The Approach shot in tennis is an important part of every players game, especially those that are looking to progress and truly develop an all around pro-style game. This is a shot that is often times the determining factor in whether you “WIN” the point and it elevates you above those that merely try to “Not Lose” the point or those that are unable to attack with an approach shot in the first place.
The Approach Shot in tennis is the main shot that is used to transition to the net from the baseline, the approach is usually hit around mid-court or slightly before the service line in most cases.
The approach shot is used to attack your opponent so it is an offensive shot in nature and it is typically hit off of your opponents short ball that lands closer to the service line rather than the baseline. This "short" shot allows you to step into the court and attack with a well placed approach shot and the move in to finish the point by being aggressive. Using the approach shot in tennis is an advanced skill that can pay huge dividends and win many matches merely by applying pressure to your opponent.
There are two main objectives of an approach shot in tennis:
1. To win the point outright with a winner which is obviously the more aggressive option.
2. To put the opposing player in a defensive position that will result in them hitting a weak shot in return, so that you can put away that next shot with a volley or an overhead.
Ultimately, the decision on where to place the approach shot will lie in the your hands, the choice will be based upon the location of the opponent, the opponent’s strengths, their movement, and which type of approach shot you’re most comfortable with.
Primary options for the approach shot are:
1. Deep to the Backhand side (down the line)
2. Deep down the Middle (down the line)
3. Deep to the Forehand side (down the line)
4. There are also secondary approach shot strategies such as the Moon-ball Approach Technique or the Slice Approach (a.k.a The traditional approach). Learn more about them by clicking below!
The typical grips used for the flatter or more penetrating shots of the approach shots are the Eastern or Semi-Western grips on the forehand, if you decide to chip and/or slice the forehand approach you will want to use the Continental grip. On the backhand side for flat and penetrating approach shots, you will want to use your most comfortable backhand grip, this is probably the backhand grip you use on the baseline for groundstrokes. For the slice backhand approach, the Continental and Eastern grips are the best options, so that you can impart the backspin/cutting maneuver easily.
For topspin approach shots you can use an open, closed, or semi-closed stance. The stance for the slice approach is mostly closed and includes a carioca (where the back foot starts to go behind the front leg) step which helps propel the player towards the net. Naturally, the footwork is incredibly important in hitting approach shots and transitioning to the net. The player must get into the best possible court positioning at the net after hitting the approach shot and then use the best possible technique for the next shot, which should be a volley or an overhead to finish the point. The body should be positioned in a sideways manner to the net, or perpendicular, this allows for more of a forward weight transfer which organically uses your linear momentum to propel you to the net after your shot. Down the line approach shots will minimize the angles that are available to your opponent(keep this in mind).
PREPARATION & ROTATION:
It is important that you have proper preparation with the racket take back. The racket needs to be level or just slightly higher than the incoming ball if you're hitting a slice approache. The legs should be loaded, small steps are also important in order to get into a well balanced position and get your body spaced properly for maximum explosion into the ball. The shoulders and the torso should be rotated so they are now perpendicular to the net, this is the linear movement as opposed to the angular movement seen in open stance shots (when your shoulders are parallel to the net).
If the Incoming ball is a heavy topspin shot or hit with a lot of pace, then you will want to shorten the backswing and use that incoming pace as opposed to a longer backswing to achieve your desired power and depth. Be sure to stay low and rise up into and through the ball if you are hitting a topspin approach shot. However, if you are hitting a slice approach you can stay slightly higher with your stature but you won’t rise up with your legs like on the topspin approach. Instead you will keep a lower center of gravity with your legs bent and move through the ball, making sure to keep the racket head still at the point of contact and executing a smooth motion. This is important if you are hitting a flatter approach (more of a blocking maneuver) and/or a slice approach (more of a cutting/high to low maneuver).
THE FOLLOW THROUGH/RECOVERY:
You must make sure to keep the racket head still at the point of contact while executing a smooth motion. This is really important because your body is moving through this shot, so it is even more important to keep the head still and the racket head super still at the point of contact to execute a clean shot while moving forward. Focus on keeping the follow through short and compact just like the backswing because you want to be prepared for the next shot quickly. Get your body set up in the ready position and balanced as quick as possible after the racket has come around on your follow through. Your goal should be to anticipate your opponents shot, execute your split-step and attack the incoming volley!
P.S. The approach shot in tennis comes in many different forms, fast, slow, high, low. You need to be able to decide when and where you want to come in and approach the net. Using your approach shot will put pressure on your opponent if you use it wisely! Utilize these tips and use a variety of different approach shots to keep your opponent guessing!