Tennis Strategy: The Aggressive, The Defensive, The Serve-Volleyer and The All-Court


In playing tennis, there are generally four playing styles in singles.

The Aggressive Baseliner (Offensive)

The tennis player “tries ***to win the point by hitting winners from the back of the court,*** attacking with fast balls that the opponent cannot reach or return properly. Being an offensive baseliner player ***requires a deadly array of shots and shot-types.*** The tennis player may not try to win the point outright with one shot, but instead may hit the ball from side to side until he/she spots an opening.”

Offensive baseliners normally have at least one great groundstroke, forehand or backhand. The best offensive baseliners have a huge serve to go with a great groundstroke or can hit huge groundstrokes off both wings. Usually offensive baseliners ***owns the ability to read the game very well and also their opponents’ styles and tendencies*** so that they can spot a weakness and use one of their aggressive shots to act upon it.”

“***Hard courts are generally considered to be the best surface for an offensive baseliner who often employ a high risk strategy.*** However, offensive baseliners can often excel on both grass and clay courts as well. On grass, they can execute their “winners” and due to the quick and low bounce, makes it harder for opponents to retrieve; whereas on clay courts, some offensive baseliners might like the slow and high bounce because it gives them a longer time to change their grip and foot-positions in order to set up for a “winner.”

Notable aggressive baseliner of all time are Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Andy Roddick, Serena Williams, Fernando Verdasco (pic on the right) and Ana Ivanovic (pic on the left).

Defensive Baseliner (Counter-puncher)

The tennis player “***returns every ball and relies on the opponent making mistakes.*** He/She has consistent shots, makes few errors of his own while making it difficult for opponents to hit winners. The game of the defensive counter-puncher has ***more to do with physical endurance and determination to retrieve un-retrievable balls*** as well as mental stamina. They tend to make relatively few errors because they don’t attempt the complicated and ambitious shots of the aggressive baseliner. But that doesn’t mean they don’t ever attempt aggressive shots. A counter-puncher must have speed and agility to cover the court. ***He/She is a fighter, and has to have willingness to chase down every ball to frustrate opponents.”***

“***Counter-punchers often excel on slow courts,*** such as clay courts. The court gives them extra time to chase down shots and it is harder for opponents to create winners. Counter-punchers are often particularly strong players at low-level play, where opponents cannot make winners with regularity.”

Notable defensive baseliners of all time are Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert, Llyeton Hewitt, Jelena Jankovic, Rafael Nadal (pic on the left) and Caroline Wozniacki (pic on the right).

The Serve-and-Volleyer

The tennis player “is quick around the net, and ***has fine touch for volleys.*** Serve-and-volleyers come up to the net at every opportunity when serving. They are ***almost always attackers and can hit many winners with varieties of volleys and drop volleys.*** The serve-and-volleyers’ strategy is to pressure the opponent to try to hit difficult passing shots.”

“Serve-and-volleyers benefit from playing on fast courts, such as grass or fast concrete. The quick bounce and faster pace of play give them an advantage because opponents have less time to set up for a passing shot.”

Notable serve-and-volleyers of all time are John McEnroe, Marthina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Samantha Stosur (pic on the right) and John Isner (pic on the left).

The All-Court Player

The tennis player “use the best bits from each style and mix it together to create a truly formidable tennis style to play against… They usually have an attacking game, mixing some groundstrokes and volleys to keep the opponent guessing… However, ***their game often revolves around “constructing” a point to where they will be able to approach the net and put away an easy volley*** or pulling their opponent into the net and hitting a passing shot.”

“All-court players ***stereotypically have the speed, determination and fitness of a defensive counter-puncher, the confidence, skill and flair of offensive baseliners and have the touch, the agility around the net and tactical thinking of the serve-and-volleyer…*** It just means it would be more difficult to read the game of an all-court player.”

Notable all-court-players of all time are Rod Laver, Steffi Graf, Novak Djokovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Roger Federer (pic on the left) and Venus Williams (pic on the right).

To understand tennis terms and terminologies, visit Bests of Tennis Strokes in History.

Information Courtesy of: WIKIPEDIA

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