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Win that tennis match by becoming ruthless
(in a nice way)
(From the "Life of a Scrappy Player" Series)

Scrappy Tennis Player
Scrappy Tennis Player

by Rich Neher
So, you're stuck with your game and can't seem to win against players you think you should be able to beat? No, not against players who are clearly better than you, like one or two whole ratings levels. Come on, when you're a 3.5 and your opponent is a 4.0 it takes an act of God to make you win that match. Does it not? Let's forget the situation where you, the accomplished doubles player who never plays singles, are forced to play an accomplished singles player who is rated higher than you. Out of luck, sorry. You can only pray that guy has a real bad day after a long night of partying with very little sleep. It's not going to happen, OK?
Now, you're on the court with that opponent who you always wanted to beat but never could. You're warming up looking for weaknesses. Can't find any? Forehand and backhand look equally strong? Come on, you are not facing a tour player here. That just never happens at the recreational level. OK, then look at his strengths. Where is the killer shot coming from. Ah, it's coming from his forehand? Here you go, buddy. THAT'S where he's going to really hurt you in the match. The back hand may look good and all, but it's not a killer shot and he's not likely to hurt you with it. Got that? Just the thought of taking an entire killer shot opportunity away from your opponent should make you shiver with anticipation (Oh, hold, that was Tim Curry in the "Rocky Horror Picture Show, haha, sorry!)...
Now here is something you can practice, btw. How to concentrate on hitting just to one side for an entire set. Once you know how to do this, you'll get a lot of confidence in your shot making and that could make a big difference in your game.
Here's our scrappy player now, playing this guy who he always lost to. Strong serve and killer forehand. During warm-up Mr. Scrappy didn't see the danger of the forehand, and the first game he lost to love because he was just happy to return his booming serves and everything landed just the way his opponent wanted it - on his forehand. Mr. Scrappy had no chance getting any of his powerful cross court shots.
From now on almost all of our scrappy player’s serves, returns, and volleys went to his opponent’s backhand. He couldn't hurt him from there at all. Then the player on the other side became a little frustrated and began to make mistakes. On the rare occasion of Mr. Scrappy hitting to his forehand he hit one long, and then one into the net. After our scrappy player broke him in his next service game he began to systematically dismantle his game and that was the end of it.
What is there to learn from this example? When your opponent doesn't show you a shot making weakness look for his strong side and then choose the other side. Be ruthless! Hit to this other side relentlessly. Come in after a good approach shot or after a short return and put those volleys away. Then hit to "the other" side again.
It worked for Mr. Scrappy many times before. He is not known to be a ruthless guy, but when he sees a weakness in his opponent's game, he’ll exploit it! However - still be nice to your opponent. He may do the same to you next time. No?

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