The game of tennis definitely requires a certain level of athletic skill, but the most elite players in the game understand that strategy is what really sets you apart as a tennis player. Accomplished tennis players are well-versed in executing certain strategic power plays that improve their odds of winning the point, and they will often rely upon these types of power plays during crucial moments in a match. If you can begin to develop your own repertoire of tennis power plays, you'll always have a few secret weapons you can use to gain the advantage over your opponent. Below are five power plays you can add to your arsenal of tennis skills that will help you become a more well-rounded--and formidable--player.
1. The "One-Two Punch" - This is a simple but very effective strategy that relies upon the accuracy of your serve for its effectiveness. The basic premise of the "one-two punch" is to serve the ball in a way that slices it wide to your opponent's right, causing him/her to lunge outside of the sidelines in order to make the return. More often than not, your opponent will be off-balance and scrambling to return to the center mark after they make their return stroke, which sets you up perfectly to smack the ball down the opposite sideline using a strong forehand. The success of this power play depends upon the probability that your opponent won't be able to recover their position fast enough to return your forehand down the sideline. This type of power play can be executed from either side of the center mark.
2. Swinging Volleys on High Balls - Recognition of opportunities is critical to executing power plays. Every now and then during aggressive back-and-forth volleys, your opponent may slip up and hit a high ball, which creates a definite opportunity for you. Instead of letting the high ball bounce into your court and then hitting a ground stroke, move in on it as needed and strike with a powerful swinging volley before it even gets a chance to bounce. For increased effectiveness, add a little hop to the swinging motion to give you more of a downward angle on your swing; this will be harder for your opponent to return.
3. The "Chip and Charge" - The ideal setup for this power play is when your opponent gives you a short ball to your backhand side. Your response should be to execute a backhand slice that barely clears the net, which will more than likely force your opponent bend low and return your shot with a short or high ball. At that point, you should charge towards the net and put the ball away with either a strong power stroke, or a wide shot to the opposite side of the court.
4. Using Short Angles - These types of power plays seek to implement short, angled shots using accurate ball placement. While you're volleying with an opponent, see how you can capitalize on any short angles that may present themselves. For example, if your opponent sends you a ball that bounces roughly midway into your court (e.g., into either the left or right service box), you can capitalize on this position by hitting a sharp angled shot that will cut either wide right or wide left towards the sideline, opposite of wherever your opponent is standing. These types of angled shots are very difficult for opponents to return.
5. Increase Your Topspin - While topspin strokes are admittedly more difficult to execute versus hitting the ball flat, mastering your topspin stroke will pay great dividends in terms of keeping your opponent on the defensive. Strokes with heavy topspin will arrive quicker at your opponent's tennis racket, because the ball loses less speed when it bounces. In addition, topspin strokes are more likely to bounce higher, creating an uncomfortable angle from which your opponent will need to swing to return the ball.
Each of the power plays listed above are well within your ability to perform; the real challenge is learning how to recognize the right times to use them. This can only come with practice and a commitment to become a diligent student of the game. Resolve to maintain a keen awareness of where you are--and where your opponent is--at all times on the court, and work to begin implementing these power plays when the opportunities present themselves.