3 Attack Shots Every Player Should Use
By Scott Baker
I love catching an opponent off guard and taking an easy point. Here are three surprise attacks you can use to get the upper hand in your next singles match. I'm a big advocate of learning to play an "All-Court" game. That means getting to the net and practicing those volleys, which unfortunately many single players don't like to do. The payoff is big. The ability to execute shots from anywhere on the court is vital to a well-rounded game, which should translate into greater success on the court.
Some methods of surprise attacks force you to come to the net to finish the point. These attacks are effective because they happen so quickly, making it difficult for your opponent, who didn't expect you at the net, to respond to the shot. Your opponent will have much less time to react and may not be ready to defend your offensive position.
Attack 1: For the first method we will take a page out of the Andre Agassi book (a pure baseliner). This attack works best for baseliners, which most people are these days. Try mixing in the serve and volley play every so often. This works great because your opponent might be getting a little lazy on the return of serve. If they start returning your serve down the middle of the court this is your signal to start sneaking in a serve-and-volley play. This is a good way to catch your opponent off guard and walk away with an easy point.
I love to see Agassi serve and volley. He's not as graceful as a true serve-and-volley player. He doesn't have to be. If you ever watched Agassi use the serve and volley, you probably noticed he won the point almost every time. His opponent, and yours, will never expect it. This attack works well on big points, especially against an opponent known for playing it safe and just getting the ball back over the net. By the time they realize you came to the net to hit a volley, it's too late for them to do anything about it.
Attack 2: Another way you can effectively attack your opponent is to sneak into the net when they are chasing a deep ground stroke into the corner. Your opponent has had to hustle to the corner and possibly take a few steps back to hit the ball since it was hit so deep. You should come to the net as they move to the ball. Many times they don't even notice you have moved forward and they hit a defensive ground stroke, which you can knock into the open court with a volley. This is an effective attack if your initial shot is deep in the court and bounces high enough that it forces your opponent a few feet behind the baseline to hit the ball. This type of surprise attack doesn't happen off of approach shots as your opponent already knows you are coming to the net. This should be used during a regular baseline to baseline exchange of shots. When I execute this play I like to hit the ball with heavy topspin to the backhand side (or their weaker side). I'm usually at the baseline when I hit the shot. As soon as I realize I've executed a nice, deep shot, I close to the net quickly. Another key element is your footwork, not the speed of your feet, but the sound of your feet. If you can sneak in quietly, instead of thundering down the court, you'll have a better chance of surprising your opponent.
Attack 3: In an era where baseline tennis is dominating, the drop shot can be an effective attack. The drop shot might not sound like an attack. Remember, it's all about catching your opponent off guard and surprising them with an unexpected shot. The drop shot becomes painfully effective against tennis players who like to stand well behind the baseline to hit their shots. If you catch your opponent far back and they hit a fairly short shot, make them pay with a good drop shot. When they're that far behind the baseline they have a lot further to travel to get to a drop shot. This has the added advantage of forcing them out of their comfort zone from behind the baseline.
A well rounded player will use all of the above methods regularly. These shots are especially effective for those of you who play most of your games from the baseline. Attacking your opponent when they least expect is a huge advantage. The key is getting to the net when they're moving to the ball and moving towards the net early. If you hesitate to move to the net you could get stuck in an awkward spot and lose an opportunity.
Go for it on the court!