Today I'm going to talk about crosscourts. I'll give you a few tips about hitting good crosscourts and go over some condition games that can improve your 'width'. When watching most recreational club players rally they tend to hit a lot of crosscourts. And I've heard many people (including coaches) say something along the lines of 'play straighter,' but is this true and if so, why?
I'd like to start off explaining why I believe most people hit a lot of crosscourts. I feel they get too close to the ball, are late getting to the ball, or are slow clearing (which means if they hit a straight drive they would have to clear faster). I would also like to mention that being late to the ball and having to go crosscourt is common and an experienced player will pick up on this and will cut off your crosscourts. So I have a basic rule I like people to remember when hitting cross courts, don't play them when you have to, hit them when you want to! If you have to hit crosscourt you are in trouble, even a 'good' width can cause more punishment.
I have another rule about crosscourts. This one is to help you know if you've hit a good one or not. First of all, obviously you're opponent should not be able to volley your width (and if they do, they shouldn't be able to hit an attacking shot off of it). So my second rule is that if you hit a good crosscourt your opponent should not be able to hit a crosscourt back by you. If you can accomplish this you will limit them to one (a boast) or two (a boast or a drive) shots. If done correctly you can see how a crosscourt can actually be a great shot if hit when you want (as opposed to have to hit it) and with the right accuracy.
So what is the right accuracy? Well it isn't one set spot. Let's say for example that your opponent is in a neutral position on the T, then a good width is going to hit the side wall opposite to them. Many players have heard that aiming for the back of the service box near the side wall is a good width, but this of course changes depending on the pace, height, and how well you 'couple' your crosscourt drive with your straight drive. It also changes depending on where you are on the court. But if your opponent is hanging back on the T or if front of the T, you can see how the width you hit a crosscourt will need to be adjusted. Sometimes even 'poor' width right at your opponent can be effective. Personally, I like mixing up the height, pace, and angles on my crosscourts. If you have the ability to do this you will no doubt catch your opponent off guard more than a few times and you will find a few holes in their swing. In general I find taller players tend to have difficulty with balls hit right at them or hit wide and low.
Here are some condition games and drills that I enjoy focusing on crosscourts.
1. Drive drive crosscourt. Yes this is a set repetitive drill and you know they are looking to volley your width, so change it and see if you can control the T area.
1B. Same pattern as the first condition game, but if you volley the crosscourt you can volley drop. This makes the width even more important.
1C. Drive drive crosscourt or boast. This makes the player have to cover a boast as well as the crosscourt so they cannot cheat as much.
2. Boast crosscourt straight drive. Again, they know where the ball is going, so play around with your width, height, and pace. Find the holes and keep them off the volley.
3. Boast straight or crosscourt drive, straight drive. This gives the player the option in the front. See you if you keep your opponent off the volley.
3B. Short vs deep. Keep the back player off the volley (not by hitting it short and hard, but by still hitting good attacking length).
4. Crosscourt game. Every shot has to go to the opponents half of the court, short or deep.
5. Opposite 2 corner game. For example, any shot can be hit in the back right or front left corner. When you do play a crosscourt from the front can you get your opponent off the volley?
6. One player hits everything straight vs everything has to be hit crosscourt (short or deep).
7. You get one crosscourt per rally. When you play it, make sure it creates pressure for your opponent, otherwise you may have wasted it.
7B. One player can only hit straight drives, the other can hit straight drives and has one crosscourt drive allowed. If the player gets it then they now have the crosscourt as an option and the other player can only hit straight.
8. One player only gets one crosscourt shot per rally (boast, crosscourt length or drop) the other can only hit straight (short or deep). If you get their crosscourt shot then you now can play a crosscourt shot.
If you want to just improve your game, try hitting just straight in some condition games. Not because cross courts are bad, but perhaps you get too close to the ball, are slow clearing, or late getting to the ball. And remember to hit crosscourt because you want to, not when you have to! Experts can hit straight under pressure and rarely end up in a position where they 'have to' hit crosscourt. They are able to keep their balance and use their wrist to abbreviate their stroke. If you feel like you can't stop and you have to crosscourt either try a lob or hit it extra wide or down the middle and you may just get away with it even though your opponent knew what was coming.