Improve your shot selection to win more matches

I´m sure you have heard the following sentence many times from for example your coach, your parents or maybe your tennis partners. Play the right shot at the right time! But how do you know what is the right shot to play? Working on your shot selection is the key!

Shot selection is the skill of hitting the right shot at the right time. No one is born with great shot selection but it´s definitely a skill that you can improve. As always, we got you covered 🙂 

The more you will work on your shot selection, the better you will get at it and the less you need to think about it. You want to make your shot selections as automatic and instinctive as possible.

Why shot selection is so important in tennis

Do you remember the match where you were leading by a lot but still lost the match in the end? I think many players know this feeling…… With good shot selection, this will not happen to you again. You will keep feeling in control when you you are leading and you won´t let the match slip anymore.

Having good shot selection will help you to stay focused during your match and therfor help you win your matches instead of messing it up because you have no idea what you are doing.

Fact: According to most statistics, if we manage to win 53% of all points played out during a match, we will most likely win that match!

Let´s give more explaination of what shot selection really is

At any given time during a point, you are in one of three conditions, defense, neutral, or offense. You need to clearly define which condition you are in to compete successfully.

If you attack the point at the wrong time, or have an opportunity to attack but fail to take that opportunity, it doesn’t matter how well you hit the ball, your game will lack meaning.

How do we manage shot selection?

Every shot you will play will go through 3 phases: planning, organizing and executing.

  • Planning: The first thing we need to look at is our resources available. For this we need to ask the following questions, which different shots are we able to produce with good quality and consistency? Which shots can your opponent produce with good quality and consistancy? What type of player are you? What type of player is he or she?

The higher your level is, the more options available you will have but the idea is to keep it as simple as possible.

  • Organizing: Once we know our resources available, it is a matter of organizing a strategy around our own playing style, strengths and around our opponents weakness.
  • Executing: During the rally we must choose the right shot and shot combinations at the right times. This decision making process happens very quick but it is very important to play it with the right idea, to enable yourself to get a better position on the court to hurt your opponent´s game more and more.

We will also need to consider the external playing conditions. For example the weather, the type of surface we play on, the type of balls and so on.

By working on your shot selection throughout these 3 phases you are on the right path to become a better tennis player.

These 2 tools can will help you to improve your shot selection

The DNO theory & Zonal tennis strategy

The DNO theory

The DNO theory is a tool you can use during practice to train your brain to think in the right way, so your perception becomes sharp and accurate, and your shot selection more automatic.

That being said, here are a few key fundamentals to keep in mind if you’re just getting started with the DNO theory:

  • Do not try to hit winners when in Defense.
  • Don´t make mistakes when in Neutral.
  • Look for chances that set up your Offense.

They’re simple, but they can make a big difference in your game. They can give you an edge over your opponents. 

How to check if you are on defense, offense or if the rally is neutral?

  1. The position of your feet when you contact the ball
  2. The height of contact in relation to the white band of the net


If your feet are behind the baseline when you contact the ball, you could be on defense. If your feet are inside the baseline when you contact the ball might be on offense.


If you contact the ball above the height of the white band of the net, you are on Offense. If you contact the ball below this white band you are in Defense.

Many players fail to clearly define their role with each shot during the point. This leads to poor shot selection and ultimately unforced errors. Learn to constantly see which condition you are in for each shot, Defense, Neutral or Offense, and respond correctly to each situation to improve your chance of winning.

Zonal tennis

Zonal tennis is a decision making strategy for the selection of your shots. Simply put, the zone where the ball lands defines the next shot and the height the ball should travel over the net.

OFFENCE/GREEN ZONE -> From the net to 1,5m from the service line.

NEUTRAL/YELLOW ZONE -> 1,5m before and after the service line.

DEFENCE/RED ZONE -> Last piece of the court. Approx last 3 meters of the court.

Improve your shot selection with the help of 2 strategies, the DNO strategy and the Zonal tennis strategy

Air zones

The air zones will guide you on how high you should hit the ball over the net.

OFFENCE/GREEN ZONE -> You will hit the ball 0.5-1 m over the net.

NEUTRAL/YELLOW ZONE -> You will hit the ball 1-1.5m over the net.

DEFENCE/RED ZONE -> You will hit the ball 2-3m over the net.

So, let´s make things clear.

When the ball lands in the GREEN ZONE, unless it´s a very good dropshot, you will be in the OFFENSE and you will try to keep the ball low.

When the ball lands in the YELLOW ZONE, you are more in a NEUTRAL position. You can go both ways and it will mostly depend on the situation. The angles that you can use are less big compared to the GREEN ZONE but still pretty decent. Because you are in a neutral position, you will mostly play the ball on a medium height just because it will be more difficult to hit a winner from this position.

When the ball lands in the RED ZONE, you will be mostly in DEFENSE. The odds you are going to win the point with the next shot you are going to play is not very high. The angles that you will have from this position are little compared to the other zones. So is it worth going for a winner from here? NO! You will lose way more points than you will win. When the ball lands in the red zone, you will be aiming higher over the net than in the other situations so that you can try to push your opponent back to get in a better position to dominate the rally.

Now you have all this info about how to improve your shot selection, go and try it out for yourself!

Try both of these strategies and see which one works for your game. There is no secret to these strategies but practice. You want it to feel natural to be a real part of your game.

See for your self which strategy feels more right to you. It may be the DNO Theory or the zonal tennis strategy or maybe even a mix of the 2.

Focus on your shot selection during your practices and matches and see the victories coming your way 🙂


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