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Help Needed! Strategy to beat a good opponent

Published: 03 May 2012 - 23:05 by tomdenners

Updated: 19 Sep 2014 - 20:29

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I've been playing in my league now for 4 years and have gone from L8 all the way up to 2nd spot in L1.

I can beat everyone apart from one particular chap who has never lost a match in our league since I've been playing.

The games are relatively competitive, but I've never won any. It's fine if I can control the points and hit winners, but whenever I play a loose-ish shot and he gets in front of me, I'm taking punishment trying to get back into the point.

In fact, I feel sometimes that even if I've not made an error I'm still the one chasing and he is dictating the play.

He doesn't drop often, but plays very tight to the back corners. These shots are fairly rapid as well with several hitting the sidewall nick, causing me to scramble all over the place to get the ball back. His disguise is also excellent and he'll delay the shot so I can't get a great read on which corner the ball is going to end up in.

My current strategy is to get height on the ball and slow things down and this can work, but he's very adept at volleying on both sides if my shots aren't high enough.

I could do with a different gameplan, but not sure what to try.

HELP! Any advice would be appreciated! It's driving me mad.

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From rippa rit - 18 Oct 2012 - 07:31

That sounds good and the score showed it was a good match.

Yesterday I did some coaching with folk who train weekly and it became evident that often they train and forget the specific purpose of the strokes they use, and to keep thinking if they are working the opponent with tight shots, using plenty of variety to keep the opponent guessing. Get to the ball early and "wait" then hit, eg replying to a boast, stop, and the options are then clear, ie drop, drive, tight lob, tickle boast, and this variety brings the opponent forward in the court, thus enabling the attacking shots to be more effective.

Assessing all the time if you can improve the rallies by adjusting the targets on the front wall (you need to know the targets for all shots), bending more for low shots to prevent "tins", having "soft hands" for touch shots.

Keep it up.

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From tomdenners - 17 Oct 2012 - 23:25   -   Updated: 17 Oct 2012 - 23:27


Just played this guy again and lost 9-11 9-11, 11-8, 5-11

MUCH better though, I had him diving around all over the place!

I've realised that I need to play the percentages much more than normal and move him off the T to tire him out more before going for my kill/attacking shots. Once he had been twisting and turning more, he was missing a surprising amount of shots.

One other thing I've had to develop which has really helped me compete is a drop shot with much more backspin on it. It enables me to swing harder (helping disguise) and draw the ball into the nick as well.

I don't even worry about the score in the first game now (although I should have actually won it this time around if it wasn't for some rushed drop volley attempts hitting the tin)

Really encouraged now and can't wait to play again!

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From tomdenners - 12 Sep 2012 - 02:45

He's better and more experienced (used to play @ county level growing up), but I'm fitter than him.

Annoyingly, though if the matches aren't going to 5 games, he's easily fit enough to get through 3 with no real drop in performance. Also, if I do start getting into it, he changes tactics and has me running about more. I found myself blowing quite hard at the end of the last game

I need to be more patient and really concentrate when I've been given an opportunity rather than rushing/not concentrating on a shot which then isn't especially tight. I think I also need to know the point in the rally to really force the pace for 4 or 5 shots and then when to revert back to hitting good length if I haven't won it.

Each time I play him, I feel that I'm exposing more weaknesses in his game and forcing more errors, so I need to keep trying and stay positive.

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From rippa rit - 08 Sep 2012 - 07:39

It is hard to give specific advice.  The things you need to consider:

  • Was the opponent a better player, and more experienced, and fitter than you are? If so you have done well. 
  • If the player is not as fit it is a good idea to keep them on the court for the first game and run the legs off them; though if you are not the fitter you cannot afford to just rally and have to go for your shot, and that comes at some risk, and you also need to try to hog the centre court to save some running.

When your opponent gets your good shots back in play it is normal to try to go a bit fine the next time hoping you will make the winner.  The idea of hitting a good shot is hoping the opponent's return will be more defensive so maybe don't go for the winner, but "the set up shot".

Does that help?

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From tomdenners - 07 Sep 2012 - 22:46


9-11 9-11 8-11

Played well, but didn't take my opportunities and was guilty of tinning a few shots when I should have given myself more of a margin.

Defensively it was the best I've played, good length/pace off/tight against sidewall

Encouraging, but frustrating.

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From tomdenners - 07 Sep 2012 - 20:13   -   Updated: 07 Sep 2012 - 20:17

Since my last post I've been out for a couple of months with a nasty groin injury (went straight onto the pitch in 5-a-side with no warmup (running late) and pulled it within about 3 minutes - stupid!!)

I'm back now though and my game doesn't seem to have suffered.

I'm playing him today so will report back.

Thoughts to take into the game:-

Really focus on volleys to take time away from him

Set the point up, don't go for low percentage shots that are not on. Build pressure

Keep the racket preparation uniform. Decide early which shot to play. Play with conviction

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From tomdenners - 27 Jun 2012 - 22:02

Thanks for the help guys. I trialled the trickle boast in a couple of league games vs. weaker opponents and it definitely adds another dimension to my front court play.

