Make sure your opponents don’t read this...
When playing tennis, we are always striving to be in the control of the ball placement as that way we can dictate points. At least that’s what the pros do, but in reality at the recreational and club level of tennis it all comes down to praying that the ball miraculously goes over the net. We really have no choice except for trying to hit that fuzzy ball down the line or cross court. This is why most don’t ever get to think about the depth of their shots. We can rarely hear club players discussing this, only the bravest ones of them drop it in the conversation here and there.
Why is depth such an important objective?
There is one unwritten rule that says: “the one who constantly hits deeper shots is eventually going to win the match”. By the way, if you want to keep winning, please make sure your opponents don’t read this post...
Tennis shots that land near and inside the service line are often somewhat easy to react to. When tennis ball lands in this area, it will bounce up and sit just at the right height for player at the baseline to hit it in his strike zone with confidence. In this case it is all about the time or should we say abundance of time available for a player to get ready for the shot. When the ball is short a player can step into the court, take an opponent intimidating huge swing and open up a lot of new angles to place the ball. Short ball gives a clear advantage to the player returning it as it allows him to be much more aggressive and approach the net. All professional tennis players know this.
What happens when there is a deep ball coming at us?
Any ball that lands near the baseline can be considered a “deep shot”. All tennis players would agree that this shot is their worst nightmare. Some tennis players with less confident strokes literally have a fear of opponents who are able to hit deep shots consistently and when they see a deep one coming, they just stand there and hope for the ball to go out. If it lands just on the baseline, there will be an expression on their face of utter disappointment.
When a ball is deep, the reaction time for a returning tennis player is cut down considerably. Then, there is a problem of positioning. How to return a deep ball? If the player doesn’t get in a good position for the return rally shot, a deep ball could bounce up too high and then it would be really hard to hit it back over the net. Returning player doesn’t really have too many choices here, unlike with shorter balls. Depending on the level of courage, he can either step back and wait for the ball to come down to his optimum strike zone or he can be a hero and step into the court and take the ball on the rise. In any case, it will be almost impossible for this player to make an offensive shot out of it. Usually a deep ball guarantees a weak return while a short ball just sits in the middle of the court waiting for a player to finish off the point with an approach shot or an easy put away.
How to hit with more depth?
Some tennis racquet grips allow for more depth in the shots by default in comparison to others. Technique wise, in order to hit a deeper shot, we need to have a longer contact and sort of guide the ball over the net. Tennis player needs to swing more through the ball in order to achieve more depth.
Trick here is to think about the follow through. Imagine swinging through the ball in front of your body with a forward momentum and then finishing off the shot with a nice a full follow through over the left shoulder in case you are a right-handed tennis player. This driving force is what will give you a longer contact with the ball and eventually more depth on the shots you make. When swinging to hit the tennis ball, we sometimes tend to think in two dimensions. This results in wimpy, short landing balls. What pros do is they swing in three dimensions, focusing on the forward drive of their swing path! This movement translates to more pace and depth. In other words, shots look cooler and have more depth.
How to practice hitting deeper balls?
There is a cool exercise for improving shots depth. Play a game with your partner. First one to win 10 points, wins the set. Each player takes turn in serving 2 balls to start the point. Important rule: when a rally ball lands inside the service line, a player loses the point! Also, a point is lost to any other mistake. This kind of game forces both players to hit deeper shots. It also inspires you to try to force a weak, short return and win the point by sending your opponent a deep ball close to the baseline. Practicing this with your partner will surely reveal how “bad” you are with depth placement and help you work on it.
Now you know why professional tennis players never give up the baseline and fight to get inside the court whenever an opportunity presents itself. When they get in, more angles are available and they can be on the offence. If you are often finding yourself far behind the baseline running around like a retriever, it means that you are on defense and that the other player has been hitting very deep shots to push you away. To counter it, try to hit deeper shots whenever possible and your opponent will not be able to push you around anymore.