Definitely modern tennis is based on power. Blasting serves and fast forehands are hallmarks of professional tournaments so it is not surprising that younger players try to imitate their idols and play in the exact same way that they see on TV. However if we take a closer look even at the matches of Federer or Osaka, we can discover that not all the shots are played with maximum power. Top players vary the pace of own responses to make sure that they can increase own chances for winning the match.
The reality of tennis at lower level is completely different. Players either try to hit the ball as hard as possible with maximum speed or they decelerate the racket and push the ball to the other side of the court hoping that their opponent will send the next ball into the net. Either the first or the second approach is not the best option if we want to win constantly and force rival to show high-level skills if they want to beat us. It is important to learn when to play really offensive and more risky shot and when to control the ball with medium pace to achieve expected result and beat opponents even during the „bad days”. However the keyword in this formula is control because many players don’t have skills that allow them to hit with moderate pace and still send the ball exactly where they want.
Over the whole year players will play many matches. During only small percentage of all of these games, they will play almost perfectly and the opponent won’t have a chance to get the win. Also during only small percentage of all of the matches, players will completely underperform so against even intermediate rivals, they will have to leave the court as losers. Definitely during the most of the time, players will play well but some areas will tend to produce more errors than usual. It happens because every day is different, every opponent is different and every ball is different. Player has to constantly adapt to the new situation and it is not easy to be able to always find the best response when you have only 1 second between first and the second shot. In the scenario of having problems with some areas, players should consider playing at moderate pace to still make the ball into the court and look for winning opportunities with other skills from their repertoire. It is the biggest mistake when players tend to hit the ball hard all the time and they falsely hope that at one point it will start to work. It will rarely happen so adjustment in own strokes is necessary if we want to win matches even while not playing own best.
One more time I would like to emphasize that playing at moderate pace doesn’t mean pushing the ball on the other side. If offensive play is around 80% of maximum power and defensive play is about 30-40%, then medium-pace shot we can calculate at about 60-65%. That is enough power to not make a mistake and at the same time, that is enough power to not give advantage to the rival right away. Here you can see situations during the match that you should consider aiming at 65% of your power to be effective and win matches that you have previously lost.
1. Missing many second serve’s returns
Yes, second serve from the opponent is a great opportunity to win the point with ease. If you feel the ball well and you provide winner after winner, then continue that. However, if you are making many unforced errors and the opponent wins service games even while missing first serves, then you have to apply some different approach. Remember that your goal is to win the point so you are not limited just to hitting winners from the first shot. Use medium-pace return to the side of the court and then build the point to get easier opportunity inside the court or even to come to the net and put a lot of pressure on the rival. No more easy points for the server!
2. Missing many first serves
First serve is the big weapon in modern tennis. You can either get the point right away or you can get advantage and finish the point with the next shot. However, if you are missing many first serves you are losing much more than just the delivery. Firstly, your opponent can move forward on the second serve’s return so he achieves more offensive position right from the beginning. Secondly, he feels less pressure while returning second serve because second serve is always less challenging than the first delivery. Thirdly, more missed first serves will make you lose confidence because you will be aware that you are missing on a great opportunity to make your life easier and win service games more often than not. In this scenario, use medium-pace first serve to make it in and avoid negative side effects of constantly serving under pressure using second serve.
3. Losing rallies
Many rallies are lost because of easy unforced mistakes within first 2 shots. Players tend to react slow, use too much power or make late tactical decisions that prevent them from making the balls consistently into the court. If you have an easy ball, then it is obvious to capitalize on this opportunity but if you got more challenging ball, then you should take some pace off and control the shot using medium speed. In tennis, patience is crucial so don’t think that only power can win you the match against solid player.
Above you can find 3 basic situations that you have definitely experienced in your career. There were matches when one or more of these areas didn’t function as expected and there is a chance that you have not adjusted properly to these challenges. Right now you know what you should do but remember that firstly you have develop skills that will allow you to confidently play with 65% pace. It looks easy but if you will try to do it under the pressure, you will see that without proper number of repetitions you will either miss or play with less pace that will give opportunity to the rival to finish the point. Learn, practice and win with proper pace.