How do I avoid opposing blows?

Reading the opponent's game: the two types of players

Do you sometimes wonder that your opponents are playing back your fast balls faster and better? Do you feel helpless at times when even your toughest forehand comes back twice as fast?

by Marco Kühn /
last edit: Nov 25, 2018, 8:07 am

These game situations have their origin in two different types of players that you will find on almost every tennis facility in the world. If you want to read your opponent's game better and understand it better, then read on now.

The counter puncher

Alex Antonitsch is a fan of his. He's made life difficult for some players. He is the prime example of a counter-punch, a player who loves to juggle with the tempo of the opponent's blows: Alex de Minaur, a lean guy from Australia, is a guy who takes your hardest forehand, wraps it in wrapping paper and wraps you up sends back a bitter present.

These types of players like to be a little further behind the baseline, but not in the fence like Rafael Nadal on the return. They like to feed their opponents, soft balls, not played too short. If the opponent accelerates in the rally, the great strength of the counter-puncher begins to unfold. You can almost effortlessly keep up with any pace flawlessly, especially when you're on the run. Fast balls play them back faster. They are nimble on their feet, are almost always on time on the ball and have their greatest moments when the opponent unpacks his hardest blows.

But they have trouble feeding themselves. When you have to set the pace in the rallies yourself. The typical counter-puncher is a genius at making fast balls even faster. But he fails to play slow balls quickly himself.

The robot

If he can play the ball from a standing position, the point is as good as gone. Any ball that is too short or too soft into the half-field will be penalized. The combination of serve and forehand is his greatest weapon. A high rate on the first serve is synonymous with many easily won service games, as he can use his forehand directly and effectively based on this serve. The robot knows no mercy. Karen Khachanov is an ideal example of the player who, once on the offensive, can hardly be stopped. Once you find yourself in the grinder of a robot, it will be difficult for you to find the exit again.

But the robot doesn't like it at all when it is moved. When he has to play from the run or when his opponents pull him out of his comfort zone with a short, flat slice. He finds it difficult to process balls below the edge of the net. If he is played quickly and precisely, he can hardly get out of his own defense.

Draw a picture

The next time you face an unknown opponent, try to draw a picture of them. Every drawing has outlines. Think about which category you would sort your opponent into, which contours this opponent has. You have the simplest playful methods available for this: consciously play shorter and softer times and observe how your opponent reacts to these game situations. Do slight mistakes creep in? Does he have problems playing slow balls fast?

On the other hand, you can react immediately if your opponent effortlessly plays your fast balls from the barrel into the corner. More pace would mean more problems for you. You can direct your game tactically in a completely different way and align yourself with the game of your opponent.

With the right drawing of your opponent, you will find the best tactical means to success.