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© Copyright 2002, Jim Loy
Here I am offering advice on how to play against the player who obviously outclasses you. He/she hits solid shots with power. See The Ugly Tennis Player for advice on playing other players. These "ugly" players may be very good. They may beat the tar out of you, with finesse and deception, but they do not hit with graceful power.
Do we just give up rather than lose to the good power player? Hey, this is your opportunity to test your skills and reflexes. I contend that the good power player is (on most shots) very very predictable. They rely on their strengths. They do not rely on deception. Some of their favorite shots are deceptive, but most are not. Most of the time you will know where to stand.
Overheads: When an ugly player hits an overhead, you have to be ready for a drop shot or a sharp angle. The power player will either hit the overhead to his/her left (if right handed) or down the T (down the middle). Not always, he/she has a winner after all, and may get cute. But most often the overhead is predictable. It will not go for the lines, it will not hit short and bounce over you (usually). So, you can lean toward your right (against the right hander). If you are playing doubles, one of you should guard the right, the other guard the middle. And be ready to hit a lob. Make them hit several overheads instead of just one.
Return of serve: Your partner's serving, and they've got his number, and are teeing off on both serves. And you are the victim, they are burning them right at you. Stand in there and guard the line (don't worry about the middle, partner should guard that). You should be winning in this situation. Any mishit volley will win. The strong player is almost sure to test you out at the net; you are the target. You have to earn your place at the net. Once you have hit two or three winners (or even weak volleys into their court), they will settle down and try to win the points the conventional way, by returning cross court to the server. If you (as server's partner) move around, poaching or trying to cut off shots down the middle, then you have again become the target. So guard the line again, because that is where it is going. These heavy hitters will not normally hit returns wide to the server. That is a risky shot. They will either hit at server's partner or go down the middle. So server can lean toward the middle.
You just hit a winner: Don't believe it until the ball has hit the ground twice. They will chase down a lot of your supposed winners. So, you just hit the perfect offensive lob. Don't give your partner high fives just yet; rush the net in case they return a weak shot. You hit a winner; go to the net; finish the point.
Don't go for the lines: Players who go for the lines may win some matches, but they usually lose, and consider themselves unlucky. Play solid tennis, even though they are better than you are, and you have to get some luck to have any chance. Volley at their feet or between them.
You're both at the net, and they are not: Anything can happen here. They should lob, but they may feel the need to challenge your right to be at the net by powering the ball up the middle or right at one of you. This situation is pretty much like the return of serve, above.
All four of you are at the net: Your best chance of surviving this situation, against hot volleyers, is to hit at their feet or between them or to lob. Expect to lose a lot of these points, but you can win some of them. If they have to dive to return your volley, expect it to come back hard and difficult for you to return. Their reflexes are that good, so be ready.
They are at the net, and you are not: You have to lob. Every once in a while, your winner up the middle will be good enough to win. But most of the time, you have to lob. They are going to overhead most of your lobs, even the good ones. If your lob is good enough that they certainly won't overhead it, get to the net.
Your partner is out of position: Partner has just run off the court to return a shot, or is in no person's land, or is at the net when they are going to hit an overhead. You are playing singles until partner can get back into play. You will probably lose the point, but play solid tennis, and probably hit a high lob to give partner time to get back into the game.
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