There are many different ways to play the game of tennis. If you regularly play competitive tennis then you will have, or soon will, encounter all of these styles of play.
This type of player is particularly common in junior tennis but there are some examples in adult tennis as well. A retriever loves long rallies from the baseline and they hate making errors. A retrievers game plan is to get all of their opponent’s shots back and wait for an error to win the point.
A retriever has to be very fit because they can expect to run large distances during matches. They also need to be patient and bide their time until their opponent makes an error. A retriever needs to have excellent shot placement because if their opponent gets too many easy shots then they won’t make errors and the retriever won’t be able to reach their shots never mind return them.
How to beat a retriever
The most important thing is that you stay calm. You will have to hit more shots than usual to win a point so become comfortable with this thought. A retriever wants you to panic and take silly risks or make errors. The good news is a retriever will allow you to take control so remain confident, tire them out and trust your shots.
The Big Hitter
This type of player likes to hit a lot of winners but they will also hit some errors. A big hitter loves short rallies that they are dictating. Often a big hitter will have a certain shot that they prefer to use to dictate play, e.g. their forehand or their backhand.
A big hitter needs to have excellent technique to prevent their strokes falling apart whenever they make a mistake. A big hitter needs to be confident and be able to bounce back quickly whenever they make a mistake. Successful big hitters know which balls to attack while unsuccessful big hitters will try to attack every ball.
How To Beat A Big Hitter
To beat a big hitter you need to make them uncomfortable. You can do this by returning a lot of their shots like a retriever. You could also vary the spin on your shots, e.g. some backspin, some heavy topspin and some flat shots. Another option is to mix up the pace of your shots. Varying the spin and pace of your shots means you are forcing the big hitter to change their point of contact and preventing them from becoming comfortable. If a big hitter favours their forehand then target their backhand and vice versa.
Professional Big Hitters
Jo Wilfried Tsonga
Juan Martin Del Potro
Serve Volleyer/Net Rusher
This type of player is becoming less common but there are still a large number who adopt this tactic in club doubles. They enjoy being at the net and short points.
A serve volleyer/net rusher needs to have excellent volley technique. They also need to be very good at hitting approach shots, such as a serve or deep groundstroke, in order to give themselves a chance of an easy volley. They also need to be mentally strong because after they have been passed they need to quickly regroup and get back to the net on the next point.
How To Beat Them
Make them play! Don’t get drawn into the trap that you always need to hit passing winners to end the point. Making the net player hit difficult volleys is often more successful. You can achieve this by hitting shots that force them to volley below the height of the net. Or you can throw in some surprise lobs. It is very difficult for a net player to win a match if you don’t hit errors.
Professional Net Rushers
This type of player is pretty self explanatory but how do you beat them? By mixing up your returns and getting the ball back in play. Try some slice returns and try some lob returns. Try standing on the baseline and try standing far behind the baseline. A big server wants to get into a rhythm so it is your job to never do the same thing and break their concentration. Most of all though get the ball back into play!
Professional Big Servers
This type of player has a bit of all of the other playing styles. If you come up against this player then you are in trouble!
Professional All Rounders