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Strategy

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It can be said with some justification that tennis is the most difficult of all ball games to play. The reason is that since the ball is solid, it can be hit hard and fast and can be spun in all directions. Furthermore the angle of wall and floor and the peculiar hazard of the tambour (which diverts the ball across the court) makes an inexperienced player very uncertain in which direction a ball will travel. Finally the racket head is small and to hit the ball in the middle of the racket is at all times extremely difficult.

To spectators it may seem easy to hit the ball. To players it often seems unbelievably difficult. If the ball is undercut, then, when it strikes the wall at the other end of the court it will drop sharply downwards, making it difficult to return. For this reason good players cut the ball and do not, as in lawn tennis, topspin the ball which causes it to bounce high off the back wall and presents an easy shot to the opponent.

The court is asymmetrical and in general it is an advantage to be at the Service end of the court. This is principally because the layout of the court makes it easier to win outright winners from the Service side. There are certain openings in the walls of the court which give the player who strikes the ball an outright point, these are the Grille and Winning Gallery at the Hazard end and the Dedans at the Service end. Furthermore, the player at the service end can score an outright point by making the ball bounce twice at the Hazard end, provided the second bounce is beyond the service line. The server also has the advantage of aiming shots at the Tambour, off which the ball comes at an awkward angle. Strategy in real tennis often revolves around gaining service as soon as possible and retaining it as long as possible.

A correspondent of The Times newspaper described it as ‘running, jumping and hitting chess’. There are a wide variety of serves, returns, and shot selections, which need to be combined strategically based on the match situation.

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