Tennis Player Types
What are the different types of players in tennis? What is each player type called and which strategies do these players use to their advantage? Read on to learn all about the most common tennis player types.
What Are the Types of Players in Tennis?
There are several different types of players in tennis. Each type is characterized by its own unique style of play. Most tennis players fit under one of the main player types, based on their preferred tendencies and tactics used throughout the course of a match.
The list of player types in tennis is expansive and hardly limited to just a handful of play styles. However, the most common types are as follows:
- Aggressive Player
- Aggressive Baseliner
- All-Court Player
- Counter Punchers
- Junk Baller
It is important to note that the difference between each player type is not necessarily seen in the player’s swing or hit speed, but rather in their on-court alignment and placement of the ball as the match progresses. For example, some players like to stand near the net and hit overpowering shots to outscore the opposition, while others prefer to position themselves far away from the net and instead focus on hitting high-arching shots with lots of spin.
An aggressive tennis player is simply a player with an offensive-minded approach. Whereas some players employ a defensive approach that involves hitting simple returns and waiting for the opponent to make a mistake (i.e. hitting the ball into the net), aggressive tennis players are all about generating scoring opportunities. They are a threat to score at any given time, favoring powerful line-drive shots requiring exceptional speed and hand-eye coordination in order to be returned.
An aggressive play style is advantageous in that it makes the opponent vulnerable to hitting high-arching pop up shots (in a desperate attempt to save the ball from bouncing twice and losing the point) that are easy to spike down onto the court with force. Being too aggressive can backfire, however, as skilled opponents that are capable of consistently returning the ball can often catch the aggressive player out of position and place the ball well out of reach.
An aggressive baseliner is a player that is a combination of a baseline player and aggressive player. They typically play shots from the baseline, controlling play from deep in their own court. However, unlike typical baseliners, they will play quite aggressively, going for winning shots consistently throughout a volley.
The best way to beat an aggressive baseliner is to force the player towards the net, an area of the court that baseliners prefer to avoid at all costs. This can be done by hitting a series of drop shots, which are lightly hit shots in which the ball just barely travels over the net before bouncing on the opponent’s side of the court.
Since baseline players rarely find themselves near the net, they will often hit poor return shots when forced to make a beeline towards the center of the court to counteract a drop shot. From there, a simple shot in which the ball is skied over the head of the returning player and landed in-bounds towards the very back of the court will almost always result in winning a point.
An all-court player is versatile and well-rounded, as they are able to adapt to any type of opponent they are facing. They are comfortable with an arsenal of different shots, and can play both aggressive and defensive when needed.
While it is obviously a huge advantage to have a wide array of shots at your disposal, being an all-court player typically means that none of your shots are particularly lethal. This means that while your advantage as an all-court player is your versatility, the downside is that there is not a single go-to shot that could dominate your opponent.
Baseline players are focused on controlling the game by hitting strategic shots that force the opponent to move around a lot. This makes it more difficult to successfully return shots in the long run, as the opponent often must scramble from one side of the court to the other in order to return consecutive shots. A baseliner tennis player rarely charges towards the net, instead opting to stand relatively close to the baseline (the boundary line positioned at the very back of each half of the court).
Moreover, baseliners further attempt to stifle their opponents by hitting angled shots, in which the ball does not merely travel on a straight trajectory. For example, a baseline player that makes contact with the ball while standing on the right side of the court is likely to hit the ball diagonally towards the left side of the opponent’s half. This strategy again makes it very difficult for an opposing player to reach the ball in time over the course of a several-hit rally.
Counter punching is another defensive-centered strategy, in which players try to force their opponent’s into making silly mistakes. Players that employ the counter punching strategy are true students of the game, studying their opponent’s tendencies and movements leading up to the match.
Knowing how the opponent is likely to react when faced with a certain type of shot is key to every counter punchers’ success, in that it allows them to hit deep, high-arching return shots that often force the opponent into making a mistake because they are virtually impossible to hit with force and precision accuracy.
Counter punchers seldom hit shots that are referred to as winners. A winner is a shot that the opponent is unable to return, resulting in a point being awarded to that player/team. Since the counter puncher strategy relies heavily on defense as opposed to hitting tricky shots, points are mostly scored from errors committed by the opposition.
Junk ballers are great strategists that specialize in frustrating the opponent and making each successive shot virtually impossible to predict. Unconventional footwork, ball spin and mechanics all play a part in taking opponents out of their comfort zones and neutralize what they are trying to accomplish.
The junk baller is arguably the most unorthodox player type. Unlike baseliners or aggressive players, junk ballers do not try to overpower the opponent with blazing shots. Rather, they alternate between several different shot types, such as moon balls (hit extremely high into the air) and rapidly slicing balls that travel from one direction to the other mid-flight.
Pushers are defensive-minded players who score points by continually returning the ball until the opposing player makes an unenforced error. Since pushers need to be adept at returning virtually every type of shot, they are often smaller in terms of physical stature and in excellent cardiovascular shape. These attributes allow pushers to cover lots of ground and chase down shots until the opponent becomes fatigued and forfeits a point by failing to put the ball in play.
Much like junk ballers, pushers are incredibly frustrating to play against at times, as a high motor and reluctance to concede easy points often leaves the opposition tired out and desperately searching for ways to score.
Serve-and-volley is a strategy in which players rush toward the net immediately after serving so that they are ready to hit a volley afterwards. Serve-and-volleyers are one of the most basic types of tennis players and are the opposite of baseliners who stay back on the chance they can hit a groundstroke. This classic style of play has decreased in popularity over the years as new racquet technologies allow for greater topspin on passing shots and groundstrokes.
What are the types of tennis players?
The most common types of tennis players are aggressive baseliners, serve-and-volleyers, junk ballers, all-court players, counter punchers, baseliners, aggressive players, and pushers. Each of these types of tennis players has a particular set of skills and unique strengths. For example, junk ballers tend to play a technical game in terms of spinning shots, where they attempt to mislead their opponent when hitting a shot.