Time Bandits  

Having had the opportunity in the past, to compete against many top 10 international players, one thing really stood out in my mind was that I always felt rushed. When I say rushed, I am referring to the short amount of time that I had during rallies to make balanced and controlled shots.

Players of this level are extremely good at stealing your time. By taking the ball very early and playing very definite and purposeful balls, they have the ability to control the rallies by eliminating your ability to attack. Andrea Agassi is a very good example of a player who employs this theory.

Other advantages in taking the ball early include:
• Greater generation of power.
• Easier to hit angles because the impact point is closer to the net.
• Less tactical considerations required as the ball can nearly always be played to the open court in an attacking mode.
• Easier to follow the ball to the net because there is less distance to run before the first volley. Forward momentum is inherent in such a shot.
• Against an opponent using heavy topspin it enables the player to have a more suitable impact height. (Between waist and shoulder height)

The first skill to learn when attempting to take the ball early is a quick reaction. Usually a player will notice that the ball has fallen a little short and then make a conscious decision weather to take it early or not. It is this decision making process that brings hesitation. It is far better to pre-determine the typical depth of ball that you are prepared to take early and then if it presents itself, JUST GO! Don’t even think about it.

Of course playing “Up the Court” and not rallying from a position too far behind the baseline can assist with early impact points.

Technical considerations for this style of play include:
• Fast footwork.
• Early physical preparation. The first movement should be a quarter shoulder turn in towards the direction of the ball.
• Early racquet preparation. The racquet should be loaded early.
• Shorter backswing due to less time to play the shot.
• Quicker recovery. As your shot reaches your opponent sooner, so could it return faster.

The following drill is designed to train the concept of taking the time from your opponent.

Two players are involved with Player A commencing the drill by feeding the ball to Player B out of the hand. Player B
must play the next ball back to
Player A and the point is played out.

Both players must have their feet
WITH THE BALL (they can recover after
the hit by landing outside the singles court but
must recover with feet inside the singles court.

Any player may hit he ball on the full at any
time though if a player approaches the net
they are only allowed one volley to win the
point. Points can be played up to 11.

This drill forces the players to be very aggressive and attack early in the rallies.

THE TEMPO OF PLAY Matches often develop a distinct tempo with the winning player seemingly rolling through the match at his or her pace.

One day, as a junior, I was playing a practice match against a cagey older club member. He was no where near me in physical or technical ability, though was beating me soundly.

At the end of a set he asked me why I was rushing. I didn’t even realize that I was and he gave me this piece of advice:

“As a barrister would seek a recess if a trial was not going in his favor, so should you take your time if you are losing. Conversely, if you are winning hurry your opponent and give them less time to think”

Whilst the maximum time allowed between points is 20 seconds and 90 seconds for change of ends, using this time to your advantage is a powerful tool.

Craig Miller
IQ Tennis Pty Ltd
"Learn Twice as Fast"

Back to Tips