Click photo to hear Jim McLennan talk about the most common error in tennis.
Reading an article in the recent Tennis magazine, a writer rejoices in the difficulty of playing tennis, and that we should truly celebrate those who “try” to play. Indeed, if this game were not so difficult, I wouldn't have a job as a teaching pro. Though, I sometimes worry that perhaps the job description should be a “trying to teach pro,” because, in spite of my best efforts, it sometimes appear that little real progress occurs.
That having been said, I am now discovering something that may sound familiar to those of you who work with a teacher or coach. That is, it is at times difficult for me to remember what to practice. I work on my eyes like Federer, I work on my forehand from material by Doug King – “The Hands Have It,” I practice my sink and cart wheeling on the serve, and I am trying to get a little more stick on my volley. Well, unless you or I have a span of control of five, this is simply too much to be aware of, too much to monitor while playing. Too many projects to attempt on court at any one time.
So, in the way of a New Years resolution, can there be a unifying thought here, can there be just one “key” that would unlock more doors on the court than any other? Perhaps it is simply that the game is so darn difficult because we can look through the net.
Years ago, Suzanne Lenglen played a curious game with her father in that the first ball into the net ended the her practice session.
Somehow on court, because we can look through the net, two things occur. First, we pick our head up prior to the moment of contact in order to see where our shot is headed. Second, the net appears less significant an obstacle than were we playing the ball over a brick wall of equal height, so that most players are more troubled by errors that sail long, than by those that fall into the net. Yet, years ago the (in)famous Ion Tiriac (doubles partner of Ilie Nastase, coach of Guillermo Vilas and then Boris Becker and then Henri LeConte) was asked for some simple advice on how to play better, his response, “Put the ball over the net.”
Well, it is true that the majority of errors in recreational play are those shots that do not clear the net (which is the opposite of what occurs on the professional level). More errors are short, than are wide or long. Put the ball over the net has real meaning.
Suzanne Lenglen, when learning the game from her father in Paris as a young girl, was trained as follows. Father and daughter would pack up racquets and a picnic lunch and go to the park to play tennis. But, they would play only until young Suzanne hit just one shot into the net. And then, they were off to the picnic, for the rule was they would only play until one netted shot occurred. ONE NETTED SHOT! Fairly ingenious way to impress this point on anyone, much less a willing daughter.
All pictures taken of Federer at the moment of contact show exactly where he is focused.
So, next time on court, if you are wondering what to work on, and certainly on this score TennisOne may be guilty, for between our Lesson Library and the Pro Strokes Gallery, there is a veritable laundry list of projects – consider just one. Avoid the temptation to look through the net, avoid the temptation to flinch, twitch, or move even the slightest amount during the contact event.
Simply do one thing at a time – and in this case doing one thing at a time means when hitting the ball, do that and only that. And among many other skill sets, this and this alone may set Federer apart from the pack, for any and all pictures taken of him at the moment of contact show exactly where he is focused.
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Jim McLennan TennisOne Editor
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Product Highlights: Pro Tech Video Analysis The Pro Tech Video Analysis system is the industry's premier video analysis service. Pro Tech puts your strokes side-by-side with the strokes of three professional players, providing a detailed graphical analysis of your strokes compared to the reference points of these top pros. This invaluable visual comparison, combined with the detailed analysis by a current tour professional coach, offers the most advanced and unique learning environment in tennis.
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Jeff Greenwald - Fearless Tennis
Feel you're playing tentatively and know that you have greater potential than you're demonstrating in tournaments? This one of a kind, double- CD audio program, FearlessTennnis : The 5 Mental Keys To Unlocking Your Potential, will help you compete with confidence, close out matches and is a great way to get the mental edge en route to a tournament.
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