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What Is a Tennis Game Plan?


A tennis game plan is a strategic approach that a player intends to use during a match. It serves as a guideline on how a player plans to play against an opponent, incorporating their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of their opponent.

A game plan in tennis is crucial for several reasons. It provides structure, direction, and a strategic approach to your match, giving you a clear roadmap to follow. Here are some of the main reasons why having a game plan is so important:

  1. Plays to Your Strengths: A good game plan is designed around your strengths. It allows you to dictate play and control points using the parts of your game that you are most confident in. For instance, if you have a powerful forehand, your game plan might involve maneuvering the ball in such a way that you can often finish points with your forehand.
  2. Exploits Opponent’s Weaknesses: A well-devised game plan also considers the weaknesses of your opponent. If your opponent has a weak backhand or struggles with high bouncing balls, for instance, your game plan might involve targeting these areas to put them under pressure.
  3. Keeps You Focused: Having a game plan helps to maintain focus and concentration throughout the match. When you have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve in each point, it’s easier to stay mentally engaged and less likely that you’ll get distracted or lose focus.
  4. Provides a Framework for Decision Making: During a match, you have to make split-second decisions. Having a game plan provides a framework for these decisions, which can make them easier and more instinctive.
  5. Enables Adaptability: A good game plan isn’t rigid—it allows for adaptation. If your initial plan isn’t working, having a structured approach can help you identify what’s going wrong and adjust your strategy accordingly.
  6. Builds Confidence: Going into a match with a solid game plan can significantly boost your confidence. Knowing that you have a strategic approach, rather than just hoping to play well, can make you feel more prepared and in control.

Creating a game plan is not a guarantee of success—it won’t always go as planned. Tennis is a dynamic and unpredictable sport, and the ability to adapt is crucial. However, having a well-thought-out game plan is a significant step toward performing your best and can give you an edge over your opponents.

Here are some examples of a tennis game plan:

Attacking the Backhand

If the opponent has a weaker backhand than their forehand, a good game plan would be to focus on hitting most of the shots to the opponent’s backhand. This strategy can force the opponent to play their weaker shot more often and create opportunities for you to dictate the point.

Example: “I planned to target my opponent’s weaker backhand with deep, cross-court forehands and slice backhands. I aimed to force errors or weak returns that I could attack.”

Serve and Volley

This more aggressive game plan involves serving (or returning serve) and quickly moving to the net to volley. This strategy can be effective against opponents who struggle with passing shots or lobs.

Example: “My game plan was to serve and volley, particularly on first serves, to put pressure on my opponent’s return. I also aimed to follow my deep groundstrokes into the net when I had the opportunity.”

Playing Defensively and Countering

If the opponent is an aggressive player who makes errors when they are not put under pressure, a good game plan might be to play defensively. This could involve keeping the ball in play with consistent, high-percentage shots and waiting for the opponent to make errors.

Example: “I aimed to play a defensive, counter-punching game, focusing on getting a high percentage of first serves in and returning deep. The plan was to extend rallies, keep the ball in play, and force my opponent to hit extra shots and potentially make errors.”

High Tempo Attacking Play

If a player has strong groundstrokes and the ability to hit winners from the baseline, they might opt for a high-tempo attacking game plan. This would involve hitting powerful shots deep into the court, aiming for the lines, and trying to end points quickly to prevent the opponent from settling into a rhythm.

Example: “My game plan was to play aggressively from the baseline, hitting powerful, deep groundstrokes and aiming for the lines. I wanted to dictate the play and prevent my opponent from establishing a rhythm.”

Targeting the Opponent’s Fitness

If players believe they have superior fitness or endurance to their opponent, they might adopt a game plan involving long rallies and a high-tempo game designed to wear the opponent down over time.

Example: “My game plan was to extend the rallies and maintain a high tempo. I aimed to move my opponent around the court as much as possible to test their fitness and endurance.”

Playing a Varied Game

If a player has a wide range of shots, they might opt for a varied game plan. This could involve mixing up spins and speeds, alternating between baseline play and net play, and generally trying to disrupt the opponent’s rhythm and make them uncomfortable.

Example: “My game plan was to vary my shots and play unpredictably. I mixed up spins and speeds, alternated between baseline and net play, and used drop shots and lobs to keep my opponent guessing.”

how does a player develop a game plan if they do not know anything about the opponent?

Developing a game plan without knowledge of your opponent can be challenging, but it’s not an uncommon scenario, especially in amateur and junior tennis. In these cases, the game plan should be based more on the player’s own strengths and general tennis strategies. Here are some steps a player can take:

  1. Focus on your strengths: The player should plan to play to their own strengths as much as possible. If they have a strong serve or an exceptional forehand, for instance, they should try to use these weapons to dictate play.
  2. Start with a balanced approach: Until the player knows more about their opponent, it’s wise to start the match with a balanced, high-percentage game plan. This might involve playing mostly cross-court shots (which have more margin for error), getting a high percentage of first serves in, and keeping the ball in play to test the opponent.
  3. Observe during the warmup: Once the warmup begins, the player should carefully observe the opponent’s game. Are they stronger on the forehand or backhand? Do they struggle with low slices or high topspin balls? Do they prefer pace or dislike it? The player should adapt their game plan based on these observations.
  4. Stay mentally prepared: Going into a match without knowledge of the opponent can be unnerving, so it’s important for the player to stay mentally focused and adaptable. They should be prepared to change tactics as needed and not get frustrated if things don’t go as planned initially.
  5. Prioritize serving and returning well: Regardless of the opponent, serving and returning effectively will always be crucial. The player should focus on getting a high percentage of first serves in, placing their serves well, and making consistent, deep returns.

Remember, tennis is a dynamic game, and the ability to adapt on the fly is a crucial skill. Even if a player doesn’t know their opponent, they can still develop a solid game plan based on their own strengths and adapt as they learn more about their opponent’s game.

Written by
Everett Teague

Everett is a USPTA Professional Tennis Instructor/Coach (Elite Rated) in Tallahassee, FL. He has over 30 years of teaching and coaching experience with all levels and ages of players. In addition to specializing in sound, sport science-based stroke fundamentals, he specializes in efficient contact movement (footwork) skills, fitness training, and mental toughness strategies. He is also the founder of Racket Sports Media, a digital consulting company that helps racket sports clubs differentiate and thrive through tailored content. www.racketsportsmedia.com

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