Friday, April 6, 2012


Knowing when to attack or defend is crucial

Playing tennis is a little like a car. The engine will drive you forward but without a means to change gears or steer the car, there’s no real way to use the car in a purposeful manner. 

Many players, particularly in the women’s game rely solely on how hard they can hit the ball.  The faster the better.  It’s all about the engine!

When I watch a tournament, the players that catch my eye are those who can change from offense to defense and understand which shot is the most appropriate for the situation.  This ability to change gears and understand the shot required is a difficult lesson to teach as it has nothing to do with stroke mechanics but instead requires a player to learn instinctiveness under a variety of situations.

The best theory I know to teach this instinctiveness and one I have used for many years is The DNO Theory. The DNO Theory helps a player understand the correct shot to hit under varying situations within a match. It’s a match play theory made famous by Master professional Peter Burwash.

There are 3 potential situations during a point. (a) A Defensive situation (b) a Neutral situation, and (c) an Offensive situation. Once a player understands which of the 3 situations they are in, they can respond correctly.  The criteria to help a player understand which situation they are in depends on two important rules:

  1. The height of the ball when you make contact with the ball
    1. If the ball is contacted above the white band of the net you are in an offensive mode
      Any ball contacted above the white-band of the net puts a player in an offensive mode
    3. If the ball is contacted below the white band of the net you are in a defensive mode

  1. The position of your feet when you make contact with the ball
    1. If your feet are inside the baseline, you are in an offensive mode
    2. Creating "Inside feet" and balls above the white band is the ultimate goal
    3. If your feet are outside the baseline, you are in a defensive mode

These 2 rules account for the defensive and offensive situations. The third situation is Neutral and this is when a combination of offense and defense occurs.

Imagine a player goes forward to the net.  If the next shot they play is above the white band, that’s offensive feet position and offensive ball height.  However if the opponent hits the ball to the feet of the net rusher (below the white band of the net) the situation is (1) offensive feet position, and (2) defensive ball position.  When a combination of offense & defense occurs there is a Neutral situation.

When teaching or learning the DNO Theory the first step is to develop the ability to know which situation you are in, and to always hit the appropriate shot. 

I insist on 3 key important DNO fundamentals from my players:
  1. The purpose of the serve is to create feet inside the baseline for the 2nd shot
  2. Never make mistakes in Neutral
  3. Attempt to neutralize defense. Never try to hit a winner from defense.
Use the DNO Theory to master your options on-court and also to recognize weaknesses within your opponent’s options

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