It can be very difficult to convince yourself that starting the point in the middle of the court is a good idea.
Most of us use getting the player on the run, or hitting it far away from wherever the opponent is, to win the point. In addition, if you hit the ball down the middle and it is not hit well, lands medium depth, or happens to end up right in the perfect spot for the opponent to hit their best shot, your chances of getting control of the point are not good.
However, if you can hit aggressively to the middle, keep the ball deep, and get the shot slightly towards the opponent's weaker side, you are likely to get an opportunity on the next shot to hit the ball even more offensively and you can start going closer to the sidelines with your direction.
Playing to the middle increases your margin for error, gives you the confidence to hit aggressively, and takes away the ability for your opponent to use the angle of the shot to create problems for you on the next ball. In addition, many players are used to covering the opening, and actually become comfortable moving a few steps away from the middle to hit their shots. The ball hit to the middle will test their ability to move out of the way and challenge them to create a shot from the center of the court.
Try serving down the middle and returning serve down the middle and see if your percentages improve. Gradually working your way to the outside of the court will eliminate a lot of your unforced errors and increase your confidence early in the point.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis (http://www.annaconetennis.com) MyHamptonsPro (http://www. myhamptonspro.com) and Baron’s Cove Resort In Sag Harbor, NY, as well as Volunteer Assistant Coach for the University of Arizona Women’s team. For details on lessons, clinics, or coaching, contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 865-300-7323