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Ask Tennishead: Beating giants!


Originally published on: 26/02/10 16:34

The patient

James, England

The symptoms

I have my junior finals on Saturday and Im having trouble thinking up some tactics. My opponent is very tall and hits relatively hard and comes to the net often. Can you help me? Also, mentally, I break down easily! Have you got any tips?”

Tennishead says

OK, one point at a time, James. First, beating tall players

Youre in luck. Recently, because of the many ATP Tour
at the moment, we dedicated a whole coaching article to this subject
so well simplify some of the points we talked about so you can have some easy-to-remember tips to take on court on Saturday.

Move them about
On the whole, the taller they are the more they struggle to get around the court, so try to move them from side to side, wrong foot them and bring them up the court with short angles and the occasional drop shot. They often struggle to move direction quickly.

Get it on their bootlaces
You say the guy youll be playing comes into the net a lot so try to make life difficult when theyre volleying. Dont go for too much try to make them play as many volleys as possible and try to get your replies below the height of the net. Because theyre tall, theyll struggle to dig those out. If youre feeding them high volleys itll be curtains.

Block it back
If they have a big serve, again, dont try to do too much on the return. Rather than trying to take a swing at it, just block your returns back shorten your backswing and concentrate on making contact in front so youre using the pace from the serve. All you should be trying to do is neutralise the serve so you can start rallying in a 50-50 situation. And if theyre serving and volleying try to float your returns down to their feet.

Tie them up
Not literally, obviously. That would be cheating. No, what we mean is serve into their body. Big guys with long arms like to take a big cut at the ball because their comfortable hitting zone is further away from their body than normal. To do that effectively they need space. If you serve into their stomachs they wont be able to hit an offensive return.

If you want a bit more depth on any of these points, make sure you read our article on beating tall tennis players. Now for some help with the mental side of things

When you say you break down easily, we assume you mean because of the onslaught coming from the other side of the net.

Even the pros struggle to keep their cool when they face a big server. Guys such as Goran Ivanisevic used to drive opponents to distraction by winning service game after service game and firing down ace after ace.

So, remember these points

Expect it to be a battle
If you go out with a super positive attitude youll keep your cool longer. If you expect to be blown off court some of the time then when it happens you can shrug and say too good. If youre patient and stay positive you will always get chances, which brings us on to our next point

Take your chances
Against big servers, chances are going to be thin on the ground so focus extra hard when they come along. Every time you get a look at a second serve make sure you get yourself in the rally at the very least.

Body language
Dont look defeated as soon as things start to go against you. If you look defeated then your opponent will feed off that and feel even better about themselves.

Stay in the present
Dont beat yourself up about what happened during the last point its history. As soon as a point finishes, process it, move on and get ready for the next.

Hope thats not a case of information overload James good luck out there!

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.