In tennis we can choose only 2 directions to hit. Either we can hit the ball cross-court or down the line. The lower the level the more shots should go diagonally because it is safe direction that guarantees good consistency. What about the down the line direction? Should it be restricted just to players who we can watch on TV? Not really.
It is important to understand what advantages and disadvantages wait for the player while hitting the ball cross-court or down the line. Let’s start with cross-court shots. By using this direction player hits over the longest distance on the court so the ball has more space to get into the court. Additionally cross-court shots can move opponent behind the sideline so it creates tactical advantage for the next shot. We can’t forget also about the fact that while hitting in cross-court direction the ball flies over the center of the net which is the lowest part of the net. And one more thing. Even when you hit the ball late in cross-court direction the ball will still bounce on the court so you won’t lose the point.
Completely different situation is related to down the line shot. Hitting the ball in straight line is a good option to put more pressure on the opponent because he has less time to get to the ball and prepare own response. Players have to be aware of the fact that they hit over the highest part of the net as also every late point of contact will result in ball landing outside the sideline. It simply means that players need much more control over down the line shot than over cross-court option.
It looks like it is a good decision to constantly use cross-court shots but this strategy will lead to being predictable to the opponent. Players have to vary own shots to make opponent adapt all the time and force him to lose quality of own shots. That is why being aware of situations when down the line direction is a preferable choice is a first step to get advantage on the court and win points easier.
3 situations when you should make your down the line direction work:
After good cross-court
The better the cross-court the more your opponent will have to run outside the sideline. That should be your goal while hitting the ball diagonally but you should always have plan what you want to do after achieving your first task. If you put your rival into difficult position on the court it is a wise move to place the next ball down the line. This strategy guarantees at least weaker response from your opponent but many times it can be your last shot in the point too.
It is not always necessary to hit all the balls close to the baseline. This approach is good to put pressure on the rival’s groundstrokes but players have to keep in mind that tennis court is quite big and they can use all the zones on the court to get advantage. One of the possibilities to use short zones to check opponent’s physical skills and technical adaptation is playing drop shots. Using down the line direction while hitting the ball short gives less time for reaction and preparation so only players who train responses to drop shot will be able to hit the ball successfully.
Shots at the net
Net game strategy is not the same as baseline strategy. The differences are visible in positioning, technique as also shot selection. Players have to understand that being closer to the rival means less reaction for both players so this fact has to be included while choosing the direction of own volley. Down the line shot is preferable because it doesn’t open the court for the rival to hit effective passing shot so every time net player hits neutral or defensive volley down the line direction has to be the priority.
The beauty of tennis is the opportunity to play any shot players want. It is related both to technical and tactical aspect. However to become successful on the court players have to get knowledge about specific tactical decisions that will increase their chances to leave the court as a winner. Keeping in mind when it is more effective to hit in down the line direction is one of the aspects that all competitive players should try go grasp and train during any given practice session.