By David W. Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
Happy New Year TennisOne Readers!
For tennis players, the New Year often signals a rededication to becoming a better tennis player. More practice, more tournaments, more ball machine work; it is often thought that if a player goes out and plays twice as much as last year, they will become twice as good a player.
Wrong! More tennis does not always equate into better play. It can improve a player’s level of experience, but it does not always result in better performance.
Players need to take stock of their tennis abilities; a reality-check, if you will, and determine two things:
- The areas of the game are preventing improvement.
- The best way to improve those areas of the game.
Before you attempt to answer either of these questions, there is one issue that must be determined and defined - What are your true tennis goals?
It would be unrealistic to set a goal of being a 4.0 level player if you only play once a month and you don’t know an eastern grip from an open stance forehand.
However, if you sincerely want to reach higher levels of play and wish to continue improving for years to come, your goal is going to be far different than a player who enjoys tapping the ball back and forth with some friends.
The reality is that either goal is acceptable as long as it is what you really want.
The truth is, anyone can be a good tennis player and, chances are, if you are a subscriber to a tennis site such as TennisOne, you really do want to reach higher levels of tennis!
If this assumption is correct, I am issuing this short list of goals and related prerequisites which will be part of the improvement package for each desired level of play.
Goals: Start on Progressive Path
To advance to higher levels of play, 3.0 players must develop a more effective second serve.
Beginning player goals: to start on a progressive path to reaching skilled play,
make a dedicated effort to master the continental grip on the serve and volley. While using eastern grips on the volley and serve are initially more comfortable, they are not only limiting in their potential as far as developing more effective serves and volleys, the use of eastern grips will make the transition to the continental grip much more difficult.
Learn this simple phrase: keep the plane the same. This deals with nearly every shot in tennis but has major implications for groundstrokes. Whether you use one hand or two, an eastern grip, semi western or full western grip to hit topspin, learn to develop a repeatable swing path that moves the racquet through the contact zone with no deviation of the racquet face through this zone and even more of the stroke in general.
One last goal for beginning players: instead of practicing hitting balls down the middle of the court to each other, work on angles in addition to working on depth. Too often, beginners fail to explore how to hit angle volleys (which are really quite simple and usually help a player develop better volleys), and effective topspin crosscourts, a shot useful in not only opening the court up, but also in making more effective passing shots.
Goals: Finally Move Passed 3.0 – 3.5 Levels
This group of players is generally the most difficult to move to the next level, especially if they have been playing for a long time. The element of competition usually prevents players from changing habits they are comfortable with and implementing new patterns that usually result in a perception of worse play for a period of time. However, such players, if truly dedicated to the goal of reaching higher levels of play, can indeed move out of a stagnant level and begin a "new life" so to speak.
Click photo: Intermediate players usually possess decent groundstrokes but element of competition usually prevents players from changing the things they need to in order to advance to the next level.
These players usually possess decent groundstrokes and lobs. However, their lack of an effective second serve, their fear of the net, (or inability to do more with the ball while at the net), and their lack of knowledge of more effective strategies are usually preventing them from competing with higher skilled opponents. They usually compete well against emerging intermediate players, those working on more effective grips, swing patterns and footwork patterns, but they themselves have not yet mastered these shots nor have they become consistent and comfortable with them.
Intermediate players need to improve their volley skills, especially approach volleys hit from behind the service line (both high and low volleys from this deeper part of the court). They also need to learn how to hit a bigger second serve. 4.0 and above players will usually attack puff-ball second serves and force these weak-servers to resort to lobbing almost from the get-go. Learning to hit with the continental grip and hit a more effective slice, topspin, or kick serve will go a long ways in both developing confidence in holding serve, and in gaining confidence in your overall game.
Goals: Continue to Improve and Win Against Similar or More Advanced Players
If you are advanced, you probably have mastered the volley, serve, half-volley, overhead, topspin and slice groundstrokes, and are able to hit winners from many parts of the court. These players are often satisfied with their abilities yet fail to improve the other aspects of tennis: namely conditioning, mental toughness, and maintaining the drive to improve.
Click photo: Advanced players have mastered all the basic strokes but they need to continue to push the envelope and improve conditioning and the mental aspect of the game.
Advanced players need to up the ante, so to speak. Like a runner working on improving, they need to continue to push the envelope of practice and conditioning. Developing upper body strength, working on conditioning, and working on tennis skills that are more demanding are but three areas to improve upon.
Having a partner hit overheads at you while you are at the net, learning to volley off more difficult shots; taking balls on the rise or returning balls hit very hard at you at the baseline; working on movement at the net with touch, (back and fourth across the net while hitting drop volleys or angle volleys); working on service returns and gaining more velocity on first serves…these are but a few examples of pushing the envelope of advanced play.
I wish you all well in setting your own goals and then finding the right combination of practice methods and competitive play to eventually reach—and surpass those goals!
(Click link to purchase Dave Smith's Book Tennis Mastery, at tenniswarehouse.com.)
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.
The Training of an Eight Year-old
One of the questions Dave Smith is asked most often comes from parents wanting to know the best way to introduce and train their young children in the sport of tennis. While there are variables that affect how a child will learn, from attention span to innate athletic ability, there are some very concrete methods Dave has developed, used, and tested that have proven to be very efficient. In this series, using his daughter as a model, Dave walks you through her development.
David Sammel attempts to simplify, through pictures and graphics, the sources of power in tennis and how understanding the different sources of power allows you to improve technique. David also shows you how to utilize power in different areas of the court and to realize, that similar to a graphic equalizer, a player has to cut back or increase different sources of power depending on where he is on the court or the type of ball he has to play.
ProStrokes Gallery: Mary Pierce's Forehand
At 32, Mary Pierce is still a threat on all surfaces. She owns two Grand Slam titles, the 1995 Australian Open and Roland Garros in 2000. But this big hitter is still in the game, having reached the finals of Roland Garros and the US Open in 2005. 2006 was interrupted with injuries to her right foot, and right ankle early in the season, followed by a shoulder strain and left knee injury as the year concluded. Trained by Nick Bollitieri, Mary hits big off both wings, and will be dangerous in 2007 if healthy. Check out her forehand in the TennisOne 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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