It has been an absolute pleasure getting to help multiple women get to their next level in tennis over the past 15 years.
I’ve helped complete beginners achieve a 3.5 ranking in as little as two years.
I’ve also had the good fortune to work with multiple USTA teams that went on to win sectional tournaments.
Finally, my fiancé, at the time of this blog has been playing tennis for 2 years and is already competing with me in mixed doubles.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed:
THE KEYS TO SUCCESS
1. Movement is initially more important than strokes.
Obviously, strokes and tactics are essential to becoming a good tennis player.
However, the ability to get in a great position to hit the ball will facilitate executing a great shot.
Another way to look at it is, a perfect stroke does no good if you aren’t in position to hit it.
Look at the top players in the world and ignore their strokes just for a second. You’ll clearly see that they quickly arrive at the ball and often have extra time to rhythmically deliver their strokes.
2. You can easily improve your movement skills.
There are some great ways to quickly improve your movement skills.
One is to learn proper footwork patterns like in THIS VIDEO.
Another way is to work on agility like in THIS VIDEO.
Finally, you can engage in plyometric exercises that will increase core and lower body strength, explosiveness, and endurance.
3. Power thrills, but consistency kills.
Surprisingly, this is often overlooked.
Being able to consistently place the ball IN A LARGE TARGET AREA will almost always prevail over “aiming for the lines”.
Instead of trying to paint the lines, aim for a target area around 6 feet in diameter. Even if you “miss”, your ball will be in play, and the pressure will be on your opponent to respond.
Use this technique to “play into the match” during the first 4 games and gradually narrow your aim IF YOU NEED TO.
Often, your opponent will give you free points because of his/her unwillingness to be steady and consistent.
HOW YOU CAN BECOME MORE CONSISTENT
4. You can ALWAYS improve your technique.
Some ladies I’ve had the pleasure of coaching were under a misconception that it was “too late” to improve their technique.
The opposite is true.
With the right strategy and execution, even the most technically flawed stroke can be improved if you’re willing to put in the work.
Going through the proper series of progressions like THIS, will systematically build or rebuild your stroke into a reliable weapon.
5. You can ALWAYS improve your fitness.
For many of us, the difference between the first and third set is how fatigued we are.
Improving your fitness will give you a decided edge late in matches both physically and mentally.
Yoga, plyometrics, and high intensity interval training are all ideal ways to improve your fitness for tennis because they focus on elasticity, explosiveness, and cardiac output, respectively.
6. You can ALWAYS improve your tennis IQ
Understanding what shot to play in a given situation becomes very important to your success on the court as you are improving.
Understanding court positioning in any given moment during a point will save you time, energy, and set you up to hit a great shot.
In singles and doubles, there are specific tactics that are considered “high percentage” and it’s important to understand them if you want to continue to improve.
For example, cross court tennis is generally accepted as good practice because the net is lower in the middle, and there is a larger area to hit in to. This increases your odds for success on the given shot.
Similarly, in doubles, hitting an approach shot down the middle of the court will generally prove effective because the opposing team must make a quick decision as to who will return the ball.
ABOUT THE MENTAL GAME
6. You MUST control your emotions
Sometimes, my fiancé hates to hear me say this (and I only say it when talking about tennis because the couch isn’t very comfortable).
Nothing will ruin an opportunity for you to succeed faster than unchecked aggression or negativity.
A set or match can quickly unravel with a bad call unless you seize the opportunity to refocus on the present moment.
You can use the ACE Strategy after every point to Accept, Correct (or Congratulate), and Exhale.
The right centering strategy will gradually make you mentally tougher and much more effective during matchplay (and in every other walk of life).
7. Visualize success
It has been proven that the mind cannot physiologically tell the difference between what is “real” and what is VIVIDLY imagined.
That’s why it’s important to visualize yourself succeeding.
Set aside a little bit of time every day to visualize yourself playing well and executing your shots and game plan. It will greatly increase your chances for success during your match.
8. Pay attention to self talk
We all have commentary going on in our heads throughout the day.
As women and mothers, I’ve been told that the stream can be quite busy at times.
This may be due to evolution and the need to simultaneously protect children, prepare food, etc.
Based on some conversations I’ve had with my soon to be wife regarding our wedding, I’ve found this is most likely true.
That’s why it is important that we make sure our self talk is affirming and positive.
After a great shot or point, congratulate yourself.
After a bad shot or point, encourage yourself and mentally correct the issue before you refocus on the next point.
This single habit will put you into a much better position to perform at your best during your match.