#14 A B C D
Cut the baseline up to find better ways to extract errors
Understanding the 4 Positions
This is always going to be a place to hit forehands for right-handed players. This area can be a goldmine against players with great backhands, taller players who are slower to move to their forehand and players that cheat a lot wanting to hit run-around forehands in the Ad court. You can absolutely attack Position A.
The good news about Position B is that it does not open up a lot of angle and typically the ball comes back to Position B for you. If you don’t want to run a lot or you don’t want to create angle in the point then Position B is a really good place to play.
My research indicates that this is the most critical area on the baseline for one main reason – will players settle for backhands or work a little harder to create run-around forehands? Position C can be a place to constantly upgrade to forehands and attack the whole court. If you are hitting backhands in Position C quite often you have to hit the backhand somewhat inside out to attack Position A on the other side – far from ideal.
This is going to mainly be backhands for right handed players but those that are willing can definitely hit a lot of aggressive forehands from out wide as well. Backhands cross court will mainly come back cross court, but if you can step up around the baseline then the ideal backhand is down the line to really hurt the opponent.
Andy Murray: 4 Match Forehand Error Analysis
Everyone has a weakness – even the best players in the world.
Cutting the baseline up into four locations is the best way to find your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses from the back of the court.
Take for example the following four matches.
2013 Australian Open Semi: Murray def. Federer 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2
2012 London ATP Finals Semi: Federer def. Murray 7-6(5), 6-2
2012 Wimbledon Final: Federer def. Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
2012 Shanghai Semi: Murray def. Federer 6-4, 6-4
Newsflash! Murray is weakest in A!
This may have been something you felt but until you see the numbers you really are only guessing. The thing to remember is that Murray does not run around a lot of backhands in the Ad court – although he certainly does at times. When you get an opponent like this here is the best way to play them.
- Primary reason to hit to the Ad court is to open up a hole in the deuce court.
- Federer had great results attacking A early in the point – not letting Murray hit a bunch of backhands first.
- Make Murray run hard in A for more errors.
2008 Los Angeles: #137 Amer Delic reaches the Quarters
A simple shift in strategy yielded immediate results.
Aggressive Backhands to A instead of D.
I first started working with Amer Delic in January 2008 when he was ranked #132 and won the Dallas $50K Challenger, only dropping one set to take the title. It was a great beginning and in the next two months Amer would make the Rd16 of Delray Beach and Qtrs of Las Vegas, racking up three Top 100 wins over #95 Donald Young, #84 Jurgen Melzer and #32 Potito Starace. Amer would also win the Carson $50K Challenger in May, also only dropping one set.
Even though things were progressing well, Amer was still losing too many points in Ad court exchanges going backhand to backhand. In short, taking a backhand from D cross court to D usually did not produce a forehand for Amer and he kept hitting backhands in D until the cows came home.
This all came to a head with an extremely tough loss in July in the quarters of the Lexington Challenger to #98 Dudi Sela. Dudi won 2-6, 7-6(6), 7-5 and Amer only converted 2/17 break points for the match. I have never seen a match where a player dominated so much and somehow found a way to lose. I videoed the match and we spent almost the entire next day going over the tape trying to figure out exactly what happened – to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
The bottom line was that Amer was getting stuck in the “Backhand Cage” in Position D. By taking backhands cross court from D to D he was just giving Dudi the angle to push him wider to D when the ball came back. It clearly didn’t work and a change was needed. Fast forward two tournaments and this is how we fixed the problem.
ATP250 Los Angeles – August 2008
- Rd 32 defeated #76 Dudi Sela 6-4, 6-4 – Amer lost to Dudi a month earlier in a $50K Lexington, KY Challenger. We spent the entire day after the match analyzing it. Amer hit way too many backhands cross court in that loss and Dudi hit way too many run-around forehands. In LA Amer attacked down the line with his backhand which was the main key to victory.
- Rd 16 def. #30 Carlos Moya. 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-6(5) – This was a huge match for Amer – the third highest ranked opponent he defeated in his career. Moya was amazing at turning backhands into forehands so we specifically targeted backhands down the line to Moya’s forehand in A as the Primary way to attack him
- Qtrs lost to #24 Juan Martin Del Potro 7-6(6), 6-4 – Amer was up a break for most of the first set by attacking Del Potro’s forehand in A. His backhand was incredible but he was slow to move to A and coughed up a lot of errors there. Amer could have won this match but for a few loose volleys. Del Potro won Stuttgart and Kitzhbuhl coming in, would beat Roddick in the final of LA and win Washington the following week. cutting his ranking from 65 to 17 in 2 months.
