This the part 3 of “If I could write about 1 thing to make your tennis better, what would it be?” (see part 1 and part 2)
76. “best backhand return from the deuce court to avoid the net man poaching.” (in doubles) – Hitting inside-out backhands from the deuce side to avoid the net player is a tough task indeed. Have you tried to hit the backhands hard at the net player? If you do that he/she might not want to poach knowing that the ball will come in her direction next time. Just make sure you let your net partner know that you’ll hit the backhand return at the net player so that he/she gets ready to react to the opposing net player’s reply. If you have a weak backhand you could consider lobbing your return of serve. Overall, communicating with your partner in regard to your return intention is key in doubles so that he/she knows what to expect also.
77. “If I had to ‘make a wish’ it would be for court geometry and the building of points.” – We have a great section at WebTennis24.com where the court geometry in singles and doubles is covered. Check it out!
78. “How to play the net position in doubles.” – According to your level of performance, there are certain positioning tactics and roles you should assume when playing at the net. See the “Tennis Tactics for Singles” and “Tennis Tactics for Doubles” for an in-depth lessons and tips for playing at the net in doubles.
79. “I would like to see what the pros “see and think” during an exchange. Example: I hit a hard ball to the forehand corner of my opponent and I start to come in. Often I would at where my ball is landing and then see my opponents coming in my field of vision just in time to hit the ball on the run. Last summer I was pass down the line like that and I realised that had no clue about what was coming. If I had watched my opponent earlier, I would have seen that he was running parallel to the line and not coming in slightly in diagonal. Running at full speed like that the probability of hitting a good crosscourt were low (at my level at least, 3.5-4.0). I am sure that there is a lot of time where I’m not watching what and where I should be watching. I try to watch the racquet of my opponent too see pass or lob, hard shot or drop shot but there must me more to that. What does the pros sees?” – I think that you are on your way to achieving a good read for your opponents’ body language and anticipation. The fact that you are asking and paying attention to that, in time you will get better. The pros all started as you are right now – paying attention and analyzing their opponents’ movement and racquet path just before contact, got better the more they played. Pay attention to your court position too; it can cut the angles and put you closer to the next ball.
80. “How to control the distance from the ball and the timing.” – Check the answer no. 66, here.
81. “Doubles strategy” – I would say, everything you need about doubles strategy and tactics you can find in the “Doubles Tennis Tactics” section where you’ll learn how to play different types of teams, players, how to serve, when to poach, and so much more.
82. “Hitting mid-court volleys (I play a lot of doubles) with pace and depth. Should I hit a swinging volley?” – The swinging volleys are great and I personally like to use them a lot in my doubles matches (and singles too). The key is to time your swing and make contact with the ball chest or shoulder high. If the ball drops below net level don’t think about hitting a drive volley…
83. “I play doubles mostly and I believe I have every aspect of the game except being able to volley from mid court. Hence, my serve and volleys are not that effective unless I get closer to the net such as midway into the service box. This is not always possible given that sometimes the ball comes back at my feet right after I land into the court. What should I do?” – You can do the following: 1) stay back after the serve and advance to the net on the next shot 2) develop a better half-volley (bend the knees and work on your balance)
84. “psychology and strategy” – For strategy see the answer at no. 81. Some interesting (I hope) articles in regard to how to “see” every tennis stroke I wrote in the “Mental Tennis” section at WebTennis24.com. You might find it very interesting.
85. “I would write about drills to improve preparation and reaction time.” – My suggestion is for you to consciously practice (not during a match) the following: as soon as you recognize the ball coming to a certain side (e.g. forehand) turn the shoulders and get the racquet set behind the ball before it bounces on your side of the court. Stay low during the rally so you can have a good balance. In regard to reaction, you can find lots of drills in the “Speed & Conditioning” section at WebTennis24.com. Consistent practice creates habits. Do it often in practice and it will become automatic in the match.
86. “My biggest help would be in constructing points. Knowing what shots to hit and when.” – This is a plan I have for future; stay in touch! 🙂
87. “In a word, ANTICIPATION.” – The anticipation in tennis has a lot to do with your knowledge of court positioning and body language (based on which you can tell your opponent’s shot selection). With conscious analysis of the two aspects you’ll be able to anticipate more and more of your opponents’ intentions.
