Here are some ideas to keep in mind no matter what type of opponent you are facing.

* If your opponent has an easy put-away shot and can hit it literally anywhere on the court, make a move in one direction (take away one part of the court) just before your opponent hits the shot.

* If you have put your opponent way out of position wide, occasionally hit back to where the opponent was rather than into open court.

* If early in a match you are playing well and fairly even with your opponent, but you are losing because this opponent is hitting some truly amazing winners, relax and keep playing the way you are. Your opponent will either have to continue to beat you with great shots, or the percentages will catch up. You'll be fine.

* If you have to move more than two steps laterally to get to a strong serve, hit a safe, slow return. Just try to block the ball back as safely and effectively as you can.

* If your opponent is doing a great job of digging low volleys out time after time, make them hit higher volleys. Try aiming for the right armpit (left armpit for lefties). This is often an awkward location for even very effective volleyers.

* If you think you are in for a long, even match and you know you have a conditioning advantage, use this knowledge. You might risk a few points, or even games, early to make your opponent have to expend a great deal of energy. Conditioning is part of the game. If you can wear your opponent out, do it.

* If any of your shots land deep in your opponent's court, they are good shots. It doesn't matter how they got there.

* If your opponent is having the best day ever, try to bring them back to reality by making them hit as many shots as you can. If you can keep them hitting, maybe they'll fall back to earth.

* If, on the other hand, you are the one in the zone and playing magnificent tennis, don't think, don't try to analyze, don't do anything. Just follow your bliss.


THE MYTH. In singles you are hitting ground strokes, hoping to force your opponent to hit a short ball so you can move in and put away the shot.

THE REALITY. When you force your opponent to hit a ball that comes back short:

1. The ten or twelve feet you move in to hit the shot "shortens the court" by ten or twelve feet.

2. As you move closer to the net, it gets "higher" and becomes more of a barrier, relatively speaking.

3. You are hitting a ball on the move. The ball is moving toward you, you are moving toward the ball.

4. If you don't put this ball away, you have to either move in or move back. Otherwise you'll be mired in no-person's land.

The truth is that the short ball is not an automatic advantage, but you should still be able to capitalize on these short balls and win many points. Practice and pay attention.

* Anticipate the short ball. Read when it is coming so you can move in early and not have to scramble to get there.

* Turn your shoulders and take your racquet back as you are moving in and long before you are going to hit the shot.

* Shorten your backswing a little, but be sure to follow through and keep the strings on the ball.

* Try to execute a solid, boring, safe, deep shot. Do not try to hit a winner.

* Move in after you hit, following the direction of your shot. Be prepared to play the next shot on the fly, as early as possible.

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