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Styles of Play: Playing “Neutral” Tennis
By David Lewis, Director of Instruction at Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy
In my previous article
, I stressed the importance of having a solid defensive game. When competing against this style of play, it can be challenging to close out points against your opponent. In addition, it requires great footwork and anticipation skills as one is often counterpunching from the back foot. This can be exhausting, both mentally and physically.
To be a well-rounded tennis player, one must be able to force errors and hit winners. This translates to dictating points when the opportunity arises. Striking powerful, precise shots and taking time away from your opponent to prepare or recover is crucial to apply optimal pressure. It is important to play close to the baseline, taking the ball on the rise and reacting quickly to any balls landing short.
The “neutral” game is played by keeping the ball deep or well placed, not allowing your opponent to apply pressure and push you behind the baseline. Shot selection and patience becomes paramount when constructing points. The difference between winning and losing can often be a matter of capitalizing on “big points” at the right time.
With today’s technology and improved techniques, players are capable of generating a lot of pace on the ball. If you can absorb this speed, it allows you to hold ground close to the baseline and stay toe-to-toe with your opponent. It is similar to two boxers jabbing away at each other, waiting to unload on a forceful punch at the first chance. Avoid being pushed against the ropes or, in tennis terms, behind the baseline.
The attacking game backed with a full repertoire of shots will often beat a crafty defensive player. In my next column, I’ll discuss important offensive principles now that we know what is required to play the neutral and defensive games.
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:
, 888.983.6647 (888-9-TENNIS) or 843.686.1529.
Ivan Lendl Junior Tennis Academy
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