Special to Zenergo
Greetings again, tennis fans. This is my second attempt to write in this format about the sport I love. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments section below and tell me what you’d like to see.
First, I want to report again on professional tennis, as today marks the second major tournament in the last several weeks. The most recent event was the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida played from 3/19 to 4/3. This tournament, like the Indian Wells tournament played a couple of weeks ago, was one of the year’s most important events. Like Indian Wells, players often call this tournament “The 5th Slam.”
In Saturday’s women’s final, a hard-hitting, loud-grunting Victoria Azarenka defeated an almost equally ear-piercing (and I’m not talking jewelry) Maria Sharapova in straight sets. I really don’t mind players expressing the effort involved, but c’mon! This twosome sounded like they were auditioning for some kind of weird reality show. “Don’t men grunt?” I’m hearing some of you ask. Yes, and some of them are pretty annoying too. I just don’t get how screaming at the top of your lungs helps you in any way other than disturbing your opponent’s concentration.
The other issue in women’s tennis today, as announcer Mary Carillo pointed out, is there is currently a “for rent” sign above the World #1 ranking. No dominant player, no rivalry. When those Martina/Chrissie, Stephie/Monica, Venus/Serena rivalries return to women’s tennis, it will be great for the game. Until then, it’s hard to get too excited.
The men’s game, by contrast has an emerging new rivalry in Djokovic/Nadal. Today’s final was a repeat of the Indian Wells final, with World #1 Rafael Nadal again being overcome by #2-ranked Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6. It was another tight match that Djokovic was able to pull out in the end, remaining undefeated in 2011. By his own admission, Novak is playing the best tennis of his career. Just as it seems that Nadal has “solved” Roger Federer in recent head-to-head competition, Djokovic seems to have “solved” Nadal.
It’s All About Strategy
Which brings me to the next section of this post, geared to perhaps the more advanced club player looking to get an edge in match play. One of the most interesting aspects of tennis is strategy. Unlike team sports, and pretty much all other sports except boxing, singles tennis is a one-on-one battle of wills and wits. How well you play, and whether you win or lose a given match, is highly dependent upon how your game matches up with your opponent’s. The concept I refer to above, “solving your opponent’s game,” really means determining how your strengths and weaknesses match up against a specific opponent–then devising a strategy to exploit those matchups.
For example, suppose your opponent has an outstanding and aggressive forehand, and a much weaker backhand. You have gained pretty good control of your game and feel confident that you can place the ball if you get a chance to set up. How should you plan to play such a player? How will your strengths and weaknesses match up against a lopsided player like this? On first blush, it seems obvious that the best way to “solve” this opponent is to hit to his backhand. But on each of the last several times you played him/her, maybe you didn’t do very well with this strategy. It seems like your attempts to find this weakness was answered by a player who was more than willing to step around the backhand and pound forehand winners from all over the court. So your game didn’t match up very well, and the obvious strategy didn’t work. (Sound familiar to anyone?)
An alternative suggestion would be to try pulling this forehand-loving opponent wide to his/her favorite side. “But then I’m hitting to his/her strength,” you might reply. This seemingly counterintuitive strategy has several advantages. Often times, the lover of forehands is very happy to step around the backhand. So much so that running around that weaker side has become a favorite move. By pulling this player in the opposite direction, you move them out of their comfort zone. The second advantage you gain is the court will now be open on the backhand side for your next shot, and this previously happy forehand striker now has to run all the way across the court to hit that lousy backhand you’ve been trying to find for the last three years. So yes, you are playing to their strength, surprising them, and breaking a pattern. Try it, and see if you don’t get inside their heads a little–one of the true joys of singles tennis competition. 🙂
Subscribe to the Zenergo Blog today!
Zenergo.com is the place you and your tennis friends can form a group to plan your games, schedule them on your group Calendar, share comments and pictures. Tennis coaches can manage their class schedules and your students can comment on Activity Talk — everything you need is in one place, fully integrated. Visit Zenergo.com – it’s fast, it’s free, it’s fun!