How to Win a Tennis Match Against a Better Player

  • Play to your strengths
  • Expose their weaknesses
  • Take your opportunities when they arise

   Your Guide

Gavin Davison   Gavin Davison

It goes without saying that when you PLAY BETTER PLAYERS, the odds aren’t in your favor.

After all, that’s why they would be viewed as being a better player THAN YOU ARE!

How to win a tennis match against a better player

Now, unless your name is Novak Djokovic, you are going to play against players who are better than you.

That’s just the nature of the sport, and I am most certainly including myself in this category.

I’ve played many guys over the years that were BETTER THAN ME. 

They may have been:

  • Physically Stronger
  • Fitter
  • Hit the ball harder
  • Been more crafty
  • Or a whole range of other things

But at the end of the day, they were a better player than I was.

At the same time, I can tell you that they didn’t always beat me.

In fact, I’ve managed to come up trumps against many guys who were better tennis players than me in the past. 

I don’t say this to pretend I’ve got the magic recipe to beat better players.

I say this to encourage you that it is possible IF YOU STICK at the points highlighted above.

And on that note, let’s now get a little more specific as to what you can do.

A breakdown of the tactics to beat better players

To keep things simple, I won’t be talking about court surfaces, conditions, or anything of that nature.

Instead, I’ll be focusing on the things that you CAN CONTROL, rather than discussing ELEMENTS that are beyond your control.

This is actually something that one of my favorite coaches used to tell me OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

By focusing on what you can control, there’s a better chance that you’ll:

  • Stay Calm
  • Play Well
  • Get the Result you want

So, here are the tactics in GREATER DETAIL:

1) Utilize Your Strengths

Once you get to a CERTAIN LEVEL in tennis, you really should know what your strengths are.

Taking myself as an example, I have always been a fit, quick, and consistent player. This puts pressure on my opponents to HIT WINNERS back to back, and it forces them to go close to the lines to win points.

On top of this, I have always had a decent forehand TO OPEN UP the court.

These are my strengths, and if I was playing a better player, I would try and perform well in these areas as BEST I CAN. 

In contrast, if my opponent had a huge forehand and they were able to hit through me, I’d try to avoid their forehand like the plague.

This actually brings me to my next point.

2) Try and Expose Their Weaknesses

Most players you go up against will have obvious strengths and weaknesses.

And as you progress into the HIGHER LEVELS OF THE GAME, players will naturally have more strengths than weaknesses in their game.

With that said, on the whole, even if a player is better than you, there will still be weaknesses that you CAN EXPLOIT.

In most cases, a player will likely have a weaker backhand than forehand, and this is a good starting point.

But of course, it depends on the individual YOU ARE PLAYING.

Moving beyond those basics, some players might struggle with a certain type of shot.

For example, I like to think I have a good slice backhand.

And if I know a guy hits quite flat and struggles to hit heavy topspin, I will hit plenty of slices to give them a ball they don’t like.

But sometimes these weaknesses might not be an EXACT SHOT.

For example, you might come against someone who is excellent at moving laterally across the baseline, but they struggle to PUSH OFF and get up to short balls.

Again, this is something you could then look to take advantage of by playing short angles and drop shots.

3) Focus and Take Your Chances

By nature, if you play better players, you won’t get MANY CHANCES to go ahead in the match.

A few breakpoints here and there might be all you get.

So when these opportunities arise, you need to BE AS ALERT AS POSSIBLE and truly zoned in to win those big points.

On that note, players play big points in different ways. Personally, on big points, I will do my absolute best to keep a good length and not miss a ball. 

However, I know of other guys that will try to GO AS BIG AS POSSIBLE and hit a clean winner on big points.

It all depends on your style, but either way, you have to take chances when they come.

Other important ingredients to beat better players

Apart from the physical elements of tennis, including fitness and shotmaking, the mental side is also enormous.

Just look at a guy like Novak Djokovic if you need any confirmation!

His mental game is just as good IF NOT BETTER than his actual game, which brings me on to the next three ingredients:

i) Belief

There is an old saying in tennis – before you can beat the guy in front of you, you first need to beat yourself.

That’s because the INTERNAL BETTLE of the mind must be won before you can win the battle on the court.

Once you believe that you are capable of beating the player across the net, only then can you actually go out there and do it.

ii) Positivity

Playing guys better than you means that you might be in for a FRUSTRATING GAME.

You’ll be pushed to your limits and things may go against you.

That’s why positivity is SO CRITICAL.

Again, try to FOCUS on:

  • What you can control
  • What you are doing well, and
  • Think about positive outcomes you are having in the match

Some people even like to use visualization to overcome negativity here, but that’s up to you. 

iii) Resilience

Not only is this critical in tennis, but it is also critical in life.

Things won’t always go as planned, and sometimes, you may FEEL LIKE EVERYTHING is going against you.

This is certainly the case in tennis, but it’s important to keep fighting, stay positive, and BELIEVE THAT if you stick with it – a better outcome is on the horizon

Any other tips on beating players from your own experience? Share your thoughts below.

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