3 advantages to Jo Konta’s aggressive court position
Jo Konta yesterday won her second title of the season when she defeated Caroline Wozniacki in Miami. This was Konta’s first ‘WTA Premier Mandatory’ level title (the highest level under the grand slams). A lot has been discussed in the media about the level of mental and emotional improvement Konta has reached in the past 18 months, (also by us The Mental Rise of Konta), but she has also improved her physical game a huge amount as well. One of these physical aspects is her relentless high baseline court position.
What is Court Position in Tennis?
High performance tennis players who have trained and competed for many years have an ingrained habit to move toward particular parts of the court depending upon where the opponent will be hitting from. These positons will include both; side to side and forward and backward. For example, if a player hits a shot crosscourt they will generally position themselves diagonally opposite to wear their opponent will hit the ball from, if a player hits a deep shot which makes their opponent move further behind the baseline they may choose to move inside the baseline. These are only a couple generally examples of a very important aspect of high performance tennis.
Hawkeye and Court Positon
Hawkeye was introduced into tennis in 2006 mainly for disputed line calls, however the data gathered has also been able to show us many other important things that go on in the game. Overwhelming evidence has been shown from the data that playing closer to the baseline directly effects the result of the match. That is, if you play closer to the baseline than your opponent more often in the match you have a higher chance of winning than your opponent. The data continually shows players taking the ball on or inside the baseline have an advantage over their deeper placed opponents. Roger Federer has certainly been very successful with this strategy over the season so far and Konta is also reaping the rewards of staying up close to the baseline.
Konta’s Court Position and her 3 Big Advantages
Konta is always looking to take control of points, whether it be off her serve or her opponents serve or by controlling the rallies and getting herself into an offensive position in the point. She does this by staying close to the baseline throughout the point, not allowing her opponent to push her back very often. Keeping this court positon gives Konta 3 big advantages over her opponents:
Taking the ball earlier and on the rise
- Konta will return the ball to her opponent earlier
- Konta will have more speed on the incoming shot to work with so in turn will return the ball faster with more power
- Konta will create more angles on the court to use the closer she stands to the baseline
Efficient movement and energy conservation
- As Konta stays closer to the baseline she will strike the shot from her opponent before it has a chance to move away from the court and her. If she held a deeper positon she would more than likely have to take more steps to get to this shot
- Over the course of a match Konta is taking less steps to each ball and in turn saving energy over this time
Being closer to the net
- Setting up with a high baseline court position will give Konta the opportunity to take half chances that she creates by moving into the court and volleying. This movement and shot selection will cause more time pressure on her opponents and also allow Konta to finish points that may have been turned around by her opponents if she stayed rallying from the back of the court.
How Can Court Positon Help You?
As well as high performance players, club and social players can try to execute this strategy of a high baseline court position and also reap the rewards if executed well. Next time you are out on the court try to do these 3 things:
- work hard to stay closer to the baseline than your opponent
- hit your groundstrokes on the rise where possible
- use your advanced court position to move into the net more often and take any half chances your opponent may give you; looping groundstrokes or slices
What’s Next for Jo Konta?
The British number 1, has very much established herself at the top of the women’s game with improvement in her mind and body. On Monday she will go to a career high ranking of number 7 in the world. Her aggressive game style is positively contrasted with her cool and clam on court demeanour. If she continues to execute this aggressive court positon and reaping the rewards of all the advantages it produces while maintaining her composure she is a real chance to win a big event this year……..and I don’t mean a WTA Premier Mandatory!