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Passing Shots

There are two main things that should affect your deci­sion on how you pass some­one.

One is:

How force­ful your opponent’s approach or vol­ley has been, allow­ing him/her to close the net in a com­mand­ing posi­tion.

The other is:

How good you are at hit­ting a pass­ing shot.

You may be stronger on one wing than on the other. In this arti­cle we’ll address pass­ing shots as if you were pro­fi­cient on both sides.

First of all, a good pass­ing shot should have decep­tion. You hold your guns till the last tiny moment, fak­ing one thing ini­tially with your body while you exe­cute another with your hands, assur­ing that your shot either stays low or dips towards his feet.

If your oppo­nent is one of those tight net closers it would be a good idea to lob quite often ini­tially to stem his idea of get­ting very close. As a result of your lob­bing he may choose a zone a step or two back from his orig­i­nal con­cep­tion, to pro­tect against a good lob.

I would con­tinue lob­bing until you see your tac­tic has affected his for­ward charge. Once you have accom­plished this, the choices are simplified: If you have a good mod­ern fore­hand and a sim­i­larly effec­tive two-handed back­hand, the amount of top­spin on your shot will accom­plish two things.

One is to have the ball dip to his feet, mak­ing it harder to vol­ley with author­ity, and the other effect is that the ball’s rota­tion will grab your opponent’s rac­quet unpre­dictably, affect­ing his pre­ci­sion. Many attack­ing play­ers, when sub­ject to con­tin­u­ous lob­bing in the begin­ning of a match, soon resort to vol­ley from fur­ther back on their court, most likely weakly, and mak­ing a sec­ond pass­ing shot pos­si­ble and easier.

Mod­ern top­spin play­ers hit pass­ing shots down the line when the ball is short and there is some open­ing, reserv­ing a sur­prise cross court when the player starts lean­ing early or clos­ing the down the line side more than the other.

On deeper balls top­spin play­ers may risk a harder shot, either down the line or cross­court, try­ing to thread the needle. With the advent of heavy top­spin, there is more room than ever to go cross­court, as the ball will go down sooner, allow­ing you to hit it wider and shorter.

This makes reach­ing the pass­ing shot, espe­cially if you faked it down the line, much harder to reach. If you have a one-handed back­hand, the choices are up to your top­spin pro­fi­ciency. Only at the pro­fes­sional level, I have seen huge, pow­er­ful top­spin back­hands that dip quickly.

If your shot is quite flat or you only have a slice, keep up the alter­nate lob/alternate pass­ing shot tac­tic. If he stays back a bit, you can slow down your pass­ing shot so that he reaches it below the top of the net.

On the prac­tice court, to get the idea of what to do on a pass­ing shot, hit exces­sive top­spin with your favorite strokes, brush­ing up a lot, to get the ball to bounce inside the ser­vice line both for the down the line and the cross court shots.

While you do this, fake one direc­tion and go on the other. Some­times try a dou­ble fake. And once in a while fake a pass­ing shot and throw a lob. If you feel cre­ative, prac­tice some “forehand-looking” top­spin lobs, another fake hard to predict.

Being cre­ative is a big part of your defense. Just be mind­ful to keep your atten­tion on the ball and not on your oppo­nent. The first thing to do is to make the shot, and, if your oppo­nent has guessed your place­ment, kudos for him.

At least you did not beat your­self with an error, and you may have more suc­cess in your next pass­ing shot.—Oscar Weg­ner, [Editor’s note: this arti­cle is part of a series of arti­cles from mod­ern ten­nis guru Oscar Weg­ner. You may find more about Oscar at his site www.tennisteacher.com. Used by permission.]

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