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The Middle

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By Cem Gurkaynak, Director of Tennis, St Marlo Country Club

“Down the middle solves the riddle.” This simple tip has been told many times by tennis coaches. However, most of the time this phrase has been used for doubles play. But in today’s game, there is a huge value for singles players to play through the middle of the court.

If you watch pros play on tv, pay attention to how many balls they hit deep and down the middle of the court. The world’s best players control the center of the court. The goal of the rally is to have your opponent miss, hit short, or change direction of the ball.

Most juniors and adult club players spend years hitting groundstrokes to the open court. There is nothing wrong with this strategy, but players need to understand aggressive margins when they choose to do so. Often, players end up making way too many errors and fail to understand how to use the middle part of the courts as a viable option.

For doubles, we choose the middle of the court simply to:

  1. Set our net player to shade to the middle of the court to be more aggressive and have more opportunity to poach.
  2. Take away the possible angle of the opponent’s shot.
  3. Create confusion if both opponents are back or both at the net.
  4. Playing a higher percentage shot by going through the lowest part of the net.

For singles, you can choose to hit down the middle to:

  1. Hit the ball over the lowest part of the net.
  2. Take away the possible angles of your opponent’s shot.
  3. Reset the point if playing defense.
  4. Give yourself a bigger target area if you are making too many errors.

The message I am trying to give is not to play every shot down the middle of the court, but to understand how to use the middle effectively. The next time you play, use the middle of the court effectively and watch your errors diminish!


Cem GurkaynakHometown (City/State): Cumming, Georgia

How did you get involved in teaching tennis? I started helping at summer camps back in Turkey when I was 17 years old and instantly fell in love with it.

Diehard fan of what sports team?  I support a local soccer club from Turkey (Fenerbahce).

Best part of your game? Volleys

Dream doubles match would be me and… My dad playing against anyone.

When I’m not teaching tennis, I’m… Spending time with family and watching my kids play their sports.

My favorite tennis memory is: Having dinner with Mats Wilander and Ken Flach at a fundraiser.

My favorite professional player is: Roger Federer.

#1 reason why I enjoy teaching & coaching tennis: The list could be very long but: 1) It is rewarding seeing players improve and helping them navigate through ups and downs is a key. 2) It made me more patient. Tennis definitely made me become more patient and made me understand the process and the time it takes to develop players. 3) Developing a healthy lifestyle. Obviously, it helps me stay mentally and physically healthy.

What important tennis message do you want to promote?Trust the process and be patient!

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