PASSING SHOTS (26)

Dominic Moerstedt played on my first Elon team. A fine player,
Moerstedt had grown up in a German academy that had also housed Boris
Becker and Steffi Graff. Extremely talented, Moerstedt liked to try “big
bombs” for passing shots, hit from way back at the fence. I told him about an earlier player, passing on the rise, moving in on service returns, etc. Still
“boom—from way back.” The first match my team played without me there
(25 years’ perfect attendance!) came Dominic’s senior year. My wife had
to have a surgical procedure (kidney stones—ouch!), and I sent Dr. Alan White as an able substitute coach. He still brags about his tennis coach-ing. We both were lucky. After the first day of the tournament, my number one player jumped into an indoor pickup soccer game in our gym. Pop!
Leg injury. No number one for the finals. I returned to a hobbled team plus
another problem. Dominic was playing Alex Evans, an excellent Australian
player from my old school Atlantic Christian. Evans “owned” Moerstedt.
In several previous matches Moerstedt had never gotten more than two
games a set off the talented serve and volleyer Evans. This match was for
the tournament. My advice to Dominic went like this: “Dominic, we’ve tried
it your way to no avail. Please at least move in aggressively on your service
return and passing shots.”
We had practiced this a lot recently, in all fairness, and Dominic had the
kind of talent to pull it off. It shocked everyone—Evans, Moerstedt, our
team members and me: 6–2, 6–2, Moerstedt, and Elon was Conference
Champs.What really surprised me is why the strategy worked. By hitting the pass-
ing shots quicker I’d hoped that Dominic could make Evans volley from an unstable, unusual position. What actually happened is that Alex tried to
get in quicker and it disrupted his ordinarily dependable serve. Confused
by a different rhythm, he lost a lot of confidence.

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