When to play high balls

Some players think of high balls as a sign of lack of confidence and offensive skills. This notion is based especially on experiences from the lower levels of performance where many players use the strategy to keep the ball in play with the lowest risk level. However high-ball, if used consciously, can be a great tactical weapon to beat even more advanced players.


Tennis is a game where players don’t get additional points for the style of play. Every point counts for one and your decisions can increase or limit your chances to win. Offensive players try to put pressure on rivals by hitting the ball hard. Defensive players put pressure on the opponent by not making mistakes. All-court players put pressure on the other competitor by having various skills that allow them to execute different tactical plans. The common thing among all these styles is the word pressure.


In individual sport the ability to put opponent into uncomfortable mental state is crucial. Player can have weaker technical skills and worse physical preparation but if he is able to make the opponent feel a lot of stress he can significantly increase the chances to beat the rival. Players can put pressure in different forms and one of them is proper strategy. If we know why and when to hit particular shot it creates good quality performance and we can maintain consistent execution for longer time.


Hitting the ball high can make player get advantage on the court or it can be the reason why the opponent can easily win the point. The quality of the shot as also the moment that we decide to hit this ball are of utmost importance. Any error in one of these 2 areas will deteriorate the quality and will have negative impact on player’s advantage during this point. That is why it is priority to understand and train using high balls in different situations to be able to execute it effectively while playing tournaments.


When should player use high balls to get tactical benefits?


  • Deep behind the baseline

During the match player is forced to answer balls that make him move back further behind the baseline. It can be related to well-placed neutral shot or powerful offensive approach of the opponent. Player has to understand that position deep behind the baseline doesn’t provide good chances to hit winners so risking too much with hitting the ball low over the net is not a good decision. In this situation player should hit high and deep topspin ball to make opponent move back behind the baseline and see how he is able to respond both technically and tactically to this difficult shot.


  • Defensive situation

All players need to possess offensive, neutral and defensive skills. With limitations in one of these areas player will struggle to win matches at higher levels. There are different goals for different situations on the court and defensive approach should be based on 2 things that player has to achieve. Firstly player shouldn’t make a mistake and secondly player should make it more difficult for the opponent to hit another great offensive shot. Both these goals can be achieved with hitting deep and high topspin ball but players have to understand that the shot execution has to include racket acceleration because it will create positive effects after the ball bounces on the other side.


  • Regular rally

There are different ways to change the rhythm of the rally and check opponent’s ability to adapt effectively. A lot of players use slice shots to achieve this tactical goal but they forget that high ball is also a variation that should be implemented from time to time. By hitting the ball high player has to adjust own technique and show how he can respond to the ball that bounces over his head. That is not an easy task because proper technical and physical preparation is needed to maintain advantage on the court while responding to high balls.


  • Exploit opponent’s weaknesses

The fundamental strategy in tennis based on using opponent’s weaknesses to win the point can be executed with the use of high ball. Every player feels a lot of pressure while hitting the ball with own weakness but if the incoming ball is different than regular one that he practices during training sessions he will feel even more stress. That is why hitting high ball to the weaker side is a good tactical option to make the opponent miss or at least to receive easy and short ball. Effective pattern that can be used at beginner or intermediate level is to hit high ball to the backhand side and follow to the net to finish the next shot with volley or overhead.


Tennis is a great sport because it allows players to use any shot they want to get advantage on the court. You can create your own individual style of play and use it all the time if it gives you expected results. Make sure you practice high balls and implement them in your competitive performance without paying attention to the opinions of other players. If they get angry at you because of this strategy it means you do a great job of putting pressure on them.