88. “How to be more aggressive. I find myself not taking a chance, especially poaching at the net or hitting the ball as hard as I know I can. I always lay off for the safe shot or just stand at the net, afraid to take a chance for fear of missing the point or upsetting my partner.” – These two aspects (missing a shot and upsetting our partner) are what hold us from playing tennis at full potential. I can tell you that at the end of the match you’ll feel worse if you hold back than upsetting your partner. After all, if you partner does not understand your effort than you should look out for a different one. It is also important that you can communicate with your partner letting him/her know that you want to play aggressively and therefore sometimes you might make a mistake. Find a partner that understands and is willing to work with you. It is no use to continue playing with fear of missing or upsetting someone. Tennis is meant to be enjoyed and progress to be made. There is no progress playing in the comfort zone!
89. “Return of serve from backhand side to include returning kick serves.” – It depends of how much kick the server can deliver: how high the ball bounces and how fast. Also you should specify whether you hit a one-handed or two-handed backhand. You can control the kick serves better with two-hands while the one-handed backhand are more difficult. Position yourself further back to gain more time, wait for the ball to lower and lose some of its speed. Mostly, as with any kind of extra-spin serves, make sure you avoid blocking the ball; instead try hitting hard through the ball to counteract the force of the spin.
91. “Is there one part of a swing motion (forehand for instance) that all players do the same if the result is the same?” – Most of the top players have some common elements that allow them to hit the ball with more power and control. One of them is the short back-swing. Prepare the racquet behind the incoming ball and avoid any unnecessary movements. Find the most effective way for you to hit the ball early and relaxed.
92. “Backhand (two hand) down the line.” – For sending the ball down the line (regardless of forehand and backhand) wait for the ball to get closer to you (hit it a bit late) and you’ll find yourself directing it down the line with ease. The opposite is true: hitting the ball early allows you to send the ball cross-court.
93. “I would be glad to fasten my backhand stroke (two hands).” – Work on hitting the ball early, keep your hands relaxed on the grip, loosen your strings tension… and mostly understand the difference between pulling the racquet versus pushing it through the ball. Pulling it gives you more power than pushing the racquet through.
94. “Maybe a checklist of skills and tactics. Sometimes people don’t work on things simply because they aren’t thinking of them. For example, slicing from the baseline – high, medium, low. And when/why to choose this shot.” – Excellent ideas; great material for future. Thank you!
95. “I would be grateful if you would address the use of the front leg in creating proper North-South and East-West distance from the ball (if not hitting from an open stance).” – To be honest, I am not that detailed in regard to footwork. I think it should be as natural as possible and not have to think too much while striking the ball. In my opinion, short steps and good balance, are more important than the angle and distance the feet are from the ball. There are many coordination, speed and balance exercises at both WebTennis24.com and WebTennisDrills.com – apply them at least 3 times per week and you’ll see the improvement in this area.
96. “How to stop choking! My son (17 years old) often is up a set and a break, then finds a way to lose the match. He also can be up 40-0 or 40-15 and end up going to deuce or worse. Helping him learn to close out games, sets and matches is something I’d love to hear more about. Thanks!” – I’ve talked about this subject; please check no. 13, at this page.
97. “Regarding your question: as for my daughter it definitely would be footwork. My daughter started training more intensively approx 1.5 years ago when she was already almost 13 y.o. She improves quickly since we started training 5-6h weekly instead 1-2h previously but footwork is the biggest pain point for now. You have many drills in this area but we would use even more. In particular: – drills for tennis movement patterns – to transition from just running on the court to typical tennis movements – drills to start moving towards ball earlier (anticipate better) – separation of legs movement and swing (or I would say performing them in parallel with right timing and rhythm). She often starts swing, then movement and then it is too late – drills to improve the habit to return to court center.” – Some of the drills you mention are at WebTennis24.com and WebTennisDrills.com already but I’ll make some notes for future videos also.
98. “How do I handle the high balls? How do I practice to hit on the rise?” – Timing is key in hitting high balls on the rise. You can easily practice them asking a tennis partner or a local coach to feed you some high balls. Technically, prepare early and try making contact with them chest or shoulder level, swinging up and across the body (some call it windshield wiper motion). Imagine your rolling the strings over and across the ball. Hit them with confidence. In regard to footwork, try shortening your steps as you get close to the ball. It will help you with timing and balance.
