The defensive game is a style of play which can bring success at a young age. It’s very simple: the player who makes the most mistakes will lose.
It can be demanding on the body for juniors to consistently hit baseline winners against a good defender. When approaching the net, it is taxing to hit volley and overhead winners time and again when the ball is kept alive by their opponent. Excellent conditioning is needed by both players to extend the point.
When two defensive players play each other, we normally witness a long match with a limited amount of winners. It becomes a test of stamina, physically and mentally.
Every junior should develop some sort of a defensive game. Within a match, there might be multiple times one falls behind in a point. This takes incredible work ethic and willpower to keep the ball in play, hoping the other player makes an error.
On the other hand, being one-dimensional, or only capable of defending, can be detrimental to overall development. While some might be successful until 12 or 14 years old with this style, the dynamics of the game change quickly as players get bigger and stronger.
Defeating a good defensive player is not easy and several weapons are needed to achieve this. The offensive player must construct points with a variety of shots and techniques. As juniors mature, it is more important to focus on this mindset and play aggressively rather than playing on your heels.
Looking forward: In my January article, I will discuss the importance of having a steady neutral game while learning to play closer to the baseline.
David Lewis, a native of Auckland, New Zealand, is the Director of Instruction at Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island, S.C., a full-time tennis program for grades 5-12. For the past 20 years, he has coached top juniors and professionals around the world including Marina Erakovic, ranked as high as No.49 on the WTA world rankings.
The Ivan Lendl IJTA exemplifies Ivan Lendl and Lewis’ desire to give back to tennis and develop future champions through a new-era curriculum and holistic training approach. The Academy focuses on classic fundamentals, leading-edge biomechanics, strength training / fitness and mental preparation. Lendl and Lewis subscribe to a hands-on approach with students instilling dedication, focus, hard work, motivation and overall preparation. For more information: www.LendlTennis.com, 888.983.6647 (888-9-TENNIS) or 843.686.1529.
(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ivan Lendl IJTA)