I’ve been obsessed with understanding the game within the game of tennis since I finished my competitive career in Europe 10 years ago. And now I’ve been lucky enough to learn about the Global Online Teaching Technology Access (GOTTA) system and language, and boy has it changed my perspective on how to look at the sport.
Although I was a top junior in Hungary, I look back realizing that I was more of a great hitter then a great player. Meeting and learning from coaches such as Brett Hobden and Gordon Uehling was a game changer in my coaching career. Let me tell you why.
We can all agree that tennis is an open skilled sport, a question-answer game. Do you understand the question your opponent is asking after they hit each shot in your direction? If you do understand the question, do you have the skill set to give the best answer possible? This clarity of thinking is what the game of tennis is ultimately about if you want to “think and play like a pro.”
Skill is the ability to bring about some end result with maximum certainty and minimum outlay of energy, or of time and energy. Open means that the game has variables and split-second decision making involved, in other words a player has to constantly adapt to all the situations they are presented with. So, in order to excel in an open skill sport (like tennis) you have to be able to perceive and sort the needed information, make a decision and actually be able to execute the certain task needed in that situation. Now this is where the game gets a bit tricky. Every situation has a different solution and if you are only practicing cross court ground stroke rallies from the baseline or being fed a friendlier ball all of the time you might become a great hitter but you will never become a great player.
So let's talk about some key concepts you might want to seriously consider if you want to go from being a hitter to becoming a great player. GOTTA tennis breaks down the tennis court into five distinct zones:
►ZONE 5 is the deepest part of the court where you want to think, “RED ALERT”
►ZONE 4 is three large steps behind the baseline and this is the zone where you want to think, “BE Prepared”
►ZONE 3 is three large steps inside the baseline where you want to think, “PRESSURE ON”
►ZONE 2 is the transition zone where you want to think, “MOVE IN”
►ZONE 1 is roughly 6 large steps from the net and this is where you want to think “FINISH IT”
Also, there are five modes of play defined by the degree of difficulty of the incoming ball otherwise known as the question. They are the following:
The ZONE + the MODE = the SHOT TYPE you need to produce. It is that simple! The following are all of the shot types. Below are the “MUST HAVE” and “ADVANCED” shot types:
“MUST HAVE” Shot types
1. Drive: hit with power, moderate spin, small net clearance
2. Arc: hit with higher clearance, most frequently used as a rally ball
3. Loop: similar to the arc but even higher over the net
4. Lob: high ball with the goal of a gaining time or to go over a player at net
5. Drop shot: short ball with the goal to make the opponent run forward
“ADVANCED” Shot Types
1. Dip drive: similar to the drive but hit from shoulder height downward into the court with moderate topspin. This shot is the most powerful out of all the ground strokes.
2. Up & Down: contact is below the knees and by using a lot of topspin, the ball will go quickly up and down generally traveling closer to the net.
3. Angle: balls that are leaving the court through the singles sideline/crossing the doubles sideline before crossing the baseline
4. Dipper: shots that are dropping immediately below net level after going over it and usually staying low after the bounce
5. Bender: is a combination of topspin and side spin that will make the ball travel in a curved pathway.
The sooner a player understands the above, the more of a chance that it starts playing tennis rather just hitting tennis balls. Obviously this is a process that takes time, however with the above concepts and the clarity that they present, the players can benefit rather sooner than later.
Botond Sari is a former Top 5 Junior in Hungary, Sari is a Certified Level 1 and Level 2 ITF Coach, and worked at one of the most successful junior clubs in Hungary where he coached future national champions.