Tennis strategies in singles are more physically and intellectually demanding than in doubles, and any flaws in your game will be identified and exploited by an experienced opponent.
In a singles game, everything is up to you, which can be both good and bad. It’s good because you never have to worry about being paired with a weak doubles player, but it’s bad because there’s more pressure and no one to cover for any flaws in your game. Each of our singles strategies is discussed in greater detail below.
- Be Consistent And Out-Rally Your opponent
- Be Flexible
- Work The Backhand
- Exploit Weaknesses
- Emphasize Crosscourt Shots
- Beware Of Down-The-Line Shots
- Forward Movement
- Angle Your Volleys
- Change Up Your Serve
- Improve Your Weaknesses
- Capitalize on Your Strengths
- Hack Away
- Be Aggressive
- Open Up Your Court
- Attack The Net
- Keep it Fresh
- Value Your Serve
- Don’t Be Afraid of Losing the Point
1. Be Consistent and out-rally Your opponent
The goal is to win the point by keeping the ball in play until your opponent misses, so consistency and depth are critical. Your goal is to avoid unforced errors by playing safely and retrieving all of your opponent’s shots while hitting the ball deep enough to keep the opponent from being aggressive. To make this strategy work:
- You should hit the ball at a controlled pace.
- Choose a large target on the court.
- Hit the ball high and away from the lines.
- Prepare to run down the ball.
Furthermore, you will mostly hit cross-court shots because they allow you to hit over the low part of the net and into a larger hitting area. In other words, you transform into a human ball machine capable of outlasting your opponent.
2. Be Flexible
Playing against the same type of shot – pace, spin, and position – is much easier for most of us than adjusting to shots with varying pace or spin. You want to exploit this fact against your opponent. If you repeatedly hit the same shot at your opponent, he or she will develop a “groove.” Throwing a variety of shots at them – drop shots, slice, topspin, loops, flat drives – will force them to adjust their swings and positioning. This will cause frustration in your opponent and play into your hands.
3. Work The Backhand
Most players have some weaker shots than others. If the opposing player has a strong forehand but a weak backhand, continue to play to the backhand. They will make more errors and become frustrated because they are not permitted to use their (favored) forehand stroke.
4. Exploit Weaknesses
Formulating a good strategy and playing your own game on your terms is an important part of singles tennis strategies. Don’t be scared of your opponent’s best shot. If your opponent’s forehand is his greatest asset and his backhand is his greatest liability, make him commit errors with it rather than outplay you. As always, anticipate the shot and force your opponent to execute shots that are better than his own. Overplay to his best side, and when he hits a flat forehand, overplay again and hit a cross-court shot to force your opponent to hit a sideline or down-court shot. This type of shot is difficult to execute and will almost certainly result in an error.
5. Emphasize Crosscourt Shots
The court is longer, making it easier to return the ball the same way, and the net is lower in the center, making crosscourt shots less likely to go astray. If your opponent has a stronger forehand than you, aim to avoid extended crosscourt forehand rallies and instead transition the play to their backhand.
6. Beware Of Down-The-Line Shots
This is especially true if they are going to your opponent’s stronger side (normally the forehand). The reasoning is that it allows your opponent to respond with a (relatively easy) crosscourt shot, and you will have to move a lot to stay in the point! Of course, hitting down the line can help keep your opponent moving or win a rally, but remember that hitting a crosscourt ball down the line is more difficult than hitting it back in the opposite direction.
This sounds simple, but it is often difficult to implement. In singles, the person who has to run around the court the most is usually at a disadvantage. For starters, hitting an effective shot while on the move is more difficult. Second, chasing shots down frequently becomes exhausting – both physically and mentally. Don’t be afraid to hit angles, open up the court, and send your opponent running side to side and up and back. Unless your opponent is inconsistent, hitting the ball in the middle of the court will not suffice.
