If you ask folks at the local tennis club about a specific player that you’re planning to face in a match next week, they’ll usually start giving you passionate advice on how to beat him (or her). It all begins with them listing the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Finding weaknesses seems like an obvious strategy and something everyone should pay attention to. However, at the recreational level of tennis, players often just don’t have any clue about how to approach this. Sure, everyone would like to know what is the Achilles heel of their arch nemesis on the court.
Let see how you can find out...
Find weaknesses during warm-up
From now on, never, ever underestimate the importance of warm-up. Sure, stretching and warming up your body in preparation for a tennis match is crucial. However, try looking at it like this: warmup is the time when you get a chance to exchange first shots with your tennis partner on the other side of the net. That’s right. You get to test your opponent! Take this opportunity to learn more about your opponent’s game. What is he good at? Where does he fail? You can learn a lot about your opponent during those 15 minutes of warmup. Take mental notes of everything as you’ll need to figure out your strategy before the match starts.
Clues you should look for
During warm-up, try sending all kinds of different balls. Play to the forehand, and then send a shot to the backhand and see how the player reacts. A neat trick is to play a ball down the middle, just slightly to his backhand side. If he tries to run around the ball, to hit a forehand, then that’s a clear sign that he feels less confident hitting backhand. First weakness discovered.
You should be on the lookout for opponent’s preferences. For example, does he stay behind the baseline or likes to approach the net. Does he warm-up overheads and volleys? Usually, a player will just skip warming up shots he doesn’t feel confident hitting in general. In this case, he probably doesn’t feel right playing at the net. Send a wide, cross-court ball to stretch your opponent. Does he make the shot or hits into the net? See how your opponent handles topspin and slice shots. Hit a drop-shot to test his speed. How good is his serve? As you can see, sometimes you can win a match even before it starts if you play smart during warmup.
Your mission should be to test your opponent and discover the weaknesses and shots he doesn’t like hitting.
There is nothing worst then being forced to hit shots you're just not comfortable hitting. Be the one that dictates the game this way. Now to get good at analyzing opponents during warmup, you need to play against as many different players as possible. Sure, it’s easy to spot your friend’s weaknesses on the court if you played with him like a million times before. He probably even told you what bothers him on the court.
Play local tournaments and leagues. You can also use a partner finding app, such as Smash Tennis App, for your smartphone to meet new players and schedule matches. Set a goal to find at least one weakness for every new opponent you face and then try to incorporate that knowledge into your winning strategy on the court.