Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Observation Followup: David Palmer

So hopefully everyone has had a chance to watch the video of David's early round match. And now we can look at answering the questions that were posed:

1. Where does David control the rallies from?

In watching this match, and if anyone has looked at any other matches of David, can see that his area of control ranges from about half way between the front wall and the half court line, all the way back to about a metre behind the service boxes, side wall to side wall.

2. What are the primary shots that he uses to apply pressure on his opponent, and maintain his control of the rally?

David's primary shots from in this zone, (a zone that goes from midway up in the forecourt to midway back in the rear court), is an extremely hard and flat drive.

He either hits this drive straight or crosscourt, and it hits the front wall either around the service line, or half way between the service line and the red line above the tin. So he effectively has four drives that he hits from either side of the court. Two straight: one high and one low. And two cross court, again one high and one low (generally though, his crosscourt drives will be of the high type).

3. Why are these shots successful in applying pressure, and what happens when the opponent has been pressured?

What's important to note about Mr. Palmer's drives is that he hits them extremely flat, and very hard. These hard drives with such a flat trajectory have the intent of not only getting past the opponent, and into the back court, but forcing the opponent to move more quickly than normal, and often forcing the opponent to stretch into the back court to retrieve the ball. 

The pressure, applied by these hard flat drives, is what causes David's opponents to hit a weak or errant shot, which he then happily puts away for an easy winner. 

4. What are his usual shots in the forecourt? How would you explain David's tactics in the forecourt? 

In the mid court and forecourt David has basically two tactics: if the opponent is behind David when he's about to hit the ball, then David will go short, often a straight hard drop. (Hard drop meaning that, it is hit crisply, and meant to bounce quickly, again forcing the opponent to rush to the ball). Conversely, if David has had to follow his opponent forward to get the ball, then his primary shot is either a drive (straight or crosscourt), and the lob, typically hit crosscourt.


So let's condense what we've observed, and come up with the basic strategy and tactics of Mr. Palmer.

Strategy: David wants to force his opponents in to either making errors, or hitting weak shots that give him an easy winner to hit.

Backcourt Tactics: David wants to do one thing, force his opponent away from the middle of the court, so that he can move up and get back to a position where he can hit his hard flat drives again. David does hit a variety of shots out of the back court, but generally he's looking to hit long, forcing the opponent back into a corner, while he moves up to the mid court looking to hit the pressuring drives.

Mid Court Tactics: Again, this is where he looks to dominate with hard drives either high ones hit at the front wall service line, or halfway between the service line and the tin. What exactly he hits is dependent on where the opponent is on the court. David is always looking to force the opponent to rush to the ball, and preferably be forced to hit the ball at a full stretch.

Forecourt Tactics: If David has forced his opponent to hit a shot into a front corner, from the backcourt, then it is almost certain that David will hit a quick crisp straight drop. A shot that just ramps up the pressure on the opponent. If David is going into the forecourt because the opponent has hit a good shot, then his response, if having space to hit the ball, will be to hit a drive or lob.


Further narrowing of the tactics:

1. If the opponent is in or near the mid court, then David will hit pressure drives, putting the opponent on the run. The intent being to force errors or weak shots.

2. If the opponent is more to the rear, David will hit crisp hard straight drops. The intent is to either win the rally or force a weak shot.

3. If David has been forced to stretch into the forecourt, then it's either a drive or lob to force the opponent back. The intent being to give David space and time to return to the T, and get back to hitting pressure hard flat drives.

4. If the opponent happens to be high up on the T or in forecourt, in front of David when he's about to hit the ball, then almost inevitably David will drive the ball to the back court, so often for a winner.

A special last note on tactics:

5. David frequently uses a boast in the mid court area. This is an unusual shot to be used at this high level of play. Especially considering that David comes from a more western style of play, which is based more on length rather than the angles so prevalent in the Egyptian game.

Mr. Palmer's use of the boast is effective because it is an awesome compliment to the hard flat drives that he hits. Because opponents have to worry about the penetrating depth and speed of David's drives, it is common for these opponents to hang back a little bit in the court, or at least to be leaning towards the back in anticipation of the heavy drive. Either way, a player who is being pressured with these drives, and needing to make adjustments to get to the back court, then becomes vulnerable to the boasts that David likes to throw in the mix.


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