How to Play Against Stronger Players

playing tennis
“He’s too good! I’ll lose this match for sure…”

“Don’t worry about him; let HIM worry about you!”

It’s one of the best advice I had ever received when playing competitive tennis.

Besides the above quote, what else can you do when playing against stronger and faster opponents?
– hang in there; the momentum could switch and swing in your favor;
– vary the spin, height, and pace of your shots;
– shorten your backswing – you’ll be able to handle their pace and contact the ball early;
– take more time in between the points, within the 25 seconds decent limit… or is it 20 seconds? (;
– believe you can do it and keep fighting – this one I can tell from experience that good things happen when we believe and fight all the way to the end.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

What Is the Most Important Aspect When Playing Tennis?

tennis forehand
Watching some of the beginning and intermediate-level players warming up for their matches made me think that there is a confusion in regard to what a player should accomplish first. Power seems to be a priority for some of the less experienced players…

A few days ago, I overheard a conversation between my younger daughter who was explaining to her mother that “everybody can hit hard; the good players know how to control the ball!”. That pleased me to know that she paid attention to my coaching. 🙂

So what are the priorities in tennis? 

I classify them as follows:
1. Consistency – players should first develop the ability to hit the ball over the net and inside the lines.
2. Placement – being able to hit the ball deep and short, or side to side, is key to get the opponents to hit off-balance or from their weak side.
3. Spin – translates most of the time into ball control and different kinds of bounces.
4. Power – is the last on the list of priorities and should be developed only when the first three had become comfortable to the player. 

Have fun on the tennis court!

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

This Inspired a Team of Excellent Players (Personal True Tennis Story)

tennis balls at net
I was a junior (about 13-14 years old) when the tennis team I was part of was about to play against one of the toughest tennis teams in our county.

We all knew we were going to get “killed” on the tennis court, therefore we decided to take it as a learning experience and see what made them so good.

Well, certainly their coach was the biggest reason for that particular team’s success, but one of the things that fascinated me was the following:

All their tennis courts were full of inspirational quotes posted on the fences, such as (the one that stuck in my mind still 26 years later) “If you win… continue; if you lose… continue!” 

I thought the coach’s idea was excellent to have his players read and eventually pick one of the quotes that connected with each of them.

I’ve lived a lot of my life’s experiences guided by motivational quotes. And they work to inspire and keep me going even when circumstances become harsh.

Do you have a quote that inspires you? What is it?

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Best Tennis Drills & Games From Webtennis24

teaching tennis
In a recent email, I was asked what kind of tennis drills or games I prefer to apply in my classes…

Even though over the years I’ve posted over 1,000 tennis drills and games at WebTennis24.com, just a handful are my favorite which I use consistently in my lessons. That does not mean the other ones are not that great – they are all good drills, but it just happens that I connect and enjoy doing some of them (or I can’t remember them all :)).

So here are the best coach tennis drills and games that I have noticed players enjoy and I apply them in most of my lessons:

Most popular drills/games for Kids:
1. Jail Breaker – friendly competition for groups (practice ground-strokes; catch / hand-eye coordination).
2. Clean the Court – speed; conditioning.
3. Potato Race – team race; speed; dynamic balance; racquet and ball control.
4. High Five – fun way to introduce kids playing at the net; introductory volley skills.
5. Dodge Ball – kids love this game: teaches them quick feet, reaction, dynamic balance.
6. Royal Court – I use it mostly as a warm-up: hand-eye coordination, ball tracking, movement..
7. Caterpillar – loved by kids; lateral movement; ball tracking.
8. Popcorn – hand-eye coordination; fun.
9. Bounce It! – racquet and ball control; competitive game for beginning players.
10. O-U-T – teaches kids consistent serving under pressure; fun competitive game.
11. My Invisible Opponent – great game to teach beginning players how to keep score while practicing their serve.
12. Cat and Mouse – loved game by kids: speed, quick change of direction, dynamic balance.

Most popular drills/games for Singles players:
1. Three for Air – aggressive play; moving up to the net to win more points.
2. 100 – great game for ground-strokes consistency.
3. In and Out – competitive game for 3+ players.
4. 90 Seconds – rally competition; good conditioning play.
5. Ping-Pong Tennis – team work; ground-strokes consistency.
6. Around the World – I usually do it at the end of a large group class: conditioning; ground-strokes consistency; fun.
7. Court Defender – one of the best games for large groups.
8. Cross Fire – competitive game for large groups.
9. Wipe Out – fun game for large groups; one vs. many.
10. Kings/Queens vs. Challengers – kids love this game: individual competitiveness.

Most popular drills/games for Doubles players:
1. Three for Three – transition to the net; net play; defending from baseline (players’ favorite).
2. Reflex Volleys – great net play game; quick reaction and volley control.
3. Three for Air – aggressive play; transition to the net; competitive game.
4. Win at the Net – loved by players: playing/winning at the net; teamwork.
5. Two Minutes – pressure play; net vs. baseline; conditioning for doubles.
6. One-Up-One-Back – classic doubles formation competitive game.
7. Battle of Racquets – teamwork; court coverage for doubles.
8. Olympics – net vs. baseline game for large groups.
9. Doubles Defense – teamwork and communication.
10. Lob Over Net Player – tactical and court positioning drill/game.
11. Moving Up and Down – role of players in doubles; court coverage and competitive play.

These above drills/games are just some of my students’ favorites but there are so many more that you might love. Check them all out at WebTennis24.com.

Have fun!

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

If I Could Write About 1 Thing to Make Your Tennis Better, What Would It Be? (Part 3)

girl winning in tennis
This is part three 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, they might not want to poach, knowing that the ball will come in their 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 they get 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 they also know what to expect.

