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Tennishead Tips: Psychological warfare


Originally published on: 26/02/10 16:33

The art of being able to rock your opponent and sow a seed of doubt is crucial to success in tennis. We call this making a statement of intent. Here are our 20 favourite ways of getting in our opponent’s face.

1. Hit a big winner from the baseline.

2. Make a good play off your opponent’s best shot. (When you know what your opponent’s favourite weapon is make a point of reading it once so you can reply with a tough shot.)

3. Hit an ace on a big point.

4. Hit three to four big first serves in a row.

5. Serve a bullet right at your opponent. (This is also very effective as a second serve if your opponent continually stands in close and is intent on attacking your second serve.)

6. Stand in on second serves. (Show your intent to take on opponent’s second serve.)

7. Show an opponent you’re keen and eager by showing clear intention of how you will attack their serve by:
a) Making a good execution of a return.
b) Moving around on your toes while you’re waiting to return.
c) Jogging to your chair if you’ve broken serve or got very close to breaking.

8 Dictate the speed of the change of ends.

9. Bring your opponent in and smack a passing shot straight at them.

10. Chip-charge a second serve or hit and come in off a second serve.

11. Bury a smash.

12. Make a big shot off a big first serve. Read one so you can anticipate early and achieve a solid hit.

13. Give your opponent a totally different look before they serve by changing your return position. (It must be obvious enough for him/her to notice either by standing closer in, further back or over to one side.)

14. Make some noise as you hit the ball. (A louder grunt or exhalation of air.)

15. Use humour. (An example would be after they hit a winner just smile and acknowledge the play, or after youve missed a sitter smile and turn away, or if they hit a ball right at you just give a wry smile.)

16. Stand tall with a solid stare down the court before you serve.

17. Take a lingering look at your opponent after a good volley.

18. Pull out a big fist pump after a break of serve.

19. Try some aggressive self talk: I can do this! I love fighting for every point! I can fight and be cool in my mind at the same time!

20. Make a statement on the first point of a game. Hit a big serve, or serve and volley to show your intent to win the game strongly. On return, try attack or return a solid ball with full focus to show that your opponent will have to fight for every point to hold serve.

By David Sammel


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.