Defense - Tipbit #8
Many times when you’re up at the NVZ line and your partner accidentally hits a short return you know your opponents are likely going to drive the ball (Richard P, JB, etc.) your way with maximum force and on a downward trajectory - putting you in a vulnerable situation!
But, one of the main things that separate the best from the rest is your ability to handle this type of situation, even though your opponents are on the extreme offense at this stage of a point. You’re able to put up a huge defensive wall and turn things around.
As I watched Anna Leigh Waters (ALW) in the Desert Ridge Open this week I saw this phenomenon happen more and more. There were a lot of third shot drives and the shake-n-bake tactic was used again and again. Clearly our game is evolving as the pros are working on these techniques because they see its immense value.
But, what I enjoyed most about these matches is listening to the instructive comments by the announcers. They often described the mistakes players and teams were making in various firefights or exchanges. As I watched the quarter finals I learned four big mistakes that many top professional players were making while defending these hard shots that were killing their chances of turning the point around; I thought I would share them in Tipbit #8.
1). It’s a misnomer that you should never back off the NVZ line. Many times ALW would back off the NVZ line one to two feet during these heated exchanges. Staying within that 14’ makes you a sitting duck, with zero time to react. Dropping back buys you both time and space to react. Just remember, back up facing your opponents, legs under you in the ready position, with a slight lean forward, paddle out in front and to stop in this ready position just before they strike the ball.
2). Many players stand too tall (upright). Their ball is likely coming low, so bend your knees and lower your center of gravity.
3). Try to reduce your swing as your opponent is supplying the power and all you need to do is deflect the ball with a compact block. My biggest problem is my forehand volley swing; I take my paddle too far back. Members like George know this and often target their drives to my forehand wing.
4). Don’t grip your paddle too tight; by loosening your grip you can absorb their pace and soften your ball to help reset the point and get you back to the NVZ line on equal terms with your opponents. No member does this better than John Putz.
I record most of these matches or watch them on YouTube, they’re a lot of fun to watch, of course, but it's also a wealth of information to see what the pros are doing both technically and strategically that is either helping them or hurting them.
It's also interesting to observe how things are adapting and evolving since 2013 when I picked up the game to 2024. The game is very different from what it was just a few short years ago. The caliber of players has certainly grown and the skills many of them bring are staggering. The equipment technology has certainly improved by leaps and bounds as well.
This combination has taken the game to new levels. Most notably, the use of strategic power and spin has skyrocketed.
C’ ya on the Greenwood courts. President Lueck