How to Put it All Together – Ten Points to Consider in Constructing Your Game Plan

This is the third in a three part series on how to construct a game plan. In constructing a game plan for a match, the main emphasis is to develop a plan to allow you the opportunity to do what you do best. As noted earlier, it is important to first define your strengths and weaknesses (what you do well and what you do not do as well) and the strengths, weaknesses and capabilities of your opponent. After a thorough and honest assessment, you are in a position to put your plan in place.

  1. If you feel you are more consistent than your opponent, look to prolong the point with higher net clearance, depth, topspin and cross court patterns. If your opponent is more consistent, look to end the point sooner by more redirection and closing in behind the serve, serve return and in response to short balls. Look for every opportunity to attack.
  2. If you have difficulty covering the court (either because of a prior or match-induced condition), hit cross court and/or down the middle, buy recovery time with more height (net clearance), play close to the baseline or just inside the baseline to better cut off angles and work your way to the service line to hit mid-court volleys.
  3. If court coverage is a weakness for your opponent, employ a strategy that includes more angles, short and deep patterns and redirection.
  4. Utilize patterns and court positioning strategies that provide you with an opportunity to hit your “best” shot. In right-handed versus right-handed match ups (or left-handed versus left handed match ups), employ forehand to forehand and backhand to forehand patterns to set up your forehand (or forehand to backhand and backhand to backhand patterns to set up your backhand). Not without some risk, hit short to your opponent’s backhand to set up passing shot opportunities for your forehand (or hit short to your opponent’s backhand to set up passing shot opportunities for your backhand) and hit the serve return down-the-line from the ad side of the court to set up a “Pete Sampras” running forehand. Over cover your weak side to encourage and/or bait your opponent to hit to your strong side.
  5. Use your serve to set up your “best” shot. Strategically vary the location, spin and pace of the serve to dictate play and control the point in your favor (e.g. hit slice serves out wide from the deuce side to open up the court for your forehand).
  6. To slow down the pace and tempo of play, judiciously use towel breaks, be more deliberate in your set up prior to hitting each serve (e.g. ball bounce), ask for three balls prior to playing each point on your serve (a borderline “nudge move”) and take the maximum time allowed on changeovers. You can also slow the tempo of a match with your style of play and shot selections. Play from a deeper court position. Hit underspin to take pace off the ball. Hit balls with a high and loopy trajectory. Lob whenever your opponent comes to net.
  7. To speed up the tempo and flow of the match and to provide your opponent with less time to set up and prepare for each shot, attack and close whenever possible, play closer to the baseline and hit the ball on the rise. You can also pick up the tempo of a match by setting up quickly for each service point and taking less time during changeovers.
  8. Exploit the major stroke weakness of your opponent. Pound the weakness of your opponent with relentless pressure to force mistakes and demoralize your opponent. Regardless of success, still find occasion to hit to the strength or opposite wing of your opponent to open up the court (and better expose your opponent’s weak side). This variation also helps to disrupt rhythm and timing and negate the possibility of your opponent finding a “groove” or a better sense of timing.
  9. Do your homework and calculations (“what ifs”) and have one or more contingency plan in place in case events of the match do not go in your favor.
  10. Think creatively and have fun drawing up your strategy.

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