Every so often, my students surprise me with some rather simple yet challenging tennis questions that I keep thinking of even after I consider I gave them the best answer…
One such question is: “Should I play singles or doubles?”
Most of the players who ask this are beginners or intermediate level in search of their tennis identity: “Am I a singles or doubles player?”
My answer is usually as follows:
“If you don’t mind running, then singles is for you. But if you enjoy team sports and having an easy-going partner to work with, doubles is for you.
The two are different in the sense that in singles you have more court to cover and you’ll have to be quite consistent with your groundstrokes, while in doubles it is more about playing at the net, feeling comfortable with volleys, and strategic placement of your shots.
In my opinion, the game of doubles is more complex and exciting than singles.
Even if a player enjoys the one-on-one competition, they could benefit a lot from playing some doubles matches from time to time.
If you ask me… I like the singles matches. Even though I enjoy a doubles match from time to time, the fact that playing singles means I am responsible for every shot and the effort I put in is mine 100% gives me the assurance that the match is totally up to me and the way I perform on that day.”
Either way… enjoy your tennis!
In my years of teaching tennis in Southern California, the mornings were dedicated to teaching mostly groups of adult players and occasionally some homeschooled children.
The adult group classes were mostly formed of players looking for a good workout, fun, and learning how to play and win in tennis.
Years after I moved from California, I still get emails from my former students who tell me how much they miss my classes. That’s because I always considered the following…
1. Players like to have fun alongside friends or people they connect with.
In this regard, I tried to pair them up based on their personality and kept the atmosphere of the class a cheerful one by introducing fun games, occasional jokes, and constant encouragement.
2. Players like to get a good workout.
If they all look sweaty and out of breath at the end of the class, I know they will feel good about themselves for the rest of the day. A good workout means a better mood for the day ahead.
3. Players want to learn something new every time.
Players should be reminded of the proper stroke mechanics, strategies, and footwork. Try to bring a new piece of tennis information every time your students come to your class. They will appreciate you and the value they get out of your lessons.
It’s Saturday morning… I’m with my younger daughter (9 years of age) who has her last tennis practice before the next day’s tournament.
As it ends, I ask Bianca to play a practice match against her older sister, Cezara.
Bianca, who lately has been dominating the “battle of the sisters” is up 9-6 (tie-break to 10 points). Matchpoint, right?
But that’s when she makes the mental mistake that only inexperienced players allow to happen:
“Daddy, if we get to 9-9, are we going to play by two points?”
I take a deep breath, forcing myself to control my frustration. I know what is about to happen:
Her opponent (Cezara) comes back to even the score at 9-9 and eventually wins the match: 13-11.
So what is this about?
When Bianca was ahead 9-6, her mind should have been focused on winning the next point and closing the match. Instead, she thought about 9-9. Whatever her mind was preoccupied with… happened.
This was her lesson which I hope she understood:
Whatever our mind focuses on, happens!
Whether we visualize good or bad things, that’s what we get. It’s a universal law that applies to everything in life, including tennis.
Second serves are the ones that you cannot miss.
The pressure is on you and your opponent knows it (if they are a savvy player, they will prepare to attack your second serve).
1. Before you toss the ball up, tell yourself what you intend to do with your second serve:
– if your opponent shows an intention to attack it, consider slicing it (brush sideways). That will keep the ball low and difficult for your opponent to go for an aggressive shot.
– if your opponent stays back most of the time, a simple kick serve should do it to dip the ball over the net and make it bounce high off the ground.
2. Everything you’ve learned in practice… forget about it. This is not the time to think about your technique. You should just let your habits take over your movements. Toss the ball up and hit it after you previously told yourself what you’d like to accomplish (see the previous point).
3. Hit your second serve with confidence. It is easy to let doubting thoughts cripple your mind, therefore training your mind to stay on the positive side is crucial for delivering consistent second serves.
At a recent tournament, my daughter’s opponent’s mother approached me to enquire about her tennis experience.
After a brief introduction, she asked me the question that I honestly dislike answering:
“How long has your daughter been playing tennis?”
The reason I dread this question is that I consider it to be irrelevant…
Take, for example, two kids who both have been playing tennis for 2 years. One of them practices almost every day while the other one does only once a week.
That makes it obvious that the one who practices more often is the better player, even though they both have been playing tennis for… 2 years.
As a tennis player or tennis parent, you probably have encountered people who asked you this same question – how do you feel about answering it?
I make sure that when somebody asks me this, I’ll tell them the story I just described above. (:
And by the way, in my opinion, the right question to ask is: “How passionate is your son/daughter about tennis?”