The First 4 Shots – the beginning or the end?

The first 4 shots

The first 4 shots

What % of your practice session or lesson is devoted to serve, serve return and volleys? Does a 60 minute session entail 50 minutes of groundstrokes and 5 minutes each for serves and volleys. Is the serve return even included in the practice session or lesson?  The typical practice session by touring professionals, as well as recreational and tournament players, is dedicated to consistency, forcing shots and winners hit from groundstrokes from the baseline.
New data from Craig O’Shannessy, lead analyst and statistician for many pro events, has concluded that hitting four consecutive balls in the court accounts for 90% of all rallies. During the Australian Open, the percentage of 4 shots or less was 70% for the men and 66% for the women.  While we may remember the 46 shot rally that Monfils had with Dimitrov in the Miami Open, the majority of the points probably consisted of 4 or less shots.  Regardless of the level (professional, boys 10’s, girl’s 16’s, 3.5 men or women), the majority of rallies consist of 4 shots or less.  Therefore, practicing the serve or serve return should be emphasized to win points immediately from one of those shots.  If you need or have to hit one shot in addition to your serve or return,  going forward to the net would position you best to make a winner or forcing shot.  The current theory of staying on the baseline and not advancing to the net may not be appropriate for today’s game.   Check out the video for a comparison of practice vs. match situations.

Cos and Judy had the opportunity to hear Craig’s presentation at the PTR Symposium and have been charting many matches in the clinics at PRC.    The data has held up as suggested.  Consistent groundstrokes are important and a good foundation for all players.  However, as Craig suggests, don’t spend 90% of your time on the practice court focused on something that happens 10% of the time in a match.  Work on your serve and serve return and think about what you want to do with your next shot – hopefully while moving forward.
Spring Into USTA Specialty clinics this week include:  
The First 4 Shots:  Thursday, March 31, 8:00-9:30 am and Wednesday, April 6th 9:30-11:00 am. Please reserve a spot by registering at the PRC front desk.

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