How to beat a grinder?

Tennis racket and string technology allow many players to stand at the baseline and boss rallies. They run from side to side robotically keeping the ball in play and can be incredibly hard to break down. Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have all dominated the world of tennis with this style. Many  top ladies stand on the baseline and try and dictate tennis from this point.

If you know a player like this just how do you begin to beat them? Typically these players are very comfortable on the baseline, it is their territory, they know they can retrieve most balls and put sufficient topspin on the ball to allow them to make it back into the middle of the court for the next rally ball. It can be hugely frustrating trying to break down the player that does not miss. Look at Novak Djokovic, the guy is so competent from the back of the court, he can run and run and is equally comfortable using both forehand and backhand. It is like playing against a wall.

To beat the baseline grinder you must first take them out of their comfort zone. Shorter angled balls which take them off the court are ideal for creating space and dragging grinders away from the middle of the court.  Please be careful though as if they manage to get their racket on the ball they can use your acute angle against you. Just ask Federer how it feels to be passed by a certain Mr Nadal.


If we look at Nadal and Djokovic losses over the years they are usually against guys who are willing to take a risk and play flat hard tennis into the corners. Czech Lukas Rosol gave Nadal one of his career defining defeats in the second round of Wimbledon a few years back. Ranked 100 in the world Rosol knew to play his normal game against Rafael Nadal he would certainly suffer a defeat. So the Czech played a ultra aggressive attacking brand of tennis which shocked Nadal and the Centre Court crowd. He bludgeoned the ball and took away the Spaniards time, he went for the angles and tried to win the point. In the end after 5 epic sets the King had been beaten.

To maintain such an attacking brand of tennis over 5 sets is certainly not an easy task. The margins for error when playing such a game are very small and even the slightest deviation in performance then the grinder is likely to get back into the game. The message is simple, take the game to the opponent and do not wait until they take the game to you.

Low balls

Tennis players love rhythm, none more so than the base liners. The same path angle and spin enable them to get into a rhythm and groove on shots. Slice is a very effective way of bringing a grinder away from the baseline and making them play up on a shot which could force an unforced error. If you can slice aggressively, keep the ball close to the net and low then any player will find it tough to play an aggressive shot. Remember to keep the slice away from the swing of the opponent, also ensure they must move forward or to the side keeping it away from the middle of the court.

Serve and volley

Since Roger Federer hooked up with Stefan Edberg we have seen an all court attacking game played by the Swiss in which he gets to the net at every opportunity. Federer has reinvented himself and his game and is able to take the ball off the rackets of the baseline huggers. A smartly aimed serve with angle can enable the server to approach the net and play the ball into the open court or directly back behind the opponent. Even if the server does not win the point first time around they are in a good position to volley away any other balls in the rally.


So to conclude, it is important to take on the ball in the point and prevent the grinder doing their thing.

Mix it up with slice and angle.

Approach the net

Go for it!

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