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Got game? Adaptability is the key

To play at a really competitive level, tennis players must be able to play against different styles of play.

Here are some of most common styles and how to compete successfully against each of them.

The Power Hitter: These players try to control play by standing as close to the baseline as possible. With their powerful ground strokes they try to dominate play by moving their opponent around the court. They seemingly can hit a winner at any time. However, this type of player is also prone to making many errors.

Your best strategy is to hit your ground strokes as deep as possible. If you give them shots in the mid-court they will blast you off the court. Players that are aggressive have a certain area where they like to strike the ball. To be successful against them, you've got to keep your shots out of this area. The best way to play against these players is to vary the pace and angle of your shots. This will force your opponents to move to positions where they don't feel comfortable.

Unfortunately, power hitters do come up with some outrageous winners. My advice is to not get discouraged. Acknowledge the great shots and move on to the next point. Keep playing hard and force the power hitter to produce difficult winners. Remember that most power hitters are not really patient winners. They want to win points as quickly as possible. Returning that extra ball could force an error.

You also may have to take a few more risks than normal. You can't let your opponent control almost every rally, because eventually you will be worn down. Try going for the lines occasionally. This will allow you to dictate the action and will force your opponent to play defense, something that power hitters don't like to do. Hitting sharp angles or short balls will bring the power hitter to the net. This is an area where powerful baseliners usually are very uncomfortable.

*The Road Runner: Nothing is more discouraging than to play against the speed merchant. They seemingly get every ball back, even the ones that seem like winners. They are just waiting for you to make an error. This type of player saps you mentally, especially at the club level, where this can be the toughest opponent for you to face. Therefore, you must prepare yourself for a long and often frustrating match.

These "human backboards" are very frustrating because you seemingly get a lot of easy shots to put away. The problem is that the "road runner" keeps returning almost everything until you make an error. My advice is to be patient, don't lose your temper and stay focused. You have to be selective when you go for winners. You can't try to put every easy shot away. Speedy players really don't hit powerful shots. Therefore, you should wait for shots that you are comfortable with. When you get these shots you should follow them to the net. Human backboards don't like being pressured by their opponent's net play. It is very important that you realize that you are going to be frustrated by the steady stream of returns by your opponent. It's crucial that you forget about it and don't get frustrated.

Steady players return so many shots that there is a tendency for you to stand flat-footed and try to crush winners. Don't fall into this trap. Keep your feet moving; especially on your opponent's second serve, which is usually softly hit. Move in before the serve and hit a forceful shot deep into the speed merchant's court. This should result in an easy return.

You must also be in top physical shape to play against the road runner. If you're not, you will be in deep trouble.

*The player with all of the shots: This type of player may be the most difficult to play against. They have all of the shots, equally at home on the baseline or at the net, and are great physical shape. What should you do against these type of players?

You should try to make them stay in one place, trying to make them stay with one style of play throughout the match. Due to their all-around games, it is tough to put together a game plan when you are not really sure what your opponent is going to do. Trying to take away one of their weapons is a good place to start. Don't let he or she defeat you with that weapon. For instance, if your opponent has a great two-handed backhand that he or she hits cross-court, I would try to force them to hit down the line. If they do try to go cross-court, you will be prepared for the shot because you are waiting for it.

All-court players try to be as creative as they can on the court. They can hit almost every shot and tend to overplay some points. This could play to your advantage. You must try to disrupt their rhythm. You can surprise them with a powerful shot early in a rally or an off speed shot like a lob or drop shot. If an all court player is playing confidently you could be in trouble. The way to counteract this is to upset their timing and shot production. This could cause them to lose focus.

Last, but not least, don't try to outsmart the all-courter. Stay with what you are most comfortable with and don't try hitting fancy shots just because your opponent does. If you are losing, you would be wise to try something new. However, don't try doing something that you are not really comfortable with.

Following these tips could help your overall improvement against each of these types of players. Even if you aren't successful when you first try them, don't get discouraged. You should notice definite improvement if you stay with these game plans over a period of time.

email: thegreatgar@verizon.net