How to Choose the Right Shot

Understanding court zones and air zones will help a player choose the right shots and reduce errors.

Losses at the intermediate to advanced levels of the game are not solely due to stroke technique, but most often poor shot selection, which leads to unforced errors.

More: How to Reduce Unforced Errors

Retrievers tend to have all the trophies, and it's not due to their elegant strokes. They win by developing the use of proper air zone and court zone tactics.

Zonal tennis warfare has been applied successfully for decades. It was known in the '70s as defense, neutral and offensive zones. In the '80s, the popular terms were defend, attack and kill.

Recent catch phrases include control, hurt and finish zones. In the spirit of evolution, let's coin our own phrases: grind, torment, obliterate zones.

But before we explain the dynamics of court zones, let's first cover air zones.

Air Zones

The air zones refer to the height at which the ball travels above the net. The player's court position dictates the height the shot should travel above the net.

More: 3 Shots You Need for Doubles-and 3 You Don't

Unforced errors and short balls multiply dramatically when players choose to ignore the laws of the air zones.

  • Positioned Inside the Court: Aim 2-3 feet above net;
  • Positioned On the Baseline: Aim 3-5 feet above the net;
  • Positioned 10 Feet Behind the Baseline: Aim 8-10 feet above the net

Court Zones

An experienced competitor doesn't simply hit the shot they feel like hitting; they understand the opponent's incoming shot dictates their high percentage options.

With an incoming ball lands deep into your grind zone, you are in a defensive situation and will want to simply try to keep the ball deep.

More: 4 Game-Changing Defensive Tips

While receiving a mid-court torment zone pitch, you'll want to apply building shots to maneuver the opponent into a vulnerable court position.

When receiving a short ball well into your obliterate zone, you will want to apply one of your short ball options to successfully end the point.

  • The Grind Zone is located from the baseline to approximately 10 feet inside the court;
  • The Torment Zone is located 10 feet to 20 feet inside the center of the court;
  • The Obliterate Zone is located from the 20 foot mark and extends to the net.

Advanced players should apply the same zonal warfare "awareness "on the opponent's side. In other words, the location your shot lands on the opponent's side dictates their high percentage shot selection options.

Playing zonal tennis greatly increases one's anticipatory speed, court coverage and shot variations.

Note: Be aware that exceptions shadow every rule, so use court sense to match play.

More: 12 Tips to Win your Next Match

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