Advice for defeating a baseline attacker
The baseline attacker: recognize him and beating him
Who is he?
He’s a strong and quick player whose technique highlights his power and skill and who likes to take risks. He is ready to attack from the baseline but also to defend intelligently and creatively. Often, he finishes his points close to the net after gaining an advantage from the back of the court. At least 80% of his shots are taken from the baseline and he has a favorite shot (forehand or backhand) that he uses often. It is possible, for example, to deal with a player that systematically reverses his backhand to hit forehand. This means he prefers a certain side for attacking from the baseline zones and that he sticks to the line unless he spots an unmissable opportunity at the net. In this sense, this player distinguishes himself from the more versatile player who uses his backhand to vary shots and/or approach the net. The baseline attacker often relies on a semi-closed/closed forehand grip, allowing him to add speed and effects to his hits and to reach high-bouncing balls.
The best examples of this type of player at the elite level are André Agassi, the ultimate baseline attacker who loved hitting tremendous shots from the back court, and Serena Williams, who continues to dominate opponents with her baseline power.
The baseline attacker hits grand crosscourt shots in preparation for a down the line attack. He makes things hard on his opponent by taking long, fast, and deep shots and rapidly changing the ball’s direction. His preferred game tactic favors long, crosscourt shots using his backhand, and often his offset forehand as well. This player, like Serena Williams, loves to begin with a powerful serve or return in order to start out aggressively and then approach the net as soon as possible to finish with a volley or smash.
How to defeat him?
The player likes evenly hit, moderately fast balls because this allows him to play in cadence and take advantage of returning balls’ speed to attack.
You must therefore:
- Coax him out of this routine by varying speed and effects. Dig in and play high to win time and centered to take away his angles. The most effective shots are the ones that draw him from the baseline (very crossed slice forehand for example.) He will have a harder time attacking balls with a lower, slower rebound.
- You can also approach the net regularly to end his baseline rallies but make sure that these approaches are making things hard enough on him, particularly since he likes hitting in motion with a clear line of site. The more you vary your pattern to unsettle him, the more likely he is to lose confidence and make mistakes.
- Don’t hesitate to use the body serve or to surprise him with second serves that play to his strong side. He will be caught off guard and might hand over free points.
- When returning the serve, don’t hesitate to hit a short and low slice forehand or backhand and deprive him of an easy win.
Above all, don’t be intimidated by the power and number of winning shots. Be consistent and run a lot!
Some advice depending on your playing style
- If you’re a tactical player, you must be consistent, break the rhythm, vary your shots, bring your opponent to the net to volley, and slow him down.
- If you’re a baseline attacker yourself, play high to your opponent’s weak side, making him move often by hitting long balls.
- If you’re a well-rounded player, make sure to vary your shots, break the rhythm of the sequence, keep powerful balls in play, and mix up the moments and ways you choose to attack.
- If you’re a volley serve specialist, you must vary the speed, effect and placement of your shots, coming to the net as early as possible during an exchange, and setting the pace.
And if, after applying all this, you still lose a match to the baseline attacker, it’s only because he was stronger this time. Stay positive and keep training hard! You’ll take him next time!