ETI 020 | Power Lines

  • ETI 020 Power Lines
    ETI 020 Power Lines

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Ours is a game of managing errors, of keeping the ball in play, and with each and every shot always playing the percentages.

Play the ball close to the line, you encounter the risk of an error.  Play the ball close to the line when the opponent is out of position, now the reward may outweigh the risk.

But worse, sometimes it is possible to lose points simply because you are never truly taking any risks.

With this in mind, consider the line of the incoming ball, and whether you return the ball back along that same line – and this play will always minimize errors.  You are playing essentially as a wall.  But if you change the line, such that you take a cross court and return if up the line, or you take an up the line and return it cross court – in those instances you are changing the line of play.

If the opponent hits the ball much harder (setting up a power line) then your decisions become much more important, said another way certain decisions expose you to much more risk.

I recommend always play back along incoming cross court power lines – minimize risk, let them change the line.


  • Calvin

    Reply Reply January 2, 2013

    Excellent pieces. Keep posting such kind of information on your page.

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    recommend to my friends. I’m confident they’ll be benefited from this website.

  • Stefan Nut

    Reply Reply November 30, 2012

    Hi Jim,
    We paid attention and practiced ”power lines” shots for several days. It’s amazing ! It totally changed the game, like a game from another world ! My son won for the first time an opponent who did not fight yet. Thanks!
    Best regards,

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 30, 2012

      Stefan – great email, I am on holiday on a tennis vacation with a group in Mexico – and your email gave me a late night smile
      and this power line thing totally changed my tennis world as well

  • Bud Light

    Reply Reply November 12, 2012

    Jim: As usual, good advise. I basically tell my student that, unless they feel they have a short down the line shot to hit, they should play cross court power lines and let the opponent do the work. Some people will attempt to continue to hit to your “weaker” side so there may be times when you have to take the initiative. I notice that lately Roger Federer takes continuous shots on his backhand and returns them with deep topspin shots crosscourt, which gives him greater margin for error and makes it more difficult for the returner to tee off on his backhand. Best, Bud Light, USTA; PTR.

  • ricardo

    Reply Reply November 8, 2012

    The point is to mantain a calm mind and let aside the desire of making THE SHOT!!!!

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply November 7, 2012

    Great job on the Tom Stow presentation, and that includes Brent as well. One of the reasons I enjoyed the Tom Stow presentation is that I have had such great benefit from staying low and avoiding bending forward or to one side these last two months…big improvement on consistency. Also, I’m now working within a higher control stringing tension.

    Yes, power lines, risk, spacing. For the first time I took out Efram 6-0, who use to do the same to me. I make him change the power lines and I keep a triangular area in my mind to avoid hitting into, see below, that helps me with one aspect of risk. When I’m stretched out I make an extra effort, add risk, to keep my shots out of the triangular area that I keep in my mind.

    Recently, I have taped a large triangle onto the court during practice (about 8 feet on either side of the service quardrant line)…works great for focusing on keeping my shots deep or angled…outside the triangle. By targeting and keeping it in my mind during a match, it helps me keep my shots outside the area of the triangle, making it harder for my opponent to take control. I pulled this targeting concept from a tennisone article on Aussie Rules: Learning from Lleyton Hewitt. It works great for me to have an area to stay out of to target away from as well as a target area all around the triangle to aim into.

    I still use Brent’s target area wide in the serve box corner for my chips and angled shots. Also i use the center of the service quadrant for my drop shots. I think a lot of drops shots are missed by my fellow players due to lack of targeting or, as you say, targeting too close to the outside line. 0

    Today, I hit all my drops, chips, and angled shots 100%. Like Salzenstein said, it works great to be obsessed with targeting.

    So when I’m hitting back along the power line, I’m also imagining the triangle and aiming either deep or angled outside the triangular area I can imagine in my mind to reduce the chance they can effectively take control or easily change direction – in effect helping me to avoid hitting short along the power line…ie falling into the imagined Hewitt’s triangle.

  • Robert A

    Reply Reply November 7, 2012

    Some people here are concerned about being predictable, but I think it is less important to disguise what you are doing than it is to get a nice shot back and make the guy across the net do it again. And do it again. As you pointed out, Federer puts a lot of pressure on opponents by doing just that.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 7, 2012

      Federer creates enormous pressure in this way – he rarely misses when defending back along the opponents power line

  • Sam

    Reply Reply November 7, 2012

    What you are demonstrating is just what my teacher emphasizes but he adds when you get a short ball on the return then it’s an opportunity to create an offensive shot.

  • Per, Sweden

    Reply Reply November 7, 2012

    Hi Jim
    That sounds like a good strategy. At least until your opponent spot that this is what your doing all the time. Than he should get a huge advantage since he knows exactly what to expect from you at every shot. Don´t you think?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 7, 2012

      Per – yes and no – yes if that is all you do, but no if you are only doing it on the really heavy incoming shots from the opponent

  • Grahame

    Reply Reply November 7, 2012

    Hi Jim, good stuff but what do you propose if your strategy of simply returning the ball back from where it came from originally becomes a loser because your opponent turns out to love this?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 7, 2012

      Grahame – good question and difficult answer – first job is to reduce errors – and this power line stuff helps on that – second job is to know why you are winning and losing points – and if your consistency on this results in losing points then you must gamble more and try to change the line if you can do that without error

  • olived

    Reply Reply November 7, 2012

    Hi Jim,
    Do you do this when somebody hits harder more direct shots as me, I should keep even then the same powerline? The match Delpotro Ferrer was a perfect exemple. What is your opinion how to play safely a hard and direct hitter?
    All the hest, cordially,

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply November 7, 2012

      Olived – yes, playing back along the incoming “line” tends to reduce errors

  • Brent Abel - WebTennis

    Reply Reply November 7, 2012

    Morning Mac.

    Power lines. What a great topic and so easily abused when trying to change the line of a tough incoming ball.

    What’s worked best for me with incoming pace and depth is to insure first that I’ve created the proper ‘space’ with my feet away from that power line.

    We can think of what the right shot is all day, but if the ‘spacing’ isn’t there, high percentage shot selections can still end up as unforced errors.

    Thanks again for including me on your panel for the Stow presentation last Sunday.


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