Posts Tagged tennis strategies

I Have A Trick

Here is a clever solution to improving at sports that I believe is transferable to all of one’s life. I complained to Greg Reiss about my weak tennis backhand. Greg coaches squash and tennis at Millbrook School in upstate New York.

When we met for a lesson, he said that he had a trick for dealing with my problem. Instead of focusing on the poor backhand, he would work on my much stronger forehand. He told me to move a step to the left, when I was receiving serves, so that I could have more chances of using my forehand. He said to give up on a hard topspin backhand, which I couldn’t do, and only hit a backhand lob, which I could do. He said to focus on my strengths, instead of debilitating attempts to master a stroke that continued to elude me.

And it worked. I felt better about my game, odds of winning points, self confidence. Maybe if I weren’t so old and coming so late to the game, Greg would have given me different suggestions. But this was sound advice at my stage of learning.

Clearly this can be applied to everyday life. You just have to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. You might have to accept that you are good at speaking, but not at fixing car engines. You need to know yourself and pursue those paths that mesh with your skills.


Joe Marshall’s Attitude About Tennis: It’s A Good Day To Die

In response to my post yesterday about success coming partly from attitude, Joe Marshall wrote the following:

When you’re down in tennis, it’s easy to make the other guys into magicians. They’re not. It’s easy to make yourselves into losers. You’re not. You are both just guys swatting a tennis ball around. The key points we lost were lost by unforced errors by us, and better consistentcy by them. It was just a few shots…..a couple of inches here, a couple of inches there.

Serving out a match always has its own separate drama. The servers, who have been cruising along, suddenly say to themselves….”Now don’t blow it, you’ve got them.” But it’s difficult for the mind NOT to blow it…..better to say something positive like “Get a good first serve in,” “Move your feet.” or “Keep the ball in play”…some practical advice that will help keep you in the moment, and solve your biggest problem…..WINNING ONE POINT…..that’s all you can do anyway.

So for us, as returners, the goal is, “Make them play.”

No easy points, no unforced errors…..Make them EARN the victory, and if they can, tip your hats to them……so you lost a tennis match, so what? As the Roman soldiers who guarded the borders of the empire used to say, each beautiful Mediterranean morning, “It’s a good day to die.”

Today might be your last day. The point you are playing may be your last point, so LIVE IT UP! Play your best and enjoy every minute. Even if you send up a weak lob right in front of the net, guess where they are going to hit it, and run there at full steam……IT feels a lot better than standing there bemoaning your fate, and more often than you think, you just might guess right and save the point.

ON the first point of the key break game at 3-5, I figured David would serve and volley. I figured if I could get a decent lob over his head, we could make him run back to retrieve and take over the net. I told my feet to move, and guessed he’d be going for my backhand, which he had been doing successfully. He hit a cautious serve and I was able to get the thing in. That sent a message We weren’t dead yet. Ira smacked a clean winner on David’s serve to the ad court, and I was able to get another lob in at 0-30. By then we had the momentum, we broke, and when Ira put a couple of overheads away off good first serves of mine in the next game, we had them on their heels, and were able to play another game of controlled aggression to break.

Ira served it out. We shook hands….Great day of tennis for everyone….Let’s do it again.

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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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