Read the Ball – Wide, Middle, Late
Frequently players are heard to say “I know where they are going to hit because I am reading their racquet”. At the speed that a racquet goes, that statement is nearly impossible. What you can do however is “read” the player or the ball.
Players who step comfortably into a ball will usually hit the ball across their body. This means that a right handed deuce side player who hits a comfortable forehand is probably going to hit the balls somewhere between the center of the court and the opposite deuce alley. Opposing players are frequently taught to “track with the ball” which in this case would have them move to their left. What was just learned above is that the ball is usually not going to be hit down the line; therefore the opposing net player is in a position that renders them useless. If that same player held their ground or even shifted slightly toward the center of the court, they would now be in the path of the ball.
Conversely, our deuce side player who gets a backhand is probably going to hit the ball somewhere between the middle of the opposing Deuce court and the Ad side net player. Using the “Across Their Body” theory, gives the net player a huge advantage because they now have a reasonably good idea of where the ball is going to go.
There are two exceptions to this basic rule – our Deuce side player gets a short, high, “fluffy” groundstroke. This ball will typically be driven down the alley. The second exception occurs if a player is running late for a ball due to being out of position or receiving a powerful shot. These “late” shots will typically go “straight” in front of the player who is hitting e.g. our Deuce player hitting a late forehand will probably be forced to hit the ball down the alley. Just remember; Wide goes wide, Late goes straight.