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Bollettieri Q&A: Attacking with age; high backhand help

Thursday, November 10, 2011 /by

Dear Mr. Bollettieri, I’ve been playing tennis for a long time—I actually met you when I was 8 (I’m 54 now) at John and Ann Miller’s Las Vegas Racquet club. I played college tennis and continue trying to improve my game. When I was playing competitively, my approach was simple: Beat the hell out of my serve, get to the net and try to finish the point within two or three hits. I can’t play that way anymore, and I find that I focus for a point or two but then I seem to move into a “deer in the headlights” mental state. The result is a very fractured strategy, and inconsistent playing (e.g., lots of unforced errors or poor shot selection).  I hope this is enough information to ask this question: Can you suggest any ways to improve my concentration, and improve my strategic execution?—Paul C. Peterson, Nashville, TN

Those were the good old days with John and Ann Miller; great to hear from you. I know it gets tougher to play a quick, attacking style when you get older. But my advice is, worry more about your conditioning than your tennis right now. Get yourself into the best shape possible. This will have mental benefits, too. When you’re tired, the mind goes in many different directions and you often choose to play low-percentage shots. Get in the best shape you possibly can and go back to your old style of play, which is less common today and will give your opponents fits. Attack, attack, attack: This will force your opponents to hit all passing shots and drive them nuts.

Hi Nick, I have single-handed backhand and I have learned to hit topspin with an Eastern backhand grip. This has allowed me to compete better against players rated at 4.0, but I still struggle a lot when the ball bounces above my shoulder. Should I move in, step back or try a different grip?—Selvam J. Mascarenhas

You have two options. You can move in and strike the ball on the rise, before it gets above your shoulder. Or you can adjust your grip to a semi-Western, which will give you additional racquet-head speed and more strength behind the handle. Many top players play this way. The key is to accelerate the racquet more than ever and stay loose as you swing. You must allow the racket head to brush up on the ball and come over it.

Have a question for Nick? Write to him at

Nick Bollettieri of the Bollettieri Tennis Academy has trained many collegiate and professional players, including 10 who reached the world No. 1 ranking.


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