Have winning in your hands

Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic send good examples for young athletes that everything lies in your hands. Offensive approach of those mentioned players shows clearly that being aggressive is the priority to become a successful tennis competitor. As we know, during the tennis match, we can find ourselves in one of 3 different situations. Dominating the point with aggressive shots is an indicator of an offensive way. Trying to stay in the point and running deep behind the baseline are signs of being in defense. Last option available during every point of the game is a neutral approach when we are building the point without taking control of the rally.

 

            It is not a surprise that modern game is based on power and speed. Equipment creates huge possibilities for players to generate tremendous amount of power while still being able to maintain placement and consistency on a highest level. Technique has changed and it can be easily observed while looking at players’ forehands, backhands and serves. Implementing more topspin into the shots and adding more strokes from the open stance were the reasons that tennis became a “heavy weight” sport. Also, general approach to sport evolved so players are able to cooperate with whole bunch of specialists like scientists, psychologists and coaches.

 

In this way, we all know more than our predecessors so we can apply this knowledge into daily practice session on the tennis court. Improvement in understanding and using kinetic chain are great examples of changes for the last 10 years. Many years ago, players and coaches relied solely on their feelings and perceptions so they couldn’t get everything from the sport. Nowadays, popularity and huge amount of money spent on equipments, tools and researches took tennis to the higher level of performance so players present completely different level in every aspect of the game. Having all those factors in mind, it is simple to notice that trying to win the point should be the priority for every serious student.

 

“Offense is the best defense” – this famous phrase is known among the coaches from various sports including tennis. We can clearly imagine that being offensive all the time prevents from being in the opposite situation (defense). In the reality, success of this theory depends on many individual factors like level of opponent or our own offensive skills. Knowing that there is no one perfect way of winning the matches, coaches and players should focus on all aspects of learning process but they should try to spend more time on offensive skills because modern tennis favors aggressive skills. Many of us like to watch big tennis tournaments and learn form the best pros in the world. Looking at the players like Tsonga or Williams, we can experience value of powerful shots supported by smart decisions made by those players. Unfortunately, many less experienced players with offensive attitude fail to be successful because they have wrong perception of offensive approach. Most of those players connect word aggressive with swinging as hard as they can. Unfortunately, this is completely wrong understanding of the possibilities to dominate the point because taking control of the rally is much more complex situation than it looks like. Below, I would like to show some tips about what we have to focus on to become successful aggressive players and those ideas should be in athletes’ minds during every practice session.

 

Footwork

Tennis is all about the movement and we can find confirmation of those words in an aggressive play. As you know, to be aggressive and successful, you should position yourself inside the baseline. This positioning takes the time away from the opponent so we don’t have to hit as hard as we would be forced to hit from behind the baseline. Another area of the footwork that should be included in the offensive approach is point of contact. Moving quickly to the ball and hitting the ball in the highest possible point are the factors that give players opportunity to hit more flat shots so it positively impacts quality of offensive shots. The last part of the footwork that coaches should emphasize for offensive goals is efficiency. Efficiency simply means that moving to the short balls, players should sprint to cover the distance faster instead of using slower shuffle step. As we can see on TV, great offensive players possess world-class movement so there is a visible dependence between those two things.

 

Specificity

Learning how to play effectively in offense is a specific aspect of the game. As we know, goal of being aggressive is to take the ball on the rise or in the highest possible point. Playing on the rise is a smart decision to take the opponent’s time away and win the point earlier. However, this option includes more risk especially on clay courts because of different bounces of the balls. That is why, coaches, who want to teach players variety of offensive skills, shouldn’t forget to incorporate “on the rise” drills to train this important technical part. Another aspect that has to be considered while working on dominating shots is being able to hit the ball from the area over the shoulder. This point of contact has many advantages but it is played with different motion than regular groundstrokes so players have to be involved in the exercises focused on this technique. Combining those 2 thoughts and creating interesting drills based on them are crucial steps for offensive players to become dangerous opponents.

 

Understanding

Athletes have to understand the pros and cons of any approach to learn more effectively. When trying to teach students how to be aggressive, explanation is needed of the offensive way. Point number one is that being aggressive means more errors (yes!) so you have to be ready to accept that. Nobody is perfect so we are going to make mistakes every time; especially when we add a little bit more risk while trying to hit forcing or winning shots. Understanding this reality can help players hit faster with more freedom and not be discouraged after several fails. Another thing that players should understand is fact that they need a weapon to win a point. Looking at the top 100 players on the tour, it is impossible to show particular player without at least one dominant stroke. Modern tennis creates huge possibilities to win points on our own so we can’t wait for our opponent to miss every time.

 

            Offensive play is not the only option to be successful but it makes our chances bigger. Many players have different weaknesses but they are still able to beat strong rivals because they use their weapons effectively. Learning how to control the point and force your opponent to miss should be priority for any player. This approach can also help to build confidence in athlete’s mind in opposite to the defensive player who feels constant pressure because of powerful incoming balls. Offensive patterns should be incorporated into every practice session to teach players to be independent and successful with any opponent on the other side of the net.