It is amazing how the fundamentals of tennis stick with us throughout our tennis career, but they are not skills that you actively think about during a match. Why is that? Because during the match, you (or many players) are concentrating on the shot, rally, point and game, rather than considering elements of your (their) technique.
Tennis coaches expect their charges to achieve mastery early on. As a result, during early days, coaches stress and drill and work on their development until students master them. Some examples include the ever-important impact point, set-up, hitting zone, recovery, and different grips for each stroke. If during a match, you (a player) choose to think about all of the fundamentals simultaneously, the effect can be overwhelming. However, when you are playing, and especially when you realize your game is not 100%, it can be beneficial to focus on a specific activity or process.
After a long break, Tennis Coach Josh Martin noticed that he was not realizing the usual power or precision in his shots. These shots were just going out, or coming up short and hitting the net. Rather than just “play out the points”, Josh chose to focus more meticulously on his fundamentals. He then paid diligent attention to his set up, foot positioning and body positioning prior to the ball bouncing on his side of the court. By adjusting his focus and then striving for rapid (or accelerated) positioning, he found himself able to have more control on his shots. Shortly after, he realized that he could control more of his shots, and force his opponent from side-to-side with less difficulty. “It ultimately kept me in the game and I was able to win some points,” he says. As Josh says, “I just believe that it is beneficial to have a specific focus or goal during a match.” The old quote “perfect practice makes perfect” comes to mind. Having something in particular to strive for will go a long way. Try it out, and if you are already doing this, try focusing on other fundamentals or skills next time you hit the courts.
Watch lots of tennis matches. Before you even get on the court, it really helps to watch how the pros do it. That way, the next time a specific situation arises while you’re playing, you will be able to picture in your exactly how it can play out in your favor.
Play with many different opponents. One of the best ways to learn how to think on your feet is to play with people with different styles of game. Observing and reacting to different players in real time will train your mind to and body to respond with the most optimal shot when it is required.
Josh Martin is Coach and Communications lead at the UBC Tennis Centre
Reference Information: - http://www.recreation.ubc.ca/tennis/tennis-blog/