Tennis Strategy and Tactics

Strategy in a tennis match promotes your strengths against those of your opponent.

How you use your strengths and the tactics you deploy will determine the outcome of the match and result in a win or a loss for you. The stronger your own game the more likely you are to succeed with any selected plan or strategy.

Having learnt over time how to play each tennis stroke the next stage is to learn the use of those strokes in tactical play.

If you are now a regular match player at whatever level you will have developed a style of play  –  you are maybe a Retriever, a Baseliner, a Serve and Volleyer or an All-Court player.


A player who aims to return every ball and wait for his opponent to make an error. The retriever must be very fit and mobile, he’s going to be doing a lot of running, but has no real weapon to use that can hurt his opponent.


Prefers to play deep shots from around the baseline and win points by tiring and forcing errors from his opponent. The baseliner can usually play the forecourt and volley if obliged to come in but will not use this tactic out of choice.

Cameron Norrie is a good example of this type of player  –  he is very fit with a low pulse rate and moves very well laterally across the backcourt.

Watching Cameron play you feel the urge to encourage him to be more aggressive.

Serve and Volleyer

This player needs to have a strong and effective serve to enable him to come in behind it and aim to hit a deep first volley from just inside the service line. He then backs up this deep volley by getting on top of the net to hit a winning angled second volley.

The serve volleyer may well have a weakness in his groundstrokes which he is trying to cover up.

The only current player on the ATP circuit who serve volleys on every ball is Maxime Cressy  –  amongst professional players ground stroke play has become so strong that getting to the net to play effective volleys is hardly an option.

All-court player

This player is probably the ideal type as he is competent in most tactical situations.

But because of his all-round ability he may not have developed enough point-winning tactics in any particular situation.

A very good all-court player is the new Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz  –  he has certainly developed a variety of point winning tactics and is using them with great success on the ATP circuit.

He is currently ranked No.1.

Drills and Tactics

This is a useful drill that practices your groundstrokes and court awareness.

Your coach or practice partner feeds you 20 balls  –  he is at the back of the court just behind the baseline you are around the baseline at the other end.

Your objective is to hit each groundstroke avoiding ”no man’s land” which is an area marked by flat plastic strips about 1.5m in from each sideline and baseline at the ball feeders end.

Try and get as many balls out of 20 into the marked area. The intensity of feeding in this drill can be adjusted to suit the level of the player and the marked area to hit can be made larger or smaller.

You can achieve depth and speed by flattening out your shot and hitting low over the net but with more risk. Or you can add more topspin and raise the shot to hit much higher over the net and still achieve depth but a slower shot with less risk. Both options are open to you.

Another groundstroke practice drill is to have your ball feeder hit 4 shots from the back of the right court cross-court to your forehand  –  feeds 1, 2 and 3 you hit back to the feeder but feed 4 is shorter and you go for a winner down the line.

The feeder if he is so inclined can hit live shots back to you and can even cross the court and try to return a backhand off your winning short drive!

You can vary this drill to make feed 4 an inside-out forehand.

The emphasis is on consistency and making an aggressive groundstroke out of any and every mid-court ball  –  an exception might be to play a drop shot of the short ball.

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