Additional reporting and contribution by Geoff LoConte.
What if there were a way for you to know exactly where to hit the ball, when to hit it there and why. And you do it with confidence because you know, if executed correctly, it will produce a winning outcome. This is based on what I refer to as the Home Depot approach to tactics.
The home improvement chain is renowned for making the buying experience simple and straightforward. They divide many of their products into three broad categories—good, better or best—to do the thinking for the consumer. All three vary in price point and quality. Well the same logic can be applied to your thinking on the tennis court.
Just as a “good” paintbrush with the plastic handle and cheaper bristles can be satisfactory for a basic touch-up, a safe ground stroke with a high margin for error might be all that’s needed to win a particular point. However, depending on the situation, more sophisticated shot selections could be the “better” alternative.
For example, a 3.0 doubles player looking to win more return games may identify three options in ascending effectiveness and risk. 1) Deep crosscourt return with plenty of height over the net. 2) Shorter, angled return inside the service box near the alley “T”. 3) Deep lob return over the opposing net player’s head.
In practice you execute how to hit the shots successfully to the target areas using different styles of drills as well as situational games. This way you understand not only how to produce the shots, but under which circumstances—game situation, opponent, etc.—to best implement the strategy. Practices are fun because you are improving while also achieving objectives to receive a desired outcome.
Once success occurs with more frequency, building on those foundations—or “scaffolding”—becomes the next step. Ask yourself: “Can I hit it to the same target, but harder or with more backspin or lower height?” As improvement continues, you will have more success and your tennis I.Q. will grow as well. You will find yourself beginning to problem solve on the court between points and during changeovers. You will apply the good, better, best concept as a competitor to create winning patterns based on your opponent’s ability to handle certain shots.
Not only does this approach apply to tactics, you can connect it to your technical improvement as well. For example, if you’re currently using a forehand or “frying pan” grip to serve, and want to add more spin to your delivery, you can upgrade to a better grip by holding the racquet like a hammer, also known as the continental grip. As with tactics, this enhancement raises the degree of difficulty, but will also elevate the effectiveness of the shot.
Whatever your goal, the Home Depot concept is a surefire way to remodel your game.
Geoff LoConte, PTA and PTR, is the assistant director of tennis at Bonnie Briar Country Club in Larchmont, NY. Email: email@example.com.