Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Summary of Analysis: Nick Matthew

For a minute or two, before we take a summative look at Nick's tactics, let us consider what we've been doing, and the value that could be developed from our efforts.

So we've taken some time, we've watched nearly two hours of video. We've contemplated a number of questions. And hopefully, everyone has been finishing up with essentially the same points to be taken from observing the tactics of Nick Matthew.

I realize that for some, it may have seemed tedious, but the process that you've gone through has hopefully helped to illustrate to you a method of observing a player in action, and developing a critical and usable analysis of their tactics, strategy.

Once you've started asking relevant, directed questions, then do some focused observation, the patterns (habits) of a player start to emerge. This knowledge can help the student of the game in several ways.

1. Once we recognize the general patterns of play for a particular player, it becomes easier to anticipate their shots, thus our reaction time is reduced, and this makes us 'faster' on the court. As well as allowing us to possibly start developing or adjusting our own tactics to take advantage of what we know.

2. When we are able to breakout of a player's whole game, the tactics they use in particular areas of the court, we can more readily see the effectiveness, or not of those tactics. Because we can now assess how a particular tactic is contributing to the rally in progress. 

3. Upon seeing and understanding the effects of the tactics, we may be able to think about how these individual tactics might be incorporated in our own games. Thus, we could be improving our choice of what to adopt into our own tactical approach, and what maybe to discard as an option for our game.

4. As we observe, then analyze how a player is using a particular tactic, we hopefully will be able to consider how that tactic would affect us, if we were having to play against it. In fact, as we go along, we might actually start to recognize these same tactics or variations of them, in our current opponents.

5. Upon seeing, and understanding how and when certain tactics are used, we might be able to come up with our own ideas on how to respond to these, possibly actually taking advantage by finding a way to 'attack' these tactics. Or in a more sophisticated manner, some players might find ways to prevent the opponent from using these tactics, or alternatively, intentionally encouraging the player to use them ;-)

6. Upon knowing the what and when of a particular tactic, we can then start to look at how it contributes to that player's strategy, as well as fits in with their tactics in other areas of the court.

So let's look at what we've observed, and thus learned of Nick Matthew's tactical choices:

1. From the rear court, Nick basically hits only two shots. If the ball is around knee high then he hits a relatively flat trajectory drive that returns the ball to the rear court. This is primarily straight, with cross courts occasionally thrown in. The second shot is when the ball is closer to the floor, in this case Nick lifts the ball higher on the front wall for a shot that is essentially a lob to the rear court. Nick will generally hit this straight with cross courts liberally mixed in.

2. In the mid court Nick will hit flat drives if his opponent is also in the mid court. Nick tries to volley everything possible. When the opponent is not in the mid court area, but is coming out of the rear court, then Nick will go short with his volley, either a drop shot into the corner, or a short drive aiming to bounce twice early.

3. When Nick is in the fore court, his shot selection depends on whether he is following his opponent into the area, or he is first to move in. If Nick has to follow his opponent into the fore court, then invariably he hits the ball into the rear court. If Nick has been quick to the ball, then he generally will hit a hard straight drive, front corner to back corner. When Nick is moving into the forecourt area to hit a ball that his opponent has sent from the rear court, then Nick will often keep the ball in short with some sort of drop, trickle boast, very occasional reverse angle, etc etc.

4. Whenever Nick has had to stretch to hit a ball, meaning he's needed a lunge step to get the ball, and he's in a wide stretched out position, then he most often returns the ball to the rear court with a lob. Occasionally, when at a stretch in the fore court, he will hit a cross court drop.

So to condense his tactics even further:

A. If Nick is behind his opponent, he always hits the ball to the backcourt.

B. When the opponent is near Nick in the mid court area, he drives the ball to the back.

C. Nick is always looking to hit the ball in the mid court area with a volley. Nick uses the volley to increase the pressure on the opponent. If the opponent is behind Nick, then the volley is hit short and to stay near the sidewalls. If the opponent is near Nick, then the volley is hit to drive the ball into the rear court.

D. Nick's whole tactical game is built around the volley, and using the volley to create pressure, eliciting either errors, or weak shots that can be easily put away.

To sum up Matthew's tactical approach even further:

Tactic #1. Send the ball to the back, allowing time and space to take a forward position on the T.

Tactic #2. Look for volley opportunities to attack, when the opponent has not returned to a central position, or is late getting into position.

Tactic #3. If the opponent has managed to return to a good position on the court, then revert back to Tactic #1.


Yes, Nick's game is that simple, and it is that good. Two World Open titles, and three British Opens, along with so many other titles attest to the efficacy of Matthew's tactical approach.

What has made this a successful approach to winning, is Nick's patience, determination to stick with the plan, high level of fitness, and extreme consistency and accuracy of shots. Even if his opponents know what Nick is going to do, he does it at such a high level of performance that there is only one player who regularly gives him any trouble (That being Ramy Ashour).

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