Coaching Tips of the Week: How to Stop a Simple Third-Ball Forehand
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Larry Hodges

Coaching Tips of the Week: How to Stop a Simple Third-Ball Forehand Attack

(By Larry Hodges)

A common tactic for forehand loopers with good footwork is to serve short (often to the middle, to cut off the extreme angles), and when the receiver predictably pushes long to the backhand, the server simply steps around and forehand loops – either winning the point immediately or dominating the rally from the start. Often a player can even make a really good, deep, heavy, and low push to the wide backhand, and still the server dominates with his forehand. How can you stop this?

The problem, of course, was that while the push was “good,” it was predictable and very loopable. Here are ways to improve and vary the receive and stop the attack. (Most of these are also effective in stopping a strong backhand loop.)

  • Make sure the long pushes really did go very wide to the backhand so opponent has to move more. Often a player thinks he’s pushed wide, but the push is actually well inside the backhand corner. Push to the wide corner or even outside.
  • Push quicker off the bounce so as to rush the opponent.
  • Load up the backspin.
  • Long pushes should go as long as possible, to jam the opponent. Players sometimes think they’ve pushed deep, but their pushes actually land one or two feet from the end-line.
  • Aim to the backhand and at the last second quick push to the wide forehand to catch the server off guard.
  • Aim to the wide forehand and at the last second quick push to the wide backhand. This freezes the opponent as he thinks he has to cover the wide forehand, leaving his backhand open. A very simply way to disarm or at least hinder the server.
  • Learn to push the serve back short, so that (given the chance) it would bounce twice, and opponent can’t loop it. This is more common at the more advanced levels, as it takes touch. But you can’t develop that touch unless you develop it by practicing and using it. Once developed, it’s a huge weapon, and still the most common receive against most short serves by most world-class players, along with backhand flips.
  • Learn to flip the serve, to the wide backhand, wide forehand, and middle (opponent’s transition point). Against a server that wants to follow with a forehand, you would flip to the wide corners. This could be several bullet points but learn to flip both backhand and forehand. Note that many players find backhand flips easier – if so, then there’s no reason why you can’t step over and backhand flip short serves even to the forehand, as long as you step back quickly.
  • Finally, mix things up. Use all types of short and long pushes, and flips.

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