I get the feeling that you don't want to overplay this shot as it relies on the element of surprise a bit more.

Nice forum post on boasts that I found whilst looking up the trickle boast.



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From hamburglar - 23 Jun 2012 - 02:37

 The trickle boast should look like a hard straight drive right up to the moment you strike and then you cut the inside of the ball. The swing should look virtually identical to a straight drive with preparation and follow through. The idea is to get the opponent on their heels. If they are, then it almost doesn't matter where the ball ends up, theyll have no shot at it or will be scrambling. If you can get the  ball to end up in the middle front that will surprise them more than opposite front. 


Also it works better for disguise when the ball is a couple inches off the side wall than a couple feet

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From tomdenners - 23 Jun 2012 - 01:53

With the tickle boast:-

Am i hitting it firmer than a volley drop, using the side wall to take the pace off the ball?

Am i hitting the inside of the ball like a regular boast?

Am I using backspin as I would for a volley drop?

How close to the front wall should i be aiming the boast at?

Is it easier to hit than a volley drop? I'm picturing it, but not too sure until I get on court. It's not something that I would say I'm that used to using.

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From rippa rit - 21 Jun 2012 - 09:06

That sounds positive.  It is not always necessary/possible to hit a winner when you are in front moreso to increase the speed of play, get the opponent off balance, hit another lose one, until you can force an error.  So that gives you two options from the front, also try a tickle boast as they could be easier than a volley drop sometimes.

Yes, more speed means better/earlier racket preparation.  No wristy loopy shots, but short and sharp with a firm wrist.

Keep reporting how it is going as you develop more shots and strategy.

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From tomdenners - 21 Jun 2012 - 02:43   -   Updated: 21 Jun 2012 - 02:47


0 - 3, 9-11, 10-12, 8-11

I tried to play concentrating on my movement back to the T as much as possible. It kind of changed my game to a more patient one which was focused on the back corners.

He was visibly tired after the first game (which he never normally is!) and I had a few half opportunities in game 2 to really punish him, but didn't take them.

In hindsight I think that I was so pleased whenever I got a weak-ish return, that I was trying to kill it straight away (normally with a back/mid-court volley drop) that I missed as much as I hit. I should have used the weak shot to apply more pressure and keep him on the backfoot. I will normally do this automatically, but I play differently against this guy, because I know that he's better than me. It gets inside my head and I make some annoyingly poor decisions.

Really encouraged in other areas though and it was nice to see him making a few errors here and there when I actually managed to get in front and dictate the play.

Still lots to work on, including deception (punches down the wall disguised as drops are the one thing I cannot get my racket prep the same for)

I will take him down eventually!!

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From tomdenners - 13 Jun 2012 - 23:33

Thanks Rita, this is really useful.

I think I've read every single forum post now!

Am playing him again on Friday. Had a game at lunch where I was concentrating as hard as I could on the flight of the ball and my movement back to the T.

I'm becoming more efficient in court coverage now and I don't think I was on the backfoot very often in the match at all.

I looked at the video on deception, but I think I'll park this for now and just concentrate on one thing. It is something I plan to revisit.

I'm determined that I'm going to play this way on Friday and not revert back to scrabbling around like a mad man!

Will let you know how I get on.


Tom ;)

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From rippa rit - 24 May 2012 - 09:53   -   Updated: 24 May 2012 - 10:03

I have put in some key words that have generated a few related forum articles. Take a look under the Relevant Content tab.

Just a few little tips that might help:

1. watch the ball at all times, and keep travelling as the ball moves to the front wall, including the speed and height of the ball which will make you alert to what is happening in the return.

2. when an opponent hits deep it is often likely that the player will slowly creep back whch then makes it harder to cut off the volley and attack.

3. if the opponent is patient and knows you edge backwards he will just wait till the opportunity comes about to make a boast, catching you on the back-foot, and making it slower for you to move to recover from the front court.

This video might give you another thought about deception and footwork.


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From hamburglar - 24 May 2012 - 06:20

practice, practice, practice. Sounds like he's just better than you right now, but that doesn't mean you can't improve your game and sneak up on him. Make him stretch for the ball and maybe he'll create some opportunities for you to control the points a little

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From sloejp - 23 May 2012 - 13:56

glad to hear you are getting closer to beating your opponent. good luck

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From tomdenners - 22 May 2012 - 21:35

 The volleying works! I'm really working on hurrying him and raising the intensity, but trying to mix it up and get as much height on lobs as possible so I can recover. In our last game I pushed him to 3-2, with a fair percentage of his points coming from errors on my part. Need some more solo practice to tighten up my technique regarding punching volleys, but introducing more volley drops worked like a charm! Will update again in a week or 2.

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From sloejp - 16 May 2012 - 11:16

how is your front court play? do you think you could unsettle your opponent by hitting more drops and bringing him to the front court more often? another option is hitting good length and then getting further forward on the T to volley the return. use volleys more often to keep your opponent moving, giving him less time to set up for the deceptive cross. perhaps also, you should work on your control to decrease your number of lose shoots.

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