We are usually quite obsessed with working on our weaknesses. We want to improve shots we don’t feel very confident in, we want to hit that backhand technically correct, we want the volley to feel confident, we would like to add those extra miles per hour on the serve.
This is all good. But sometimes we forget that when match play comes around we need to focus on our strengths. If you have played tennis for many years and feel really uncomfortable hitting for example a drive backhand despite hours of coaching, then try to avoid hitting so many drive backhands during a match. It’s likely your opponent knows your weakness (let’s say he/she is a friend you’ve played many times or someone you know at the club) and will hit most of his shots there, but that doesn’t mean you have to take that shot on.
If we are using the single handed backhand as an example, because I know a lot of players are struggling with that technically difficult shot, you have mainly two options (there are always options in tennis, remember that) besides from hitting a drive backhand – you can hit a backhand slice and you can run around your forehand.
I want to make it absolutely clear that having a weak backhand side can be super frustrating and almost embarrassing and you might have made a promise to the tennis gods to improve it, but there are many pro players throughout history who haven’t trusted their backhand and gone to extreme measures to avoid hitting it (Moya was great at running around it, Nadal in his early days as well, even Federer had a far weaker backhand in the beginning of his pro career) so you don’t need to feel bad about that.
But if you’re not physically fit or comfortable with running around your backhand (remember, many small steps required), what should you do then?
Well, the answer is simple, you should do like Steffi Graf (!) and Roger Federer and Philipp Petzschner and develop a good backhand slice.
Ohhh, a slice, that’s such a passive shot, I hear you say. It can be a passive shot if you let it sit it up for your opponent, but if you can really knife the ball and get a lot of under spin on it, it can be a dangerous weapon and it will also win you time. The only problem is when your opponent is at the net, because to hit a backhand pass you would usually have to drive the ball.
I think this got into more of a backhand slice post, but let me summarize my point: You always have options! If you are not happy with your backhand drive and you don’t feel comfortable hitting it, don’t let it lose you matches. It’s much easier to learn a good slice than a drive shot and when you get that low bounce and can place it somewhat consistently, you will have a great weapon. The slice together with the ability to sometime take extra steps and hit the forehand should give you a greater margin for error, more confidence in your game, and will play your strength instead of your weakness (assuming now that the forehand is your strength, it almost always is).
So remember, keep a flexible and open tennis mind and be able to adapt to the situation and you will win far more matches than you do now.