Short, Crosscourt Angles
(2 diagrams below)
When playing singles or doubles, using a short, crosscourt angle can be an effective weapon. But, like any other shot, it has to be learned, then practiced under simulated match conditions to become reliable. Using the following drill progressions will help your players add this important tactic to their games.
The short crosscourt angle to the forehand forces an opponent to take several steps wide and into the court. This sets up the next shot, deep to the backhand, which forces the opponent to run wide and backward in order to hit a backhand, often resulting in an error or a weak return which can be put away. The short crosscourt ball in singles is also an effective shot against a player with an extreme Western grip because of the difficulty these players have hitting low-bouncing balls. Additionally, the short crosscourt ball is the recommended first shot when an opponent charges the net (see Passing Shot Drill).
In doubles, a short crosscourt return of serve at the recreational level is extremely effective in the ad court (when playing against a right-hander) because it forces the server to run in and hit a low-bouncing ball to the backhand. This is especially difficult for players with a two-handed backhand and also opens up the court for a winning lob on the next shot. The short, crosscourt angle is a great weapon for the ad court player to use on a key point, especially against a weaker second serve.
The key to learning to hit the short crosscourt shot is to learn not to try and hit short! Players who try to hit short inevitably chop at the ball with an abbreviated swing and hit a weak ball that sits up in the middle of the service box, which is easy for opponents to hit. The key to hitting the short crosscourt ball is to learn to hit wide — not short. A ball hit wide will not only land shorter in the court, but will get there faster and travel out of the court. The following drill will help your players learn how to hit effective, short crosscourt balls.
Drill for Singles
Step #1 — Have players line up on the baseline at the center service mark. If you have many players per court, you may have players line up two at a time, just to the right and left of the center service line. You will run the drill twice without giving any instruction so players can gauge their current ability to make this shot.
Step #2 — Feed players three balls each, to the outside of their bodies (forehands to deuce court players, backhands to ad court players). Players try to hit the ball crosscourt into the opposite service box, with the ball landing out of the court (wide) on the second bounce. As with any line drill, players must get three chances on each side for proper learning and to make the appropriate adjustment. Players should recover to the center of the court after all three shots, going to the end of the line from the middle of the court, not the side. Don’t let them practice hitting the third ball running backwards after they hit the third shot because they want to get to the end of the line.
Step #3 — After players have tried each line twice, ask them to suggest how to make short crosscourt shots. Explain the concept of hitting wide, using a full swing, rather than hitting short. Explain that to move the direction of the ball, they should use their normal stroke, but just change their contact point (hitting earlier).
Place t-shirts or towels over the net in the center of each service box, telling players to hit their balls over the t-shirts. Have them concentrate on where their balls cross the net, rather than where they land. Depending on the size of the towels or t-shirts, coach may want to move them slightly closer to the alley (not too much). Make sure you experiment with location before you do this drill. You may also place them in the center, and tell player to hit to the left or right of the towel or shirt.
Step #4 — Go back to the drill, having players use the target as a guide to understand that concept of hitting wide, with a full stroke, rather than short, with an abbreviated stroke.
Step #5 — After each player has had a chance to try each side once or twice, exaggerate placement. Have players go through the line, purposely trying to hit balls in the alley, to make sure they are hitting wide.
Step #6 — After each player has had a chance to try Step #5 on each side, have them go back to the drill one more time on each side, trying to get the ball in the court.
Step #7 — Remove the net target and have players try to hit short crosscourt without any reference. Have them visualize the towels or T-shirt. Tell them that if they are going to miss the shot, they should miss it wide, not long or short.
Step #8 — After each player has had a chance to try Step #7 on each side, have them go back to the drill, this time being eliminated if they miss the short, crosscourt shot into the service box, which lands out of the court on the second ball. If they make the shot, they get a second and third attempt. Coach can make an eliminating game to determine the King or Queen of the Court.
Drill for Doubles
Step #1 — Have players line up on the baseline at the side line, from the return position. Two players can participate at a time.
Step #2 — Serve three, weak second serves to each players, to the outside of their bodies (forehands to deuce court players, backhands to ad court players). Players try to hit the ball crosscourt into the opposite service box, with the ball landing out of the court (wide) on the second bounce. Players must get three chances on each side to have learn and make the appropriate adjustment. Players should recover to the center of the court after all three shots (especially after the third ball).
Repeat Steps #3 through #8 of the Singles Drill.