Tennis Facilities Tip
Quality lighting is a big differentiator for a tennis facility. It's not difficult to assess your lighting system's performance, and it should be done annually using a light meter to take foot-candle readings. These can then be compared with USTA recommendations for nighttime play to see how your system is holding up. And it is worth checking out the latest innovations in tennis court lighting. New technology has led to the development of energy-efficient, high-performance systems that may save you money while improving performance.
Click here to learn more.
"What's New" Product Video
- from Tennis Warehouse - Liquidation Sale - Wilson KFACTOR racquets (Federer, Fish) and Nike shoes (Federer Nadal)
Balanced Focus on Rhythm and Technique
David W. Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
As a teaching pro for more than 35 years, I’ve encountered several types of students. Some students are as passive as a sponge, taking no responsibility to discover any aspect of the game other than that which is spoon-fed to them. Then there are those try to anticipate your instructions or identify their mistakes even before they have hit the ball! Others believe that if they simply hit 100,000 balls, they will automatically become a highly skilled player and don’t need any instructional input at all. Finally, there are some students who will fight you every inch of the way. They make excuses for hitting a shot poorly instead of listening and applying the advice that would help them master the particular stroke in question.
Most players, however, fall into one of two categories. The first group focuses so much on technique, they have difficuly developing a feel or a sense of rhythm for any two of the same shots. The other camp focuses so much on rhythm, footwork, and timing, they don’t develop an optimal or effective swing pattern. These latter players tend to hit flatter shots (although, not all), but fairly clean shots. The first group tends to hit strokes that have a desired amount of spin and speed, but miss-hit many shots and consistently miss the desired target.
Rhythm and Technique
While this heading sounds somewhat like the name of the latest new-age jazz band, the idea of well-played tennis is dependent on the ability to employ sound technique in a rhythmic, repeatable pattern that does not involve too much thought.
One of the biggest mistakes I see players make in competition is the focus on the minutia of technique. Whether thinking about grips, footwork, unit turns, swing path, knee-bend, transfer of weight, etc., players sabotage their ability to hit the ball the way. Timothy Gallway’s book, "The Inner Game of Tennis," described this phenomenon in entertaining detail. The other aspect of this self-sabtoging process is the confluence of thoughts that surround the negative. When a player misses a shot, he often berates himself, using very negative (and sometimes very ‘colorful,’ descriptive terms!), to accent the miss. This is very common among players who have failed to master their minds as much as their mechanics.
The ability to play more effective tennis is enhanced when the player is in the moment; that is, when the player is focused on the shot, not the technique used to hit the shot. Ideally, we “see” the shot in our mind's eye before we hit. We envision the height, the spin to apply, the angle of trajectory, and the speed of the stroke as one, encompassed thought. Professional tennis players and pro golfers use this technique. Golfers are known to “Shape a shot” in their minds, picturing the similar components of a shot in the way a tennis player might.
Focus on the "where," not the "How"
In “shaping a shot”, we are not focusing on the “how” but the “where.” If we have trained ourselves and trust the techniques we've learned for hitting particular shots, then it is not necessary to cloud the mind by thinking of “how” to execute the “where.”
Trusting oneself is perhaps the hardest thing to do. Yet, when we trust ourselves, we don’t handicap ourselves by interfering with the rhythm of the stroke.
Being able to focus on the feel and the rhythm of a stroke (especially under match pressure) is what really separates the highly skilled player from those who flounder inconsistently.
I’ve seen dozens of potentially 4.5 players play at a 3.5 level. Why? Because they don’t trust themselves to execute 4.5 level shots under the pressure of competition. They over-think and stay within the “safety zone” of stroke attempts they feel they can get in the court. Yet, if they ever hope to compete at higher levels of play, they need to attempt more effective strokes with confidence. Hitting less effective shots over and over won’t suddenly produce a player who can hit more effective shots when needed.
Click photo: Even the great Federer makes errors, but it's not because he's struggling with technique. More likely, his focus or his aim was off.
The answer is to make sure you practice both technique as well as rhythm. When I ask students if they ever use the ball machine or work with a practice partner hitting cooperative rally shots, too often the answer is no.
There is a reason some players, even those using suspect form, hit so consistently and with reasonably good effect. They are the ones who hit with rhythm using repetitive form regardless of technique. Obviously, those who simply push balls over the net will stagnate at lower levels of play. When such players compete against players who can hit more effective shots (better volleys, overheads, and groundstrokes), they have no answer.
So remember, your playing ability is not just about technique. You want to work on creating more rhythm in your game and, during match play, think less about the “how” and more about the “where.”
When Roger Federer misses a shot, it's never about technique, and you don’t see him trying to fix his technique during a match, so why should you?
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
"Touch" the Next Level
Let's face it, power is in. Pros such as Fernando Gonzalez and Juan Martin Del Potro can hit forehands at over 100 mph, and what the pros do, we want to do too. However, big shots alone are not enough to win matches against high level players. The ability to take pace off the ball is frequently overlooked by today’s power hungry players. Do the pros hit the ball hard? Sure they do, but the best players in the world have also learned to recognize when “less is more.” – Greg Moran
Play Better Tennis – Divide the Court in Thirds
Ken DeHart asks the question, "how do you manage a large project," the answer, of course, is to divide it into smaller projects. Surprisingly, you can manage a tennis court and your tennis game in the same way, by dividing the court into thirds. Ken DeHart demonstrates how you can manage each third and how you would play differently from each part of the court.
TennisOne Classic: Modern Approach Shots Tactics
For as long as I remember, we've been taught to approach the net with the down-the-line and that the dynamic approach shot was more effective than the static approach because it brought one closer to the net for the volley. However, in this article from 2006, Doug Eng studied over 300 approach shots played at that year's US and Australian Opens and it revealed the way the pros actually play the game. The results may surprise you.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Maria Sharapova's Forehand
Maria Sharapova, at a mere 22 years of age, has already amassed a storied career. Over 12 million dollars in prize money, three grand slam titles, and a solid future as a world wide personality, yet she still appears to want more on the tennis court. Her record in 2009 is 31 wins and 9 losses, but this is a long way from the 2008 Australian Open where she captured the title without the loss of one single set. In the spring her shoulder flared up leading to surgery on the labrum. At the Tokyo tournament in September, she captured the title showing she still has game. Check out her strokes, in super slow motion, in the Tennis One ProStrokes gallery.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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