Greetings Essential Tennis readers. Welcome as always.
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I say “good miss” to my students often when their technique was solid and their resulting shot was close to being very successful. I often get cross eyed looks from people who haven’t taken many lessons from me before when I say this, and I find that most people are incredibly difficult on themselves when missing a shot by the smallest of margins. That is why I’m writing on this topic today.
Ever play golf? Many tennis players do. Did you know that there’s a best place to miss a putt? Thats right, even when missing the most important shot in golf there is a best place that you can miss. The best place to miss is past the hole and to the “high side” of the hole, meaning the side of the hole that the putt breaks from if there is any curve to the roll of the ball. If the putt breaks from left to right, then the left side of the hole is the “high side”. Why is past the hole on the high side the best place to miss a putt? Because without the ball getting to the depth or hight of the cup at some point during the roll of the ball its literally impossible to make the putt! You want to have a possibility of making your putt right? So that means when your putt travels past the hole and on the high side, you at least had a chance of making the putt regardless of how difficult it was.
So what does this have to do with tennis? Plenty. There is a best and worst place to miss every shot, below is a paragraph on each.
Worst place: The worst place to miss any shot in tennis is the net! Wow do I hate the net, and you should too. It’s the first obstacle we face while trying to accomplish any stroke in our tennis arsenal. If the shot we hit doesn’t make it over the net, it was dead in the water, it never had a chance, never saw the light of day, it is completely doomed. As soon as your shot crosses over the net a whole new set of parameters need to be met before it can be called successful, however you’ve just passed the first barrier.
I often start off my tennis lessons with a personal goal of not hitting the net one time during the hour I’m with my student. I rarely do feeding drills in my teaching unless I’m working with either a total beginner or somebody who’s learning a new stroke or skill, so I’m usually engaged in some kind of cooperative or competitive rally the entire hour. I’ve only accomplished this goal over a whole hour a hand full of times, it takes conscious effort to be that consistent even when its what I do all day every day. I’d say on average I’ll miss in the net half a dozen times or so during a typical lesson, all six of them leaving a certain disdainful feeling behind in my head, haha. Start taking note of where you miss, and if you’re missing in the net more often than any other place on the court changes need to happen immediately! Of course what the change needs to be varies very widely depending on which stroke is the offending one. I can 100% guarantee you however that if you cut your net errors in half you WILL be more successful on the tennis court.
So where is the best place to miss? Simply put, anywhere but the net! How good of a miss you had is dependent on where your shot landed in relation to where your target was. If you missed a forehand drive from the baseline within the bounds of the sideline but deep by two feet then thats a great miss. Quite obviously I would rather you not miss the shot at all, but lets be realistic here, you’re going to miss sometimes. Tennis is maddeningly difficult to master, and along the way you will miss shots, period. I’m simply suggesting that if you’re going to make mistakes, they should be in a place that will lend to future success as much as possible. A ball that hits the net will never ever have a chance of landing in the court. A ball that lands long had the chance of their opponent playing it out of the air first, or wind causing it to drop in, or their opponent errantly thinking the ball was actually in.
If your contact was solid, most of your technique was correct, you had a target in mind and it fit your game and the point situation, and if the ball made it over the net but missed by a small margin then it was a good miss! Don’t beat yourself up over it. Simply be aware of what needs to change in order to make the shot next time and move on. Shots that miss due to hitting the frame, poor technique, no target or an improper target, or hitting the net were bad misses. These should not be occurring often, and if they are steps need to be taken immediately to remedy the problems.