Signs that you are probably going to lose your tennis match……
Assuming that your PNL is pretty good and you have pretty forceful shots and a serve that is comparable to that of any world class player, you could still lose your match if you are doing some of the things listed below. The crux of the present analysis is that even if you have a better game than your opponent you could still lose if you are not playing a smart game. For the analysis below this is the major contention. I see many contemporary players with a good game and even a better game than that of their opponents, lose the game and match. I will draw on examples from recent and past matches. I will call their flaws in their game as strategic failures.
Strategic Failure #1, failure to understand the Game of Tennis:
This is the single most critical element in the game of tennis: You must work the backhand of your opponent and not go for the open court. The temptation to go for the open court is so great that most people simply forget this fundamental rule when in the middle of a match. As a verification of this rule, see the last seven matches that Nadal and Djokovic played and Nadal lost all of them. This was no accident. If you see those matches carefully you will see that Djokovic attacked Nadal’s backhand most mercilessly and got a point from that side repeatedly. Of course, there were occasions he had to use the open court to dislodge Nadal from the covering position on the deuce side but his focus was always Nadal’ s backhand. Indeed if you see any of Nadal’s matches you can see why the opponents have no chance. It is because Nadal is playing their back hand with his forehand!
It is no accident or a something that Nadal covers his back hand with his forehand. It is because he can control the shot, its placement, and its pace with great pace and precision from his forehand side. So you see he is basically playing the opponent backhand with his forehand! No wonder he beats anyone with ease. In the last match at the Foro Italico between Burdich and Nadal you can see how he is unwilling or unable to put the ball on Nadal’s back hand. Did you see how tamely he lost the first set? In the second set early on he pounded Nadal’s back hand and was doing much better and got 2 games but then later he went back to trying to get a point from Nadal’s forehand, a major mistake, and he lost.
A lot of players think they can get a point from Nadal’s forehand if their shot has enough pace. There are 2 problems with this approach:
A regular non top ten player is not going to have that kind of pace on his/her forehand.
Even if you do have the pace, Nadal is not a beginner. He can handle any pace if only it is on his forehand.
Second, he can hit many more balls with his forehand than any other player. So eventually you will miss the point if you keep playing with his forehand.
This should make it clear why he is able to beat so many. It is simple. All he has to do is to get the ball in play. Once the ball is in play you are going to miss unless you can come up with a winner quickly, an unlikely possibility.
End Technical Aside.
In the later stages Berdich lost the second set also pretty easy. He thought his booming forehand can break down Nadal’s forehand. Not happening! Notice also that he has some vey powerful shots and a powerful serve but still lost. That is the message here:
So to repeat and confirm, if you are playing with your backhand and the opponent is playing with his/her forehand, you are headed for a loss. Make a note of it.
Some people may object as follows: sometimes there is not enough court on the backhand side and you have to play on the forehand side or the ball will sail out or fly out. That is true a lot of times especially with Nadal. Here is the answer:
Ok. First, if you need to move the opponent so that you can pound the backhand in a match it is ok to do so but then with the very next ball you must get back to the opponent’s back hand, that is if you even get to do that!
Second, if you do not have enough court on the backhand side and you are afraid it is going to sail out then consider this: If you go on the opponent’s forehand, remember if you are playing Nadal or Federer or Djokovic and even lesser players, you are going to lose the point anyway since you are giving the ball to them into their forehand and strike zone. Even if you do not lose the point immediately ou may actually lose control of the rally if you did have control and eventually the point will slip away from you. So basically you do not have to be afraid of losing the point on the back hand side since you have a measure of a chance to make it but going for the forehand is inviting loss directly or indirectly and even immediately. Remember the forehand side attack is not going to get you the point but the back hand side at least has a chance. It is these chances that add up to a loss/win of a match.
Make sure you know this and I call it the Strategic Failure #1. If in a match you find that you are not doing it or not doing most of the time or unable to do it, you are headed for a loss.