8. Forward Movement
Angles are important in tennis positioning. Following the ball implies moving to the right of center if you hit it to your opponent’s right corner or the left of center if you hit it to your opponent’s left corner. Typically, you want to be halfway between the net and the service line.
When playing consistent opponents or opponents with a weak side, putting pressure on the opponent by charging the net is a very effective strategy. It’s also a great method to take time away from the opposing player. In many cases, simply charging the net will be enough to cause an opponent to make a mistake. You’re not even required to hit a volley.
It is critical to attack the net to the opponent’s weakness as much as possible when using this strategy; however, approaching down the line or through the middle are good options as well. This strategy can be used by serving and volleying, returning and volleying, or approaching on short balls during a rally.
10. Angle Your Volleys
While at the net and your opponent is at their baseline, you should play aggressively, hitting deep to the corners or playing angled shots. Shooting down the middle should be avoided. It is conceivable to win with a single volley from a corner shot, but if you play down the middle, you risk losing momentum – or worse, giving them time to put together a winning lob or passing shot.
11. Change Up Your Serve
Even if you have a fantastic serve, your opponent will become accustomed to it and figure out the ideal location to stand when receiving. By changing up your serve’s placement, pace, and spin, you can keep your opponent guessing and make it more difficult for them to attack your serve.
12. Improve Your Weaknesses
Take note of which shots your opponents force you to play the most frequently. These are typically the shots that they believe are your weakest. After the game, you should go away and practice these shots. Working on your weaknesses first will help you improve faster than focusing on your strengths.
13. Capitalize on Your Strengths
Identifying and capitalizing on your most effective shots is the first and most popular tennis tactic in singles tennis. If your forehand is your strongest weapon, that’s the shot you’ll want to practice the most. If your strategy is to use your high percentage shot as much as possible, you’ll need some tactics to help you get there.
- Pros: If your strength allows you to exploit your opponent’s weakness, you’ll be in command for most of the game.
- Cons: Your strength may not be effective against an opponent and may even work against you. For example, if your best weapon is your serve, but your opponent has an incredible return of service, you won’t be able to win as many easy points.
As you might have guessed, playing to your strengths is most effective if it allows you to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses.
14. Hack Away
Playing tennis versus a hacker is one of life’s few more frustrating experiences. Hacking goes against almost all of the fundamentals of tennis that we are taught. Hackers are also known as “pushers” because their most effective strategy is to simply return the ball to the court. Hackers do not go for winners or alter their shot approach; Instead, they simply continue the rally and drive the opponent to make a mistake. Hackers are typically physically fit and prefer to play the long game to wear down an opponent and frustrate them into making unforced errors. If your opponent is outplaying you, hacking is a great way to get back into the game. It is especially effective against players who play with a powerful or aggressive style of play because it slows the pace of the tennis ball, which they require to generate winners.
- Pros: Hacking gives you more control over your shots and eliminates mistakes; this strategy can also help frustrate and tire out your opponents. This strategy is an excellent backup plan for getting back into matches.
- Cons: It doesn’t always work; good players can find ways to overwhelm hackers, and if they play aggressively, you can lose momentum rapidly.
15. Be Aggressive
Aggressive players typically have big serves and forehands, and they try to hit winners as often as possible. This strategy typically forces other players to play a similar game, and points are typically shorter rallies. Down-the-line shots and going for the lines are common strategies. This strategy is based on a powerful serve and one dominant groundstroke. It necessitates stepping onto the court and taking the ball early on.
- Pros: When this strategy works, you’re unbeatable. You’ll hit low percentage shots, hit winners, force your opponent to make mistakes, and everyone watching will think you’re the next Wimbledon champion.
- Cons: Because there is a larger margin for error, unforced errors are more common. You can frequently make a poor shot choice and lose a few points. If this begins to irritate you, it could be a quick match, and it will not be in your favor!
