What is the first thing popping in your mind when you hear the words ”tennis strategy”? For me it is hitting cross court. I love hitting cross court! It makes me calm on the tennis court knowing that cross court almost always is the right shot selection in singles. It may not always be the most effective looking shot I will win the point straight away, however it is definitely the most consistent shot and consistency is the key in today’s game. I like the feeling when I hit cross court with the mix of power, spin, accuracy and depth making my opponent feel uncomfortable, thus forcing him to miss by going down the line with a difficult defensive shot. It is the best and most repeatable pattern of play tennis players can use. It is a shame I didn’t think this way during my junior days…
I remember the practice session in Finland where I was playing international Tennis Europe tournament for 16 year olds back in 2003. I was practicing with Latvian Ernests Gulbis (the guy who cracked in ATP top 10) who is just one year younger than me and was also playing that tournament. That day something was off and I was missing a lot. During one of the breaks, while having a drink, Gulbis said to me: ”If you don’t ”feel the ball” today, just hit cross court. It is much easier!” To be honest, at that point of my tennis career I wasn’t really sure what I was doing on the court tactically. So I didn’t really understand what Ernests meant. At that point I didn’t understand these cross court and down the line shot differences, and I didn’t have any patterns of play. I just played intuitively. So I didn’t listen to him. I didn’t understand! And ended up losing in the first round. Gulbis won that tournament…
So why is it easier to make a successful shot cross court rather than down the line?
First of all, there is significantly bigger margin of error. The court is ”bigger” when going cross court. If you hit the ball a little bit late, it may go a little bit more to the centre of the tennis court, however it will still land in. If you are a little bit late on down the line shot, most likely it will go wide into the tram lines.
Secondly, the net is lower in the middle meaning that it is easier to avoid hitting in the net when you hit cross court as the ball is crossing the net in the middle.
Thirdly, when hitting cross court, you have more time to recover after your own shot and get ready for the next shot because the tennis ball travels longer distance comparing to hitting down the line.
Fourthly, you are not opening massive angles for your opponent to hit the ball in.
Cross court is the most common shot direction used in professional tennis. Of course, down the line shots are important as well. We have to go down the line, in order to move our opponent around and force some errors as it is difficult to be accurate on the run for extended period of time. However, we have to be patient and wait for that slower, and shorter ball to go down the line. We don’t need those cheep errors!
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