Posts Tagged how to win at tennis

Joe Marshall Describes How To Win In Tennis

Joe Marshall posted this comment to my “Mentality” article yesterday (below). Joe was a great mentor/coach for me and wrote about 15 articles on this site about how to play tennis much much better. His strategies have helped me and many others improve their game dramatically. You can find them by searching with the keywords Joe Marshall.

Great story….Remarkable in its coincidence. Yesterday, I played a doubles match with a couple of thirty somethings on the other team, and my partner and I (ages 64 and 59) on our side…..they got off to a 3-0, 15-40 lead. My partner was solid, I was very inconsistent. Our opponents run twice as fast as us, one hits twice as hard, the other hits with twice the spin….I usually serve the best of the bunch, but yesterday, we all served about the same….serviceable…We stole that game and won the next. on serve! But they broke me for the second time to go up, 4-2. But we fought back, and won the next 4 games, fighting off break points and game points in each one….6-4 us.

In the second set, we got up 2-0 15-30, but they held, then they broke and held again. We tied it up at 3-3. They got up 5-3, but we won three games in a row, and I served for the match….they broke me for about the 5th time….I have been holding serve very well lately, but I lost all confidence, and my partner wasn’t helping me by stealing a poach here or there, or even moving to distract them or anything….in the tiebreak, we got up 3-1, but then they reeled foo 5 out of 6 points to go up 6-4. One had an easy volley at the net and tried to dropshot it…he JUST missed it, but I was running in, and would have had it if it wasn’t a very good dropper, so I think I put some pressure on him…..Then I hit two service winners, probably the only two I got all day….neither a terrific shot, but both solid first serves. When my partner served with our match point later, I poached and they hit the return in the net.

The key was experience, playing the pressure points well, but mostly strategy. The only thing I had working for me wsa my mind and my reflexes…I made several fine reflex shots to extend rallies, and some great gets….My partner was solid as a rock….They kept playing one up, and one back, with the server occasionally sneaking in. They also made some terrific poaches. My partner and I realized the only way we were going to get ahead was to lob everything, especially the return of serve. We had long rallies of our team lobbing, and their deep man running around hitting (and occasionally missing) groundies, while their net man looking for overheads, that he would occasionally hit, and about half the time, miss (or we would block it back.

In the second set, my partner lost his lob, he started hitting them all short…..I reminded him to get his weight into the shot, like any other shot, and follow through HIGH. Correcting things when they go wrong is one of the great gifts of experience.

They changed strategies in the second set when they had their run…..their deep man started hitting big high topspin shots, backing us up, and making it difficult to lob the net man (the best way to get a lob over the deep man’s head is to move up and take it early)…..Unfortunately for them, they didn’t stick with this strategy, and inexplicably, their server started to come in fast behind creampuff serves, making my return of serve lobs over the net man twice as effective….On big points, experience teaches you to follow certain mantras…..”Keep your weight going forward on return of serves”…anticipate on a certain side, On a serve, keep the toss high, let it bounce if it isn’t good, make sure you clear the net, exhale, put plenty of spin on the second serve…..and above all BE CONSISTENT, but forgive your self immediately if you miss one…Stay in the moment, the past means nothing, the future isn’t written….you might lose, you might win, but keep fighting….Now’s not the time to think about results…now is the time to hit the BALL!

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Joe Marshall’s Unusual Tennis Strategies For Winning Doubles

Joe Marshall teaches tennis in an alternate universe

Joe Marshall teaches tennis strategies that you never hear or read about. He says his game belongs in an alternate universe. I have played with him, against him and spoken to people who hate his game: he drives them crazy with spins, lobs, punches, maddening drop shots and out-of-reach angles that you rarely see on television.

His game comes out of his background in ping pong, and he maneuvers the tennis ball and his opponents as deftly as if he were on a table with a paddle. He has showed me how to have 27 different serves (I can do three or four of them so far) and totally upgraded my game. Check out his original story here, and don’t hesitate to contact him at if you’d like some lessons or advice. He lives in upstate New York, near Western Connecticut.

My Partner Bill Simon and I won a local tennis tournament mid-July…..We are both 56 years old….two of the older guys in the tournament…..some were in their twenties. We got a lucky draw, but we had been in the finals last year, so it wasn’t all luck. Here are some of the things we did well…..

When One partner played poorly, the other tried to pick him up…..both by encouraging him, and giving him advice….”Keep your feet moving”, “Don’t go for too much”…..”take something off your first serve”….And the partner LISTENED….we didn’t take it personally.

We tried different tactics….chip and charge, lob the net man on the return of serve and get to the net, Different formations: two back on defense, Australian formation, one up and one back….these were done to nullify strengths of the opponents….specifically: good poaching at the net, good cross court returns……good chip and charge.

We played to the conditions…..we lobbed into the sun a lot, we adjusted to the slower balls as the day went on…..we made a tired player run a lot.

We poached early in each match to set the example that good returns could be picked off. When we didn’t poach, we faked, to get into the heads of our opponents. (When your partner is serving down love thirty, second serve, poach aggressively, it works almost every time, and can turn the momentum around.)

We played defense……Throw up a lob and get into defensive position (two back….it was a clay tournie)….We didn’t go for too much. We tried to play solid reliable, high percentage shots to put the pressure on our opponents.

We managed our choking well.

We communicated…even when we didn’t have anything to say…(Talk to your opponent in whispered tones, just saying Blah, Blah Blah….the opponents will always think you are up to something, and try an outrageous shot….if you pick up that your opponents are trying something, ignore it and go with your best shot…or LOB)

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Thrilling Winning Tennis

Back from 3 1/2 hours of tennis today, starving, foot resting on an ice pack. I am giddy from playing the best tennis of my life…and my team won two of three sets against two very tough opponents: 2-6/6-3/7-6 (4). One player has beaten me every time we played singles over the last year. The other has lost only 3 or 4 sets in a year. But my partner, Joe Marshall (read his comment), is incredibly strategic, and he taught me a dozen moves, positions, tricks to play winning tennis. He is like a real life Brad Gilbert guiding me on the court.

I should add that I was out of country for 11 days and have spent the last two weeks working on taxes, bills, and catching up on friends’ and family members’ lives as well as other responsibilities. Cooped up in those British cities, I couldn’t stop myself from making it to the courts 9 of the last 11 days and playing 20 1/4 hours…I LOVE THIS GAME! I LOVE THE CHALLENGE!!

Turns out I am really good at returning line drives just above the net. Joe said I did 24 out of 25. But he was exaggerating. Could have been 20/25 though. And then making winners with most of those volleys. One time I won a game by vollying back a powerful overhand smash that was headed for my gut at 100+ miles per hour? Having abs might have made the difference…just joking. And I hit so many of the shots with my racket’s sweet spot, lots of power and ungettable placement.

Of course I am not taking even 50% of the credit for our victories. But maybe 40-45%. And it is so thrilling to hold up my end as these superior players forced my to upgrade my game. I have now really improved my serve with a new rhythm and flow, learned different places from Joe to stand when serving, discovered that I was shifting incorrectly when my partner moved over behind me, was taught how to distract my opponents. What fun to evolve to such improved capability. Somehow I was able to deliver more often the placement idea that was popping into my brain. So exciting.

I hope you have some activity that exhilarates you like this. I may not have known this high for decades before, but at least I am having it now…

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