16. Open Up The Court
This strategy is all about moving your opponent around the court and creating space for you to hit a winner. If you can hit short balls and generate angles this way, your opponent will have to recover swiftly to stay in the point. Many players do not practice or expect to hit shots from doubles alleys or wideout. It’s also a tiring strategy; players who have to move this much will quickly tire, which is a great way to seal the victory. If you can hit a shorter ball with angles, your opponent will have to recover quickly to stay in the point. You should be able to hit a winner on the next shot on the opposite side of the court unless they hit a tremendous shot to put you on the defense. Your winner may not require power but may simply be too difficult to retrieve. The most common strategy is to serve out wide and then hit the opposite corner—one-two-punch.
- Pros: It can aid in the creation of opportunities to hit easy winners. It also forces your opponent to move around the court in unfamiliar places.
- Cons: This style of attack is difficult to set up.
17. Attack The Net
Netplay is less common in today’s game because improved racquets and modern string have made it faster and more difficult to utilize netplay. However, it’s still beautiful to see well-crafted volleys and incredible passing shots. Tactics that bring the net into play, like Serve and Volley or the Chip and Charge, are unusual, but learning how to use them effectively is important. Getting to the net on a good ball can help reduce the amount of court space available for the opponent to return to, forcing them to go for winners. Moving your opponent to the net, where they may feel uneasy, may force them to make mistakes.
- Pros: This strategy can quickly win points off of easy volleys. It has the potential to force your opponent to go for tough winners.
- Cons: A bad shot to set this up could cost you a point.
18. Keep it Fresh
This technique is all about keeping your opponent guessing; you mix several approaches and tactics, so they don’t know what’s coming next. If your opponent has a single game plan, this is an excellent way to disrupt their strategy and playing style. The points have no rhythm, giving you an advantage in dominating the match. Topspin, flat balls, slice, deep balls, short balls, wide balls, low balls, high balls, fast balls, etc… They’ll never be able to be consistent in their approach.
- Pros: You have complete control over the game and can force your opponent out of their comfort zone.
- Cons: Expect a lot of mistakes as you try to solve your own problems by doing too much.
19. Value Your Serve
The serve is extremely important in tennis for three reasons:
- You have complete control over the shot.
- You have two chances at it.
- It defines the tone for the remainder of the point.
This is a significant advantage, but you must seize it. Walking up to the baseline, going through the motions, and hitting the serve without thinking isn’t a winning strategy. Instead, you should have a clear strategy for each serve you hit. Make sure you’re aiming for a target (remember, the backhand is often the best shot to target) and have a plan for your next shot after the serve. The serve and the shot that follows it, known as the serve plus one, are excellent opportunities to set yourself up with an attacking forehand that can put you in command of the point. Because you have complete control at this point, you can make these plans. Your opponent has no control over how you hit your serve, so take advantage of the situation and make it work for you. Remember that the difference between your first and second serves is huge, so your first serve percentage is vital. It’s good to hit powerful first serves and get free points, but the odds are stacked in your favor when you hit a high percentage of first serves, so don’t be afraid to turn down the power and focus on making lots of first serves.
20. Don’t Be Afraid of Losing the Point
This isn’t strictly strategy, but we’ve found that it makes a big difference in how you use your tennis tactics. You can’t be afraid of losing a point because the reality is that you’ll lose a lot of them regardless of what you do.
Even in a 6-2 6-2 victory, you lose a lot of points, so there’s nothing to be concerned about. This means you shouldn’t be afraid to be bold in your strategy and play the shots that will give you the best chance to win the point. The great thing about tennis is that there is always a way back into the match until you lose the very last point, so forget about the scoring system and focus on the strategies that will give you the best chance of winning the match.
Many of the pros are incredibly good at strategizing, and you’ll frequently hear them discuss tactical tweaks they made that helped them beat their opponents. Away from the professional game, though, tennis players have a tendency to go out and hit the ball without thinking. In fact, your approach is one of the few areas of tennis over which you have complete control, so make the most of it. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most important strategies we use on the court. However, there is still a lot to learn!