When They Go Low, We Go High

How and when to effectively hit high and deep

Players most susceptible to high balls

  1. Players with straight takebacks and players who hit relatively flat tend to be more vulnerable to high and deep bouncing balls. The same players also tend to more vulnerable to a tactic of mixing the height of net clearance, trajectory, and bounce.
  2. Players who lack variety in their game and the ability to hit with different spins and degrees of spin tend also to be more vulnerable to high and low variations.
  3. Players who have trouble taking high bouncing balls on the rise or stepping up to take high arcing balls out of the air with a volley or swinging volley have difficulty adjusting to a high ball tactic and often as a result get pinned back well behind the baseline.
  4. Players with extreme grips can be attacked with high and low balls. A player with a western grip will have trouble with low balls. A player with a continental grip off either side will have trouble with balls higher in the strike zone. The response to high balls from a player with a continental grip (who cannot close off the grip as necessary) is almost always a slice (which makes things more predictable) and provides an opportunity to exploit (such as coming in behind your shot).

How to respond to high balls

  1. Responding effectively to high arcing and bouncing balls requires getting the tip of the racquet up in the unit turn and takeback to the set position. The best way to track the ball is to frame the ball with the face of the racquet as you turn to set the racquet to the set position. This allows you to effectively take the ball above your strike zone without compromising too much court position or to drop the racquet head to take the ball on the rise in a more advantageous hitting zone and court position. In both cases, it is preferable to hit from a more open stance with your forehand and from a more neutral or slightly open stance with your backhand.
  2. Hit with more spin when taking the ball above or below your strike zone. For example, hit with heavy spin when pressed back well behind the baseline to take a ball at shoulder height or even higher. To generate the necessary ground force and racquet head acceleration, load and kick back using a corkscrew footwork pattern. For added leverage, relax the hand, and utilize ulnar deviation to first drop the racquet head in relation to the ball and then radial deviation to drive the racquet head vertically up and horizontally across the ball for the desired heavy spin. Look to hit crosscourt with high net clearance and depth.
  3. Although potentially vulnerable to attack, slice is a good option when hitting above your strike zone particularly if you are a one-handed player responding to high balls hit to your backhand side. Slice is a good choice in response to low balls and slice with sidespin is effective when digging out low and short balls.

How to raise the height and depth of your shots

  1. Hitting high and deep with heavy topspin is the best way to get the ball up above the strike zone of your opponent. It can be a difficult shot since it is much easier to match trajectory (hitting a low flat shot back low and flat) than to change trajectory (hitting a low flat shot back high with topspin). There are two different ways to approach the shot. If you have time to get underneath the ball, you can hit the shot with a more extended, elongated finish. With less time, the shot may require a more abrupt and sharper follow through or finish (often with a finish on the same side as the start of your swing). Hitting a semi-lob or lob with little to no spin also works to get the ball up and back.

When best to hit the ball up and raise the trajectory arc of your shots

  1. One of the best times to hit high and deep is when you are having trouble with the pace and tempo of the rally. Getting the ball up helps to slow down the rally and buy more time to recover and respond to each shot. Hitting high and deep is a smart response when pushed off the court. The height and depth of your ball will give you time to recover back into the court. an effective means to disrupt rhythm regardless of the situation. It can test the patience of any opponent but particularly an opponent who tends to be more impatient. The goal in this case is to frustrate your opponent and bait your opponent into going for too much to draw unforced errors.

Conclusion

  1. A strategy of mixing spins as well as the height of the ball can be extremely disruptive to any player regardless of level and stye of play. Adding variety to your game and the ability to mix heights, depths and spins takes skill and a substantial amount of time and effort on the court to acquire this skill but once acquired the game becomes more fun and multi-dimensional.

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