Centering the Opponent- Deep and Down the Middle

Jack Kramer (hopefully you have one of the old Wilson Kramer autograph wooden frames) played deep and down the middle when in a rally.  Note, with his serve and volley game, rallies were less frequent, but if he was stuck in a neutral position, he favored deep and down the middle.

Deep and down the middle essentially moves the opponent behind the baseline, but perfectly centered.

As regards “time and angle” – moving the opponent behind the baseline will diminish their angle of play (you will run less) and increase your “getting to the ball time”

Further, any shots to either sideline from a deep and centered position create less “angle” than a shot placed to the same spot when hit from either corner.  Said another way, you can find much more angle on cross court shots if you are playing from the corner than if you are playing from the center.

Novak Djokovic is the master of this “centering” tactic, especially on return of serve.

This centering tactic creates pressure on the opponent – essentially baiting them to make the first move.

Please give me your feedback – Do you use this play? Has it been used against you?


  • Luiz O Muniz

    Reply Reply February 10, 2020

    Excellent tip. Much appreciated

  • Noushin

    Reply Reply February 8, 2020

    Many thanks for sharing your invaluable knowledge and information. All the best.

  • fsilber

    Reply Reply February 8, 2020

    This strategy was helpful at first for overcoming my nerves and not to retreat to pushy, tentative strokes. But against my current opponent I had to stop using it.

    He is a 77 year-old guy with a very old-school game — flat and slice. His weaknesses are that he cannot generate his own pace very well, and if he has to take more than a few steps he is stranded out of position and cannot get back in time.

    His strength is that if he can reach the ball easily he is invulnerable to depth and pace — and he has excellent consistency and control. He likes to wait just inside the baseline. If I hit him a high, very deep shot he will volley it from just inside the baseline. If the ball is merely reasonably deep he will take it on the rise and hit to the corner. If my shot falls a bit short, he will take it at the top of the bounce and direct it short and sharp to the sideline. Hitting down the middle results in my being run out of position as he takes time away from me until I break down.

    On the other hand, if I can loop a slow topspin ball cross court to the sideline — short and sharp is better — I will make him run past the sideline. He will not be able to manufacture pace to hit the winner, and unless he places it perfectly I will have a large open court for hitting my slow winner.

    I suppose you can say I do follow your strategy — but only for the first shot, when he moves me to a corner. Then I go for the sharp cross-court rather than hitting high and deep to the middle.

  • Steve K

    Reply Reply February 7, 2020

    I always use this play. Lately, I’ve developed a sharp cross-court forehand that lands at the crossing of the side line and the service line. I hit it on purpose.
    My usual forehand has always been to slug it down the line for a winner, but now I have 2 options.
    The third option is to slice your forehand down the line and follow it in to the net. Your opponent can try to pass you down the line (almost impossible) or pass you crosscourt. Many good players with two-handed backhands will pass you crosscourt. Federer can hit a crosscourt half-volley drop shot instead of a slice down the line.
    Don’t hit short! The point is half-lost if you do.
    Steve K

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply February 7, 2020

      Steve – thanks for this – do you have defensive options if they play you deep and down the middle?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply February 8, 2020

      Thanks – but a question – do you have answers when others play this deep centering tactic against you?

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field