Court Positioning – Singles

Court positioning is one of the most useful tactical weapons in the sport of tennis. There is court positioning for both doubles and singles and also court positions for playing the net and the baseline. Court positioning can also change depending on your strengths and weaknesses and your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. I will discuss possibilities that you could use in your singles game at the baseline in this article and then doubles in the next article. Singles court positioning depends on a variety of elements that include the following: (1) mobility, (2) power, (3) control and technique, and (4) physical size and height.

First, being quick and mobile can allow you to play either far behind the baseline or very close to the baseline. A quick player that does not possess a lot of height may be overpowered by an opponent or lack reach. Therefore, a smaller, quicker player may be more inclined to play closer to the baseline in order to take away his or her opponent’s time to hit. There is an exception to this; if the smaller, quicker player lacks technique and control, then he/she should be more inclined to play further behind the baseline to manage through their technical deficiencies.

Next, if you are tall and fast then you are in luck since you have the most options. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are two players who fit this mold. At 6’2 and 6’3, respectively, both men can play either far behind the baseline or right on top of the line. You can see both on the red clay playing far behind the line and then during a hard court or grass court event changing their positioning closer to the line. These incredibly powerful and fast athletes have changed tennis into an all-court style dominant sport. Beware though; if you fit this mold and are technically
deficient, you are better off playing behind the baseline to buy yourself some time to hit.
Following that, if you lack mobility but possess size and power, you are better off playing closer to the baseline in order to take away your opponent’s time and cut down the length of the points. You could also play behind the line and go after your shots with power. However, again, this is a dangerous tactic since it takes more energy and exposes mobility issues. Andy Roddick, John Isner, and Fernando Gonzalez are players who fit this mold from time to time.

Finally, if you lack both mobility and size then you should play close to the baseline in order to take away your opponent’s time. You should also back off the line to give different looks and buy more time. If you fit this mold, you must be sly and cunning in your shot selection in order to constantly keep your opponent off-balance.

All-in-all have fun! Pick a court positioning that works for you, or decide on one that is a comparative advantage over your opponent. If you’re on clay, maybe play farther behind the line because of the un-true bounces and slower surface. Try both, since tactics are one of the most crucial and enjoyable parts of tennis.

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