Ok, this situation has happened to me many times in my over 27 years of playing tennis:
You play an opponent whom you have competed against before, but in this particular day everything “connects” for him: the ground-strokes are consistent, perfectly placed and timed drop-shots, his lobs are “magically” finding the baseline, the first serves are at a high percentage… and whatever you do the ball finds it way to come back for another shot. In short, your opponent has one of those days when everything connects. So frustrating for you…!
What should you do and how do you play?
One lesson I’ve learned in my entire tennis career is: no matter how good your opponent is playing you should always care for these three things:
1. How long can she/he maintain this level of play?
2. Whatever it takes, I should stay positive and show no sign of frustration to fuel my already confident opponent. 3. Stick with whatever strokes you feel you have control over. It is not the time to try something new. Be humble in your play.
Really, all it takes to win most of the matches against “in the zone” players comes down to the above three mental points.
However you play, always keep in mind that the mentally stronger players always (or at least most of the time) prevail when the balance of technical skills is levelled between players.
A few years ago, the father of one of my students told me he wanted to take a couple of tennis lessons so I can teach him how to hit with topspin. This gentleman was about 70 years old and a reputable doctor in Southern California.
My first approach with him was to check his grip. I explained him that in order to create more topspin on his ground-strokes he needed to make a grip adjustment.
He was using a continental grip (on his forehand); I slowly helped him to make the transition to an eastern and then to a close to semi-western grip.
That, followed by a couple of other minor technical improvements (stance and swing), gave him a very good understanding and feel of how to hit with more topspin, power and keep a lot more balls in.
It took us a few sessions (about 10 – with a lot of questions and frustrating moments here and there 🙂 but then he ended up surprising his doubles buddies with his new strokes; as a result his confidence and enjoyment for the game got to a new high level.
You see, many times the minor adjustments that we do in our tennis technique, can be the foundation of our overall capability to play at full potential.
A few days ago I posted eight (8) new videos that are dealing with just that:
I am extremely grateful to see more and more tennis parents and coaches reaching out to me for advice based on my playing and teaching experience.
This time I’d like to bring to your attention the question a tennis coach was recently asking: how to run his tennis classes so that the kids/students do not have to wait in line for too long?…
Waiting in line is not only boring but it is disruptive to the rest of the players especially when those who wait begin chatting and the coach’s instructions are not being heard by the other players.
Following are some of my tips that I have used in my classes to keep all my students happy and getting the best of my instruction:
1. A coach should never accept more than 6 players on the court (unless you are conducting a cardio tennis class where the coach feeds more and teaches less).
2. While some players (first in line) hit the balls that the coach feeds, the others in line should shadow the first player or do some tennis related exercises (ladder, cones etc.) – make sure your students are aware of proper spacing so that no one is hurt.
3. A coach should line up the players (if there are more than three) in two lines and learn to double-feed (two balls in the air at the same time) so that two players (one from each line) practice their strokes at the same time.
4. Choose games that involve players as much as possible: 2-3 points before rotating and bringing new players on the court. The ones waiting can be put through some drills (cones, ladders etc.) or have them act as ball boys/girls for the ones who play.
Feel free to send me your suggestions if you have some more tips in regard to keeping the class going and getting everyone involved.
I was recently asked about my preferred teaching style: do I strive for the “perfect” technique or I let my students learn tennis through games (lately there are more and more tennis coaches who embrace the games based approach by the way).
The answer is simple: tennis should be fun regardless of the level of performance.
I do like to stress the proper technique in the beginning of the lesson just to start with the right fundamentals but I want to make sure that at least 60% of my lessons are actually exciting for my students by introducing games and drills that have them work on placement, friendly competition and strategies.
In my teaching career I’ve often paid attention to the faces of my students: when they are put through the repetitive drills of learning the “perfect” technique and when they are presented with the opportunity of playing tennis games.
The difference between the two is enormous; and here is why:
1. When a coach stresses the technique most of the time they (the kids) might end up “looking great” on the court but deep down in the back of their minds they will consider tennis as boring and repetitive.
2. The games based approach gets players thrilled to be on the court and, even though their technique will not be as good in the beginning, the fact that they enjoy playing tennis will make them do this longer and not only that… they’ll encourage their friends to get involved into it because people want to share things they love.
I’m not advocating that technique should be eliminated from the tennis practice – just not over-emphasised.
My suggestion would be that a player/student should practice his/her technical elements in the beginning of the lesson (let’s say for about 15 – 20 minutes) but then she/he should be exposed to applying the learned fundamentals into a fun related tennis activity.
I’d like to address one of the things that has happened to me (I’d say, often) and I am sure you could related to this also…
You watch a tennis match between two players and you think they are playing great: long rallies, nice variety of shots etc. And you get the feeling that those guys are so much better than you. Then one day you meet one of them in a tournament match… And you beat him! And then you wonder: “What has just happened? I was certain that this guy was much better than me based on how he looked playing against somebody else.” (Mental Tennis Tips)
One thing is for sure: only because somebody plays very well against a certain opponent does not mean he will play well against you too! We are all different and our style of play can either help or impede our opponents.
We often tend to under-estimate our own potential and therefore we think others are better players when, in fact, they are not.
My father, once told me before a match I was nervous about… “Don’t worry about how good he is, let him worry about how good YOU are!”
Now, that is one attitude you should step on the court with.
Here is an idea for developing great ball tracking, quick reaction and feel…
As a coach, I sometimes carry with me a basket containing a mixed type of balls: some bouncy (new or old), some “dead” (that lost their inside air), some “spongy” (the over-sized sponge ones for little kids), etc. This basket I take out on the court when I want to work with my students on quick reaction, footwork and feel. (Basket Tennis Drills)
I feed those mixed balls to my student and challenge her to hit them all over the net. The benefits of this drill is that I make the player get out of her comfort zone by not having to deal with the same bounce and speed of the ball all the time. She also develops quick first step reaction by having to adjust quickly to the bounce and depth of the different type of balls.
If you are a coach or parent of a tennis player try doing this drill sometimes but make sure he/she warms-up very well before the drill begins.
1. You shall not wear sunglasses when talking with your students, nor when greeting anyone. 2. You shall always have a positive attitude. 3. You shall always remember your students’ name and greet them as soon as they enter your tennis court. 4. You shall never pick-up or talk or text on your cell phone during your tennis lessons. 5. You shall never be late for your tennis lesson otherwise it is free for your client. 6. You shall not speak poorly of your fellow tennis coaches regardless of their teaching methods or any club or tennis organisation affiliations. 7. You shall show respect to your clients and make them feel welcome even after they have stopped coming to you for lessons. 8. Once in awhile you shall give free lessons to those who cannot afford them, and spend extra time with your clients who need more help. 9. You shall always look clean and smell nice. 10. You shall always look for ways to improve your tennis knowledge and share it with not only your students but younger fellow coaches who seek guidance also. (Tennis Drills and Lesson Plans – for tennis coaches)
Cosmin Miholca WebTennis24.com
As a tennis coach you would enjoy the drills and tips from the Coaching section at WebTennis24.