Being left handed tennis players has many advantages and statistics from the United States Tennis Association have shown that roughly 10 percent of players in the world are left-handed. Over the years there have been many lefties that have dominated the sport, from Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe to Martina Navratilova and Rafael Nadal.
Left-handed champions have used their advantages to win many major titles. The tactics utilised by world class lefties can also be implemented at club level. Whether you are left or right handed, I hope to explore a few of the areas in which lefties can be effective so that if you are a lefty, you can hopefully work on these OR if you are a righty, then hopefully you can work on how to combat a lefty.
Rallying cross court
There is a much higher percentage of right handed players out there and they are used to playing other righty’s, but a lefty will get to play more right handed players so they will automatically have an experience advantage when the two meet. It would be fair to say that most peoples strength is their forehand and a higher percentage of shots in a rally are cross court.
Obviously, when two righties play a cross court rally, they will hit to each other’s forehand but when a lefty gets to hit their forehand, they may have the advantage of striking it to their right-handed opponent’s backhand. Now you may say, “Well that’s the same for a right handed player hitting their forehand to the left handed player’s backhand.” That’s true but because the lefties play the majority of their tennis against righties, then they are more used to having to defend these shots on their backhand.
Serving out wide is a fantastic weapon that any lefty can use to great effect against a righty. When a lefty serves on the advantage side of the court, they can use the slice serve to swing the ball out wide onto the right handers backhand. The lefty should then be looking for a weak response to take control of the point. Again, because the right isn’t used to receiving the ball at this angle from right handed players, they will have to adapt more to come up with a good return.
One of Rafa’s major weapons is his ability to apply a huge amount of spin on the ball so it kicks up high on his opponents or moves around a lot so it’s hard to judge. Now if a lefty can use spin coming in from an angle that the right handed players aren’t accustom to, then this makes for a very interesting tactical battle.
One very successful tactic for the lefty is to hit a forehand crosscourt and apply lots of topspin to a high looping ball. The ball will then kick up high onto the righty’s backhand which is always a tough ball to defend. Another good tactic for the lefty is to hit heavy slice off their backhand to the right’s forehand, so they have to dig-up the low ball.
Opportunity to get to the net
As we now know, the lefty has a great advantage off their forehand and serve to drag their opponent’s out wide. With this in mind, they should be looking to take the opportunity to get to the net and finish the point with a volley into the open court.
Things to consider when playing a lefty
To help prepare a righty for battle against a lefty is important and here are a few areas of consideration:
- When a lefty serves, they are likely to apply spin that will make the ball move more to your left, so be aware.
- When lefty’s use the slice serve you may wish to start a little bit further to your left so that you’re not over-stretched on the backhand return, but also be aware of the lefty serve down the middle that could swing into your body.
- Try to hit your forehand crosscourt and your backhand down the line so that you keep the lefty stretching for backhands.
- When serving from the ad court, try serving down the centre of the court.
- Try serving as wide as you can to the lefty’s backhand when you are at on the deuce court and if you can apply slice to the ball, this will also help the ball spin away.
- Try and avoid hitting to lefty’s forehand so they have less opportunity to use it against your backhand.
Scouting a player
Whether you are right or left handed, it is always good to watch your opponent in action before you play them, but extra attention needs to be paid for a lefty as they ball will be coming in differently from each direction. Look at how they react to their opponents shots and how you can get an edge over them.
There are certain clue like do they tend to aim for certain areas on the court more often than others? Do they have a preferred shot that always seems to be a winner? This will highlight their strengths. It is always good to look into player’s patterns and shot combinations from the moment they serve. You can find out whether their targets are consistent or random or whether they like to get to the net or stay back.
When in a match, righties must stay focussed as initially they could be disturbed with the tactics employed by a lefty. They must give themselves time to get into the match and not let their emotions take over. Many times have players taken a lead to have the match turned around once the opponent figures out how to play the person down the other end.
Final tip for a lefty
Check the direction that your grip is put on. Most rackets are gripped in line with the contour of the right hand, so put your grip on upside down. The racket will feel a lot better in your hand and you will feel a lot more comfortable.
My advice to any player is to try and practice against lefty’s whenever they get the opportunity so they are better prepared in matches. People are like locks and there is a key for every lock…you’ve just got to find it!