Today I'm going to talk about tactics once again. Today I'm going to discuss how to easily beat an 'A' player. If you play in the U.S. I think it's a 5.0 level.
When I was a kid I hated that I had to work so hard to beat hackers. I couldn't wait until the day I could beat them without any effort. Now obviously an 'A' or 5.0 level player is much stronger than the average hacker. An 'A' player has learned how to be more consistent, get the ball out of the back corners and hit somewhat accurately into the back backhand corner. After giving lots of lessons and playing many 'A' players over the years it is pretty simple to beat this level of players now. There are variations on how they play, but I've found many similar traits from one to the next. This is what I'm going to talk about now, along with how I take advantage of this patterns of play and limitations.
Most A Players Typically
- always hit deep from the back corners
- don't hunt the volley
- want to play up and down the backhand wall
- hang too far back on the T
- can be deceived very easily
- are uncomfortable playing against different styles of play
- are easy to anticipate their shot
- overhit their length on the backhand and under-hit it on the forehand side
- fatigue very quickly if you cut off a lot of shots and bring them short often
- have a sound aerobic base, it's not the duration of a match that tires them out, it's the intensity
- move their T to volley only off of straight drives, rarely off of crosscourt drives
- move before you hit, therefore they don't split step properly
How To Beat An 'A' Player
- volley as much as possible
- don't be afraid to bring them to the front, you'll learn to read what they hit from the front and it's usually predictable and with very limited options
- anticipate them always wanting to play the backhand side deep and cut the ball off and boast them around
- hit good wide crosscourts, these are rarely volleyed from my experience and it's easy to force them to boast
- move your T up and take the ball early, even if you get tired, your body will adapt to this style of play, while your opponents will not be accustomed to it
- work on holds from the front of the court; get on the ball early and sometimes hit it early, other times delay your shot. If you hold someone on the T it takes a lot out of their legs to wait until after you hit the ball to react.
- vary your serve. Most 'A' players don't volley a hard serve and have trouble with a good lob serve. This is especially true for men, as less men tend to play lobs serves and therefore they are normally pretty weak at returning it.
If You're An 'A' Player, How Do You Avoid Falling Into This Trap?
- play condition games that allow you to experiment with new shots and shot combinations
- try some of the changes in shot selection and court positioning noted above
- solo hit and improve your volley and forearm strength (which will increase your ability to be deceptive)
- move your T positioning up. Place a piece of masking tape near the T that you have to get up to on each shot
- learn to hit a good crosscourt from the backhand side, don't just avoid them
- learn to cover (volley) your opponent hitting crosscourts
- try some different serves, especially the lob serve
- work on some speed and anaerobic training
- work on your lateral movement around the T so you can volley more shots (fast reactions and racquet prep is also crucial around midcourt)
- work on your 2-wall attacking boast
- practice hitting your forehand drives deeper and not as hard
- practice hitting dying length on your backhand side. There's a time to overhit your length, but just being tight doesn't put much pressure on a good player. You need to limit their options from the back by hitting well weighted drives.
- work on your split step; being in a more neutral and athletic stance, prepared for any shot
- learn to anticipate; practice drills and condition with options against a variety of players so you learn to read your earlier
It obviously takes a long time to be able to do some of these things on the list. But this is how I've gotten to the point where I can easily beat an 'A' player. It usually only takes half of a game or so to really tire out an 'A' player if you volley a lot and move them around the court. I don't even try and hit winners, just hit to the open court and take the ball early. After playing at a high level you see the play develop earlier and it becomes easier to volley more and more. I find this the biggest difference. I force my opponent to hit a great shot to get me off the T while they usually give up the positioning far easier.
So, what do you think? If you're an 'A' player and wonder why stronger players can easily beat you, it probably has something to do with the above lists. If you can easily beat an 'A' player you likely know what I'm talking about, while if you're still on your journey of becoming an 'A' player, you can come back to this post once you reach that standard!