Strategic Failure #2
Chopping or Slicing
If you are chopping or slicing the ball for no apparent strategic reason or other strategy then it is a desperation shot or a defensive shot and you are going to lose in due course or you are not going to be winning many matches. This is especially true if you are chopping even with your forehand. And if on top of this you are also chipping and charging the net then your defeat will be even faster. Let’s examine the effect of each of these chopping scenarios.
Why a backhand chop is not good? First if you are chopping on the backhand side because of reasons of reach and stress or duress or you are in a defensive situation, then that is understandable. You have to return the ball at the very least. In that case, you must quickly try to correct the defensive position, if you want to win the point. You must do this with dispatch since otherwise it is only a matter of time before you will lose the point. But if you are chopping the ball on the backhand side even when it is a not a matter of reach, defense or position problem it is a sure sign that you are playing a defensive game and is a sure sign that you will be losing that particular match and cannot win too many matches. Let’s examine this claim in more detail.
First, if you are chopping without any of the time/position constraints above, it means this:
The opponent now knows that you have a problem with your backhand and will exploit that to no end. This is a psychological boost for them and loss for you. This may lead to a momentum shift against you and very often is the cause of momentum shifts in real life when apparently there does not appear to be any reason. This is probably one of the reasons for the momentum shift seen in practice. What you want to do is to show that you can hit a strong back hand right to their back hand, if nothing else. So you need to press their back hand and send a message that you can pin them down just as easily as they can pin you down with their back hand.
This is going to be a big problem if you do not have the flat or top spin back hand shot to do this with. What do you do then? First, you may want to retool your back hand shot with the help of an experienced coach or you can call me. You may have to learn this shot if you cannot hit the ball any other way but by chopping it. You have to be able to hit it flat or top spin. My personal recommendation is that you change the grip to hit a flat back hand. If it is too late for you to learn this shot then you will continue to lose matches as you continue. Examples: remember Andy Roddick? He never really could hit a flat back hand and did not have control over the back hand as he did over his fore hand. He was of course able to play but notice how he covered his back hand with his forehand. Although a little clumsy this approach does pay off to some extent but it does involve a loss of time on your part. You can see that from Roddick’s game. His shots were quite predictable and one could see where he was going. There is a reason why he would come close to many match winnings but would lose narrowly. His is a good case in point. I always wondered what Larry Stefanki coached him about, if not about his back hand! He never really did change his back hand. I hate to say this, but now you can see that it is no accident that he only won one major title.
Another case in point is the German Phillipe Petztscner. He chopped with his back hand to no end and never really was a problem for anybody.
So if you have a chopping back hand, your options are: Learn and master the correct back hand stroke or run ahead and cover it always. But his last will take more toll from you and then you will have injury and other problems to deal with as Roddick did.
Notice that Nadal can hit a flat back hand but always covers it with his forehand if he can. His existing back hand stroke is more than enough to put the ball back strongly and then when it comes back he is already ready with his forehand for a winner. It doe take more toll to cover his back hand and you can see that in his extensive sweating compared to others but he is converting his grinding into more titles. His case is not quite relevant to what we are talking about but I mentioned that because of his covering scenarios and because he is not always chopping with his back hand but will if necessary to gain time or position.
End Technical aside.
Let us continue with the examples. Roddick always had to wait for the ball to arrive on his forehand before he could make a strategic move or attack. His forehand was quite strong and he covered his back hand constantly. It is no accident that he had quite a few injury and other related problems. His play was sufficient for the people outside of top 20 but for other players this is not going to be enough and it wasn’t.
Another player is Nadal. He does chop his back hand quite a bit and covers it extensively with his forehand and so also has many injury related issues since the awkward over running to cove the back hand and extra running from the backhand to the forehand side does take its toll. But his physique is quite strong and endowed so he is able to take the injury issues a while longer. If it had been somebody else playing like this, they would be done long ago.
