10 Point Beginner’s Guide to Tennis Tactics – #5 Pace of Shot
New to tennis tactics? Curious how you can analyze a match? Wondering why your favourite player tends to win or lose against a specific style of opponent? You’ve come to the right place. The following is part 5 of the 10 Point Beginners Guide to Tennis Tactics. The explanation of the segment can be found above, as well as all other 10 parts as they are completed and archived.
Congratulations! You’ve made it this far. You’ve picked a player and done some serious analysis of how they construct points. Ultimately, the following six points are really those relating to the precious four, particularly the creation and use of space section. It’s all related. However, sometimes it’s the finer things that can go unnoticed, and are the most important.
Pace (the speed the ball travels off of a player’s racquet) is a fascinating aspect of tactics.
Obviously, hitting the ball hard is, largely, a good thing. This is obvious to everyone. It allows the opponent less time, and eventually makes it easier for a player to simply hit the ball past an opponent. I don’t need to sit here and explain this to you. But what of pace that gets missed?
A player who hits the ball hard is often automatically described as an aggressive player. Likewise, less power players are usually described as defenders or returners, etc. This is often fair, but can be a dangerous leap of faith.
Juan Martin del Potro has one of the biggest forehands the men’s game has ever seen. He serves big and is all around a large, imposing human being. It might be easy to label Delpo as a “power” player, which largely implies that he’s an aggressive player. Truth be told, Delpo is not an incredibly aggressive player (less so than Rafa, Fed or Djokovic). At times, he can even be lulled into poor bouts of overly defensive form. He likes to have pockets of space to attack, but isn’t always the one to create those.
That said, his defence can also be excellent. It’s a type of game he can play, and you will almost never hear his defence mentioned.
On the other side of the coin, power players can often hurt themselves with their pace. The harder you hit the ball the less time you have until you must hit the next ball. While playing an aggressive, big on acute angles will “open” up the court, extreme pace may only compound the problem. This is where the idea of “counterpunching” truly comes from in my mind. A more defensive, better moving player uses the acute angles and the reduced time between strokes against their opponent; the other player quickly finds themself on the run – a problem they largely created on their own.
This can be particularly common with bigger hitting women’s players outside of the top 5-10. They’re used to hitting big and aggressively. However, they can suddenly found themselves run ragged, side to side against an opponent able to expose the space in the court. Compounded with unforced errors, it can get out of control quickly.
There are things these big hitting players can do to fix this, and you’ll find out in part 6!