If players canít do these things then forget it!! - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old Jan 21st, 2003, 12:28 PM Thread Starter
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If players canít do these things then forget it!!

There have been a couple of discussions about how to play against the top players. I believe the advances that up and coming players need to make lie in 4 categories (preferably in this order):

1. Serve - Flat, Slice and Topspin
2=. Power with topspin
2=. Returns
[4. Volleying ability would be nice but if you canít do the above then volleying alone will not help!]

Obviously this is almost like saying Ďimprove your whole game,í and to be a top player I think you definitely need power but let me explain:

With a weak serve players throughout the top 30 will be able to take the upper hand from the word go. If you can be broken easily you will not be able to put pressure on the top players Ė even if you can break them several times in one match (see Serenaís matches in this tournament). Having a decent flat, slice and topspin serve (with good power) makes a world of difference as it prevents the returner getting into a rhythm, especially a topspin serve as very few women can hit this shot.

Power With Topspin
Put simply it means you have power with consistency. It will also help you defend more effectively during rallies. Hitting a ball with topspin also makes the shots heavier which is more difficult for an opponent to counterpunch. Anyone who plays tennis will probably agree with me in saying it is much easier to return a powerful flat shot than one with topspin which bites into the court and jumps up. Too many players only hit hard flat shots which are lower percentage (which puts pressure on the player hitting the shot) and easier to contend with. Hitting flat shots off powerful topspin shots is also difficult.

Since players are serving better than ever returning also has to improve to level above what it is today. Serena serves so well (on the whole) that no player can consistently trouble her. Being able to hit hard with topspin (higher % shots Ė see above) and also blocking the ball (see menís game) to allow you to put pressure on the big servers is and will be essential.

The key word in all these categories is PRESSURE, higher percentage power tennis is the key IMO. If you cannot be consistent then the opponent will not be scared of the occasional winner shooting past them.

If you can back up all of the above then being able to cut short points by coming in would be nice! And of course it puts pressure on the opponent.

Menís Game
I really believe that by looking at the menís game we can see how the women will have to improve. I do not agree that the two games are incomparable. I also base my theory on how players in the menís game counter the big power players.

Current Players
I think that it is clear that Venus and Serena are already playing with these tools at their disposal and that players like Lindsay and Amelie have shown they are able to play this kind of consistent pressure-inducing tennis.

Mixing it up a la Santoro or Loit may win the odd match and cause a few upsets over the course of a career but I do not think it will be the Ďnew way to play.í

So thatís my theory. I make it all sound so easy. Any further opinions would be welcomed!! (That is if you could be bothered to read it!)
Scorch is offline  
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old Jan 21st, 2003, 12:47 PM
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: Lancaster, UK
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omg! a poster with something intelligent and productive to say! marry me?

I agree with your main point: putting pressure. I think we all agree that the benchmark to compare anyone's tennis right now are the Williams, that is the tennis that rules right now. I was watching Williams against Daniliidou, and I couldn't stop thinking that serving like that there was not a chance in hell Eleni'd win. Serving well and returning well are the main issues, I think. I think once the rally gets started, there are plenty of players that can rival the sisters, but the thing is they don't let you start the point. It's bam wham thanks for trying.

Whenever I have seen players putting pressure on the sisters it's mostly been people that return well, like Monica or Chanda. The thing about returning well is that you can't practice anticipation, you either have it or not. But you can improve your reflexes and your speed getting to the ball, you can practice how to block the ball... if I was out there on the tour, I'd be practicing my returns against a hard serving dude.

Then of course if you can mix it up a bit during the rallies, you have a big advantage, everyone is hitting flat these days, the only problem with a flat hard ball is getting there, if you are fit enough, they are easier to control than ones with heavy topspin. Anyone on tour doing something slightly different: serve and volley, heavy topspins, moonballing, etc, has an edge, since the other players (sp. below top30) won't be used to that.

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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old Jan 21st, 2003, 01:04 PM Thread Starter
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I agree with your post. I think that one thing that the current players with the best ground strokes (with the Willies at the top of the list) do is control the mix of flat and topspin shots. The ability to use high % topspin with power (i.e. not like Conchita!) and then flatten out the ball when going for the lines.

I really think that the future of women's groundstrokes lies in increasing the amount of topspin to hit a heavier ball, remember Martina's quote re. Amelie a couple of years ago: "she hits like a man." Now I am not saying that Amelie has the best groundies but if she were to hit a few flatter balls at opportune moments (as she does when she is at her best) then she suddenly becomes a brighter prospect.

When I watch Serena play I always note how her powerful shots usually travel 4 feet or more over the net. She hits a heavier ball that is also low risk. Whereas for a long time the 'fashion' was to hit balls as close to the net (flat) as possible.
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