1. Well-hit ground strokes clear the net by two or three inches.

FICTION: Especially for the club level player, one or two inches above the net is not a safe enough margin of error. Well-hit ground strokes should probably consistently clear the net by a foot or more.

2. The easiest time to "take the net" is by following in after your serve.

FICTION: Following your serve to net, especially in doubles, is a fine idea. But perhaps the easiest time to take the net is on return of your opponent's second serve.

You have the advantage of being inside the baseline to execute the return, so you should be able to get into better position, closer to the net, to make the first volley.

3. All else being equal, the smarter player will usually win.

FACT: Obviously a very smart 3.5-level player will not usually beat a not so smart 4.5 player, but if the players have fairly equal skills and abilities, the smarter player

will win more often.

4. If someone has been playing tennis for many years at the same level, that is "their level." They are not going to improve.

TOTAL FICTION: Not every player can improve from, let's say, a 3.5 to a 4.5. But every tennis player, repeat, every tennis player, can improve tremendously by playing smarter.

5. When your opponent is rushing the net, your objective should be a crisp, passing shot.

FICTION: The percentage shot here is simply to make your opponent have to execute this transitional volley. Try to keep the ball low to force the volley up.

6. The best way to control or negate a good poacher at the net is to hit a passing shot down the alley.

FICTION: That is exactly one of the things the poacher is trying to get you to do. It is a low percentage shot. Probably the best way to neutralize an effective poacher is to put up some low lobs over the non-racquet shoulder. This backs the poacher away from the net a bit and forces some awkward overheads.

7. The return of serve is the most important shot in tennis.

FACT: Well, probably a fact. The conventional wisdom says the serve is the most important shot, but at the club level a very convincing argument can be made for the return of serve as the most important. Okay, they're both "most important."

8. Pete Sampras is the greatest men's player of all time.

Just having you on a bit. There is no definitive way to decide the greatest of all time. And Americans seem overly concerned with "Number One" anyway. So let's just say Sampras is one of the greatest along with Laver, Borg, Agassi, Federer, and many many others.

9. Good players aim for the lines.

FICTION: Great professional players may aim for the lines, but human, club level players need a much bigger margin of error. Quite simply, if you are aiming

for the lines too many balls will land out.

10. Usually the team or player with the highest percentage on returns of serves will win the match.

FACT: At the club level this is a fact that is illustrated in match after match. If you charted 100 matches, you would find the team with the most consistent return

of serve would probably win over 90 of these matches. The other statistics wouldn't even matter.

11. Players make more errors on their backhand groundstrokes than their forehands.

FICTION: I know, I know, most people's backhands are not as effective as their forehands. But in a match we generally hit so many more forehands than backhands that we end up with more forehand errors. We probably have more forehand winners as well.

12. In doubles, a ball down the middle should be taken by the partner with the forehand.

FICTION: It's not a bad rule of thumb, but if you have a righty and lefty on a team there could be two forehands in the middle or no forehands in the middle. A better rule is the partner closest to the net has the choice on the ball down the middle.

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Greater Vallejo Tennis Association
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Benicia, CA 94510