The Tidy Up
One of the best snippets of advice I tell my players is to “tidy up the rally”. The worst thing that can happen is when a rally gets scrappy.
Shots in the middle of the court are actually pretty tricky to deal with. Regularly I see a player feeling the need to try and win the rally off these tricky shots. They see the ball in the middle of the court and think “that’s a rubbish shot I must use this opportunity to hit a winning shot”, which is a perfectly understandable thing to think. In reality though, the ball is at an awkward angle and often squirming around at your feet. Either the ball comes at you quite quickly and you don’t have time to fully move out of the way to get in a technically good position to play a good attacking shot, or it takes ages to drop down, and in that time about seventeen different shots have popped into your head, and you end up playing none of them, but instead hit the ball back at yourself to give away a ‘stroke’. Sound familiar? I see it all the time; a poor shot is so often followed up by another poor shot, usually a mistake. It’s incredibly frustrating and we’ve all done it many a time.
My advice is that when the ball is this loose, just hit a controlled shot into whichever back corner you are facing, even if you feel you are missing out on an opportunity or hitting the ball back to where your opponent is moving from. This is by far the safer option. It prevents you from getting frustrated with yourself and you’ll also be surprised how effective it is. I call this “tidying up the rally”, and is relevant at every level of the game.
By pushing the ball back into a back corner in this situation, you are keeping your mind uncluttered which will allow you to hit an accurate shot. Hitting the way which you are facing (ie. straight) makes it even simpler in your mind and will prevent getting the angle wrong on the cross-court which could lead to another loose shot or even giving away a ‘stroke’.
So, in conclusion, these really loose shots are actually not a good opportunity to attack (even though they initially appear to be). Keep it simple and wait for a more controlled situation to attack, when you are fully in control of your movement, balance and your mind is uncluttered.