Indoor tactics needed to win the ATP Finals

The 2016 ATP season can be best described as a year of two halves. The first being dominated by Djokovic and the second taken over by Murray. Going into the ATP World Tour finals, the year end no.1 ranking is still up for grabs, so what will it take to win in London with the faster indoor conditions and more specifically what will the 8 finalists have to do themselves to have good week at the showcase end of season event?

Tactics employed by players indoors can vary to the tactics employed outdoors or on slower surfaces. Why are their different types of tactics for players on an indoor court?  One of the biggest differences is obviously the environment. There is no wind and no sun, which make it much easier to time the ball correctly, that is the oncoming ball is much more predicable and readable for players. The increased ability to time the ball correctly will make the ball travel faster through the air, which opens up the mind-set of being more aggressive.

5 Tactics for Indoor Tennis

Hit 1st serve flatter and slice the 2nd serve

The faster environment indoors gives players the opportunity to take more risks on their first serve, that is, hitting harder, flatter and closer to lines as the reward for this risk will be much greater than an outdoor court. If a player can also keep their 1st serve percentage high, they will be very tough to break. The same theory stands true for second serve, players can take more risks on it and use slice spin more often. The slice serve will stay lower and skid away from the returner hopefully causing them to contact the ball in an uncomfortable position and if they do hit it back in the court, the server has a shot that they can really attack on.

Make more returns

As I said above, servers will more than likely go for more on their serve as the rewards are greater once it goes in. So the returners job more than ever is to get a racket on as many returns as possible, get them into play and just keep on plugging away and asking the question of the server to come up with goods. This sends a great signal to the server to say that ‘when it’s not the best serve, I will be there ready to make you play a better 3rd ball. And if I can put a couple of these together at the right time I could sneak the all important break.’

Be more Aggressive from the Baseline

Keeping the ball deep in the court and looking to be proactive and getting the first strike of the rally in are keys to being effective on an indoor court. Doing this will also keep your opponent away from the front of the court and not allow them to be in control of any rallies. To be more aggressive from the back of the court you will also need to position yourself closer to the baseline than you may on an outdoor court.

Move into the net more often

Moving into the net will be rewarded more often when playing indoors. As players will generally play closer to the baseline and try to be more proactive they can move into the net faster when opportunities arise.  This will take more time away from the opponent. Ghosting in to the net to finish with a volley can be very effective.

Have more patience

As we have discussed, indoor conditions mean that fast serves get a lot faster, ground strokes get bigger and the points get shorter. This may be something that a lot of players are not use to do, but it is something they must accept to be successful indoors. Staying patient and calm is very important in times when you may not get the ball back in court for a couple of points in a row.

The indoor tactics each tour finalist will need to win

Now these are by no mean the only things that each player will have to do to perform well, each player has a different style of play and they will have to play to their strengths first and foremost but below are some things I think they will need to adapt more in order to perform very well at this event.

Andy Murray

  • 1st serve percentage high
  • hit his backhand down the line flatter and more often
  • use his exceptional return game to break down the big servers

Novak Djokovic

  • 1st serve percentage high
  • counter punch and play closer to the baseline
  • use his exceptional return game to break down the big servers

Stan Wawrinka

  • step closer to the baseline on return
  • hit his backhand line effectively
  • ghost into the net more often after strong groundstrokes

Milos Raonic

  • 1st serve percentage high and use the slice second serve
  • hit forehands more aggressive from the baseline
  • serve and volley, chip and charge on second serve returns and generally get to the net to finish with volleys

Kei Nishikori

  • needs to make big servers play more second shots, so making a lot of returns
  • use forehand from the baseline with good depth to take initiative
  • hit the first serve flatter

Gael Monfils

  • be more proactive from the bassline by flatting out shots on both sides but especially on his forehand
  • use his athleticism to get balls back and make players play extra shots
  • stay with the correct focused mindset throughout the week

Dominic Thiem

  • stay proactive from the baseline, changing direction more often than when playing outside
  • come forward to the net after dominating groundstrokes
  • use his athletic ability to his benefit by making lots of balls in court

Marin Cilic

  • high 1st serve percentage
  • aggressive from the baseline on both sides but especially the forehand
  • look to get into the net whenever possible

ATP World Tour Finals Winner – Andy Murray

Yes I can hear you all now, what a surprise the Scottish coach picks his country’s hero. Of course I will have a little bias but never have I had to argue so little on this one, he is no.1 in the world, the first Brit to it and only the 26th man to ever achieve it. Having said that he does have a tough group featuring 2 of the last 3 players to beat him in Nishikori (at the Us Open) and Cilic (at the Cincinati Masters) as well as the US Open Champion Wawrinka. I’m sure Novak will also be out to reclaim his crown. However he is the man in form at the moment and I’m confident he will win this event for the first time and finish 2016 as the no.1 player in the world.

To sum up, I would like to challenge you lot out there to experiment with these indoor tactics and give them a go next time you get on court. The winter season has now begun and a lot of tennis in the UK will be played indoors over the next few months. So get those slice serves, flat backhands down the line and net charging skills out of the cupboard and onto the court!

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