On paper, the players who can hit bigger serves and harder shots appear to be the favorites to win. Yet, in reality, it's not the case. For example, in 2005, Donald Young won the Australian Open Juniors. He was 15 years old. Most of his adversaries were physically fitter, had bigger serves and groundstrokes, and were more experienced. Some had ATP ranking points already. The difference in physical abilities between 15 and 18-year-olds is significant. Despite being disadvantaged on paper, Donald became the youngest male to win a junior Grand Slam event. Donald didn't have big shots and had a relatively weak serve. So, what tools did he use to win?
Donald absorbed his opponent's power, kept the ball in play, and never gave them any rhythm. But he had a weapon that most players don't develop, and few are comfortable dealing with: angles. Angles are non-linear, hard to move towards, and difficult to predict. Donald used angles to push his opponent off the court and to get himself closer to the net.
Every player can benefit from incorporating angles into their game. If you do, you'll get your opponent off balance, make your opponent run more, and force them to hit short. Angles are not difficult once you get yourself in the habit of using them at every practice session. Here is some advice getting better at hitting angles:
- You need to develop feel. So, practice your feel by rallying cross-court in the service box. Try adding as much spin possible while keeping the ball in the service box.
- When hitting regular cross-court from the baseline, try to get the ball to bounce out towards the doubles alley every time.
- Angles are difficult to hit in the middle of the point. Therefore, practice hitting them during points and get someone to feed you balls where you hit two to four regular shots before hitting an angle. One simple drill is to hit a deep cross-court, a down-the-line, and then angle.
- The last thing to keep in mind is repetition. You need to spend a long time practicing angles before you can use them well in a match. That investment is worth it!