The Third Foundation: Opponent Awareness

Most players think they should win if they play well. They give very little consideration  to the opponent’s game or how to exploit it. Identifying your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses  is an important skill to have. Every player’s game is like a combination lock. It’s tough to open, but with the right combination, you can unlock the secrets to success.

Scout the Opponent

Scouting takes practice just like everything else. Carry a notebook and write down what you see.

  • Do they have a better forehand than backhand?
  • Where do they make more mistakes?
  • Do they have a good first serve, but weak second serve?
  • Can they hit a good cross court forehand, but their down the line is weak?
  • How do they handle high balls?
  • What do they do when the ball is short – where do they hit to and what kind of spin do they use?.
  • When you hit an approach shot, do they pass cross court or down the line?
  • How often do they lob and when?
  • How well do they return wide serves and serves into the body?

One of the most important pieces of information you can write down about your opponent is what breaks down under pressure. Players will almost always go for a shot they can depend on under pressure. If the backhand is weak, they will run around it. Movement tends to break down under pressure. Players lose their legs when they get nervous. This is a time to move them away from the center of the court by going for the corners and angled shots.

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