„The lefty” problem
Tennis gives an opportunity for everyone to participate in this sport. Gender, age or physical level are not limitations to pick up the racquet and play this beautiful sport. On each level of performance we can observe tall and short players, old and young athletes as also people who move the racquet with left or right hand. Yes, that’s is the problem for many of us. The lefty. How many of you have encountered difficulty to beat the opponent who plays with the left hand? Have you found it more challenging for your game to play against the player who has a forehand on the left side of the body? What about your tactical decisions? Have you remembered to adjust your choices according to the difference in comparison to the right-handed player? If you have played for more than a week, you had to face left-handed player during the practice or competition. Let’s see why we have some problems while playing with lefties and what we should do to make our chances bigger for a success.
The most famous left-handed player in modern tennis is definitely Rafael Nadal. Instead of only keeping the racquet with the left hand, Spaniard has other strengths that work really well for his game. The first question we have to ask is: Is it better to be a right-handed or left-handed? In my opinion, each dominant hand is good if we are able to use it effectively. In the history of tennis, we can find many great players who have played with right or left hand. Some people believe that one side is better than the other one and they try to teach own kids to play with a particular arm. I believe it is an exaggeration and we shouldn’t think that left or right hand is solely responsible for one’s successful results.
Looking at the tennis tournaments, we can see players who are afraid of playing opponents who move the racquet with the left hand. Why is that? Should left-handed player feel the same while facing the right-handed player? There are different opinions on this subject but one fact is established: there are much more right-handed players than lefties. These statistics show that there is a bigger possibility to play against the right-handed player on a daily basis so we are accustomed to this scenario. Whenever we encounter the situation when we have to face the lefty, scenario is changing and it forces us to adjust our strokes and habits to the different environment. These factors have an impact on our confidence and it results in a bigger tension and poorer performance. Is there something we can do to help our players to compete well against left-handed players? Below I present my suggestions that you can apply to improve your performance and not be afraid while playing against lefties.
Dominate with forehand cross-court
Playing against right-handed players, forehand cross-court goes to the opponent’s forehand so many players try to find a weaker ball to hit offensive shot to the backhand side. As we know, this strategy is dictated by the fact that most of the players have stronger forehand than backhand strokes. When our rival is left-handed, scenario is different and we have a chance to play consistent forehand cross-court rally and place all the balls to the opponent’s backhand. This possiblity gives a huge advantage for right-handed players who have consistent and offensive forehands. During the rally, they should look for the strategy to avoid forehand down the line and force to opponent to put more risk into cross-court or down the line backhands.
Deep down the line changer
As you know from the lines above, your forehand cross-court is easily directed to the left-handed player’s backhand. Unfortunately, the same rule stays for the opponent while hitting his left forehand. The best tactic you can apply is to avoid rival’s forehand but it is not as easy on higher levels of performance. Your ability to play consistent deep backhand cross-court can’t be underestimated but you know a shot that can put you into more dominant situation. This solution is a deep backhand down the line. By placing the ball around the baseline to the opponent’s backhand, he/she doesn’t have a big chance to hit forcing cross-court as also to place the ball back into your ad corner. It clearly means that there is a possiblity for you to take the next shot with forehand and dominate the point. Getting good results while applying the tactic to change direction with deep backhand down the line is only possible if our ball goes into the last part of the court because short ball will be finished by our rival with easy cross-court shot.
Deuce side champion
Serve starts the point so your tactic has to start with this shot. While serving from the deuce side, you can put your opponent into more difficult position with a well-placed wide shot. Slice serve can be really effective because of the curve trajectory of the ball and opponent’s position outside of the sideline. Right-handed players should use this opportunity as often as possible to put the ball to the opponent’s backhand from the first shot and dominate the rally with the forehand. It simply means that players need variety of serving skills to adjust to different opponents during the tournaments so these abilities have to be included into training sessions.
Ad backhand return
Right-handed players can easily put the serve to the opponent’s backhand from the deuce side but the same advantage have left-handed players while serving from the ad side. It puts a lot of pressure on right-handed athletes because points from the advantage side are deciding in matches between two players of similar level of skills. Knowing that opponent can serve wide to our backhand and our cross-court return goes straight to the left-handed player’s forehand means that control and placement of the shot are skills that have to be addressed during the practice sessions. Ability to counter wide serve with backhand return to the ad corner is a remedy to effectively compete with left-handed players.
About the Author
Marcin Bieniek is a tennis coach from Poland and a former professional player (Polish National Juniors Team). He is a certificated tennis coach by the Polish Tennis Coaching Association and the Professional Tennis Registry. Marcin has worked with many of the top 20 Polish Juniors and the top 150 players in the world.