99. “WHETHER YOU ARE A BEGINNER, AN AVERAGE OR AN ADVANCED PLAYER YOU ARE MOST LIKELY TO TENSE YOURSELF IN CRITICAL MATCH SITUATIONS. WHAT WOULD IT BE YOUR BEST ADVICE TO MAINTAIN OURSELVES LOOSE AND PERFORM ACCORDINGLY ( SPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO OUR GRIP AND ARM TENSION) IN THESE BIG POINTS…?” – This too I’ve answered in the previous posts; check the answers here and here.
100. “Cosmin, rec players like myself sometimes go through an entire 3 set match repeating the same mistakes….like not finishing the forehand swing….or forgetting to hit up & out on my serve…. or trying to use my legs more etc. After years of frustration, I now have a short ” movie script” ( a screenplay) of things I need to do and I watch this movie a minimum of 3 times before I step on the court. This is a specific “visualization” tip, but will only work if the student takes the time to make the script and then be disciplined enough to review it before picking up a racquet!” – I have the feeling that you are focusing too much on the technical part, during a match, when you should be focusing instead on tactics. All the things you have mentioned should be worked on in practice – have a coach or sparring partner feed balls or rally with you while focusing on the technical aspects. After you go through a lot of repetition (in practice) you’ll find them just happening, out of the habits you created, during the match. Do not work on your technical aspects while playing a match.
Cosmin Miholca Certified Tennis Teaching Professional WebTennis24.com
At the beginning of the year (2016) I sent a simple question to over 10,000 tennis players, coaches and tennis parents: “If I could write about 1 thing to make your tennis better, what would it be?”
There are many players and coaches who strive for good and straight-to-the-point information. Now that I’ve been playing tennis for over 28 years and taught this wonderful sport, full time, for almost 13 years, it would a great pleasure of mine to share my knowledge.
Below you’ll find the answers that people wrote in response to the question that was presented (above) to them. I’ve tried my best to give them my honest answers hoping to clarify the issues and giving solutions to improving their tennis.
I’d have to mention that some of the answers I provided below are already presented in great detail on my website (WebTennis24.com). Some issues are going to be the material for future articles / videos, and the ones I could give my straight opinion are there to be read and debated (which I strongly advise you to do whether you agree with me or not).
So here are the next 25 requests (click here for first 50 Q&A) that tennis players and coaches would like to find out more about:
51. “When I am playing I still find the toughest thing to do consistently is to keep my focus. I think I’m focusing, but after a shot I realize that I wasn’t ready or I didn’t watch the ball. There is another issue that seems to be related. When I get into a rally I sometimes freeze up and miss a shot which I have hit thousands of with no problem in practice. It seems to be a lack of confidence or an incidence of panic. I don’t seem to relax and trust my strokes.” – Some of the tips to answer your concern can be found here (check no. 13). In regard to missing shots that you’ve practiced a lot outside of competition… it will happen. And that’s because playing under pressure is obviously different: we tend to get impatient trying to finish the point, our movements are more tense and our eyes tend to stay on too many targets under pressure (ball, where the opponent is, court openings, net etc.). One tip I could give you in playing more relaxed and with confidence is to stop worrying too much about the outcome of the match. For many years, I played tournaments where after I won matches I went home disappointed for the poor performance despite the win. I found the solution to that when I stopped carrying about losing and focused on enjoying playing, going for my shots (regardless of getting them in or out) and overall building good relationships through tennis. One of the interesting things you will notice a top pro player doing is playing his best when he’s under pressure. It shows us that one should not let panic take over the game. If we go out losing we should go out fighting.
52. “footwork, good drills to improve footwork” – We have provided a lot of great drills for speed, coordination and conditioning at WebTennis24 (click here for direct link to respective drills) and WebTennisDrills (click here for direct link to respective drills). Enjoy getting fit!
53. “Drills to help make early preparation a habit.” – My suggestion is for you to consciously practice (not during a match) the following: as soon as you recognize the ball coming to a certain side (e.g. forehand) turn the shoulders and get the racquet set behind the ball before it bounces on your side of the court. Consistent practice creates habits. Do it often in practice and it will become automatic in the match.
