Playing percentage tennis is a wise tactic; and the player who plays this type of tennis will likely win.  There are several levels of percentage tennis.  First, playing points in certain ways, regardless of your playing style, results in percentage tennis.  Second, percentage tennis actually changes to some degree, depending on what surface you are playing.  Finally, each player’s strengths and weaknesses determine his/her own unique, percentage tennis style.


1. When hitting ground strokes, percentage tennis dictates that you hit the ball high above   the net so it lands deep, near the baseline. The purpose of this is to keep the ball and the opponent deep on the baseline.  Percentage tennis requires this.

2. When rallying with ground strokes, hit 80% to 90% of these shots crosscourt.  By doing this, you will have the ball cross over the lowest part of the net.  The net is three feet in the middle and six inches higher at the doubles sideline.  In singles, the net is six inches higher at the singles sideline.  Hitting over the lowest part of the net gives you the largest margin for error.  Percentage tennis means hitting more ground strokes crosscourt.  

3. When hitting an approach shot, hit 80% to 90% of these shots straight ahead.   If you are in the center of the court, hit your approach shot to the center of your opponent’s court.  If you are near the deuce court’s sideline, hit the ball straight ahead to the opponent’s ad court sideline.  If you are near the ad court’s sideline, hit the ball straight ahead to the opponent’s deuce court sideline.  This will minimize the angles the opponent has to hit a passing shot.  Sometimes, if you are getting passed, try to hit down the middle; so you don’t give the opponent any angles to pass you.   Percentage tennis dictates that approach shots should be hit straight ahead.

4. When volleying, expect to hit at least two volleys to win a point.  The first volley should be the setup volley. The volley placement should be deep and safe.  The second volley, should win the point.  But, be prepared to hit more volleys if necessary.  Percentage tennis requires that you are prepared to hit more than one volley to win the point. 

5. When serving, get the first serve in.  Sometimes, this means that you take the pace off the first serve.  Big serves that are out, do you no good.  However, if you first serve is “on”, don’t be timid.  Go for the ace.  If your serve is “off,” you have to get the first serve in.  Try serving for placement rather than power, especially on critical points.  In doubles, it’s a must.  Percentage tennis requires that you get the first serve in at all cost.

6. When in trouble in a defensive situation, “lob.”  Players go for winning shots when they are in a bad situation.  It’s a poor percentage shot.  When a wide shot has you off the court and out of position, the percentage shot is a lob. This will give you time to get back into the point.  A deep lob will keep the opponent deep behind the baseline.  Percentage tennis means using the lob to get back into the point.

7. Most slower tennis surfaces mandate that a player be patient and wait for the opportunity to hit winners.  Short balls, high volleys, overheads and when the opponent is wide off the court; that is when you need to win the point.  However, playing the score will help you to play the right shot.  If you are ahead in the game score, you can take more chances.  If the score is deuce, you have to play it safe.  Percentage tennis means that you are patient and wait for good opportunities to hit winning shots.


Court surfaces are an important factor when considering percentage tennis.  The types of surfaces are hard-tru (green clay), red clay, grass, indoor (carpet, etc.) and hard courts.  For the purposes of percentage tennis, the player needs to assess two factors about the surface: speed and how high the ball bounces.  These two factors are usually interconnected.  Slow courts usually make the ball bounce higher; fast courts usually make the ball skip and stay low after the bounce.  On grass courts, all balls skid and stay low.


Here are some guidelines for surfaces by playing percentage tennis.



1. Hit ground stokes higher and deeper, sometimes with less pace.

2. Use more topspin, but be careful not to hit ground stokes short.

3. Don’t try to serve aces, or serve and volley.  Sometimes you can serve and volley, 

    giving the opponent a different look.

4. On short balls, don’t be afraid to drop shot or go for short angles.

5. Don’t try to end the point quickly unless you get the right shot to go for a winner.

6. Fitness is the key.  Always run your opponent on this kind of surface. In a long match,            

    you could cause your opponent to tire in the later stages of the match.  Be patient.



1. Serve and volley is the best strategy here, especially on grass.  You can serve and                                                   

    volley sometimes on hard or indoor courts also.

2. You can use big first serves on this surface. 

3. Fitness is not as critical here.  The rallies will be shorter.

4. Slice shots and short angle volleys are great on these surfaces.

5. You can hit the ball for more winning shots.

6. Hit the ground strokes flatter and harder.

7. Usually on these surfaces, you either win or lose points fast.  Be prepared for either.  


Regardless of what surface on which you are playing, percentage tennis demands that you stay with a winning strategy and change a losing one.  If you keep playing a losing game you will continuously lose.  “Think.”  Change the game by trying different shots.  You don’t have a thing to lose.   Maybe you can win the match.



Don’t change the direction of the ball in the following situations.

1. If it is hit with a lot of pace

2. If it is hit to your weaker side

3. If it is hit with lots of slice

4. If it skips off the surface or line


Percentage tennis means that you understand your strengths and weaknesses and those of your opponent.  The rule here is very simple.  Hit 80% of your shots to your opponent’s weaknesses.   By doing this, you will notice that sometimes your opponent begins to improve.  He/She could then continue improving as the match goes on.  When this diminishing weakness occurs, try to hit winning shots that will force you opponent to miss or make an error.


By playing percentage tennis, you will think more.  The more you think, the more you win.

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