#18 The 2-1

The 2-1 is the favorite baseline strategy of the pro’s.

 2013 Miami Semi: David Ferrer def. Tommy Haas 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 

The 2-1 is a secret to David Ferrer’s successful baseline strategy.

The 2-1 is a three shot sequence that begins in the Ad court by initially disarming the opponent by pushing them back (depth) then it stretches them wider off the court (direction) which opens a gaping hole in the deuce court to finish the point.

The 2-1 was the master plan for Ferrer’s win over Tommy Haas, propelling Ferrer to the final against Andy Murray. Ferrer had to twice come back from a break down in the third set to defeat Haas and his relentless pursuit of forehands in the Ad court was thekey ingredient for the big win.

Ferrer is a master tactician of gaining control of an Ad court rally which most players on tour prefer to begin the point with by attacking their opponent’s more consistent but less venomous backhand wing. Ferrer hits his backhand very flat and he hardly ever misses. He almost exclusively takes his backhand cross court, as he did against Haas, to lay a clever trap to wrestle control of the Ad court with his forehand and develop his favorite 2-1 strategy.

Ferrer only hit two backhands down the line from 117 total backhands that landed closer to the Ad court sideline than the center line. He only hit eight total for the match that landed in the deuce court. While many players, such as Novak Djokovic, Janko Tipsarevic or Stanislas Wawrinka, love their backhand down the line, Ferrer for the most part dismisses this shot to relentlessly pursue his 2-1 pattern. Ferrer is obsessed with turning backhands into forehands in the Ad court and will eagerly run all the way outside the Ad court doubles sideline to do so.

Ferrer’s forehand was the most dominant shot in this match as he hit almost double the amount of forehands (240) as Haas (127).

Ferrer’s forehand accounted for 67% (240/357) of his total groundstrokes while Haas was only able to hit it as 37% (127/337) of his total groundstrokes. That edge gives Ferrer much more control of baseline play.

Hawk-Eye visualization showed Ferrer was just as likely to hit a forehand standing in the deuce court as the Ad court while Haas only hit 19% (25/127) of his forehands as run-arounds in the Ad court.

How It Works

The start of the 2-1 pattern begins with Ferrer’s incredible footwork and anticipation. Ferrer hits his backhand cross court to make his opponent uncomfortable just enough that the returning cross court shot can be run around and turned into a forehand.

Then the master plan kicks in for the Spaniard.

The initial part of the 2-1 strategy is dominated by a deep forehand through the Ad court to his opponent’s backhand that pushes them back to a part of the court where they can’t hurt him.

It’s like defusing a bomb. The weight of Ferrer’s run-around forehand also means it can’t be hit down the line with authority so Ferrer just waits in the Ad court for it to come back, just a little bit weaker. Brilliant.

Ferrer then climbs the ladder up to the baseline and unloads with another run around forehand, this time designed to stretch his opponent wider into or past the Ad court alley. It would be suicide for the opponent to take this ball down the line so they come back cross court where Ferrer is waiting slightly inside the baseline to attack.

The third shot is the killer.

Ferrer crushes yet another run around forehand but this time it is hit to the wide open deuce court for a winner – or forces a very difficult on-the-run forehand that is most likely missed by his struggling opponent.

Sometimes, like against Haas, Ferrer has to go a little deeper in the rally to develop the play, running a 3-1 or a 4-1 – hitting more Ad court balls with his backhand or forehand before the deuce court opens up.

Sometimes it’s also a 1-1 where he gets to change directions immediately. He will patiently wait for the play to develop or jump on any short ball to inflict directional pain.

  • Ferrer directed 67% of his shots through the Ad court against Haas, which mirrors the two-to-one ratio that is required to run the 2-1 pattern.
  • Haas hit 61% of his shots through the Ad court, sometimes dictating but more often than not reacting to what Ferrer gave him.
  • Both players hit exactly 77% of their shots from behind the baseline and 23% inside.
  • Ferrer winning 76 points that lasted longer than 10 shots to Haas’ 63.

In a match that lasted just over two hours, Ferrer was able to win more of the small battles all over the court and dominate the back of the court with run-around forehand.

Go Do This

 This is the number one baseline tactic on the pro tour.

The first step is all about depth. Disarm your opponent by initially pushing them back.

The second step is to move them off the court to open a hole on the other side of the court.

The third step is about hitting an unspectacular winner to a wide open court. 

 Your opponent will have to change directions to go to the open court at the start of the 2-1. That’s tough.

Sometimes it’s a 1-1. Sometimes it’s a 3-1. It’s okay if you have to reset and start again in the middle of the point.

This is point construction at it’s finest. Simple, yet ruthlessly efficient.