Want to level up your game FAST?
Today and tomorrow’s message are going to help you do that by laying out the most common misconceptions, false beliefs, and ineffective patterns tennis players of all levels fall into…
…so you can avoid them and focus on what’s most important each and every time you’re on the court!
Even a small tweak in your understanding of these elements will change the trajectory of your improvement for decades to come, which makes a huge difference in where you ultimately end up.
So let’s dive right in to the first three mistakes 🙂
Mistake 1: Impress Instead of Spar
This is something I don’t believe I’ve ever discussed in any of our digital content before and yet it was hands down one of my biggest frustrations when I worked a “normal” tennis coaching job…
Day after day I would set up drills for my students to pinpoint an area of their game that needed improvement. If they were hitting feeds from me, or with a ball machine, or rallying with me they were totally content, but the instant I asked them to hit cooperatively with a peer all kinds of objections would surface:
“Why in the world would I want to practice hitting TO somebody? Shouldn’t I be training myself to hit AWAY from the player on the other side of the net??!”
It felt as if the only way they saw value in training reps is if they were directly replicating exactly what would happen in a real point…
…which left a tremendous amount of improvement on the table because they didn’t have the patience to bring the intensity level down, increase the amount of focus and purpose behind every repetition, and consciously develop the ability to hit a very specific shot over and over again.
Think about it this way: hitting away from a partner is essentially the most general “target” possible. In fact, it isn’t a target at all.
The singles court is over 1,000 square feet and the doubles court is over 1,400 square feet, per side!!
Giving yourself the goal of hitting “away” from your partner means you’re a success if you hit anywhere BUT where they’re standing. That’s a task you can easily accomplish purely by accident 90% of the time!
On the other hand, intentionally picking a specific height, depth, width, pace and spin so the ball lands exactly to your sparring partner takes tremendously more control, concentration and discipline.
That kind of repetition is how great players become great players!
In fact, if you watch professional players train you’ll see them do a LOT of cooperative hitting with practice partners or coaches. Don’t poo-poo it, there’s tremendous value to be had.
Mistake 2: “Power” Instead of Placement
This probably isn’t exactly what you think so read carefully…
I put Power in quotes because delivering a “powerful” shot is completely relative to the level of play in question. In other words, a powerful shot at 3.0 isn’t “powerful” anymore within the context of 5.0 competition.
Obvious on the surface, but here’s where the disconnect is for lots of tennis players: they assume that hitting a shot with more power automatically makes it better, or allows them to beat opponents more easily, but that isn’t true!
You know this from experience – the player who hits harder does NOT always win. In fact, a lot of times the person who’s trying to score “power points” loses much, much faster than they should have.
That’s due to a critical tennis truth: most points end with an error at all levels of play.
And so, if you’re out there trying to maximize how hard you can hit each shot towards a designated target you’re playing with fire over and over.
Contrast that with the players at your local courts who just seem to have a knack for winning no matter who they’re up against…
They’ve mastered the skill of picking a target, spin, height, depth, or pattern that makes their opponent uncomfortable and narrowing their focus like a laser on calmly executing that same shot again and again and again.
Hopefully that reminds you of Mistake #1 🙂
A sure way of spotting somebody who doesn’t understand this principle is hearing them make this remark while watching professional tennis:
“Why do they keep hitting the ball BACK to each other??”
(Don’t feel badly if you’ve had that thought while watching tennis on TV, we all had it at some point)
That viewer doesn’t understand there are layers and nuance to trying to make an opponent uncomfortable…
Great players at all level’s aren’t binary about their offense, it isn’t an “on/off” switch.
Instead, they realize certain patterns of shot are smart to play, and they’re content in hitting a few balls on that pattern to see if their opponent has poor shot tolerance (misses on their own) or will cough up a huge opportunity to close out the point in a high percentage way.
Instead of trying for knock out punch after knock out punch they’re working the point, constantly feeling out their opponent, and maximizing their chances for success while minimizing the likelihood they beat themselves.
Playing that way is much more fun than “all or nothing” power tennis 🙂
Mistake 3: “Tricky” Instead of Deadly
Please read this carefully:
Playing great tennis isn’t about repeatedly fooling your opponent, or faking them out, or being totally unpredictable.
Trying to develop a game around those ideas will only lead to you faking YOURSELF out!
In other words, with every change of spin, tempo, pattern, depth and direction you make it more and more likely that you’ll make a mistake.
And how do most tennis points end??
**Chorus of 10,000 tennis players**: “WITH AN ERROR!”
Instead, really successful competitors at all levels play in a predictably deadly way…
They uncover an opportunity against each opponent, craft a simple way to force them into playing it, and then exploit that opportunity until their foe either adjusts or loses the match.
Think about this within the context of professional tennis…
Over the past decade every player on planet earth knows EXACTLY how Rafael Nadal is going to play them and yet he continues to be one of the most difficult competitors to win against in the history of the sport.
I know, I know: the tools in his toolbox are exceptional.
BUT, it’s the dogged intentionality in how he deploys those tools that makes him such a special player.
Most of the time he could hit the ball harder than he does, but he knows that the shape (heavy topspin) and direction (exploiting righty backhands) he’s hitting in will get the job done without risking more than necessary, plus if it’s needed he can always try to mix things up and go to Plan B later…
…but until you prove to him that his Plan A isn’t going to get the job done he’s going to “go to the well” in perpetuity.
YOU can grind players down and become much, much more difficult to beat with that same mindset and mentality!
What Do You Think?
Mistake 4-7 are on their way soon, but in the meantime what do you think of these three?
Do me a favor and hit that comment button, let me know which “mistake” resonated with you the most.
I always value your feedback, engagement, and thoughts tremendously 🙂
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!