It’s so satisfying keeping an opponent running along the baseline with some fierce groundstrokes or pulling him out of position with hard-to-reach low slice shots to the corners, then totally duping him with a delicate drop shot. It’s also the only tennis game where you need to adapt your playing style depending on the type of opponent you’re up against and what surface you’re playing on, with the often neglected serve and volley game actually coming out on top on grass.
If you prefer staying at the back of the court then you’ll do well on clay, while all-rounders have a better time of it on the hard courts. The only hangovers from previous versions are the weak lob, which often lets your opponent in for an easy smash or a passing shot, and the erratic volley, which no matter how early you line up the shot seems to switch out of your control between a soft pat straight back at your opponent leaving you exposed at the net, or a wild smash giving him no chance. In doubles matches, our advice is to instruct your AI partner to be at the net since they don’t seem to have any trouble with dispatching volleys.
Developing a comfortable playing style and disguising your shots really come into their own when you’re playing against a human player. The lack of new features is pretty much forgiven now that Sega has finally included online play. Not only can you play one-off singles and doubles matches, the whole online setup is incorporated into the World Tour mode. You can play either ranking matches or participate in an online tour where one-off matches are worth 100 points and tournaments 250.
If you’re looking for one thing to justify upgrading to Virtua Tennis 2009 then online play is it. It’s long overdue and it makes such a difference switching from the rather predictable AI to more fallible humans who are much harder to second-guess.
June 6, 2009