54. “develop proper tennis serve swing cycle and rhythm” – We have recently posted (what we consider) an excellent Serve tennis lesson showing the main technical steps of this important stroke (check out “Tennis Lesson: Flat Serve”) at WebTennis24.com. In regard to swing cycle and rhythm I would also recommend “Flat Serve: Progression Drills” particularly the “4 Steps (Shadow Drills)” and “Landing and Split Step” where you’ll find two drills to improve the Serve rhythm through shadow swings.
55. “the most difficult thing to move sideways in time.” – Use a combination of cross-over (first) and side shuffle steps. Best would be to learn through watching videos then put it in practice through drills. A good video in this regard to use as reference is “Recovery Steps after a Wide Ball” where you’ll see how to combine the cross-over with the side shuffle to move laterally to the ball and back to cover the court.
57. “That would be anticipation.” – The Anticipation in tennis comes with experience and a conscientious effort to pay attention to your opponent’s body language before he/she strikes the ball, as well as with a good court coverage knowledge. Study those and you’ll find yourself being in the right spot (most of the time), saving energy and winning points easier.
58. “how to develop focus on the ball (Federer being a perfect example) and NOT lift the head up too early?” – Let me just share one of my tricks that has allowed me for many years to focus on the ball: Before I have a tough tennis match, I do this exercise (you can call it meditation, if you want)… I sit in a chair, comfortably, and look for a spot (no bigger than a button) that is at least 3 feet away. It can be any spot on the wall or… anything. Then I keep my eyes on it without straining my eyes. I stay still and focus on that spot for at least 1 minute. That has helped me clear my mind and learn to avoid shifting my eyes away from the object (in this case, the ball) which interests me. Also, in practice, saying to yourself “bounce (when the ball is about to land on your side) – hit (just before contact)” could help you stay focused on the ball too.
59. “as i get older(79) on my next birthday what is the best way to maintain my court movement?” – I once had a student who was 81. I loved him as a friend first and as the way he committed to improving his tennis. I would say you should get better with the choice of shots and understand and use the court geometry to your advantage. Depending of whether you enjoy singles or doubles, there are certain tactics and shot selections you could use in order to run less and cover the court more efficiently. I’ve spent a great amount of time presenting all the advantages that involve good knowledge of court coverage and how use them to save energy by positioning in the right spot when playing certain shots. Get an in-depth analysis of court coverage by clicking here.
60. “how to keep my eye on the ball!” – Please see no. 58 (above).
61. “I teach my daughter, who is 23 years old; she plays very well, but in a match play hers nerves often a prank. Can you give me some tips on how to train these?” – The pieces of advise I gave to no. 51 (above) might help in teaching your daughter how to play tennis in a more relaxed state of mind. Best of luck!
62. “I need to improve a lot of aspects of tennis but my number one thing is footwork specially going towards backhand.” – This spring I’ll demonstrate (through videos) the footwork that applies to different strokes. But until them check out the advice I gave to no. 55 (above).
63. “How to focus on one shot at a time.” – I find that keeping track of the score and visualizing myself winning the next point really helps in staying focused in the present and be positive during the match. Try it and see if it helps.
64. “My tennis is in my head. There is nothing too much wrong with my game but I have days when I lose my confidence and play appallingly. Sadly, today was one of them! I definitely need mental strength and self-belief!” – Please see the advise I gave at no. 51 (above).
65. “Little has been done on the warm-up before matches.” – This is a great idea for future videos. Thank you for suggesting it! 🙂
66. “The area I most struggle with is my footwork, often on my forehand in particular getting too close to the contact point.” – There is a great drill to work on hitting the ball more in front (and avoid making contact too close to your body) – have somebody feed ball to you (from a basket) and you should practice setting up to hit the ball but instead of hitting it you’ll stretch your non-dominant hand out to catch the ball. This will accomplish two things: 1) to track the ball (keep your eyes on it) 2) give you a visual cue of where you should make contact with the ball (out and in front) In regard to footwork, do at least two times per week drills specific to increasing speed and conditioning which you can find plenty at “Footwork and Fitness Tennis Drills” at WebTennisDrills.com.
67. “I’m always told that my spacing to the ball is too close but no one tells me what to do to correct it. I’m right handed, so is there something I could be doing with my left hand to help me?” – Funny that you asked! 🙂 I just answered a similar question (see above – no. 66).
