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Court Geometry: Run-around Forehands

Few things irk me more (strike that; a LOT of things irk me) than players who do not understand the geometry of the court or the consequences of their actions on court. Some of the bad decisions stem from either no coaching, bad coaching or coaching that is focused solely on stroke production that does not take into account tactics. Take for example, the run-around-forehand (i.e., where the player runs around the backhand to pound the forehand). Normally, this is a very popular shot because of the range that is offered by the forehand in opening up the court through power and spin. Furthermore, developing players often feel more secure with their forehands than their backhands having practiced the former in a 4:1 ration. However, there are times when the run-around-forehand is simply not the best idea: (1) ad-side kick serve [Figure 1]; and (2) running around a slice backhand [Figure 2].  Let's take figure #1. In this instance, the server kicked you out wide on the ad-side. If you run around the backhand, you may very well find yourself off the court (running around a deuce-side kick-serve places you in the MIDDLE of the court - prime location). Unless your return is a winner (or close to it), it's, as the Croats say, zbogom drago for you ("good-bye dear"). If you hit the ball down the line (blue line), your opponent is likely to barbecue you with the forehand cross-court. That's a lot of real estate to cover. You're really not in the best position if you run around backhand and hit it cross court because the opponent can either flatten a ball down the line with the backhand or, should you be relatively fast, wrong-foot you with a cross court. 


The same concept applies in the second scenario. A lot of players elect to run around a slice bakckhand from their opponent (red line). The slice, however, tends to not just skid and stay low (forcing you to move faster and stay lower) but if it's struck from the "outside" of the ball, it will curve more-and-more and force you to move further off-center than yo may have initially anticipated. Again, a weak shot by you will result in a barbecue (or more court to cover). The more you move, the more energy you will utilize and the greater the likelihood that you will make poor decisions towards the end of the match. So if you're a sneaky player, try to implement the following play once in a while and see if you can take an opponent off-guard: (1) hit the first shot cross-court with your forehand (blue line); (2) assuming that the opponent does "the usual" and hits to your backhand, slide a slice backhand into the middle of the court (or slightly off-the-middle) (yellow line); (3) the opponent will likely scramble to get there and hit another shot to your backhand in order to "stabilize" his condition. If he does that, slide another slice cross-court - slightly more to your opponent's left than the previous shot (red line). Chances are, he will try to hit an inside-out forehand. Regardless of what s/he does, now you have managed to sneakily open up the court. Time for the opponent to put on her track shoes and cover some real estate. 

Will these strategies work every time? Of course not. Is it always a bad idea to run around a kick-serve or slice? Of course not. However, before you take action, make sure that you are making an informed decision. Know what you're getting yourself into in advance. If you're willing to cover the ground, have off-the-charts stamina and feel that your run-around-forehand is far superior to the opponent's response, then do what you feel is right. However, if you're routinely getting steamed and dry-cleaned by an opponent who's got the angles on you, figure out what's going on and stop the bleeding. 


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