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Old 10-03-2010, 11:05 PM   #1
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Default How to improve?

I've been playing tennis for about three years now and I'm very disappointed in how I play. I'm inconsistent, I frame the ball quite often, I can't aim very well, my serve is terrible, and the ball goes long most of the time if I'm not careful. I've had a history of almost constant losing, even to players who I know I am much better than. In the middle of matches I get bad because I start thinking about all of this, and I just don't know how to get better. It's very frustrating, and even playing almost every day for 3-4 hours after school isn't making my improve. I'm scared that despite my hard work, despite getting lessons every weekend, I'm just going to continue to have a lackluster performance. I just don't know what to do! Any help from anyone who suffers from this problem would be great. I just want to actually be competitive this year. I want to win. Thanks in advance.
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Old 10-04-2010, 12:08 AM   #2
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Default Re: How to improve?

It seems to me that you are thinking pessamisticly. Pessimism leads down to a road of faliure. You need to be completely realistic with youself, and you have begun to do that. You said that your serve is terrible. That is actually not a bad thing. The serve is the only shot in tennis in which your opponent cannot affect how you hit the ball. Go out and practice your serve. Serve 200 balls. Serve 300 balls. Serve until your arm actually hurts. Put in the work and you will recieve results in this area.

The best way to get better quickly is to play people who are better than you, and slightly worse than you. Try new things against those who are worse than you, and work on what you do well when you play those who are better than you. I do this all the time when I practice at my school. I'm ranked 2nd on my University's club team, so other than matches against other schools and tournaments I don't get to play people on my level or better than me very often, so when I play my teammates who I know I could beat without breaking a sweat, I try different things. Ex: My bread and butter is serve&volley. I have is almost down to a science, so there is really no point in me doing this against my lower ranked teammates. What I do work on is hitting as many backhands as possible. I have a terrible hitch in my swing, and I am trying to remove it. By doing so I am not really focusing on the outcome, I have even lost a set or two to the 5th ranked player on my team. However, it's not about the box score in practice, so keep that in mind.

As far as losing matches that count, you can't win until you believe you can win. I am a VERY nervous player just like you can be sometimes. I am so nervous that it's reminicesnt of the great Tommy Haas. Any time you see Haas sit during a match he is actually shaking. How does he overcome this? Straight gameplanning. Before every point think about what you want to do, and what you want to make your opponent do. My normal thought process is goes something like this: Ok I'm playing a righty so his backhand is towards the Ad court. I want to play towards his backhand as often as possible whilst doing what I do best. Therefore, I will attempt to serve out wide in the ad court, forcing him to give a backhand return in which I will Serve and volley either wide to the deuce court or down the line in the ad court. This is a conversation that I will have with myself fifty times during a set. It seems obvious, however I feel much more confident and calm repeating it to myself before I serve to the Ad court. Your plan doesn't need to be this complicated however. Your gameplan could be as simple as Hit to his backhand as often as possible and keep the ball deep. Another thing I do after losing a tough point is to tell myself that this is just business. What I mean by this is: don't get emotional, stay calm, take your time, think clearly; all things that you want to do while working in the business field.

I didn't grow up in an affluent family, and therefore I have never had the luxury of having my own coach or the ability to take tennis lessons. I would say that I have done fairly well without one, playing like a 4.0 on a bad day, a 4.5+ on my average and good days. If you believe that a coach is necessary then great, keep him. If you think that the guy your are taking lessons from then maybe you should switch to somebody else. If you are paying $30 an hour for lessons then hell you should work with somebody who can help you reach your fullest potential. Do not feel bad if you choose to switch coaches, it's just business, and certain coaches work better or worse with certain types of players.

Confidence will help you above all else. I gained a ton of confidence by constantly reading, strategizing. My bible was Brad Gilbert's Winning Ugly. Every player should have this book in his/her collection. It offers everything you need to know about nerves, gameplanning, and even little things like how to pack your bag (I'm super anal about how my bag is packed before a match). Another book I enjoyed reading was Mental Tennis by Vic Braden. This had to do with the in's and outs of the psycology of tennis, how the brain works in relation to the game we play. I would say that you should definetly purchase winning ugly.

Remember, you are just 16. You have many years left to play, weather it be in Highschool, at the NCAA, Club, or inturmural level in college, USTA, and at your local Club. Taking the time to enjoy the game you play will lead to the ultimate satisfaction which every one of us desires.
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Old 10-04-2010, 02:37 AM   #3
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Default Re: How to improve?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Houdini176 View Post
I've been playing tennis for about three years now and I'm very disappointed in how I play. I'm inconsistent, I frame the ball quite often, I can't aim very well, my serve is terrible, and the ball goes long most of the time if I'm not careful. I've had a history of almost constant losing, even to players who I know I am much better than. In the middle of matches I get bad because I start thinking about all of this, and I just don't know how to get better. It's very frustrating, and even playing almost every day for 3-4 hours after school isn't making my improve. I'm scared that despite my hard work, despite getting lessons every weekend, I'm just going to continue to have a lackluster performance. I just don't know what to do! Any help from anyone who suffers from this problem would be great. I just want to actually be competitive this year. I want to win. Thanks in advance.
We all go through this. I had a period during my high school years where I felt the same way and it took quite a while to get out of that mental slump. I think it took me about 4 months to finally get back thinking positively and it took a lot of hard work.

While your coach or peers could try to give you a mental boost, in my opinion, that doesn't really ever solve the problem. The best way to solve this issue, is to start winning matches, especially tight ones, and get a lot of confidence. In my experience, the best way to do this, is to REALLY work on your fitness. This way, you can rely on your fitness to get through matches even when you don't feel that confident hitting particular shots at certain times. When I mean working on your fitness, I mean you should be running quick miles easily without getting tired, be lifting decent weights, etc.

My private coach, along with nearly all other coaches I have met, says tennis is 80-90% mental, and it truly is. After you start winning some matches, your tennis should start falling into place, and when you finally get over that mental hurdle, you'll be a lot better for it. Just remember, many of the players who are playing will also be feeling like this, you DEFINITELY ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE. Even top players both in the juniors and pros have doubts about their games from time to time, which is why players who succeed are not necessarily the most talented, but are rather the strongest mentally.

I mean look at Nadal from July of last year to March or so of this year. He couldn't win a single big match to save his life and he was number 2 on the ATP tour!
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Last edited by HKz : 10-25-2010 at 07:29 AM.
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Old 10-25-2010, 04:30 AM   #4
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Default Re: How to improve?

I think the fact that you "want to win" so bad is bothering your game. I feel your pain. I used to play bad in matches because I was so worried, then I got a little older and wiser. For me, I am very competitive, but now something has changed for me. I know that there will always be another match, another time to win and that this match is not the end of the world. because of this, i play more like myself - better, like in practice. Here's my tip: play to enjoy the game. I really think this is what you need. I know it is cliche, but try to just enjoy hitting and runnning - do NOT think about the score and winning. Good luck.
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