68. “How do I insure that I get a good and proper racquet drop on my serve motion?” – The racquet drop on the Serve is the result of uncoiling your body and pushing up from the legs in order to meet the ball. Keep your arm and wrist relaxed for a fluent motion.
69. “could you please give me your kind opinion on how to avoid unforced errors.” – You can obviously cut down on unforced errors by doing the followings: 1) keep your mind distracted from the pressure of the match and your opponent; 2) stick with what you feel comfortable and use the strokes you don’t trust only when you have a clear advantage; 3) keep your knees bent – by doing that you increase your balance by having a low center of gravity; 4) aim higher over the net and at least 3 feet inside the lines; don’t fall for the hype to hit all the balls close to the baseline – making them land just beyond the service line would be sufficient enough to enjoy long rallies and keep your opponent from attacking you; 5) use spin – it is one of the best ways to allow yourself to put more pace on your shots while maintaining the balls in the court; 6) visualize your shots going in; keep a positive attitude and find a way to snap out of negative thoughts; 7) practice the strokes you don’t feel consistent with; use drills that put you under pressure situations as the ones highlighted in the “Mental Strength Tennis Drills” section.
70. “I need a decent kick serve – giving me both security and aggressiveness on my second serve – most.” – This is a good idea for future videos. Thank you for suggesting it!
71. “My game is fine but I’d like to know how to teach young children in a group ages 5 to 10 in a more effective way without them getting bored and waiting to hit balls. Sometimes I have to work with 8-10 kids on one court and I find myself stressed out trying to make the lesson fun and educational. It’s hard because most of them are beginners and since there is so many kids on the court it’s difficult to really teach the proper technique to each and spend the proper amount of time with them without neglecting the other kids. I just started teaching about 6 months ago and I work for an organization that places 8 to 10 kids on the court for each lesson. Sometimes 12 kids. What tip could you give me?” – I feel your “pain”… At the beginning of my career I found myself working for a private school in Southern California where they would bring us (me and another fellow tennis coach) 15 kids with no court – we literally had to stretch a tennis net on a synthetic grass space and teach them tennis. We did the best we could but I recall that period of time being a stressful one. I congratulate you for your commitment to give value to those kids even though it is not an easy task. So here are my pieces of advise which I do hope to help you. By the way, feel free to get in touch with me via email or contact forms on the WebTennis24.com or WebTennisDrills.com sites to let me know how much more I could assist you. 1) try to get kids involved in helping each other with the proper technique: pair them up and ask the players on the right to check the technique of the players on the left; 2) make sure you frequently ask them questions; that keeps them focused and paying attention to your instruction (reward them with an enthusiastic cheer if they give you good answers) 3) use drills and games that kids love (find plenty at WebTennisDrills.com – check out “Tennis Drills and Games for Kids“) 4) don’t spend too much time with one drill or game; have at least 10 different drills or games ready for one hour lesson. 5) to teach them proper technique when they are in large groups use games like “Jail Breaker” (which you can find at WebTennisDrills.com) – that keeps kids having fun while you enforce the correct technique. 6) overall, keep it fun!
72. “What is the single most important thing to do to win in a tennis match?” – This is a simple one: just hit more balls in than your opponent. 😉
73. “Return of Serve” – The key elements to a good return of serve are: reading your opponent’s body language (predicting the type of spin and placement), footwork and preparation. For details of how to hit a successful return of serve check out the following articles / videos: 1) Do this For a Better Return of Serve 2) Return of Serve Tactics – an excellent resource presenting how, where and why you should hit your return of serve according to certain tactical situations.
74. “How to handle pace/fast shots from my opponent.” – First thing I would like to tell you is to improve your technique by shortening the back-swing (not taking the racquet too far back when setting up for the shot). This will allow you to prepare earlier and make contact further out in front for more ball control. Second… stay low. This will allow for better balance and body control. And last, do not try to match your opponent’s power. Play at the pace you feel comfortable and be consistent with your shots.
75. “Keeping focused and my eye on the ball. I tend to look up at the last moment to look at placement.” – Besides the advice of keeping the eyes focused on the ball and let your peripheral vision take care of placement of the ball please see the answer to no. 58 (above). Have fun!
