Are you the kind of player that likes to rush the net every chance you get? Would you rather stay near the baseline and carefully construct your points? Or are you more confident in your ability go for every ball and simply outlast your opponent? All of these approaches are aspects of what can be defined as your playing style, and if there's one thing that can hinder your development as a tennis player, it would be neglecting to clearly identify your playing style early on. So let's find out: what's your tennis playing style?
Since everyone is different, the type of tennis playing style that naturally appeals to you will be different as well. The particular style that you use will depend upon several factors including your skills, perception of risk, personality and even the type of court surface upon which you normally play.
As a general rule, most playing styles loosely fall into the following four categories:
- Serve-and-Volley Player
- Counterpunch (or Defensive) Player
- Aggressive Baseline Player
- All-Court Player
Let's discuss each one in detail:
The serve-and-volley player utilizes the serve as one of the main ways to dictate the point. Immediately after the serve, he/she will rush the net, expecting to finish the point by aggressive close play. This type of player is particularly adept at high-impact volleys and loves to slam home a shot to win the point. A serve-and-volleyer must of necessity be able to move fast and have very quick reaction time, as he/she is usually required to respond to an oncoming shot in about half the time that a baseline player would. Serve-and-volleyers are some of the most fun and exciting tennis players to watch, because they bring a lot of energy and intensity to the game. Two of the most famous players in the game of tennis who basically built their careers on serve-and-volley are John McEnroe and Pete Sampras.
Counterpunch (or Defensive) Player
Counterpunch players are known for being able to chase down practically every ball and return almost any shot that comes their way. This type of playing style is built upon the premise that the more shots you force your opponent to make, the more likely it is that they will eventually make a mistake. A counterpuncher will often lay low along the baseline and simply focus on getting the ball back over the net every time. Lateral (side-to-side) movement makes up a large part of a counterpuncher's game, and they are very proficient at hitting defensive shots that may take them off-balance or force them onto one leg. Effective counterpunchers have high stamina levels, and will often win points by simply wearing out their opponents. One of the best examples of a counterpunch player is Michael Chang; he was known for winning points by being able to hit virtually any ball that came his way, often causing his opponents to make errors out of frustration or impatience.
Aggressive Baseline Player
Aggressive baseliners specialize in hanging back at the baseline and hitting long ground strokes, and they often hit aggressive and powerful shots down the sideline as well. These types of players typically have a strong serve and exceptional forehand and backhand technique, which comes in handy for long, high-endurance rallies. Aggressive baseliners have developed not only speed but significant power with their shots, and they often have at least one major weapon such as a scorching forehand or a dominant two-handed backhand. Examples of famous aggressive baseline players include Bjorn Borg, Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal.
All-court players are the toughest to defeat because they have virtually no perceived weaknesses in their game. They can serve, rush the net and play the baseline with equal facility, and they constantly keep you on your toes. An all-court player is exceptionally versatile and plays with a strategic mindset; in other words, he/she knows which weapon to use at which time in the game in order to win the point. All-court players are notoriously unpredictable, which can be a defensive nightmare for their opponents. Two of the most prominent all-court players in recent years are Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Take a moment to think about the type of shots you normally use in your game, and see where you may fit within the above categories. More than likely you will show a tendency towards one particular category, but this doesn't mean that you can't develop proficiency in the other categories as well. Practice each style and see which one clicks with you the most. If you start to notice your opponents struggling to return your shots when you're using a particular style, it may be time to pay attention to that area and earmark it for further development. By clearly defining your own playing style, you will have a better chance of gaining an advantage over your opponents.