Using D-N-A for Better Shot Selection & Consistency

By Mary Pat Faley

Feel like you game is hampered by a lack of shot consistency? Wish you had a simple plan to use during match play. Think D-N-A!

Most people believe that the lower over the net you hit the ball, the better the shot is. When the ball hits the net and dribbles over, people exclaim, “Great Shot!” It really is just luck though…it was technically not a good shot because it hit the net.

If you watch the pros in person, you will notice how much net clearance they get when they are rallying from the baseline (watching pros on TV is sometimes deceiving). League tennis player’s conception of high net clearance is that they are lobbing. But that is not what is meant by it. Hitting with topspin can definitely loop the ball, but is in no way a lob.

Here is a simple way of gaining great consistency while rallying from the baseline. I call this concept D-N-A, which stands for:

  • D = Defense
  • N = Neutral
  • A = Attack

On the court, you are always in one of these positions so follow a general rule of thumb for each one.

If you are hitting the ball from at least 1-2 steps behind the baseline, you are in a defensive position. You should therefore aim a safe 3 racquet lengths over the net. If you do that, the ball will land halfway between the service line and baseline. Always hit it with topspin.

If you are hitting the ball on top of the baseline, you are in a neutral position. You should aim 2 racquet lengths above the net. That ball will likely land between the service line and baseline as well. Again, hit this shot with topspin.

If you are hitting the ball from 2-3 steps inside the baseline, you are in attack mode. Aim just 1 racquet length above the net so that it hits halfway between the service line and baseline. You can hit this ball with topspin but possibly a little flatter than the other two shots. Using some topspin gives you benefit of time, offering you the option to move back to the baseline or head to the net in further attack mode.

And of course, if you are already at the net, you are in constant attack mode. Never hit the ball back harder than it is hit to you and consider going short to short when you are given a high ball. Otherwise, volley low balls back to keep it in play.