5 Minutes with Nick: Style Points
Some basic dos and don'ts to get you started on the road to finding a playing style that best suits your game.
• There are factors you can’t control that will determine what you can and can’t do on a tennis court, such as athleticism and temperament. If you want to find your perfect style—if there is such thing—step back and work with a coach who will give you a few simple tips about your game, and who won’t teach based solely on what happens in the professional game.
• If you have an Eastern forehand grip, it’ll be hard for you to grind from the baseline against high balls to your forehand. Unless you’re a teenager, I don’t recommend that you change your grip. Instead, move back and let the ball drop down to shoulder height, and then hit low to high, so the ball crosses the net by several feet. When in trouble, make sure you have a long follow-through.
• If you use a Continental to weak Eastern grip on your one-handed backhand, you won’t be able to stay in long rallies, especially when hitting on the run or if the ball is above your shoulder. Make sure you exaggerate your follow-through if you use this grip. When in trouble on deep balls, hold on to the racquet a little longer with your non-hitting hand, and release it shortly after making contact with the ball. This will give your stroke some stability.
• A lot of players think they should stand close to the baseline, which is a great idea if done correctly. But many of these players have huge backswings from both sides. If this sounds like you, one option is to shorten your backswing by only turning your hips and shoulders, rather than taking the racquet back with your arm. Or move back and let the ball drop.
• If you’re having trouble with an opponent’s style, there are ways to adapt. Against a player who slices the ball or hits it short, don’t wait for it—move forward and punish them. If you have an opponent who stays deep, you’ve got to learn how to hit some short shots rather than grind, especially if you have weak grips and long swings. Use short angles and drop shots as often as you can to make this style of opponent uncomfortable.
Nick Bollettieri founded the IMG Tennis Academy. He has coached 10 players who have gone on to rank No. 1 in the world.