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Changes Ahead: 10 Ways to Get the Most Out Of Your Tennis Game in 2015

 As 2014 came to a conclusion, we at CAtennis thought that a lot of you would be working on your New Year's resolutions. Where some are interested in increasing their bank account and decreasing their waist size, we thought that we might be able to assist you with some tennis-related goals. So let's implement some of these steps and see if, by the end of the 2015, your tennis will be better than at the start.

1. Be fully warmed up prior to every lesson or practice. If you're strapped for time, don't waste 10-15 moinutes of your practice getting limber. Get on the court while you're already warm if not sweating. Jog, get on the bike, jump rope, hit on the backboard, etc. Maximize the time you have at your disposal. 

2. Backboard. Speaking of backboards, they're not just for warming up. If you're the type of person who is constantly looking for "feel" or "rhythm" or a "groove", there's no better way to practice that then to get in front of a wall and start working your strokes. The wall is unforgiving so your eyes and feet will have to work just as efficiently and effectively as the rest of your body. Practice brushing up directly opposite from the way the ball rotates - this makes you focus on the seems of the ball. Get in a trance and let your feet dance. 

3. Fitness. Yes, fitness! Who doesn't want to be more fit?! But, in our instance, we are talking "tennis-fit" as opposed to "beach-fit" (although, sometimes, they are one and the same). So here are some tips for improving tennis fitness: a. there is no substitute for for playing tennis - particularly points and, specifically, matches; b. jump rope - it helps with adjustment steps; c. favor cycling over long distance running. Not only is cycling lower-impact but the movement is more similar to the way you'd move on the court - short steps with knees bent. When it comes to running, going faster usually means longer strides - which is counterproductive for tennis movement. With cycling, going faster means keeping the strides the same but moving your legs at a higher cadence; d. stretching - be it active or static, do something periodically in order to stay limber; e. fast is the new strong - the best tennis players are not body builder but they hit the ball a tone because they are always in good position to utilize their explosiveness and speed. Focus on running tennis specific sprints - do one this week, two the next, three the following; build up your endurance slowly while training your speed. 

4. Let go of perfection; strive for excellence. In tennis, perfection is virtually unattainable. Even a well-struck tennis ball can be improved - be it in terms of depth, speed, spin, placement, height, etc. A perfectionist mindset may prevent you from seeing the forest for the trees. Adopt a "learning" attitude or "growth" mindest but, remember, that you're only as good as your opponent allows you to be. Therefore, learn to become better at letting go; add (to our arsenal/game) by subtracting (superfluous movements, negative energy, unnecessary concepts, etc.).

5. Play more matches. Play 1/3 of matches against better opponents (against whom you can swing all-out); 1/3 of the matches against same-level opponents (who provide a realistic training); and 1/3 of the matches against weaker opponents (who put you under pressure). Remember, you're never as good as yur best win; but you're only as good as your worst loss. Practice with people "below" your level or at your level so that you are comfortable competing against them when it matters. 

6. Hit more serves. Along with serving in every practice, try to have one practice a week where all you do is hit serves. Serve from every position along the baseline. In addition, serve from the baseline and maybe a few inches - if not feet - behind the baseline. Serve smooth; serve flat; serve with spin; serve with a radar gun; serve and practice shadow strokes in between serves; serve into zones; serve as many first and second serves in a row as you are able (seek to improve next time); serve by yourself; serve with someone on the other side of the net (who doesn't want to practice returns?!).

7. Mix up surfaces. Different surfaces emphasize different aspects of your game. If you are able to, try to spend at least a few weeks out of the year practicing on clay, grass, carpet and hard courts. Not only will you break up the monotony of playing on the same court, but you will pick up a new set of skills that you can utilize in a more familiar setting. 

8. Practice your "X" shots. Briefly, "X" shots are what we call strokes that you might not use on a regular basis but which could come in handy every once in a while. For example, swinging volleys, shots on the run, between the legs, behind the back, jumping backhands/forehands, half-volleys, opposite hand shots, etc. Similar to learning to play on new surfaces, new strokes will open your senses to a new dimension of the game allowing you to play with more confidence. 

9. Have faith; have fun. Be disciplined; find a good program, a good schedule and a good pro and stick with it. Fill the bucket one drop at a time. One extra ball, one extra game, one extra sprint, one extra serve...it all adds up. Plateus are normal but they do not represent the death of your improvement. Stick with the system and know that it will all come together when it matters. My all means, avoid a "honeybee" mentality by going from flower (coach) to flower (new coach). Depending on the level, it can take 3-6 months to see an improvement in your game. Often times, we need to break down the old foundation in order to build a new mansion. Have faith in knowing that you're not alone in this process. 

10. Give back. In tennis, as in life, the more you give the more you receive. So go ahead: warm up your friend for her match even if you lost and you're tired; volunteer to help run a tournament; give housing to deserving player or mentor him to achieve his objectives. We are all part of this great tennis community and we can all do a better job in growing the game. In the end, our greatest opponents are not across the net but other sports. Let's all do more to make tennis the Sport of Kings once again. 

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Reader Comments (1)

One comment I have to make is about "have faith". I would not just blindly stay with just one coach for years and years and years without at least using another coach as a "consultant" for certain shots. I have yet to meet one coach that has "all the shots". For example, if your coach plays with a one handed backhand him/herself in live competition, there is no way on earth they would have the same level of knowledge regarding a two handed backhand as an equally matched tennis pro who uses a two handed backhand as their primary backhand stroke in live competition. However, that coach with a two handed backhand may have a marginal serve or less powerful forehand, etc.

Honestly, I would not even take an article written by Roger Federer too seriously if it was titled "How to Hit a Two Handed Backhand", would you?

January 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTweaner

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