Skip to content

Disguise shots and how to use lack of power

In a previous blog, I wrote at length about how to reset and use gentle blocks to take the heat out of the rally. There’s a scenario where you can use the same soft grip, soft hands and angled paddle in an offensive way when on top of a point.   The situation is this: you and your partner are at the NVZ, the opposition are both behind the baseline but have been moving backwards to retrieve the ball, maybe from a lob or a drive volley. Their shot is coming at pace back with the ball above the height of the net. 

Strategically, they are likely expecting something hard at their feet as the usual rule is “keep them back and aim at their feet”. If you see that they are back and “on their heels” (body weight backwards), you can simply play a block volley but take as much pace off the ball as you can. A little bit of side spin can help.  If you set up for a punch volley which has a similar look and setup then just relax everything at the last second, you can “sell a dummy” and get the opponent scrambling forward and lunging to get the ball.  This is likely to create a pop up if they don’t get to the ball quickly enough or hit with enough control. 

Disguise shots work predominantly in two ways: change of pace and change of angle.  Change of pace is exampled as above.  It’s where things go slow when they should be fast and vice versa.  Both of these rely upon last minute changes: either a very quick acceleration or a sudden deceleration/change of intention. If speeding up, you need to try to minimise backswing and focus on rapid acceleration directly through the intended path of the ball. I use the phrase “exploding through the ball” to verbalise the speed and acceleration needed. The best speed ups look like a dink and all the extra stuff happens at the last possible second. There’s no need to change what you do, like a more conventional tennis ground stroke with a bigger back swing. Set up for a dink, decide you’re are going to drive then fire the kinetic chain rapidly with your wrist and forearm doing almost all the work (I’ll cover more on kinetic chains when it comes to serving in a future post).

For change of angle, whilst it’s a last second change, it’s about subtlety and looseness rather than explosion. A lack of tension in your arm allows the looseness to flex and rotate your wrist to fool your opponent. As a general “tell”, changes of angle come from a vertical/upright paddle, especially on dinks, and from the wrist rolling late or early . Horizontal paddles are more likely for a change of pace, especially with volleys. If there’s a change of angle from a horizontal paddle, watching the elbow as much as the wrist can help you see it coming. 

There are two rarer types of misdirect: the misdirect using just the elbow and the shoulder misdirect. The elbow misdirect effectively “punches” the elbow forwards to suddenly change the angle right at contact. It looks a bit like a chicken flapping its wing but not the “chicken wing” where you are attacked at your paddle shoulder. The shoulder misdirect is the same but where the player “lags” their shoulder and torso to make contact a fraction later and turn a cross court shot into one that travels straight ahead.

The one common disguise shot that I’ve not covered is the classic NVZ speed up but that’s deserving of a whole post on its own. Plus one on how to defend them more easily too…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *