Tennis is a harsh mistress. It’s an easy game to play – what could be easier than whacking a ball back and forth? – but a very difficult game to play well. Oh sure, it may look simple when Pete Sampras bashes a 130-mph serve and then glides to the net to put away the volley, but just try doing it the next time you’re on the court. The reason he’s got the hot girlfriend and the million-dollar endorsements is because he can make it look easy when it’s actually really, really hard. The same goes for Top Spin it’s an easy game to pick up, and you’ll be playing pretty well inside of five minutes, but there are tricks and techniques you’ll need to learn before you can take it to the next level. Well, never fear. I’m here just like Santa Claus, with my bag full of tennis-y goodness.
If you ever took tennis lessons, your instructor probably kept yelling, “Move your feet!” He was trying to make sure that your court positioning was good, and the same principle holds true for Top Spin: a player who’s out of position is likely to lose the match. After you’ve hit a shot, don’t just sit there and admire it – get back to the center of the court, and get ready for the next shot! The moment you spot your opponent out of position, though, that’s the time to make your move: Step forward to take the ball as early as possible, and then hit it at a sharp angle to a point on the court that the other player will have trouble reaching. Even if he or she gets there, the return will probably be weak, and you’ll be in complete control. As long as your footwork and positioning are better than your opponent’s, you’ll have the upper hand in the match.
Use the Force, Luke!
There’s nothing like a big, booming serve to dominate your opponents. There’s also nothing like a really low first-serve percentage to allow your opponent to dominate you. Sure, go ahead and rip off a power serve when you’re in the zone and feeling the juices flowing, but don’t forget that there are other ways to hold serve. When serving to the deuce court, try spinning a slice serve out wide to carry your opponent completely out of the court. Then, when the return comes back, step up and hit your next shot at a sharp angle cross-court, and enjoy the view as your opponent dashes desperately across the court in a hopeless attempt to reach the ball. Always remember: When you’re serving, placement is more important than power. If you want to take your games to the next level, stop thinking like a muscle-bound moron and start using the full array of serve types that are at your disposal.
Variety Is the Spice of Life
It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing against another human being or a CPU-controlled player: The same shot isn’t going to work forever. If you keep going for the kill in the same way over and over again, sooner or later your opponent will figure out how to beat you. So mix it up; throw in a few slices along with those topspin groundstrokes, and just when it seems like you might stay forever behind the baseline, throw in a little serve-and-volley action. Keep your opponent guessing – if he doesn’t know what you’re going to do, he’s already halfway to defeat, and that’s just where you want him to be.
Care for Some Grass?
Not every court out there plays like the cracked, garbage-strewn “phenomenon” at your apartment complex. From the lowliest neighborhood hard top to the manicured grass of Wimbledon, each court has its own nuances that you’ll be forced to deal with. Be aware of the different surfaces you’ll be dancing on, and adjust your power and aim appropriately. On a hard surface, you can expect shots to bounce relatively high. Grass, on the other hand, is the fastest surface around – serves and shots stay low, which makes a power game extremely valuable. Be prepared to move, do your best to be where the ball is going, and try to end the point quickly with a volley or precise power shot.
Clay and carpet courts react somewhat like your garden variety hard surface, except they are a bit spongier. Shots won’t rebound as high, and ball speed will decrease upon impact. Traction is diminished on a clay court, which explains why your player is sliding around so much. Concentrate on accurate and precise shots, move quickly toward a central location for the return, and focus on making fewer errors than the other guy.
Follow these tips, add some strategy to your technique, and soon you’ll be mopping the court with your Top Spin opponents. And when you’ve got the endorsements and the sexy significant other, don’t forget that I was the one who set you on the path.