NO MAN’S LAND! What comes to mind when you hear or see those three words? This is what I commonly hear from players and students: “stay out of there, you’re doomed, you’re not supposed to be there, dead man’s zone, it’s a bad place, the bad lands…Nothing good will come of it if you’re in there. Sound familiar?
Clearly, the phrase, No Man’s Land, comes with a negative connotation. And, it’s a misperception that persists because of the generalizations we make about that area of the court. We are often told that we should never be in that cursed area. And we accept at face value what we are told about that part of the court without much thought as to why it is supposedly such a bad place.
Well, I’m here to change your negative perception of No Man’s Land. With basic knowledge of that area, you will know that it is a great place to be in most of the time. What I want to do is give you a clearer understanding of No Man’s Land; it will go a long way to improve the way you play tennis.
No Man’s Land in reference to tennis is the area of a tennis court between the baseline (the back line) and the service line (the line in the middle of the court which runs parallel to the baseline).
Briefly, let me give you a little bit of history of No Man’s Land. The term as it was originally used does have dark overtones and is laden with ambiguity. No Man’s Land is defined as ‘land that is unoccupied or is under dispute between parties that leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty”. The term dates back to the year 1320 – it’s been around a long time. Somehow, the negative implications of that term have infiltrated the psyche of most recreational/club tennis players. But, does the original meaning of No Man’s Land apply to tennis? Hardly!
The first thing to understand about No Man’s Land is that the area is a TRANSITIONAL ZONE – one shot and you’re out of there, either to the net or back to the baseline or leave it to get a drink or to say hi to a friend. You just can’t set up camp there – one shot and you move on.
To what level of player does the change in mindset apply to?
It covers the level of range from the beginner to the 4.5 recreational/club player.
The relationship between you and No Man’s Land is, the lower the level of play, the more the propensity to be in No Man’s Land at the wrong times, and,
the higher the level of play, the significantly fewer moments that play is sustained from No Man’s Land.
Let’s take a look at various strategic situations when being in No Man’s Land is PARADISE:
- The first great opportunity to play in No Man’s Land is when you receive an opponent’s second serve. Most second serves barely register on the radar gun. Where do you stand to receive that soft serve? In No Man’s Land! The second serve is a short ball which you can use to transition to the net. Party time!
- You happen to be involved in one of those hellish moon ball rallies. The tediousness of the rally is driving you crazy, and to end that mental torture, you decide to move into No Man’s Land to play the moon ball/floater as a volley and then make the transition to the net. Caution: stop your approach to the net outside the service line – you are playing a lobber. Playing in No Man’s Land is an excellent strategy against the lobber (moon baller) and pusher – it’s the place for volleys and overheads!
- Another good example of using NO Man’s Land to your advantage is when you have recognized this pattern – your opponent is consistently hitting short balls which draw you inside the baseline. Rather than position yourself behind the baseline, establish your ready position inside the baseline (the back end of No Man’s Land).
There are other favorable circumstances when being in No Man’s Land is a good thing. I’ll refer to them in future articles or videos.
You’re now probably wondering – well, when is it a bad time to be in NO Man’s Land? All I’ve been pointing out to you are the good times to be in there.
Here is the great news! – there is only one time when being in No Man’s Land is a tactical blunder – when you don’t know why you are in there. You can’t formulate a sound tactical reason for playing in No Man’s Land, you are meandering, you are confused, you are lost, and sooner than later, you find a ball at your feet, or worse, at you – you are practically on defense and did not have to put yourself in such a predicament. In most cases, it is a misunderstanding of No Man’s Land that leads to getting in trouble when you’re in there.
The point is, make sure you have a story. Know why you’ve chosen to play there. And the better the tactical story, the more improvement you’ll see in your court management. I promise.
Remember, change your negative perspective of No Man’s Land and you’ll change your game for the better.
No Man’s Land can be PARADISE and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!
It’s Party Time!