Another player that chops the back hand and even the forehand is Monica Nicelescu. She not only chops the ball she chops it so bad that it has more chop on it than any pace and so the opponent has plenty of time to adjust and take a position and hit a devastating return shot. As you can see she has made it to some finals but has yet to land many titles. She continues to slide and will not be able to go very far without fixing her back hand and forehand.
A case counter to what is being said here may be Steffi Graf. She chopped her back hand extensively and hardly ever hit a back hand without it. Notice she also covered her back hand extensively with her forehand and her forehand, although not too lethal was always well placed and gave opponents trouble. So one may wonder why she won so many titles. The reason is that although her back hand was a chop she was quite consistent with it and would not miss on that side and waited for a forehand opportunity or created it and then struck. But unfortunately the other choppers on the back hand side are not so consistent on that side and so lose in due course. But she did not miss her chop on the back hand side and continued the play until she had a chance to strike. Most opponents could not hit her back hand side that many times to break it before she got her chance! That was her secret. This is quite subtle. You can see that Roddick was chopping but could not continue the defense on that side against the top 10 players and his opportunity never came or he could not create it on the forehand side and even on that side he was slow to hit and had a big huge swing and so was quite predictable and the opponents were taking position before he could get done with his shot!. The moral: You are not going to be able to defend your back hand chop like Steffi did. The result in your case will be that your back hand side will be broken before you get a chance on the forehand side. So you best not play like Steffi. You do not have her accuracy and consistency on the back hand side. Unfortunately you cannot learn it (the consistency) just by practice. See PNL for more details.
Steffi was also playing in an age when women’s game did not have the pace on back hand or forehand side that it has now. They are now hitting flat and hit very hard. Steffi’s back hand chop would not survive in this day. Any player playing like Steffi now would lose in short order. See Monica Nicleusu game, for instance. How far does she go in any tournament?
End Technical Aside
Strategic Failure #3
Serve and Volley
This is one of the biggest misconceptions of this game in the modern era. This item is also related to the net game discussed below. But first some unloading on my part.
I am not sure which coach or coaches invented or started advocating this Serve and Volley approach. This is related to and part of a bigger issue of following somebody rather than thinking for yourself. I have addressed that elsewhere.
The force of this seemingly accepted strategy (I really think it is not a strategy since a strategy by definition would do some good supposedly in the relevant context, whereas this actually brings a sheer failure in whatever you are doing) is so strong that no amount of argument seems to be able to dislodge it. The point I am making is this: Why is someone willing to continue an approach that is not bringing you what you are looking for, namely another title? The best thing I can come up with is that the students are drilled with this approach by the coaches so hard that they have abdicated their own ability to think in the matter or any other. Indeed it is even worse than that. In fact, this approach is considered synonymous with playing ‘aggressive’. And the latter is supposed to be 'good'. My friend, the objective is to win this match and is not playing ‘aggressive’ or 'tamely'. There are many players that played very very aggressive and won nothing. Again, this is an example of the brain washing that is conducted on the innocent new and veteran players. Again, I repeat, the objective is to win the match and is not ‘playing aggressive’. You must do whatever is necessary to win the match and that is not constant as just play “aggressive’. Each player may require a different strategy to beat them and just playing ‘aggressive’ is only one of the things that you may need to do, if at all.
Unfortunately it is even worse than what you might think. Indeed charging the net is considered as playing ‘aggressive’ and is supposed to strike some terror into the opponent and give you a psychological boost. I do not know where you are living but if you were playing me, your antics and net approach would not move a muscle in me and would be a laughing matter for me since I had a technique for it and it is no different for modern players. You are not going to scare anybody with net charging. Rest assured your net charging is not scaring any of the top players and in the interviews they may be being positive about your net charging but that is just for the ‘looks’ and in modern times people are supposed to be polite and politically correct. Translation: your net game is not bothering any body and please forget about it. To see this read on.
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