use the model set forth by the 10,000 groundstrokes in-a-row method, a recreational player who wants to improve the most should be singularly focused on getting the ball back over the net. That player will employ that strategy by
- hitting groundstrokes straight ahead and into the largest amount of space: the middle of the court.
- Just get serves in the box in the safest way possible. That is medium pace, and moderate topspin.
- staying behind the baseline and focusing on getting the ball back. Moving forward risks a lob or passing shot...and that's dangerous thinking!
Now apply the consistent offense strategy to a recreational player.
- Instead of just getting the serve in the box, the player does their best to target the opponent's weak return side. That doesn't mean going for aces or attempting serve speeds and angles the player isn't capable of. Just serving with purpose.
- Instead of just hitting the ball over the net, the player hits the best groundstrokes they are capable of to the opponent weak side. In the absence of a clear weakness, the player hits to open space.
- The moment the opponent is forced off balance and provides an attackable shot, a move forward is made. Volleys and/or overheads are used to finish the point.
Assuming both players are of the same level, the player on offense does not need ATP level volleys and overheads to win. They just need to keep forcing their opponent into off balance positions and either winners or opponent errors will happen.
Being consistent on all tennis shots is a nice goal for any player. However, for the most success at winning tennis matches, it's not enough! For example, a player focused on consistency alone will just practice hitting groundstrokes in a row. A far more productive practice technique would be to practice hitting to specific sides of the court on serves, returns, groundstrokes,volleys, and overheads.
If you'd like to win some more tennis matches, take note of the success that not just Roger Federer, but most ATP Pros winning tournaments are having: with as few shots as possible on each point, push your opponent off balance, move forward and end it! That's the way to play consistent offense in tennis!
Tennis Article Provided by: Robb Julian
Posted by Mandy Shephard on August 11, 2017 in Tennis Tips.