There comes a point when tennis is about more than just getting the ball over the net and into the court. That’s when strategy starts to become important and having a tennis game plan can be crucial to winning matches. So, we’ve put together a guide to developing a game plan for your matches in three easy steps.
What is a game plan in tennis?
A tennis game plan is a detailed plan of the strategies you want to use in a match. It focuses on playing to your strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses, and the strategies you’ll want to use to do that.
Why do you need a game plan for your tennis matches?
A game plan is particularly important when you’re facing players of a similar standard to your level, or if you struggle playing against a particular type of player. When there’s very little to separate the two players, an accurate match plan can be the difference between winning and losing.
A solid game plan set out before a match will help you:
- Feel more comfortable on court.
- Reassure you that you’re hitting the right shots.
- Help you perform better under pressure.
- Give you a better chance of winning.
- Help you decide what you did well and what you could have done better.
Not only that, a game plan can also be a fantastic learning tool. As well as helping you during your match, developing a game plan before your matches is an excellent way of setting goals and targets, which gives you something to measure your performance on and monitor your progress as a player.
How to develop a tennis game plan
Developing a good game plan is a skill that all players and coaches should have. The more you do this, the more accurate/effective your game plans will become. If you’re new to it though, here are three simple steps to developing your own match plan:
Step 1 - Identify your strengths and weaknesses
The first step in developing your tennis game plan is to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are on court. Start by analysing your own game. Ask yourself:
- What weapons do you bring to the court?
- Where are you most vulnerable? Or where are you uncomfortable?
- Are you more comfortable on serve or return?
Answering these questions will give you a very good idea of how you want to play the match.
Specifically, it will help you plan ways to avoid your weaknesses and get your strengths into play.
Step 2 - Scouting the opponent (where possible)
Next, you’ll want to learn everything you can about your opponent and their strengths and weaknesses.
The best way of doing that is simply by watching them play. Of course, at a pro level, players and coaches have access to match replays and highlights that can tell them everything they need to know.
At a recreational or junior level though, things can be a little more complicated. The lack of video replays or highlights means you won’t get much of a chance to watch your opponent. Most likely, the only chance you’ll get to watch your opponent is during the warm up right before your match.
With that in mind, be sure to warm up before your match. That way, you can focus on watching your opponent rather than yourself in the warm up. When you start hitting with them, analyse their game. Start with the basics:
- Are they right or left handed?
- One handed or two handed backhand?
- Do they play with lots of spin or hit flatter groundstrokes?
- When you hit to the middle, do they favour their forehand or backhand?
Once you’ve figured that out, look for more subtle weaknesses…
- Are they a baseliner or an all court player?
- How do they react to high balls?
- How do they react to a low slice shot?
- Under pressure, do they chip their backhand?
- Is the serve a strength or a weakness?
All of this will tell you which areas of your opponent's game you want to avoid and which areas you want to attack to put your opponent under pressure.
Step 3 - Coming up with a strategy and setting goals
Once you know a bit more about your opponent, you can then decide the strategies you want to use against them.
The key here is to keep it simple. The focus here should be on playing to your strengths first, then aiming to drag your opponent out of their comfort zone.
For example, if you’re playing against a baseliner that clearly doesn’t feel comfortable at the net, bringing them forward using slice and drop shots to get them out of their comfort zone might be the best way to go.
Of course, the more you do this and the more experience you get when it comes to analysing players, the more in-depth your game plan can be.
Analysing your performance and learning from your match
As well as giving you a better chance of winning matches, using a game plan is a fantastic way of monitoring your progress and taking steps towards becoming a better player.
Think about the plan you set out before the match and compare it to the way the match played out. Did you manage to stick to your game plan or did you get a little distracted in the heat of battle? Did you find that the plan wasn’t quite right and had to change your tactics mid match?
Most importantly though, be sure to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. The best approach is to think about the things you could have done better first and to finish your review with the things you did really well and you want to focus on doing again in your next match.
And if you want to go a step further, be sure to check out our Match & Practice Journal Set which is filled with everything you need to start developing your own game plan, set short and long term goals and take your game to the next level.