The strategies behind winning ‘the blast from the past’ Aussie Open finals!

What an amazing Aussie Open we have had in 2017. Its almost as if we have gone back in time eight years, which in fact was the last time the Williams sisters competed against each other in a grand slam singles final (Wimbledon 2009). The Roger/Rafa rivalry was in full swing back then also and these two were competing in almost every final on the tour. Back to 2017 and we will 0nce again have the privilege to watch two of the games classic rivalries. More of Roger and Rafa tomorrow, but first how is the women’s final going to be decided and which Williams will come out with the trophy?

Both Serena and Venus have very aggressive games and they adhere to two of the core strategies of tennis; control time and control space. At every level, tennis is game of positioning. If you can put your opponent in an awkward spot more often than they do it to you, then you have a great chance of winning.  Players control time by either hitting the ball harder or taking the ball earlier. Either of these 2 options will see the ball reaching your opponent quicker and hopefully stop them from getting in a balanced position to hit a tough shot back at you.  A player can control the space by hitting shots to the open court and making them move. If a player is moving continuously, their ability to set themselves with the correct footwork patterns will diminish as they will gradually get behind in the point and inevitably lose it from there. So back to the Williams sisters; which ever one of them can control the time and space more often will take the title in Melbourne tomorrow!

Now how specifically will they try to do this time and space controlling? I see there being 3 keys areas where Serena and Venus will look to take control of the match and put the other under time and space pressure.

1st Serve

Williams' serve

Serena has been well known for arguably the best serve in the history of the women’s game. This shot more often that not puts her on top of the point. The speed with which it comes down put her opponents under immediate time pressure, not allowing them to balance themselves and hit a decent return. Now Venus is no slouch in the serve department either. if Serena is known for the best serve in the game, then Venus is probably a close second. You don’t win 5 Wimbledon titles with out a bomb! Both sisters will be looking to take the initiative in their service games and destabilise the other.

Tip – You can also control the time on the serve like the Williams Sisters will try to do. Instead of looking for a rocket serve close to the lines, hit your serve to the body of your opponent. This will destabilise them and most likely stop them from hitting a powerful return.

2nd Serve Return

serena return

Once the first serve has been missed there may be a mini chance for the returner to get their hooks into the point. As discussed both the sisters have great serves, but the second serve will probably be the slowest and shortest ball they will receive in the whole rally. Taking advantage of this will be paramount. The sisters will have 2 options; hit the return fast and deep straight up the middle of the court to rush the other for time or hit aggressive in to the space to make the server move and put them off balance. From here a short ball my arise or an opportunity to move forward for a drive volley or volley. However the sisters choose to play this return against the other, the one who can win more than half the points in these return situations and in turn win more than half the points on their own 2nd serve will go along way to winning the match

Tip – Next time you play see if you can take the initiative on your opponent’s serve by hitting it fast back at their feet or hit it away from them so they have to run. Hopefully both options will provide you with a weaker/shorter reply to attack further.

Groundstroke 1st Strike

venus gs

The last key area is getting the groundstroke first strike in once the serve/return has been hit. The first strike in tennis is key in the men’s and women’s’ game, but you can see it far more clearly in the women’s game. Both Serena and Venus will try to remain up on the baseline taking the ball early to rush the other for time. They will look to take the advantage quickly off of a good serve or strong return. They both possess huge power and they will both create opportunities to hit away from the other and control the space on the court.

Tip – In an open play situation (after serve and return has gone) rally aggressive crosscourt and try to push your opponent back past the baseline or wider than the doubles line, this will often result in a short ball from your opponent that you can then hit down the line.

The Verdict

Its hard to go past a Serena Williams victory tomorrow. She has proven over the years that she comes to play in the sisters match up, as the 16-11 head to head record shows. They play similar games, were taught by the same coach, Richard their dad, so why is Serena more dominate? In my opinion she has 2 general areas where she is better; technically and mentally. Her technique is more sound than Venus and breaks down a lot less under pressure. Mentally she has been the best competitor the women’s game has every seen. Her ability to overcome adversity in matches is second none. Venus falls short of Serena in both these areas and when it comes to the crucial battle described above, Serena will be able to execute more often and for longer. So I’m predicting a number 23 for Serena at the Australian Open!

Check back tomorrow and I will give you my take on the men’s final. The leftie strategy of Nadal will be in full force against Roger, but what can the Swiss master do to try and stop the usual procession…..

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