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Winning the rally with movement pressure

Home > Articles > Singles tactics > Winning shots > Movement pressure

A smash isn’t always the best way to win a rally. Often you can win simply by increasing the movement pressure on your opponent.

Playing riskier shots

As your opponent falls farther out of position, you can change the style of your building shots. His shots will become less effective because he is under pressure; your shots will become more effective because you are not under pressure.

The general theme of these changes is that you will play riskier shots — shots that normally would give your opponent an opportunity to counter-attack.

Changes of trajectory

Your lifts and clears should become flatter, depriving your opponent of time. In a neutral situation, it is unwise to play very flat clears and lifts: your opponent will jump out and intercept them. But because your opponent is late recovering to his base position, he is unlikely to intercept these shots.

When your opponent is late recovering forwards, you can play slow drop shots. Normally he would seize the initiative by playing a tight net shot; but now, he is too far away from the net and will be forced to take the shuttle lower.

Similarly, you can play net shots with extra height, so that they pass well above the net tape and fall back down tight on the other side.

Changes of angle

Now that your opponent is out of position, you have more freedom to use cross-court angles for your shots.

For example, you can play cross-court clears more safely, because he is less likely to intercept them successfully.

As a general guideline, you should increase your use of the long diagonals. When your opponent is already under heavy movement pressure, it makes sense to force him to move the longest distance.

Changing your base position

When you have established heavy movement pressure, your opponent’s possible shots are limited and you can begin to anticipate a weak reply.

Recognise when this happens, and adjust your base accordingly. Typically this involves moving your base somewhat forwards and towards the straight reply, especially when your opponent is under pressure in the rearcourt (so you cover the straight drop shot).

There’s no point covering all the corners when you are confident that your opponent can’t hit them all. In extreme cases, you can narrow down your opponent’s possible replies to one corner. So go there! Don’t wait for his weak shot to confirm your prediction; get there first, so you can play a winning shot.

In most situations, your anticipation will be more subtle than this. If you’re less confident of your prediction, then simply move your base slightly towards the expected corner. For even more subtle cases, you can keep your base in the same position, but change your foot arrangement or your balance so that you are biased towards the expected corner.

To capitalise on your advantage, you must take informed risks. It’s not enough to assess your opponent’s capabilities: you must act on that assessment!