This is a guest post by tennis coach Marcin Bieniek, founder of Enjoy Tennis Blog. He gives techniques to develop a world-class approach shot and explains why it is important to practice this stroke if you want to take your tennis game to the next level.
Modern tennis players spend most of their playing time around the baseline. They use forehands and backhands to move opponents around the court and look for an easier ball to increase the pace and hit forcing or winning shots. However, when the ball is short, it is a great opportunity to come to the net and put more pressure on the rival. To do it effectively, you have to take your approach shot to the highest level.
What is an approach shot in tennis?
Approach shot is the stroke that players hit before they come to the net. Most of the time it is a transition shot between baseline game and net game.
Tennis players feel more comfortable in back zones than areas closer to the net, so they don’t practice approach shots as much. They think that they will rarely use this tool to create advantage while positioning for the volley or overhead.
In today’s tennis, there are definitely more baseline points than net game points, but as we all know, sometimes one point can decide the final result of the match and the fact is that this point can include a player hitting an approach shot. That is why it should be a priority for any competitor to understand the factors that have an influence on an effective transition ball.
Importance of an approach shot in winning matches
Coming to the net is a great chance to win points in shorter time. Many years ago, it was the main way to play tennis and win points. At present, tennis is different, but players still go inside the service box from time to time and try to finish the point by hitting out of the air.
By being closer to the intended target, it is much easier to direct the ball into desired place. Moreover, because of the shorter distance between the competitors, our opponent has less time to react and reach our ball. All these factors create a big advantage for the net player, but to be able to maintain a high percentage of good volleys and overheads, players have to initiate their own actions with a quality approach shot.
At all levels of performance, players make a lot of mistakes related to approach shots. After these mistakes, they get angry and stop coming to the net because they falsely believe that the only way to win a match against a solid rival is to stay behind the baseline and play longer rallies. However, we have to remember that tennis is a game of pressure and there is no better way to put more stress on your rival’s mindset than to come to the net.
Tips to develop a world-class approach
Sometimes you will get a short and high-bouncing ball to hit an approach shot and you won’t have to hit any volley after hitting an offensive ball after the bounce. On the other hand, during the match you will also get short and low-bouncing balls that will limit your chances of hitting straight winners. Always analyze your situation and try to decide how much risk is necessary to hit a successful approach shot that will either give you the point or give you an opportunity to put stress on the rival and finish the point at the next attempt.
Tactical decisions can be your friend or your enemy. Even the best looking shots won’t take you closer to the win if you make wrong tactical decisions. Overall, players have to remember that coming to the net gives less time for reaction to both players, so taking a proper position inside the service box is necessary to win more points at the net. That is why it is recommended to hit more down-the-line balls to have shorter distance to proper position, but when there is an opening on the other side or when opponent has definitely weaker side, then you should also be confident to hit the ball diagonally.
Spin is a great tool to change the rhythm of the rally and put your opponent into a really uncomfortable situation. You can hit the ball flat, use topspin or play a little bit with slice. All these spins have their individual characteristics and they will bounce differently upon contact with specific surface.
By applying different spins in various situations on the court, you will put more pressure on your rival’s passing shots and you will also increase the percentage of your approach shots. Don’t stick just to one solution because every point in tennis is different. Analyze your situation, adapt to the environment and win the point.
Coming to the net happens less often than many years ago, but it is still a valid method to win points in tennis. Players should understand how this process works and focus on all the parts that are included from the beginning to the end. Approach shot is definitely at the beginning of the chain, so the quality of this shot will increase or decrease the final success at the net.
Visit our Tennis Tips page for a lot more articles by tennis coaches. There you can learn how to improve specific shots and skills, handle pressure, adapt your game to all surfaces and weather conditions, choose the most appropriate tennis racquet, best strings, and much more.