It is a proven fact that unforced errors go up when a player tries to change the direction of the ball.
Some of the reasons are that when you go down the line:
- The court is shorter
- The net is higher
- The amount of court you have to cover increases
- Hitting the ball back in the same direction is much easier than trying to change the direction of the ball
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c.2005 Barbara Banks
You must be able to hit down the line at certain times. I suggest more of a looping ball with spin when hitting down the line, unless you are well inside the court and want to apply more pressure on your opponent.
Here's a drill we use at the IMG Academy to work on changing the direction of the ball and hitting up the line:
How the Drill Works: Start the drill at a rally pace with Player A and Player B standing at the baseline of one side, while Player C is on the baseline at the opposite end.
Player A will hit balls crosscourt to the forehand side of Player C until Player C is able to get 1-2 feet inside the baseline. Once Player C is inside the baseline they will hit a ball down the line to Player B.
Player B will then hit back to Player C and Player C will hit crosscourt to Player A and the drill starts over again.
Variations: Move Player C to the other side of the court and have them hit balls down the line from their backhand side.
Areas of Focus: Marinating a rally speed throughout the drill to keep the players focused at all times. Also, learning how and when to step inside the baseline to hit the ball down the line.
P.S. Andre Agassi was one of the best at accomplishing this shot, but he only tried it when he was in total command of the crosscourt ball, and inside the baseline!
In 1978, Nick Bollettieri founded the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy, the first full-time tennis boarding school to combine intense training on the court with a custom-designed academic curriculum. He has coached 10 players who have reached No. 1 in the world, including Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Martina Hingis. To learn more, visit IMGAcademies.com.