Attacking Out of the Middle

There are three ways to attack: with power, with precision, or by taking the ball on the rise or out of the air. We will look at all three, both when receiving a high ball and when receiving a low ball.

With Power

OFF A HIGH BALL

Here is an example of attacking out of the middle with power off a high ball. Attacking with power is more common off a high ball than a low ball.

OFF A LOW BALL

While it is less common, here is an example of attacking out of the middle with power off a low ball. This is more likely to be used by a big hitter or a player with a grip closer to eastern or continental.

With Precision

OFF A HIGH BALL

Attacking with precision off a high ball is not very common, but it may be the choice of someone looking to give themselves time to come to the net or someone who does not like to hit hard. Here is an example.

OFF A LOW BALL

Attacking with precision is more common off a low ball than a high ball. Here is an example.

On the Rise / Out of the Air

OFF A HIGH BALL

Here is an example of attacking out of the middle by taking the ball out of the air.

Tactical Keys and Drills

There are three main decisions a player will have to make when attacking out of the middle: whether to attack with power or precision, whether to wrong-foot the opponent, and when to take the ball out of the air.

Whether to attack with power or precision

DECISION FACTORS

There will be two main factors:

Height of the ball

It will be easier to attack with power on higher balls. On lower balls, players may have to add spin to keep the ball in the court which will naturally slow it down and call for more precision.

Gamestyle

A big hitter is more likely to attack with power, while a precision player is more likely to attack with precision.

DRILL

Have players play points, where Player A feeds an attackable ball of variable height to Player B. Player B must call "power" or "precision" before they hit to lock in their decision. This can be based on the height of the ball or their style of play. Have them evaluate after the point whether or not they made the right decision.

Whether or not to wrong-foot the opponent

DECISION FACTORS

There will be two main factors:

Opponent's court position

If the opponent is late recovering, the player may choose to hit to the open court. If they have already left towards the open court, the player should hit behind them.

 

Opponent's hips

If the player can see that the opponent's hips have turned towards the open court, they may choose to wrong-foot them.

DRILL

Player A starts in the corner and Player B starts in the appropriate position. Coach feeds an attackable ball from Player A's position. Player B must decide based on Player A's movement/position whether to hit into the open court or to go back behind them. The coach can adjust Player A's starting position.

Whether to take the ball out of the air or let it drop

DECISION FACTORS

Will the player have to give up space if they let it drop? If the player is going to have to back up to let the ball drop, they should take it out of the air. If they can let it drop and still retain good court position, they can let it drop, understanding that this will give their opponent more time to recover.

DRILL

The coach stands in a corner and feeds high, floating balls of varying depths. The player calls out “go” if they think they should take it out of the air, or “no” if they think they should let it bounce.

Technical Keys & Drills

For the high balls, the main priorities will be the spacing and the use of the body to generate power. For the low balls, the main priorities will be the footwork and racketwork.

FOOTWORK

On higher balls, the impact point must be further away from the body and further in front. It is common for players to get too close to the ball. The other common mistake is to make contact either too high or too low – contact should be at shoulder height.


On lower balls, players will have less time, and should therefore learn to approach the ball with double rhythm footwork (either shuffle-shuffle or crossover-shuffle).

BODYWORK

On higher balls, players will often try to generate power by increasing the speed of their arm. This can lead to erratic misses. Players should learn to generate power through increased use of the legs and increased body speed.

RACKETWORK

On lower balls, players must learn to add spin to the ball without adding height or slowing the ball down. The sensation of hitting “attacking height with rally spin” should be taught. The racket arm should extend through the contact.

FOOTWORK DRILLS

For low balls, hand feeding can be useful to help learn the double rhythm footwork.

For high balls, players can be asked to call out "yes" or "no" after hitting to assess whether or not their impact point was good. The temptation will be to get too close, so their awareness will need to be raised.

BODYWORK DRILLs

To increase use of the legs, have players sit on a bench before hitting. Alternatively, have them throw a heavy medicine ball.

To increase body speed, players should work on throwing a medicine ball without using their arms. 

RACKETWORK DRILLs

Basket feed low balls and challenge the player to hit less than one racket-length over the net. At the same time, set a second bounce target to maintain the speed.

Point Play Situations

For serve & return situations, see the serve & return page. Outside of the serve & return situations, this pattern will most often occur whenever a player breaks down in the rally.

CONTROLLED POINTS

  • The coach feeds a ball up the middle from the corner, and the point is played.

  • Two on one, where the two players must play short up the middle, and the one player must attack out of the middle.

  • Regular points, but if a player receives an attackable ball up the middle, they must win in the next two shots.

BONUS POINTS

Play regular points, but a player can earn 2 points for finishing the point with an attack out of the middle.

Babolat Logo

©2020 Zack Ohlin

GENERAL%20LOGO%20v1%20-%20Copy_edited.pn