The Congruent Redirect
In the CTM "Shot Matching Triad" there are three main categories of shots. Our Fade and Draw articles cover two of the three main shot categories. Those articles describe the Fade and the Draw by comparing and contrasting them against each other as well as against common uses for the Utility forehand (utility Forehand is when a player just uses one basic topspin FH technique for everything). The Redirect is the third category of shot and, like the fade and draw, has multiple variations to handle different situations. Interestingly the redirect can be either a fade or a draw - the Redirect category is not defined by the type of spin. Rather, Redirect like a special category including either fade or draw that is defined by an abbreviated swing made to handle the fastest incoming shots. https://www.congruenttennis.com/post/shot-matching-heuristics-using-fade-and-draw
If you divide a Fade or a Draw swing into three nearly equal segments, then remove the first and last segment, you would be left with the key portion of the middle third of the swing where ball contact occurs. By using less backswing (the first segment) and less follow through (the last or 3rd segment), this smaller, more compact stroke becomes easier to time and control. It functions much like a volley that you hit in groundstroke scenarios. The Redirect works well as a half volley, as a big first serve return and against any hard shot that is too tough to time with a full stroke. It is like a protective shield that can be used to defend against high powered hitting and in any scenario where you're pressed for time. There are two pairs of redirect variations. One pair is the shortened Fade (most common) and the other is the shortened Draw. Picking whether to fade or draw uses mostly the same criteria as when hitting the full versions of the shots. Each pair, whether fade or draw, contains the stronger or the weaker versions of the Redirect called the Power Redirect and the Block Redirect. For situations where you have a bit more time to respond the Power Redirect can function as a very capable reply using the incoming power for energy along with a small addition from you. In other situations where there is almost no time or when control is the overriding issue you may be forced to simply use a ‘Block Redirect' that is much like a short block volley in execution.
Federer's Block Redirect backhand 'flick' shot
James Blake's Power Redirect forehand serve return
At this point you may be asking yourself why these shortened Fades and Draws do not just remain as subsets in their respective fade or draw category. It is a good question and hopefully helps you to start realizing the importance of the Redirect as a shot you must master for your arsenal. This Redirect shot must command its own place in your game. Gone are the days where the Redirect is relegated to a mere defensive bailout shot. With better strings and rackets, along with the power your opponent is able to generate when attacking you, the Redirect can harness much of this pace and put it to good use countering. Dealing with massive forehands and even bigger serves will keep your Redirect shot active, tuned and ready to respond when required.
At my last PTR conference one of the presenters commented on the need to spend significant practice time on the return of big serves, suggesting that this type return didn’t get much opportunity to stay sharp unless you allot special practice for it. While I do agree with returns getting their due on the practice courts, I share in this article how by employing more redirect shots, not only do you get ample practice during return drills, but you will cultivate the shot to a high level during rallies. The Redirect provides the ability to extend points under heavy pressure. In this way, your return drills support your rally skill set, while your rally skills mixing in "the Redirect" can support your return game. The focus on the Redirect will also augment your Fade and Draw skills since they draw heavily on what needs to happen during the critical contact phase in each of these strokes.
Now that you have all three categories for the "Shot Matching Triad" and a better understanding of how and why to use the Redirect in point play you are ready to explore this important third category of shots. Many of you likely already have this shot in your arsenal- you probably just didn't have naming conventions for it. Hopefully this article helped you to develop a higher resolution cognitive awareness of the shot and enable you to fit the redirect into your game with clear intent and purpose. Be on the lookout for additional info about the Shot Matching Cycle and how learning it can help you to easily decide when and why to fade, draw, or redirect. More on that coming soon.
Thanks for reading.