IN TENNIS, as in other racquet sports, some players who are not great athletes can be tough to play against simply because of the style of game they use. And it may have nothing to do with unorthodox strokes.
What follows is a look at three types of players and how to cope with them:
Players who run around their backhand
Nothing is more frustrating than to play against someone who controls the whole match by continually taking every shot on his forehand. Usually, this player keeps you pinned in the back of the court by hitting shot after shot to your backhand, as he stands way over on his backhand side of the court.
The harder you try to hit the ball to your opponent's backhand, the easier he seems to return the ball with his forehand. Your mistake is that you are hitting every ball back to his backhand side of the court.
The better strategy is to occasionally hit your backhand down the line to the forehand side of the court. This will force your opponent to move all the way across the court to return the shot.
In most instances, your opponent will return the shot but won't be able to do much with it since he has had to run such a great distance. You can then return the ball to the open backhand court. If you feel comfortable rushing the net after your shot, do so. Regardless, you have found a way to get to your opponent's backhand. Hitting your backhand down the line instead of consistently crosscourt will keep your opponent guessing.
Also, when you serve, occasionally hit a serve wide to your opponent's forehand, to ensure that he doesn't get grooved on your serve. Continually going to the backhand side of the service box will keep him honest.
Playing against the net rusher
Nothing exerts more pressure on a player than playing against an opponent who rushes the net on almost every serve and on most of his own service returns.
The correct way to judge your opponent's strength at the net is to see how he handles his forehand and backhand volleys, and his overheads, while you are warming up. By doing this, you will be able to determine on which side of the court your returns will be most effective. And, if his overhead is weak, don't be afraid to lob as much as possible.
When your opponent is stationed at the net, you must keep your shots as low as possible when you try to pass him. This will force your opponent to volley the ball up. If you decide to lob, be sure to hit the lobs high and crosscourt, as this will allow you more of a margin of error.
Although you have read it many times, focusing on the ball at all times is of utmost importance. Because your opponent is stationed at the net, you will have a tendency to watch what he is doing instead of the ball.
By looking up as you hit the ball, you may create a mishit. Even if you do hit a good shot, looking up often tells your opponent where you are hitting the ball.
As for serving, you must be sure that you get your first serve in at least 75 percent of the time, deep and into the corners. This will prevent your opponent from returning your serve and rushing the net. Accuracy on the serve is more important than power.
If you miss your first serve, you are putting an enormous amount of pressure on yourself, as you will be worried about your opponent hitting your weaker second serve and rushing the net.
Playing against the moon-baller
Have you ever played against a player who hits shot after shot 100 feet into the air, only to have the ball constantly drop three to five feet from the baseline?
The late Gus Franczyk, brother of former MUNY tennis director, Wally Franczyk, won five city singles championships playing in this manner.
Although Franczyk could hit sound ground strokes, his lobbing style of play drove his opponents crazy. Andrea Jaeger, a top women's pro in the early 1980s, used this style of play to defeat such stars as Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
To combat a player who uses this style of play, you must be able to return the ball before it bounces, by volleying the shot, or hitting an overhead.
A word of caution: don't try to blast your first shot away, unless it is a setup. Simply hit the ball deep into either corner of the court, depending on what side of the court you are on. Then, you should move in further to the net. Your next shot should be to put the ball away.
By taking the ball out of the air, you will keep your opponent from pinning you deep in the back of the court. You will also be giving your opponent less time to get set for his next shot.
Phil Celniker's win in the recent Marsh Cup competition in Rochester ranks as one of the major upsets in local tennis in the past several years. Celniker, a lawyer from Buffalo, beat Len Treash of Rochester, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Treash is ranked No. 2 in doubles and No. 20 in singles nationally in the men's 55 and over category. Celniker is not ranked.