Backhands down the line to Position A were the key to Amer’s solid run to the quarters.
#272 Rajeev Ram jumps 179 spots in 12 months
Rajeev had a problem with his backhand and understanding A, B, C and D was the solution.
July 2011 #272.
July 2012 #93.
That’s 179 spots – mainly because of rallying with his backhand to Position B instead of D.
A huge mistake players and coaches make is thinking the naked eye catches everything. Nothing could be further from truth. In Atlanta in 2011 I videoed Rajeev’s three matches against Dimitrov, Hewitt and Harrison to see exactly what was going on in his matches.
This is SUPER IMPORTANT for you to understand.
I sat on the side of the court and watched every match the matches with my own two eyes. I then went the extra mile and Tagged each match in Dartfish. I then analyzed each match – reviewing the analytics and patterns to find critical information for Rajeev’s continued improvement. And even then the most criticial piece of information was still eluding me.
It wasn’t until I looked at the analytics of ALL 3 MATCHES COMBINED did I find the most important piece of information in Rajeev’s career – he had NO BACKHAND DOWN THE LINE TO POSITION A OR B.
Uncovering this was GOLD – Dimitrov, Hewitt and Harrison had 19 combined backhand winners – Rajeev had one (a net cord).
ALSO – Dimitrov, Hewitt and Harrison had 53 combined forehand errors – not one resulting from Rajeev’s backhand down the line.
LEFT PICTURE – The Problem. Taking a backhand cross court with D only meant one thing – more backhands in D!
MIDDLE PICTURE – The Solution. Going to A is not an option as a rally ball as you open up angle to A and are on the run. Going to C still gave angle back to D. The perfect place was B as a ball in the middle tends to stay in the middle and Rajeev would now be standing in his favorite spot (B) doing less running and now hitting forehands instead of backhands. It’s like hitting the lottery twice!
RIGHT PICTURE – Rajeev’s big strength with his forehand (the mace) is not so much inside out through the Ad court like most players but a more traditional flat, hard bomb cross court through the deuce court. With so many opponents moving so well to their left to turn backhands into forehands in the Ad Rajeev would catch them cheating with this hard, flat missile. A perfect play for him.
Once we understood A, B, C and D the following three things massively helped Rajeev’s game.
- Rajeev started hitting rally backhands to B to stop him hitting so many backhands.
- Rajeev also ran less because the rally was played much more in the middle of the court now.
- Rajeev got to hit many more forehands in B – his favorite place to stand on the court.
2013 Montreal Semi: Rafael Nadal def. Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2)
Rafael Nadal successfully attacked Novak Djokovic’s forehand as the latest strategy adjustment in their legendary rivalry. Nadal won only two more points than Djokovic (97 to 95) but controlled more baseline rallies than we have seen from their battles in recent times.
Nadal switched gears in Montreal in pounding Djokovic’s forehand, extracting 35 groundstroke errors and 12 return errors to create a consistent pattern of play he could repeatedly run, especially in the deciding third set tie-breaker.
Nadal raced to a 6-0 lead in the tie-break and won it 7-2 as Djokovic committed six forehand errors, including five in a row after Nadal won the opening point. Nadal successfully developed attacking Djokovic’s forehand in the deuce court over three sets and ran it to perfection when he needed it the most at the end of the match.
In a very even contest on the scoreboard, Nadal always seemed to have his nose in front after breaking in the opening game of the match and not having to face a break point in the deciding third set. He played with more confidence than normal against Djokovic as he was able to control a greater number of baseline rallies and have a hole in the court he could go to on the big points.
Djokovic committed 10 forehand errors in the opening set, 10 in the second set and 15 in the deciding set as Nadal chose to hit the ball far more where his opponent didn’t want it rather than where he normally prefers to hit it.
Nadal has struggled against Djokovic on hard courts in his career (now 6-11) mainly because he could not break down Djokovic’s backhand in his favorite Ad court lefty pattern. Djokovic’s backhand was once again rock solid in this match with five winners and only 13 groundstroke errors. The difference is that Nadal did not overplay it, which was definitely the case beginning in 2011 where he lost seven straight times to Djokovic trying to force his old tactic on an improved opponent.