Let's talk about the top five reasons why you should be hitting cross court.
1. When You Hit Cross Court, Your Shot Travels Over the Lowest Part of the Net
Probably the top reason that you should hit a cross court shot no matter what situation you're in is that, by going cross court, you're going across the lowest part of the net. At the center of the court, where your cross court shot crosses the net, the net is three feet high, that's 36 inches. At the outside of the court, where the net is attached to the posts, the top of the net is three feet, six inches, that's 42 inches. So that's an additional six inches for your shot to clear. Obviously, by hitting cross court, you've got six inches more clearance to get your shot over. So that's a little more safety margin you've got when you hit those cross court shots.
2. When You Hit Cross Court, You Hit Into the Longest Part of the Court
When you hit cross court, you have a much larger target area to hit into. The length of a tennis court, from baseline to baseline, a straight line, is 78 feet. But, if we're hitting on the diagonal, going from corner to the opposite court diagonally, you get several additional feet of court that you can hit into. So you have less chance of your ball going long. If you're playing singles, you get about an extra four and a half feet to hit into. And if you're playing doubles, you get about an additional eight feet to hit into from doubles corner diagonally across to the other doubles corner. So when you're hitting those cross court shot, you're not only hitting across the lowest part of the net, you're also getting additional length of court to hit into. This means it is less likely that your ball will go long.
3. The Cross Court Shot Makes Your Opponent Do More Work
The cross court shot is a great shot because it forces your opponent to do more work. If your opponent is coming from the middle of the court to get to that cross court shot, they have to make some movement. Certainly, if you're just hitting back and forth across the middle of the court, they don't have to make much movement at all, regardless of whether they're hitting forehands or backhands. But once you put the ball on the cross court, once you make them move towards that ball, they have to move to the ball and, often, not only do they have to move to a fall that is farther away from them, but they have to move to a ball that is moving away from them. When the ball bounces, depending on the spin that you put on it, it may actually move farther away from them on court. So now your opponent is not only having to work to get to the ball, they have to set up to hit a shot on the run and they may actually have to hit a shot that is moving away from them. So that cross court ball puts more pressure on your opponent by making them do more work.
4. You Can Set Up to Hit Your Serve and Then Your Cross Court Shot in the Direction Your Body Is Already Moving
A fourth reason to hit the cross court shot is that you may set it up so that this is the direction that your own body is moving in. If you think about hitting your serve, if you're a righty, and you hit the serve and you follow up with a cross court shot with your forehand, your body is already, once you hit that serve, usually moving towards the right. It may be moving forward, but you've got your right hand set up there already on that side of your body to hit that cross court shot. So you can think of that as a combination, where you hit the serve and then set up to hit your forehand. You can do the same thing if you're a lefty, going in the other direction, to hit your serve and then set up to hit your forehand, moving towards your left.
5. By Hitting Cross Court, You Keep the Ball Away From the Opposing Net Player
Finally, if you're playing doubles, a great reason to hit that cross court shot is to keep that ball away from the net player. This is why you may hit a lot of returns cross court in doubles. Not just because you're going over the lowest part of the net. Not just because you're trying to hit a longer area of court. But also because you want to keep the ball away from that net player, keep them from poaching.
Playing high percentage tennis is important because, often, that's all it takes to win the match. You don't have to have incredible shots. You don't have to have complicated strategies. You just have to play the high percentage shot and put the burden on your opponents to beat you.
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