How to play series – Against TALLER players
Dinith Pathiraja On Court
A major drawback among the young Sri Lankan players is the fact that their tactical knowledge and nous is not up to the required standard. The only tactic most of the players have is the fact that they need to put one more ball over the net.
In this multipart series, it is hoped to discuss the tactics which can be used against specific types of players.
Whilst the points mentioned here are by no means exhaustive, it is hoped that these points would form the foundation for players to flesh out their own tactics when confronted against such players.
In deciding on tactics against any player, the first and most important thing that needs to be understood is that tactics should be devised with the strengths of the player devising them, being at the forefront of the mind at all times. For the purposes of this discussion, it will be assumed that the player devising the tactics is proficient in playing all the shots.
Today’s discussion will centre on how to play against taller players.
What are the normal, specific strengths of a taller player? They can be listed as given below:
- Have a good first serve
- Have a high-kicking second serve
- Have good reach
- Normally quite aggressive
What normally would be the weaknesses of a taller player?
- Doesn’t like low balls
- Doesn’t change direction well
- Doesn’t normally like long rallies
- Doesn’t like the first serve being returned much
Now, before anyone starts picking them apart, it is hastily added that these are the “normal” strengths and weaknesses of a taller player. Of course, there would be different characteristics from player to player. That is always to be expected and anticipated at all times.
First strength of taller players
Addressing the first strength of a taller player in itself can be turned into a weakness. This is because taller players with good serves do not like the ball coming back much from their first serves. Therefore, the most important thing any player can do is to take a good look at the serve and return the first serve as much as possible. This can be done, for example, by taking one or two steps further back and getting better sight of the ball than you would normally do.
Secondly, if your opponent – the taller player – has a good second serve which “kicks” high, this should be countered either by taking the ball early on the rise, if the player is able to do that, or by adopting the same tactic of a step further back than normal. This would depend upon the preference of the player as well as if the opponent is following the serve up to the net. If the opponent is following the serve up to the net, then it is better to take the serve early, while otherwise, it would be possible to take one step back.
Have reach but not good movers
Also, although normally taller players have more “reach” than others because of their bigger wingspan, they are not very good movers. Therefore, another tactic which can be adopted is for the player to try to always move the opponent from side to side as much as possible, and then also try to hit the ball behind the opponent as well.
This would address two tactical situations at once. It would be that the opponent has to keep moving around and also that the opponent would have to change direction. And since this would be done on the terms of the player, this will serve to irritate the opponent as well.
High top spin
Taller players are also normally quite aggressive and don’t like long rallies. Therefore, the player needs to keep more balls in play but with a purpose. The purpose should be to move the opponent around as well as to hit behind the opponent. The “high” top spin is quite effective against taller players and would serve this purpose.
Also, the player should use the drop shot to mix up the rally and bring the opponent to the net. Whilst this might sound rather contradictory, because the net would be one of the strengths of the opponent with their “reach”, in actual fact, if done properly, it is quite effective. This is because the opponent is coming to the net on the terms of the player and the player then has the opportunity to hit a low slice to the opponent, which would force the opponent to hit a low volley. This would in turn give the player an opportunity to hit a passing shot.
‘One size does not fit them all’
The slice should also be used during the baseline rallies as well, since it would force the opponent to hit a low shot which, as mentioned before, is not one of the strengths of a taller player.
All of the above tactics discussed is for the “stock” taller player. The players can decide which of the above would work against their particular opponents and use them accordingly. Once again the most important thing to remember is the fact that “one size does not fit all” in the game of tennis.