How to Hit More Serves In… Under Pressure

how to serve under pressure in tennis

I’ve always considered that a high percentage serve deliverability, especially under pressure, depends on… the player’s mental strength.

As a player prepares to hit the second serve, thoughts of “I’m going to hit it into the net”, “My opponent will attack me” or “I’m going to miss it” often distract and impede him/her from hitting it with confidence.

You see, when players get ready for the first serve, there is very little pressure involved other than the desire to go for a winner or place it strategically (e.g. to opponent’s weak side).

But when the second serve is about to be delivered that’s when our thoughts begin to challenge us.

One must understand that the serve is very sensitive to the negative thinking: your racquet “becomes” heavy, the arm too tense, the whole body gets shaky…

To avoid these feelings before you are about to serve (second serves in particular) practice the following:

  1. Think positive thoughts (“I know I can”, “I have confidence”, “I can do this”).
  2. Visualize positive outcomes (“see” the ball going over the net and inside the desired service box).
  3. Have a ritual (bounce the ball a certain number of times, etc.).
  4. Relax your body (exhale slowly).
  5. Take your time… Position your feet, adjust the grip and hold the racquet in your most comfortable way. Take one more look toward your opponent’s position and at the service box you are about to send the ball to.

“If you believe you can, you might. If you know you can, you will.” ― Steve Maraboli

For video lessons to improve your serve technique check out our Tennis Technique Lessons section.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

What Should Coaches Teach in the First Tennis Lesson

first tennis lesson tips
When teaching tennis to a new and beginning student I have always tried to provide them a mix of fun and technique activities in the first lessons.

The very first lesson is especially important because that’s when the connection between the coach and player is made and that can be crucial for the tennis future of this particular student.

Paying attention to what you say, how you say it, and the way you present yourself in front of the new student is something that every coach should be well prepared when meeting a new tennis player.

When a new student books me for a lesson, in the first 5 – 10 minutes I try to get some information about him/her:

  • why do they want to learn tennis?
  • what do they know about tennis?
  • have they ever tried playing tennis?
  • have they watched tennis on TV and do they have a favourite pro player?

For example someone might want to learn so that they can play with their family.
Or they consider tennis a good way to stay in shape.
Or they are just being brought in by their parents.

Whatever the reason, it is good to ask them – you’ll find some interesting answers for why people pick up a sport like tennis.
The answers to the questions (above) will help you understand how to construct your lessons, the intensity of them, and how much passion your student will put into their practice.

After you familiarise yourself with your new student, it is important to let them know a little bit about yourself as well.
Keep it simply letting them know your name, how long you’ve enjoyed playing and teaching tennis and enthusiastically tell them how glad you are to have the opportunity to introduce them to this sport.

Following, I would like to give you a few ideas of how your first lesson should be structured in order to make a good connection with the new student and introduce them to some of the basic tennis elements:

  1. Court dimensions and name of the lines – it is important for new players to learn the names of the lines (e.g. baseline, singles side lines, service line etc.) so that when you ask them to practice a certain stroke from, let’s say, service line, he/she should know their way about the court.
  2. Racquet – explain your student the different parts of the racquet: head, neck and handle. If you want, you can show him/her the basic grips without getting into much detail.
  3. Introduce a few hand-eye coordination drills to test his/her physical skills.
  4. Demonstrate and teach the basic forehand ground-stroke technique followed by drills and fun games that puts in practice the skills they learn.

These are the main pieces of information that a student should learn during the first lesson.

Make sure to keep it fun and try as much as possible to connect with the student by listening to him/her and allowing them to ask you questions.

If your student is a child, encourage them all the time and praise his/her effort.
At the end of the class you should have a little “gift” for them (small candy, stickers etc.). Kids love that and they will continue coming to your lessons when you show that you care.

If your student is an adult, again, listening to their needs and allowing them to ask questions is important.
Adults, more than kids, are interested into detailed technique and… a good workout.
Do drills that make them “break a sweat” from time to time.

They should leave your class smiling, and… sweaty.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Easiest Way to Win in Doubles

When I was asked to express my opinion about which doubles formation is the best and which is the least effective at winning points quickly, I did not hesitate: both players at the net (both up) would be my favourite, while the two players at the baseline (both back) to be the defensive one and taking longer to finish/win points.
best doubles tennis formation

Here is my argument and why you should consider playing at the net more often:

But before I get into the details I want to point out that my analysis is done as a general guide and, when assessing one team’s best tactics and strategies, we should consider each player’s technical skills, experience, and their capability to work and communicate as a team.

