The Ultimate Guide to Singles Play

September 7, 2017

In the past we spoke about doubles strategy, so today we are going to talk about singles tactics. Winning a singles match is always exciting because you can take full credit for the win, unlike in doubles. I do not know if it is just me, but I become pretty lonely when playing singles. It is understandable that sometimes you get stuck in your own mind when you are on a singles court. However, we have some tips for singles strategy that you can concentrate on during your match. We are going to break down a singles match into four sections: serves and returns, baseline play, approaching , and baseline defense.

Serving up a victory

Serving is a crucial component in both singles and doubles. Having a strong serve allows you to control the game which is a crucial part of tennis. Simply getting the ball into the service box is not enough; you need to have a strong first and second serve. Adding top spin to your serve can give you more time to recover and the high bounce can off set your opponent. For your second serve you would want more spin on the ball, possibly a slicing serve makes your shot a higher percentage serve. Referring back to the term of control the game, it is a great idea to serve and volley. Serving and volley puts you in an offensive position which gives you control of the game as your opponent ends up stuck in a defensive position. When practicing your serve and volley you want to practice consistency and through consistency gain confidence in your approach to net. The main reason players do not serve and volley is because they have low confidence in their shot. A great way to practice serve and volley is to have one player serve and approach, the partner returning the serve will either hit a low ball towards the service line or a ball higher up so the player can volley it.

Easy as 1,2,3

The longest points usually go on while both players are on the baseline. So, what’s a great way to wrap up the point? Change the rhythm. A tactic that my coach taught me was to count to 3. We would say 1 when the ball bounces, 2 when we hit it, and 3 when our opponent hit it. This tactic helped us find rhythm and also concentrate on the ball instead of our surroundings. A great way to throw off you opponent is to change the rhythm be either dropping a drop shot or stepping into the ball. When playing on the baseline hit high percentage shots, meaning shots more likely to go in. Envision a tennis net, as you know there is a belt that pulls the middle of the net slightly lower, that area is where you want to continuously hit over . To practice high percentage shots during your match you can use Star Formation. Essentially you split the baseline into three even sections. If the ball lands on the far left or right box you hit the shot cross court. If the ball lands in the middle to the left of the tee you hit it to the left corner and vice versa for the right side. If you trace the shot paths on a court you will see what looks like a star, hence the name. Hitting these high percentage shots will help move your opponent around and help you gain control of the game.


Approaching the net is one of my favorite movements in tennis; however, the worst feeling is when you get too excited on the approach shot and send the ball flying out. Footwork is essential when making the approach. You should take larger strides and then small steps to help adjust your body into the proper position. Another important factor is to not run through the ball during the approach shot. You should run, stop, hit and move through the ball.  The main idea is to get to the ball fast, which gives you more time to make your stroke.  A great way to practice approach shots when working in groups is to incorporate them into game incentives. For example, if people are playing a doubles game, count approach shots and points won with both players at the net as two points.

Defense, Defense, Defense!

In other sports defense always has the hardest critics. We all been there, watching a basketball or football game and suddenly we hear an angry roar of “Where’s the defense?!” from a fan next to you. Sometimes they yell so loud I’m ready to jump into the field. But, in tennis defense is often overlooked. More so, if the opponent is heavily offensive people recognize this and critic the other player as needing to be more offensive. However, sometimes the skill set to overpower a strong offensive player is not there. This is when smart defense comes in.  When playing defense you need to think smart. If your opponent pulls you off the court, do not try and hit the ball back with equal power and speed, instead hit a well placed shot that has more air too it which will allow you more time to recover.  Similar to if you get pulled of the court, if your opponent is overpowering you on the baseline do not try and match her power. Slow your ball down and change the direction of the ball.  If the player is at the net do not try and hit a passing shot right away. Wait for the right ball and moment, and then go for your passing shot. For the time being try and hit the ball to your opponents feet and body while they are at net. Of course you can go for a lob, but if your opponent is tall it can cause difficulty.


Are you ready to test out your new singles strategies? Try using Plan2Play to propose a match, this tool can help you find new sparring partners around your area!

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