PLAYING TIEBREAKERS (24)

One baseliner I coached, Stefen Hager, became a new and improved
“attacker” when he perfected this play: Attack with an improved approach
shot at their backhand. Overplay a little, setting up a ball on the backhand
side. The clue was Stefan developed an accurate, or “spot specific”
backhand volley that he then “bumped” deep and away. Then Stefan
could put away the often “weak return.”
Stefan teamed with Robert Thornqvist to win the NAIA doubles
championship in 1990. Earlier he’d have trouble winning third set
tiebreakers, or close matches at the end. (“Get the game point Stefan,”
he’d admonish himself).
John Sturen and Tom Morris had a one-handed backhand technique that
allowed them to “pull” the ball effectively. It involved a “laid back wrist” that
pulled the top edge of the racquet “around the ball.”
THE WCT FOREHANDTom Morris and his character showed me a lot. Once a “new” opponent in our district was certainly a challenge for perennial winner, Morris. All we
heard in “pre-tournament scuttle” was about this guy’s “WCT (tour level)
forehand.” Morris said nothing but at match time directed nearly every
ground stroke to an area about 5-feet square located at the service line on
his opponent’s backhand side. The guy hit his WCT forehand about three
times: 6–1, 6–0, Morris.
“The Andy Moll drill.” I taught this to the entire team. Andy asked me to
hit a solid ball to the middle of his court, then a second ball about midway
on his backhand side. Andy’s forehand was very good. He drilled his
legwork this way, turning three fourths of his shots into forehands.
(See figure 10 on page 95)
SPOT SPECIFIC Andres Alvarez was “spot specific” on his volley.
He would serve and volley the return invariably deep
to one corner or the other—almost within a foot
every time. Then, the odds were in his favor. This is an
area in which American players and teachers could
get better. For example, we are “spot specific” on
passing shots, but on volleys many of our kids just
sort of “bang it over on the other side. 

Stefan Hager  A fine player, we discussed this weakness. I began to hear him say
things like:

  1. I really try in tiebreakers.
  2. I’m trying to keep errors down at the end of close matches.
  3. I play long points in the close sets but seem to lose game point.
    Stefan listened to my radical proposal. “Maybe you are too cautious.”
    Why not try an abrupt change? Take same chances. Gamble a little. Give
    it a try. I’m on your side, go ahead. A puzzled moment crossed his face. The
    next match I noticed he was close to the end of a tight match. I wanted to
    see what happened, but I was in another nail biter on the other side of the
    courts. (Superstition wouldn’t let me leave.)
    In the blink of an eye a teammate came to tell me, “Coach should have
    seen Stefan in that breaker: 7–1 in 10 minutes. He hit shots you
    wouldn’t believe.”
    Stefan walked up sheepishly. Didn’t say much, but he’ll tell you it
    changed his tiebreaker results forever.

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