"Elevating the Game
One Player at a time"
Mike Rahley

I’m sure all avid platform tennis players will agree on one thing: The cerebral nature of the game is what makes it so great. Victory comes with exploiting your opponents’ weaknesses while avoiding their strengths. A “thinking” team can find ways to grind out victories when seemingly outgunned and overmatched.

One must first look to the basics when trying to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents. From the beginner to the advanced player, there are certain skills that serve as the cornerstone of the game. A quick assessment of how well your opponents perform the necessary shots/skills needed to compete at a certain level can go a long way to the formulation of a winning game plan. These core skills include the following: drives, lobs (screens), volleys, and serves.

Starting with the warm-up, you should be scouting your opponent’s execution of these basic, core skills. Listed below are some things you should be considering:

  • Drives - What side does my opponent favor to drive from? How is their control and placement? Are they able to use topspin for control? Are they using the drive from the right spots and in the right situations?
  • Lobs/Screen Play - How well can my opponent control the lobs? Are they consistent, with good height and trajectory? Does my opponent appear comfortable when balls go into the screen or are they blocking everything before it can get to the screen?
  • Volley - Does my opponent appear comfortable at the net? Do they volley with the correct grip, stance and court position? For example, does my opponent volley predominantly with a backhand, using a continental grip, or, do they prefer the “windshield wiper” volley with the forehand grip.
  • Overheads - How is my opponents mobility? How well do they control the speed of the overhead? Are their overheads hit with good placement and depth? Does my opponent use spin as a weapon on short lobs?
  • Serve - Check the placement, depth, speed, spin and consistency of your opponents serve. Are they able to move the serve around, keeping it deep? If not, look to attack the short serve with an aggressive drive. After the serve, is my opponent closing on the net covering the center of the court, or do they leave the middle open for the drive?

Looking past the basic skills, how your opponents function as a team is as important as how well they execute specific shots. In addition to assessing the basic execution of these skills listed above, you want to see how well your opponents how well they work together throughout the point. Listed below are areas you should watch for:

  • Communication- How well are your opponents communicating? Are they fighting over overheads? If so, look to lob up the middle to exploit the lack of communication.
  • Game Plan- Do your opponents seem to have a plan? If so, what is it? What would be the counter to that plan? Are your opponents willing to “work” the point to set up their offensive opportunities? Are they playing with patience, or playing as if there was a shot clock?
  • Back-Court Positioning- How are my opponents positioned throughout the point? Are my opponents shifting into their offensive positions (return position) after hitting a good lob? Do they tend to block the corners?
  • Net Positioning- When my opponents have the net, are they shifting with the movement of the ball? Are they recognizing the various shots coming off of your paddle? For example, are they sealing the net when you drive or dropping off the net when you lob?

In conclusion, when assessing an opponents weaknesses look both at each player’s individual skills as well as the team itself.

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