Tennis Tip: Relax For Better Passing Shots
Everyone has a tendency to overhit (myself included), but it seems that even professionals feel a need to put some extra heat on a passing shot, which can lead to misses. Passing shots can be difficult enough as they are most often hit on the run. A substantial percentage of passing shots are down the line, meaning you must hit over the highest point of the net. When margin for error is reduced, it is not good strategy to further reduce that margin by trying to hit the shot extra hard.
But, that’s not what our emotions dictate. There is something about an opponent approaching the net that seems to require blowing the ball right past them at absolute maximum pace. In reality, we have only one obligation and that is to win the point. Blowing the ball past an opponent and well beyond the baseline or hitting it in the net only serves to reward the opponent for approaching in the first place.
We don’t receive any extra points for hitting the ball hard past someone. There is an old saying that placement wins more points than power. I’d like to add my own personal thought that a shot only needs to be as good as it needs to be, not better than it needs to be. In other words, if I can safely slice a backhand down the line and pass someone, why try to make the shot better and hit a big topspin backhand really hard while on the run? Yes, it really looks impressive if I nail the shot, but what if I miss and fail to convert a break or give away the lead in a game?
All we need to do is win the point. If you favor accuracy over power in your passing shots, then you will simply win more points. Not only will your opponent back away from approaching the net, you can actually hit safe semi-drop shots and intentionally bring them into the net. Use your passing shot as a winning strategy, not a defensive shot.
Now, there is one case where you might consider hitting a more powerful shot when someone approaches the net. A lot of players are hitting approach shots down the middle of the court, even when the opponent is also near the middle. The idea is that it is a safer shot and it forces the opponent to create an angle on the return shot which can be exploited on the following volley.
If someone approaches you in this manner, consider hitting the ball hard right back at them. Do not create the angle they want from a middle approach. Most 3.5 and lower players do not volley well when the ball is hit right at them. It will be a defensive volley and open up the angle for you to position a passing shot or a lob.
When you go for the winning shot, discipline yourself to relax. Almost every time I miss a passing shot or misplace a lob, it’s because I tensed up on the shot. Forget about hittng the ‘big’ winner and just go for more winning shots in the first place. You will win far more points, which could be the deciding factor in a close match.
Good luck with the game!