Josh's Fresh Take: November 2018 Edition

Don’t Be Afraid to Come to the Net!

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.
Last month I discussed the strategy to play shots deep, past the service line in order to pin your opponent back. This is important in order to keep them from approaching the net, but what happens when your opponent does give you an approach shot that lands inside the service box? After you return the ball, will you recover at the net and get ready to volley? Or will you recover back to the baseline?
If you are a player that recovers back to the baseline, ask yourself why? Many beginner players are reluctant to come to the net because they are worried that they might get hit or will react too slowly. By being reluctant of approaching the net, you are essentially neglecting a major part of the game that could be incredibly advantageous to yourself. Approaching the net and volleying is one of the fastest ways to finish off your opponent during a point. Having this strategy in your back pocket will keep your opponent on their toes. Try practicing your volleys and approaching the net with your UBC Coach or a friend the next time you play to become comfortable with this. Remember to always keep your racket head up and between your eyes! We call this “fight mode” as it is similar to boxing – to keep hands up in front of your face to protect yourself and be ready at all times for a strike.
I hear quite often that players try not to play the net because they are worried that their opponent will lob them, so they would rather stay back at the baseline. This is one reason that baffles me! First of all, if you make a successful approach shot at a tough angle or a fast and hard shot, the chances that they are going to make a perfect lob over you are pretty low. If they successfully lob the ball over you, a lob gives you enough time to turn and run to return the shot. More likely, they are going to try their best to just get the ball back over the net. This is why is it important to approach the net to pick off that defensive return shot. From there you can use your angles, as it is likely that your opponent is in a defensive position, to finish the point.
In the same situation above, if you were to return to the baseline after making a successful approach shot, then your opponent would likely return the ball and the rally would continue back and forth until someone made a mistake. This is why it is important to come to the net after a successful approach shot! If you are unsuccessful on the approach shot, meaning that you hit a weak attacking shot, then by all means return to the baseline. You do not want to be approaching the net on a shot they your opponent is going to attack! In this situation, you likely will not have a chance to return the ball and could possibly get hurt.
When it comes to doubles play, it is arguably even more important to come to the net and volley. Most of the points that are won happen at the net, so get out there with your partner and practice! You and your partner need to communicate to ensure one of you plays at the net. You should never both be at the baseline as you are likely going to get stuck or have your opponents move to an attacking position. Get out there and do not be afraid to come to the net!
Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.