For every situation from which we have to select a shot, there exists a best option barring strategic adjustment from our opponent.
This is our highest equity shot before adjustment, our HESBA.
That might sound complicated, but in reality you probably already have a good idea, in various situations, of what this shot is. You can tell that your cross-court forehand is great, but your down-the-line forehand always skirts wide. You know that your slice backhand almost always keeps the point neutral, while your topspin backhand is wild and unreliable.
These shots constitute your highest equity options in a vacuum, before any strategic adjustment from your opponent. And in a perfect world, your opponent would never adjust, and your could simply choose your HESBA 100% of the time.
The HESBA Keeps Us Grounded
Knowing our HESBA in each situation is essential to strategizing during the match; it’s the shot we want to use most, all else being equal, and our strategy exists for the purpose of pressing the advantage we gain from it.
Most opponents will adjust to our initial highest equity shot, and, after that adjustment, the shot will no longer be our highest equity. But remembering that it was our best option before adjustment was made, that it is still our best option in a vacuum, is critical to not out-thinking ourselves or over-analyzing our opponent.
Remember, as our opponent adjusts their strategy, and as we adjust ours to compensate, our highest equity shot before adjustment doesn’t change. The highest equity shot at the moment may change, but the facts that were true at the beginning of the match – your inside-out forehand is great and their backhand is weak – those facts haven’t changed.
The knowledge of what we’d like to do, if our opponent wasn’t countering it, should never leave the front of our mind. As the match progresses, our opponent will adjust to counter our HESBA, and we’ll start mixing in some second best shots to compensate, but at some point during the ebb and flow of strategic adjustment, they may relent and allow us to hammer our best option again. Always keeping our HESBA in mind prevents us from wasting, or failing to notice, this opportunity.
Instead, we’ll notice it, and we will immediately pounce.