Let’s be clear. Nobody wins the warm-up. However, if you start scouting your opponent during the warm up just before the match, you will start with a clear edge over your opponent who is probably just focusing on his own shots.
During the warm up i also always used to focus on mostly on my own game, my footwork and technique. Until i discovered it´s actually my opponent i should pay the most attention to during the few minutes of warm up just before the match.
In every tennis match you play, you not only have to play to your strengths, but you also need to figure out and take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses.
Every player has weaknesses. An inexperienced player will have lots of weaknesses. A better player will have fewer weaknesses. The very best may seem as though they have no glaring weaknesses, but they will have areas of their game which aren’t as strong as others.
You could be playing someone with a higher ranking, better technique and more experience. On paper, they should win. But tennis isn’t played on paper! Even if you have less technical ability, you can still win if you use the right tactics to exploit an opponent’s weaknesses.
Similarly, you could be the higher ranked player facing a weaker opponent. You should win, but if you play to their strengths rather than their weaknesses, or play without thinking at all, you could find yourself in a spot of trouble.
Every player is unique and will have different strengths and weaknesses. A tactic which works against one player, may not work against another. Your job is to identify his game and use the tactics which work will work.
It´s time to understand how you should scout your opponent! What should you do and look for during the warm up?
Hopefully you’ve already scouted them before you step on the court together. If not, the warm-up is your chance to understand the game they are about to play.
The warm up that you and your opponent make together officially takes 5 minutes. Use them effectively.
- Is your opponent a righty or lefty
So the first thing you want to see if your opponent is a righty or a lefty. Hopefully you’ve already scouted them, but once you are actually hitting with them you can get a better feel for their shots. An absolute must to understand! it might seem very obvious but still many players don´t pay attention to it.
2. What is the physical condition of your opponent
Is your opponent on the heavy side or are they pretty fit? Do they move quickly or slowly? Playing against a heavier opponent, you’ll most likely run him or her around and try to tire them out. With a fitter player, you may have to be more consistent, more accurate in your shot placement.
3. Which groundstroke seems more consistant?
Also, determine their ability to play offensive and defensive shots. Many players defend well on the backhand side but defend poorly on the forehand side. Meanwhile, many players are able to attack well on the forehand side, but struggle to attack a ball on the backhand side.
How do they handle fast balls, slow balls, high balls and very low balls? Try to vary your shots a little to see what is easy and difficult for your opponent.
4. Is your opponent comfortable at the net or not at all?
Does your opponent go at the net during the warm-up or not at all? If not, you have a clear sign that your opponent is not comfortable at the net at all. Normally every player goes to the net during their warm-up, it´s part of the game.
Try to test him/her when at the net. Hit some low shots, some high ones and vary with the pace of your shots. Try to see which of the volleys seems more stable, is it the forehand or backhand?
What about the overhead, is this a strength or a weakness of your opponent.
5. What kind of serves is your opponent showing during the warm up?
Does you opponent serve the ball with a lot of speed? Does it has any spin or slice on it? Where does your opponent serve most of the times? Wide/Middle/T?
Should i adjust my normal return position to be able to hit a good return? forward or back maybe even side ways.
If you implement these scouting tips into your next match warm-up, you are going to start the match with an advantage, ready to crush your competition. Best of luck!