In the dynamic and competitive game of tennis, success is not just about who has the fastest serve, the most powerful forehand, or the most agile footwork. While these elements certainly play a critical role, strategic planning is another, often underappreciated facet of the game that can make a substantial difference.
In the midst of fast-paced rallies and high-pressure moments, it might seem like players are merely reacting to each shot as it comes. But beneath the surface, every move is typically part of a bigger plan. More often than not, each stroke is a calculated decision designed to outmaneuver the opponent and control the court. This strategic approach to tennis is what often separates good players from great ones.
One of the key elements of strategic planning in tennis is the concept of a ‘point plan’ or ‘point construction plan’. This might be a term you’ve heard thrown around in coaching sessions, tennis commentaries, or post-match analyses. But what does it really mean? How does it work in practice? And how can understanding and applying point planning in your own game give you that competitive edge and enhance your performance on the court?
In this article, we delve deeper into the concept of point planning, unravel its importance, and provide concrete examples of how it can be effectively applied. Whether you’re an aspiring tennis professional, a junior player, or a budding amateur, understanding point planning could give you a new perspective on the game and unlock new avenues for improvement.
What is a Point Plan in Tennis
A point plan, often called a point construction plan, is a strategy for an individual point. It’s a sequence of shots that a player aims to execute, starting from the serve or return, with the goal of winning the point.
Unlike the broader ‘game plan,’ a strategic approach for the entire match (unless a change of plan is needed), a point plan is a micro-level strategy. It considers the current score, player positions, court surface, and other situational factors. A well-executed point plan can disrupt your opponent’s rhythm, exploit their weaknesses, and play to your strengths.
Five Examples of Point Plans
Below are five examples of point plans, and I encourage you to create some of your own to gain experience. Note that each plan is tailored to specific situations and player preferences.
- Serve-Wide and Attack the Open Court: This plan starts with a serve aimed wide to pull your opponent off the court. The subsequent shot targets the open court, making it difficult for your opponent to recover. If executed well, this plan can end the point quickly.
- Deep Return and Approach the Net: In this plan, you aim to hit a deep return on your opponent’s serve, pushing them back and giving yourself time to approach the net. The idea is to put pressure on your opponent and force them into a defensive lob or a passing shot, which you can volley for a winner.
- Baseline Rally and Drop Shot: You engage your opponent in a baseline rally, lulling them into a pattern. Then, you surprise them with a drop shot. This plan works particularly well against opponents who aren’t comfortable at the net or have slower court coverage.
- Serve-and-Volley: A classic strategy particularly effective on faster surfaces like grass. After a strong serve, you quickly approach the net for a volley. This tactic is best suited for players with a strong serve and good volleying skills.
- Target the Backhand: If you identify that your opponent has a weaker backhand, this plan focuses on consistently hitting to their backhand side. You can apply this strategy from the serve, return, or during rallies.
Point planning is essential to tennis strategy, enabling players to play proactively rather than reactively. You can take control of the match and dictate play on your terms by having a clear idea of how you want to construct your points.
Remember, these plans are not rigid blueprints but flexible strategies. The best tennis players are those who have an array of point plans and can adapt them on the fly, responding to their opponent’s tactics and the ebb and flow of the match.
As you develop your tennis technical, physical, and mental skills, spend time on game and point planning. Mastering these areas could be the key to unlocking your full potential on the tennis court.