I believe that the best doubles formation is… both-up.

When the two players manage to get to the net they will be in the best position to put pressure on their opponents, cover the court and finish the points in the quickest way possible.

When the team is at the net, the best chance for the opponents to pass them is using the back court by sending the ball over their heads (lobs).

The both-up formation has the following advantages:

    1. It puts pressure on the opposing team (which is defending) – gives them less time to prepare for the shot.
    2. They can cover a lot more court and there is almost no opening for the opponents to pass (except when using the lob which, if not executed properly, can be a “smash” opportunity).
    3. The ability to put the balls away (finish points) is greater at the net due to the many angle opportunities and the fact that they can contact the ball above net level.

But let’s not rule out the reasons why some players or teams prefer to play from the baseline, in doubles…

The case for both players staying back can be understood considering the following aspects:

  • Both players are not comfortable playing at the net but they possess reliable ground-strokes.
  • The team is receiving against a strong server – in this case, it is wise to begin the point with both players on the baseline and advance after the return is safely made.
  • The team’s serves are being aggressively attacked by the opposing team (example: if the serve is not powerful or deep enough, the returner attacks the net player; in such situation it is a good idea for the server’s partner to begin the point further back, close to the baseline).

Disadvantages of playing both-back formation:

  1. Many angle openings for the opposing team to put the ball away.
  2. Hard to cover the forecourt (against drop-shots or short angles etc.).
  3. Difficulty in finishing the points – they wait for the opposing team to make mistakes.

Any committed doubles player should strive to improve the net skills (volleys and overheads) and most importantly transitioning to the net which for most part can set them up for a comfortable play at the net if executed properly.

For more detailed analysis of how to play and win in doubles, sign up for the Training membership to learn how to play against different doubles formations, how to communicate with your doubles partner, how to cover the court and get to the ball quicker – watch easy to follow graphics and detailed information for beginning and advanced players.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Aggressive Doubles Strategy | The Lob

Many recreational tennis players think that the lob is a “cheap” shot and its main purpose is to “annoy” the opponents. But the best players know that it can be used as an aggressive tactic to take over the net and set themselves up for a winner. Here’s how:

how to use the lob for aggressive doubles tennisAs you see in the attached diagram, lobbing the net player can greatly affect the defending team (the one being lobbed: BP-NP) which has to change positions to retrieve the lob:

The net player (NP) must switch sides and back up (anticipating an eventual overhead from the opposing team);
The baseline player (BP) has to also switch side to return the lob.
Both players from the defending team will be on the run to play the next ball, which makes it difficult continuing the point.

On the other side, the attacking team (OBP – opposing baseline player, and ONP – opposing net player) following the lob will take position at the net with a high chance to finish the point with an overhead or a high volley.

Important:
For a lob to be considered an aggressive shot, it should have lots of topspin (to begin with) and placed deep, well beyond the service line.

Use the lob to give your team time to move up to the net and make your opponents play defensive.

For more doubles winning tactics visit the Training membership section (lessons, drills and tips for singles and doubles tennis players) at WebTennis24.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Tennis Players

Valentine tennis tipsI am quite sure you have already planned something nice for your life partner or date, but just in case you have not, here is an idea that you might entertain for this special day:

Take your loved one to a tennis court for a (friendly) hitting session.

When my wife (who is not a tennis player) and I play tennis, we really have a good time.

If you are a guy, try as much as you can to hit the ball back to your gal. Do not attempt to look macho. Hit the ball nicely to her, allowing her to enjoy playing tennis with you.
Compliment and tell her how good she looks on the court. She will have a lovely time and thank you for that. 😉

Avoid at all costs to play points or anything that gets people competitive. 

Just bring a basket of balls and rally them back and forth over the net.
Take water breaks every 10 – 15 minutes and talk about the lovely weather and how fun it is playing tennis outdoors (or compliment the facility if you do it indoors).

If you are a gal, just like the above advice, avoid playing any competitive games for today.
Go out with your husband or boyfriend and rally some balls back and forth complimenting each other.
If the guy feels the need to get too competitive or show off, let him do that; be patient, compliment and invite him to take a break if things heat up.

If you do not have a partner, just go out to a tennis club, rent a ball machine and hit some balls.
You never know, maybe you will meet someone who also needs a partner.

Have a lovely day! 🙂 

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

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