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Train Your Opponent

As covered in a number of our tips/articles, tennis is a lot about patterns and proper execution thereof. It is important to recall that humans are made to recognize patterns as doing so keeps things simple. If we know a pattern - be it walking in the dark to the bathroom without stubbing your toe on a piece of furniture or hitting and recovering on the tennis court - it will, usually, make our life a lot easier since we can focus our mental energy on something more important or interesting. 

To explain what "train your opponent" means, let me start with a story that my dad told me when I was starting to play tennis. He told me that playing tennis is a lot like a mongoose hunting a cobra. The mongoose positions itself in front of the snake and tries to attack it by biting its neck. First, the mongoose, moves to the right. The snake sees this and moves to its left. Then, the mongoose moves to the left. In response, the cobra moves to its right. And on and on it goes until the mongoose establishes a pattern of moving side-to-side. The snake, being small brained, simply reacts my moving in accordance to the movements of the mongoose. But then, the mongoose FAKES a movement and goes back the same way twice. The cobra falls for the feint, moves in the opposite direction in order to defend itself and, as a result exposes its neck. The mongoose pounces on this opportunity and rips the cobra's neck to shreds.

In terms of tennis, training your opponent is similar to the example above. Move your opponent side-to-side until you establish a pattern AND THEN go for the "wrong-footing" strategy. This can work very well with a serve-follow-up combo where you swing your opponent out-wide and then go for the open court. Train your opponent to run a couple of times to chase the open court before you go back behind him. This concept works just as well with long points as well as with short points. The key is to lull the opponent into NOT THINKING at all...into assuming that he knows what you have up your sleeve. In many ways, it's just another way to keep your tactics fluid while allowing the opponent to fall into predictable patterns. So next time, do the RIKI TIKI TAVI and go for the jugular at the right moment.

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