| By Luke Jensen

I hope this finds all of you hitting a little closer to the lines!

The northern part of the country is thawing out from a long winter. The arrival of spring means that competition is heating up, from league matches to tournaments.

On the Pro Tour, the American swing is just one of the best times of year for the players. Indian Wells and Miami are the tennis version of “March Madness,” but without the pressure of preparing for a Grand Slam. The Aussie Open was way back in January, and the French Open won’t roll around until the end of May. Like all of you, spring tennis for the pros means dealing with spring conditions … the ultimate neutralizer!

 

Spring tennis tips

There are two types of players in our game: The ones who put the ball in the court and the ones who don’t. The players who win by extending points and the ones who want to end points. Do you know what your style is? If you have mastered this game, you can do both, depending on the situation. Both styles are effective. I like to start the warm up and the match trying to be the player who doesn’t miss … the one trying to extend points just to see if my opponent will be nervous and make a ton of errors. As the match progresses, I may shift to more of an attacking mode to finish the match, but if the opponent is giving you the match with unforced errors … let them!

Now that is the same in doubles. I wanted to start the match with consistency just to make my opponents deal with a high percentage of first serves and a ton of returns put in play. So much of the doubles game is about short burst points—two to three shots, and with consistency from your serve and return game, you are going to win a bunch of points just by being more consistent than the other side.

Now with the elements in play during outdoor tennis, make sure you play with more margin in windy conditions. Bring in your targets, so the wind does not impact your consistency. Make sure you lob a bunch in windy conditions. Lob high with the wind and the wind will carry your lob effectively to the other baseline. Lob when your opponent is looking into the sun, and lob low and firm against the wind so your ball cuts through the stiff breeze.

Finally, I leave you with an overlooked tip that was always very helpful. I like to play many of my volleys and groundies down the middle. These shots go over the low part of the net and force the other side to decide who is going to take the shot. Many league teams are first-time partners, so use that inexperience to your advantage and go down the middle. Even if your opponents are in a one up at the net and one back at the baseline formation, hitting the ball down the middle can still cause confusion with your opponents. This is a high percentage shot with big margins for your side and forces the other side to cover that area of the court. When they do that, go down the line! Two players will not be able to cover the entire court, so make them adapt to your play and keep them guessing!

Remember, make sure you call out the score before each point and change the score cards on changeovers! I’ve seen a ton of fuzzy score-calling in matches. Make sure the score is never in doubt before every point is played!

Now just go out and go for it!