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 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 achieve 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 can be found 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 were written 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.”
– 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 them 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 serve better with two-hands while the one-handed backhand is more difficult.
Position yourself further back to gain more time, and wait for the ball to lower and lose some of its speed.
Mostly, as with any kind of extra-spin serve, make sure you avoid blocking the ball; instead, try hitting hard through the ball to counteract the force of the spin.

90. “Serve”
– See the answer to no. 20, here.

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 WebTennis24.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 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 by 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 you’re 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

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

A Fatherly Advice

I’d like to address one of the things that have happened to me (I’d say, often) and I am sure you could relate to this as well…

You watch a tennis match between two players and think that they are playing great: long rallies, a nice variety of shots, etc. You can’t help but 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 them! That makes you wonder: “What has happened? I was certain that this guy was much better than me based on how they looked playing against somebody else.”

One thing is for sure: only because somebody plays very well against a certain opponent does not mean they 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 underestimate our own potential and therefore we think others are better players when, in fact, they are not.

My father once told me this 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.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

I Am a “Pushy” Parent!


The idea to write this article came to me as I was watching a YouTube video of a 9-year-old tennis “prodigy” girl…

This particular video was the last drop in the bucket for me regarding a debate that is kind of taboo for a lot of parents and coaches.
If you are a tennis parent or coach you might want to stick with me and read this article all the way.

For those who don’t know me, I am a tennis coach and I have been teaching tennis since… I was a kid. I have always loved teaching and sharing my knowledge with anyone willing to learn and improve.
But this is not about me. This is about a debate that seems to be a sensitive subject for many. It is about whether parents should PUSH their kids to pursue a certain sport…

It’s a great scenario when your child loves a sport, let’s say tennis, and they are motivated to improve and cannot wait to get on the tennis court.
But there is also a scenario in which you, a parent, love a certain sport, let’s say tennis :), and you see your child has no drive, no desire to practice the sport, even though they have talent and you know that by practicing the sport they will benefit tremendously later on in life.

During my tennis teaching career, I have met and taught countless adults who confessed that they wish their parents would have “pushed” them to stick with tennis when they were kids. They are aware that when they were young they had other hobbies that were more comfortable for them like hanging out with friends, watching TV, playing video games, etc. Those distractions did not account for a more enjoyable life later on.

Now, as a parent myself, I am put in a situation where I have to guide my two daughters (7 and 5 years old) on whether they should pick up tennis or not.
As a tennis coach, I would hate myself to have any of my daughters, 20 years from now, asking me why did I not teach them the sport I am so knowledgeable about?
I would hate to know that I have the necessary skills to give my children the gift of a healthy habit (playing tennis) and not do it.

My problem is the following (and I am sure a lot of parents and coaches have this dilemma): my kids are not “crazy” about playing tennis!
My kids would rather just hang around with their friends all day, watch TV, and/or indulge in short-term fun activities like playing online video games… As a parent, I am aware that a few years from now they will find these activities do not provide a healthy lifestyle for them.

So the BIG question is should I, as a parent and a coach, step up and “push” my kids into playing the sport I am very proficient in?

Before I give you MY answer I would like to give YOU some arguments:

– I’ve seen and heard the opinion of many parents stating that kids should be given options and let them choose.
I think it is a very wise decision. But what if… while you give your child the many options, you and your child, actually focus on at least one sport that you are sure your kid will benefit from in the future. Something like running, swimming, basketball, tennis, surfing, iceskating… These are sports that they can practice for the rest of their life. These are sports that will allow them to stay in shape even after the age of 30, 40 or older. What if we “push” our kids to learn a sport they can practice for the rest of their lives?
As much as I think playing American Football or Baseball are great and teaches them discipline, hard work and team play, these sports are kind of “dead” for them (as far as the possibility of continuing practicing them) after the age of 25…
On the other side, if we just let kids experiment all the sports hoping that one day they will stick with one, they might end up knowing a little bit of every sport but not be good at any one…

– Think about how you were at the age of 7, 8, or 9… Were you aware of what would be good for you in ten, twenty, thirty years later? No, of course not. Therefore we, as parents, must present the future to our kids and describe the importance of doing sports and activities that could have an impact for them later on.
Even though Johnny loves to play online games, that will not help him be more sociable, driven, and outgoing in the future.

Having said that, here are my opinions in regard to providing our children with skills that would help them become successful later on in life:

  • Every kid should be given the opportunity to learn at least one foreign language.
  • Kids should also learn how to dance (how many times have you went to parties or social gatherings and envied the ones who were able to move gracefully to the music?).
  • Every kid should, at some point, know how to defend themselves – get them into some self-defence classes.
  • Children should be given the opportunity to learn how to play at least one musical instrument (piano, violin, saxophone etc.).
  • Every kid should practice and be good at one sport. Why? Because in order to be good it takes dedication and perseverance. It is easy to begin a sport or anything else and… quit. But if we, as parents, encourage the kids to stick to a sport, they will learn that whatever they do and work hard at will become a habit and great things happen when we persevere.

With these said, I think that I should “push” my kids to learn tennis and have them learn from my knowledge to become as good tennis players as they can be. I am sure that whether they will decide to stick with tennis or not, the skills they will learn from practicing and persevering in tennis will help them in life later on.
And I am sure of one thing: my kids will not tell me “Hey Dad, how come you did not teach us tennis?”
As I do this, I want to make sure that my kids learn a foreign language, play the piano (or guitar), take self-defence classes and take dance lessons too.
Everything else… is up to them.

I would love your opinion on this. Please share this article and contribute with your feedback… Thanks!

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.