Let us talk about the simplest tactic in tennis, hitting cross court, one of the most important skill to practice.
Most casual players beginner to intermediate are not aware there are patterns of play that have a higher percentage or success than others. intermediate to advanced players might know it but rarely do they know how to execute or to use it well during a match.
Have you watched professional tennis matches on television and thought to yourself ” why the pros are hitting the ball back to each other instead of killing the ball ”
Most times professionals will get into a cross court rally, but why? The reason is that the players are waiting for a higher percentage of success opportunity to change the direction of the ball.
It is much safer to hit cross court and wait for a better ball to change direction rather than mindlessly change directions because tennis is a game of percentages. The risks are too high without proper thought.
Reasons why you hit cross court
Tennis is a game of percentages and angles. There are 3 main reasons why hitting cross court is important.
- There is more space to hit to. Every tennis court is about 23.8 meters in length. When you hit a down the line shot, that is about how much distance you have on average to get the ball above the highest part of the net and into the court. The extra distance for a cross court ball in singles is about 1.4 meters. That is almost the height of an average person. Usually you miss your ground strokes by a shoe length or two, if you were smarter and aimed for the areas whereby you have more distance in between, you would have been able to continue hitting the ball without mistakes.
- The net is lowest in the middle. When you hit from corner to corner on a tennis court, not only are you using the largest amount of court space available, but you’re hitting over the lowest part of the net. You’ve now decreased risk in two different ways. At the net post, a regulation net is 1 meter. At the middle, it is 0.9 meters
- When you hit at an angle, your opponent has to work harder to get to the ball. Everything else being equal, when you hit cross court, your opponent will have farther to travel to get to the ball, as opposed to hitting down the line. The angled shot will travel farther and farther away from him or her the longer it takes for them to retrieve it, where as a ball hit straight will continue to stay the same distance from them through out its path.
Cross court is safer in every way, and your opponent has to work a lot hard to get to the ball just to return it. It does not make sense to just go down the line. However, here are a few reasons why the down the line shot may be useful despite the higher risk
1. If your opponent has a noticeably weaker side. It is better to put the pressure on a weak backhand or forehand. Wait for an easier shot, and then go for it.
2. If your opponent is well out of position. If they’re having a hard time recovering towards the middle of the court after a well hit angle from you, then down the line can pay off.
3. If you’re approaching the net in singles. When you hit down the line with an approach shot and follow the direction of the ball in, your opponent has lesser angles to exploit whereas if you approach with a cross court shot your net coverage will be lesser.
4. In doubles, once you get up in front of the service line and get an easy volley or overhead, often times you have a net player directly across from you also at the net. In this instance straight ahead and at the feet of the net player is a great place to aim.
Now that you have a better understanding of why cross court is in general better to hit when compared to the down the line. Go out there and put in some extra work into your cross court shots! One of the best ways to practice is to just get a 20 ball rally cross court and work your way up to 50, 100 even.
click this link if you want to know How to hit a forehand down the line
The tennis classic from Olympic gold medalist and ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert, now featuring a new introduction with tips drawn from the strategies of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, and more, to help you outthink and outplay your toughest opponents.