During this time off for tennis it has been a good opportunity to look back at matches and shots that have really stood out and made a difference. One shot in particular that I will begin with is one of Serena Williams’.
We can only imagine what it is like playing someone like Serena. What she has done in the sport and her presence on court itself must be daunting. When the umpire says ‘Mrs Williams to serve’ it must send a shiver down your spine.
Over the years Serena has produced brilliance but a lot of her brilliance has come when she looks on the ropes in rallies.
Serena pulls you into a false sense of security in rallies. You can feel like you have an element of control but she has the answers and makes a comfortable position pretty uncomfortable in a shot.
All this happens from going back behind your opponent.
This below is from Wimbledon match against Kerber in 2016.
Serena is pushed back but now turns the tables. At this point Serena could delay her contact with the ball and pull it into the open space and take control but Kerber could get to it. Instead she takes the ball surprisingly early and goes back behind towards Kerber’s backhand but she isn’t anticipating it and is now unbalanced and can’t get to the forehand.
Next vs Suarez Navarro in Madrid
Carla is a tricky player as we know, she’s in control of the rally and backs Serena into a corner. The expectation is on Serena to go up the line and you can see the Spaniard getting ready to cover this.
Serena once again goes back behind her opponent, Carlas is unbalanced and Serena hits the winner.
The next is from Brisbane a few years back against Sharapova
The ball is sat up perfectly for Serena to go down the line but she doesn’t.t Instead she decides to get back behind Sharapova and pull her off balance and went onto win the rally two shots later with a backhand down the line.
Why go back behind and not into the open space?
Going back behind sends the ball closer to the opponent than if Serena had gone into the open space so why?
Going into the open space plays into the opponents hands, it is what they expect to happen. Even someone as clever as Serena players expect the open space to be targeted but it gives them a better chance of moving to the ball.
The opponents body shape and language gives away how ready they are to move into the space where as going back behind derails the balance and allows Serena to take unquestionable control of the point.
I think it is one of the most underrated shots in tennis, it is something you don’t look at immediately during a match but has a big say in the control of it.