During the World Padel Tour Marbella Master, we saw that the best players on the left could have a very different way of playing high balls. What to favor? Let's try to clarify this.
Those who were able to follow the men's final stages of the WPT Cerveza Victoria Marbella Master live were certainly impressed by an incredible level of play. Today's top players are capable of doing incredible things, among them we find the work of tall balls.
Before getting to the heart of the matter, I would like us to understand how it is difficult to earn a point against top 10 players in the world. They are hyper trained, read perfectly the trajectory of the ball, and are able to defend relentlessly several tens of balls without making direct faults.
From there the work for the attacking team becomes complicated. Since most of the balls that our opponents will defend will be tall balls, how can we play them?
Making a high-level smash is like taking risks. Several options are available to the attacking player.
- Either you can hit the ball in front of you and you can bring the ball back to your court.
- Either the lob is very high, you have time to place yourself correctly under the ball even from the bottom of the field, and you manage to smash with effect to bring the ball home, this is the area in which excels Juan Lebrón, and he's the only player to try (and succeed) this move as often.
- Either you want to take it out by 3. In the current game, the players take the ball out of the track less and less because the defenders are so fast they can counter. This increasingly risky option is chosen only when the attack is clear and the defenders away from the net.
- Finally, and here we come, we have the smash worked, which most left players use as Stupa, Galan, Navarro or Lima as a left-hander. This smash is often carried out by backing up after an opponent's lob which does not allow you to be correctly positioned to carry out the strikes listed above. The goal of these smashes is first not to lose the net. Then from find hard to defend areas :
- The rebound on the side window which dies on the bottom window
- The rebound on the bottom window which dies on the side window or the grille ("false by 3")
- Falling in the feet of the volleyball player
Knowing how to play and work the points with your smash has become very important. Before, smashes were not necessarily precise shots that allowed points to be finished. Today it is a precise move, very used among the players not to lose the net and to put the defense in difficulty. We saw in Marbella that Paquito Navarro's smash grid had done enormous damage. We realize that it is today used more than Bandeja among left players.
For those who do not know what a bandja is, it is a blow that we could mix between a smash and a volley. Made at head height, it can be cut or brushed.
This specific padel stroke was created in the first place so as not to lose the attacking position in the net. Over time, it has been worked on by players and becomes widely used in a “surgical” game. 2 ways to play Bandeja: in support, or in suspension.
- There are few bands that top players can play in support. When the opportunity arises, they tend to look for a very low rebound and a ball that will stay very close to the windows because we know that defenders are able to recover any type of ball. So speed ok, but especially precision.
- The bulk of the work will be on the suspended bands. It's a blow particularly used by Maxi Sanchez or Fernando Belasteguin when he plays on the left. Watching them do it sometimes says "but go for it ..." because we often see them playing slowly. In reality, if you play a Bandeja quickly and you have to hit it slightly behind you, you will have little time to replace yourself. So you will lose the net. Playing slowly also allows you to find more areas and leave your opponents at the bottom because your ball will bounce little on the glass. However, there are two speeds.
- Spring. In this way the players are precise. It will be the Bandeja most often used which will allow us to wait for the right moment for an attack in good conditions.
- Fast. To surprise the defenders at the bottom of the track. The most used is this ball which will strike first the bottom glass and which will then rebound on the grid. Also there is this fast band which will be played on the defenders who will come to press with the net after the lob. The body being the preferred area in this situation will “fix” the players in order to catch the net on the next stroke.
Today’s padel is getting faster and faster. Getting to overtake the best players is very difficult because their preparation and their reading of the ball are exceptional. Hitting hard is used in 2 situations: either to surprise, or in a clear case of stitch finishing. All other hits, including tall balls, are preparation shots to create movements on the track, holes in which you have to rush.
If you want to progress in padel, do not take the lead if you do not master a stroke well. We realize that a player like Navarro excels at a high level with very few bands, and conversely, Bela or Maxi Sanchez are top players who mainly use Bandeja and much less the smash worked. So if you want to play like the pros, it doesn't matter if you prefer to make bandjas or worked smash, at first be pacientes, and work it precision on all the shots you will execute!
Julien Bondia is a padel teacher in Tenerife. He is the founder of AvantagePadel.net, a software very appreciated by clubs and padel players. Columnist and advisor, he helps you play better through his many padel tutorials.