Cosmin Miholca Certified Tennis Teaching Professional founder, WebTennis24.com
Three days ago I was watching two of my tennis friends (Sorin and Ady) competing in a very entertaining match. Both of them are of about equal level but what got my attention and made me reflect was Sorin’s game, which changed so much compared to the way he played an year ago…
When I played him last year (for the first time), it was a comfortable match for me and therefore I tried to give him some tips to help his game. We are still very good friends and occasionally play some matches against each other because he gives me a good work-out for the fact that our clay court is slow and he can run down a lot of balls.
But what I would like to point out is the fact that Sorin used to have a very weak one-handed topspin backhand: inconsistent and technically awkward. Since he was not patient enough to take lessons and improve it, I gave him the advice to switch to slice backhand from there on (it seemed to suit him better). And he did it. And what a difference that made in his game…
Considering that he is a very gifted athlete (he can run a lot and he’s fast due to his soccer experience as a youngster) and having a steady forehand, now, using his slice backhand, he can hit a lot of balls back into the court… Sorin is now one tough opponent for anyone. He used to lose against our friend, Ady, every time. Now he beats him regularly.
The moral of this story is that YOU should too evaluate what is the cause of your losing matches… What exactly is your weakness? What can you do about it? And above all: are you aware that you have such a weakness? Are you willing to change it for good? Find it and change it into something better!
As I watch the U.S. Open (Grand Slam) tennis tournament I can’t help feeling the urge to go out on the tennis court and practice.
I am sure you might feel the same to. But before you do it, I’d like to share with you some of my tips that can help you get the most out of your time on the practice court:
1. Serve Practice: – Hit the ball with a loose arm: begin at slow pace then after about 10 serves increase the power on your serve. – Practice with targets (use cones): place one target in the corner of singles line and service line, one just inside the service line and about half way between singles line and center line, and one target at the corner of center line and service line. Aim for them one at at time and do not move on to the next one until you get the serve within 6 inches close to it. – Practice consistency: serve 10 balls in a row and see how many go in; then do it again trying to better the previous exercise. Do not cheat on the pace – if you practice your first serve then hit it at the speed you would in a match.
2. Return of Serve Practice: If you can find a player willing to practice her/his serve then you are in luck. Regardless if the player hits her serves hard or slow you can always practice returning them to certain areas in the opposite court. Your targets should be cross-court, down-the-middle or down-the-line – but they should always be DEEP – that unless you would play a serve-and-volley player…
3. Ground-Strokes Practice: – Consistency is key on every shot in tennis especially on ground-strokes. Regardless of the level of skill that your partner possesses you should always try to out-rally her/him in practice. Counting your good strokes in a row is a great way to rally practice – that gives you a great feed-back of how consistent you are and it also helps you relax as you play. – Placement: Invite your partner to play some pattern drills, like: cross-court or down-the-line rallies; or rally deep and stop if the ball lands inside the service line (or better yet, if the ball lands inside the service line to have the player move up and attack at the net). – Experiment with new shots: While you might be tentative to use your weak slice backhand in a match, the practice is the time to use those strokes that you need more improvement on. But you don’t want to upset your practice partner missing a lot of balls while you use your weaker shots often therefore you should do it on every 3rd or 4th shot.
4. Net Game Practice (volleys and overheads): – Practice good court positioning and feel for the ball. Considering that the ball comes to you a lot sooner when at the net, you will have to develop good habits of positioning to take the ball quicker and closer to the net as possible. – Do not try to put the volleys away in practice, instead try to feel the ball and control the placement of every shot without the intent of finishing the rally right away (even if you could). Going for winners in practice will not win you anything besides frustrating your partner – save those shots for the match.
5. Match Play: – If you play a better player that is the time to push yourself and see what areas of your game need improvement. Do not worry about the score too much; play to improve your strokes and quickness on the court instead. – If you play a weaker player then you shouldn’t worry about the score either. This is the time for you to focus on new shots (maybe drop-shots, slices etc.) and tactics (e.g. serve-and-volley). Avoid playing the same game that you find comfortable only for the sake of a win against your weaker opponent. Be ok to lose a match as long as you try different things in your practice match (I know it is hard to do so… 🙂 – Play pressure situation kind of games: begin every game with server at 0-30, or play a game where the server loses two points instead of one when making a double fault etc. These kind of games teach you how to handle pressure situations.
