The Dark Arts of the Defensive Baseliner – Master Coach Rocky Paglalunan shares 9 tennis tips on how to give your Opponent so much Rope that they Hang themselves.

The Dark Arts of Tennis Defense has it’s foundation in statistics and data. Tennis ultimately is more a game of errors made, than it is of winners struck. The mathematics is clear: the tennis player in a match who makes the most mistakes almost always loses the match. At all levels of the game other than at the very top of the ATP and WTA professional tennis game, tournament tennis players, club tennis players, competitive juniors and ladies leagues tennis, it is very difficult to consistently hit winner after winner from the baseline against an opponent who is determined to keep the ball alive shot after shot over the course of a best of three sets tennis match. Defeating a good defensive baseliner (also known as a tennis retriever or “pusher”) is not easy unless one has top quality weapons. Many players will lose by mentally checking out of the match or die a slow death by exhaustion. In this article, TAG Coach Rocky Paglalunan shares his 9 keys and best tennis tips to defending the tennis court effectively.

  1. Paradigm Shift Your Mentality to Concentrate on Keeping the Ball Alive and Your Error Count as Close to Zero;
  2. Raise your Physical Condition to Outlast Every Opponent;
  3. Apply the Wardlaw Directional Rules Patterns of Play;
  4. Spanish Defence when out of position;
  5. Master Middling the Ball and Dig in for Trench Warfare Up the Middle of the Court;
  6. Have a clear mind before the match begins which the Opponent’s weaker shot;
  7. The best tennis retrievers utilise the High looping High Bouncing Topspin;
  8. The best defensive baseliners own an effective backhand slice like Coach Rocky Paglalunan; and
  9. The best retrievers have an effective two shot pass against volleyers.

Paradigm Shift Your Mentality to Concentrate on Keeping the Ball Alive and Your Error Count as Close to Zero

TAG Coach Rocky Paglalunan
TAG Coach Rocky Paglalunan hits the ball deep into the opponent court

To be an effective defensive baseliner or tennis retriever, it is important to set your mind to be prepared that every tennis match can be a very long one of up to four hours. You must be prepared nutrition wise before your tennis match, and your tennis bag well equipped for an extended match. Mentally, you must set yourself to have incredible work ethic and willpower to keep the tennis ball in play, shot after shot till the very end of the last point played. It is a mental concentration to keep your error rate as close to zero as possible, so as to win the psychological warfare against your opponent.

Raise your Physical Condition to Outlast Every Opponent like Coach Rocky Paglalunan

TAG Coach Rocky, The best defensive baseliner and tennis retriever in Singapore.
Almost impossible to get the ball past Coach Rocky Paglalunan

Playing a defensive game is not only to outlast your opponent mentally, but it is also a test of your physicality. You must train very hard to develop your stamina and match fitness to keep up the same speed and intensity for a three set match of very long points. It is possible to win the match not just by opponent errors, but your opponent surrendering by exhaustion or cramps. Endurance is key to playing this style of game and a lot of this work can be done outside of the tennis court on the roads and in the gym. To be a “Pusher”, it is important to be extremely quick, have good anticipation, and be a human tennis wall from the baseline.  

Apply the Wardlaw Directional Rules Patterns of Play

Coach Rocky, the best tennis retreiver in Singapore

A famous coach, Paul Wardlaw developed a set out directional rules for consistent tennis. His idea, while basic, is extremely effective for competitive junior tennis and club level tennis. The idea is premised that for balls that cross the centerline of your body (Outside Shots) you should not change the direction of the ball when the opponent hits it very deep or hard on these shots as a high percentage play in terms of effectiveness, and also your court position. When changing directions on an outside groundstoke, change direction only when the tennis ball lands shorter and hit the ball so that is crosses your opponent’s baseline perpendicular to the baseline. For balls that do not cross the center line of your body (Inside Shots), it is better to change direction from this inside ground stroke and hit to the open court. Hitting deep cross court shots is high percentage tennis and entices the opponent into change of direction errors. It’s much easier to hit the ball back in the direction it came from rather than trying to hit it down the line if your opponent hit cross-court. It’s more difficult and takes more timing to change the direction of the ball. A defensive baseliner or tennis retriever must always keep this in rule in mind to minimise his own unforced errors.

Use the Spanish Defence when out of position

When you have lost your court position – when you are drawn out wide of the side lines and far behind the baseline, use the Spanish Defence. A lot of players in this situation will gamble for a winner with a hard hitting shot. However, this is a low percentage play that will result in many execution errors, and if the opponent anticipates it, you have taken time away from yourself and completely lost your court position. Instead, it is advisable for a defensive player in this situation to CONTROL TIME by lofting the ball high in to the sky such that you have more time to recover back into your ideal recovery position while the ball is in the air. It is not easy to take a very high ball out of the air directly and if you ball bounces deep, you may have neutralized all of your opponent’s advantage. If you are able to topspin this ball high to your opponent’s backhand, you may not only have neutralized your disadvantage, you may actually have turned it into an offensive situation.

