AT A HIGHER LEVEL EVERY PLAYER LOOKS GOOD. The top players seem to attack every point aggressively with big full swings on every ball. Their mindset seems to one of all-out aggression, with the goal of finishing points quickly
Likewise, their defense is at times miraculous. When you are attacking them, these top players seem to be able to change into defense and hit incredible winners from impossible positions in the court. During your match you begin to see this same scenario repeating often. Your attacking game is being ripped apart by your opponent’s incredible defense skills!
YOU COULD BE PLAYING A “COUNTER-PUNCHER” PRETENDING TO BE AN ATTACKING PLAYER!
Sometimes when you review the match later you begin to realize that actually your opponent seldom hit winners from offense. You begin to realize that the full swings he/she were taking were a type of disguise. While looking and sounding scary they weren’t actually your opponent’s main source of points. Most of their points were coming from defense, particularly their counter-punching whenever you attacked them!
YOU HAD BEEN PLAYING A COUNTER-PUNCHER AND YOU DIDN’T REALIZE IT!
I liken this to a fly being caught in a spiders web. You had continually player into the hands of the counter-puncher each time you attacked them.
Therefore, Step #1 “Know That You Are Playing A Counter-Puncher”
If you are unaware that your opponent is setting you up for the counter-punch you will keep playing into the same trap.
Counter-punchers need not be skinny nerds wearing thick horn-rimmed glasses. They can be muscular specimens with huge serves. Don’t be fooled by appearances
Which leads to… Step #2 “How Do You Attack A Counter-Puncher”?
The short answer is… with caution and intelligently
Any time you attack an opponent there is an element of danger. Offense usually involves you going inside the baseline, even as far as the net. With some opponents you’re going to win the point often this way. The sheer intimidation factor is enough. These opponents will give you lots of free points when you attack them… but not the counter-puncher!
When you attack the counter-puncher you are entering their world. You think you are controlling the point but you’ve actually played yourself into a world of trouble, and you’re in danger of getting tangled in thei web.
That’s the warning to be cautious! Now here’s how you attack a counter-puncher intelligently.
Playing offensively against a counter-puncher requires you to juggle 4 important dimensions successfully, all at the same time and on every point… (yes, it’s mentally very exhausting). The 4 dimensions to coordinate against a counter-puncher are:
You need to get your speeds right. The counter-puncher will prefer you to attack them at a certain speed (fast or slow). Learn the speed they prefer and give them the opposite speed!
The counter-puncher wants to take the speed of your ball and hurt you with it but if you don’t give them their preferred speed you have neutralized one part of their “web”
Your use of angles also needs to be done intelligently. Let’s first consider the counter-puncher themselves.
Attacking the counter-puncher wide will show you their preference for passing shots. They will try to pass you either down the line or cross-court and again, they will prefer one of these options over the other.
Once you begin to see their preferred option on the passing shot you can set-up a trap (web) of your own!
Now let’s consider the angles you will be giving the counter-puncher. As you come forward to attack the counter-puncher you need to make a decision on either going wide to the forehand, backhand or through the middle (into their body).
Again. Whether you attack the counter-puncher wide or through the middle will depend on what you are learning about their preferences as the match unfolds. Once you know their preference, give them the opposite.
Height of the contact:
The counter-puncher will try to get the ball as low as possible to as you come forward. They are trying to make you lift the ball and create a high bounce at their side of the net to help them pass or lob you.
You’ll need to play these low balls they are giving you intelligently. Do not dropshot these balls. Instead push these balls deep, either to a corner or down the middle (remember “Angles”).
Position of your feet for Contact:
Be aware of how far you are positioned over the baseline at all times. The closer you are to the net when you contact the ball determines how offensive you are in each particular point.
Likewise, if you can keep your opponent’s feet as deep in the court as possible while attacking them the chances of them passing you or hitting a winning lob are reduced
Counter-punchers are tricky opponents but the important thing is to identify them early in the match (if you haven’t already seen them play previously). Once you know you’re up against a counter-puncher your task is every bit as mental and strategic as it is physical