Above all, make sure that your tennis practice is a positive experience and you always learn something out of your time on the court. Cosmin Miholca WebTennis24.com
A couple of months ago I finished reading Nadal’s book – “Rafa” – and there was one statement that he made which I have been thinking about ever since… He said that his sister and the rest of the family consider him as being far from coordinated and a terrible driver. Nadal, himself, admits that the only reason we see him move so well on the court is because he has been spending so much time doing these movements that they just became natural and easy.
This brings me to a subject I have always found fascinating – the tennis talent.
Is there really talent that some people are born with
Talent is a skill that we develop through meticulous repetition?
As I was growing up I thought my brother had a talent for sports: he was faster and more coordinated than me. My father wanted to prove me wrong and showed me that hard work can triumph over talent. As a result I did overcome my brother’s talent in the last tournament we played when we met in the final: I won due to the extra hours me and my father put in just to prove this theory.
Years later I had the fortune to read two great books: “Bounce” (by Matthew Syed) and “The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How” (by Daniel Coyle) which explain in details and with concrete examples that talent is not something we are born with; instead it is something that we develop through thousands of hours of specific repetition.
That opened my eyes to the fact that all these geniuses we admire, in fact, were not born with talent. All of them have been very early practitioners in the field they eventually excelled in.
Take Nadal for example: he began tennis at the age of 3 under the supervision of his uncle Toni. Mozart (in music), another genius, was actually introduced to music by his father (an experienced music teacher and composer) at a very early age of 1. Tiger Woods, introduced to golf by his father before the age of 2, is another example of what we call genius.
All these people and many other ones that we look up to have excelled in their field not because they were “gifted” but because they have started their career at a very early age.
Researchers came up with a statistic that in order to achieve excellence in anything you must do two things: 1. begin practicing at a very early age, 2. spend over 10,000 hours / 10 years of specific practice in order to master it.
I personally agree with this research but as a parent of two girls I cannot help noticing that there are actually differences that people are born with: my younger daughter seems to be catching up with many things a lot easier as long as they are physical activities while my older daughter loves and excels in mental tasks: reading, math etc.
I agree that we are born with a certain conformation in which our nervous system functions but ultimately the talent is the result of one main process: specific repetition.
This being said, I believe that repetition can take us places that we don’t even see ourselves capable of.
Just like one of my fellow teaching pros once said to his student: “Ok, Mary, this is how you hit a one-handed backhand. From now on, all you have to do is repeat this 3,000 times and you’ll have a great backhand!”
“How to watch a tennis match??? What do you mean by that?”
I mean: do youlearn anything from watching a tennis match?
Yes, watching a tennis match can be a great lesson if you actively analyse what happens on the court and, above all, ask yourself questions… Do we take something out of this experience or are we simple spectators going through the emotions of winning or losing a tennis match? Is watching tennis a learning experience for you? If the answer is NO, then I would like to suggest that you keep the following list next to you while watching the next tennis match…
It is important, for your improvement, to ask yourself questions. Questions will provide you with valuable answers. These answers will help you understand tennis and where you want to get as a player.
So pick your favorite player and follow him/her asking yourself the following questions: – Where is he aiming the first serve: opponent’s forehand, backhand or middle? – Where is he hitting the second serve to? What spin is he using? – Where is he aiming his returns of serve? – Where are most of his ground-strokes aimed at? Is he going mostly to a certain side (opponent’s weakness, cross-court)? – How early is he preparing for the ball (early preparation or not)? – Where is he standing to receive first serve? What about second serve? – Where is he placing/aiming the approach shot? – During the rally, how is his court coverage – covering cross-court quickly from the baseline? – At key points (15-30, 30-15, 40-30, 30-40, AD in, Ad out), where is he serving to? And what kind of spin is he using? – How does he play key (pressure) points? – Where is he aiming the defensive shots? – At change-over – what does he eat and drink? How much? – How is his body language after a point he just lost? What about after a winner? – How far back is he taking the racquet when returning serve (notice the short back-swing)? And the list can go on and on. Feel free to add your own question/s…
If you have not watched a tennis match asking questions, then do it now. You will be amazed of how exciting the experience can be and what a valuable information you will get from it!