Master Middling the Ball and Dig in for Trench Warfare Up the Middle of the Court.

Master Coach Rocky Paglalunan, one of the worlds best defensive baseliner.

Playing up the middle deep is actually an extremely effective tactic when every you are forced slightly wide. Hitting the ball to the deep middle part of the court limits your opponent’s angles for “angle begets angle”. Deep middling the ball puts you in good court position. It also creates a lot of opportunities for your opponent to miss out of the sidelines when they try to create an opening but have not enough space cross court. The best defensive baseliners or tennis retrievers use this play a lot and wait for their opponents take all the risk to force and angle before they counter attack with ease to an even bigger angle for a sucker punch.

Have a clear mind before the match begins which the Opponent’s weaker shot

A good defensive baseliner or tennis retriever is also very clear which is the opponent’s weaker wing. As opposed to attacking the opponent’s weakness, the retriever’s idea is to send the ball to the weaker wing repeatedly to extract the error by his opponent going for too much on his weaker shot. The retriever will also somehow have the mental target to “push” the ball to that weaker shot when he is in trouble so that he has a higher chance of “re-setting” back into the point.

The best tennis retrievers utilise the High looping High Bouncing Topspin

The best tennis retrievers know how to “shape” the ball’s flight in a high arc and lace the ball with tremendous topspin to so that it bounces around the three quarter court for safety. However, they also have two other intents with this topspin ball other than to keep it in, which is to make the ball high bouncing over the opponent’s shoulder or to push him back far behind the court. A high bouncing topspin ball is also difficult to time and take on the rise, resulting in many errors and many short ball opportunities to take control of the point.

The best defensive baseliners own an effective backhand slice like Coach Rocky Paglalunan

Whether you play with a single or double backhand, the best retrievers when forced on the dead run on the backhand are able to have extra reach and time through the backhand slice. Not only are they able to slow down the ball with a long deep slice crosscourt, they are also able to hit this shot to clear the net fairly low, with a tremendous amount of backspin such that after the bounce, the ball stays below the net. This not only gains you an additional second of recovery time for also forces your opponent to hit up over the ball. In addition, if the opponent continues to want to seive the advantage, the net is in play and his offensive shot will have to go up over the net and back down into the court, which could result in errors into the net or long over the baseline.

The best retrievers have an effective two shot pass against volleyers

TAG Coach Rocky Watches the Ball very closely.

The common method to counter defensive baseliners is to take them out of their comfort zone of pushing the ball into a large target of the court by coming into the net make retrievers hit big passing shots. However, the most experienced retrievers have a very effective passing shot game. They fully understand that very often, it is easy to block punch a volley off a fast ball for a winner. The best retrievers possess a deadly two shot pass combination, with a slower, low, steeply angled cross court shot that the volleyer must impart his own pace to the volley and also to hit up to achieve any meaningful depth, which is very difficult. This sets the retriever up nicely to pass on a second shot. A dogged retriever with an effective passing shot game is one of the most dangerous styles of play at all levels of the game except possibly at the very top of the ATP game. Indeed several world number 1s such as Juan Carlos Ferrero, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Murray play this deadly style of tennis.

Wrap Up: The Defensive Retriever, the human backboard, the wall

The defensive game is warfare against your opponent not just about tennis ability on the ball, but takes the fight to dimensions of psychological warfare through mental concentration and endurance, and physical warfare through stamina and fitness. It is a very effective style of play but one that requires a lot of hard work each match. However, if you master this style of play, it is one of the hardest styles of tennis to beat at almost all levels of the game.

The defensive baseliner game requires a lot of instruction, repetition and practice to perfect the above tennis patterns of play. Master this style of play with the best private tennis coaches such as Coach Rocky Paglalunan from the best tennis academy in Singapore, TAG International Tennis Academy by taking private tennis lessons. We can be contacted at +6598395232, or contact us HERE.

We hope you have found this article informative and helpful. This article is part of the TAG Definitive Guide Series which encompasses the best tennis tips available online. If you enjoyed this article, some other interesting tennis instruction articles you may like:

  1. Best tips to a reliable Double Backhand by TAG Coach Israel Abarquez
  2. Best tips to a powerful serve by TAG Coach Michael Mantua
  3. Best tips to a single backhand return of serve by TAG Coach Peter Egos
  4. Best left-hander tips by TAG Coach Parekh Pratim
  5. Best tips to a devastating one hande d backhand by TAG Coach Bo Alburo
  6. Best tips to a knee buckling drop shot by TAG Coach Ten Rapeepat
  7. Best tips to an effective Serve and Volley Game by TAG Coach Ray Evan

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