Sometimes as I write and or think about style, mechanics, rhythm and more I worry whether there is a disconnect (within me and or you) between these issues and plain old winning. Certainly we have all seen winners who may not have the smoothest strokes or the sweetest swing, but nevertheless they produce when the task is winning points, winning games and winning matches.
So let me go off the reservation so to speak, and muse about winning. These thoughts are distilled from what seems like thousands of matches over the years in the juniors, in college, in the men’s open in Northern California, Louisiana, and Florida, and in the senior men’s division where my entry into the junior veterans (the 35’s) is quite a long time ago. I won quite a few, and I lost quite a few. I can still remember clearly some of the wins, and am still troubled with clear memories of some of the losses. And in each case the results had more to do with the ebb and flow of the contest than with the technique that I have always tried to work on.
Detest errors – in nearly every match at nearly every level, points are decided by errors not by winners. Yes you might put a few balls away now and then, but in the main nearly ever point concludes with an error. Come to terms with consistency, yours first, then the opponent’s. In the last match you won, it is a fact that you made fewer errors than the opponent, and in the last match you lost I guarantee you made more errors than your opponent. Resolve to keep the ball in play – it is as simple as that.
Get an early lead. The first point of the match often sets the tone for what is to come. Understand the dynamics of this first point, and when won, build a sequence of points where from the start of the match the opponent is playing from behind. Similarly, place a premium on the first point of all subsequent games. When serving get the first serve in play on the first point, when receiving get the return in play on each and every first point. Not rocket science here.
At a certain level of play, one attempts to discern the opponent’s weaknesses, and create sequences that expose that telltale flaw. I remember a US Open final, Evert vs. Mandlikova, Chris would work the point until Hana moved forward but not with an approaching opportunity, and she would dump the ball into the net. Next point, Chris worked the same sequence, Hana the same result. At that point Chris knew how to play her, and Hana knew that Chris knew. The match was over. Well for you and me it is not always so easy to find the “chink in the opponent’s armor.” But listening may give you the best chance. Be alert after your opponent’s errors, and likely as not you may hear a mumbled if not screamed advertisement, “My backhand stinks,” Keep your darn eye on the low forehand,” Often the shot that bothers the opponent the most, will elicit a telltale advertisement, listen, listen, listen.
Three points in a row. At a conference in New York I heard Stan Smith expound on the importance of winning three points in a row, and if I remember clearly he may have suggested this was as important as any other element of his strategy and tactics. Momentum influences a match when one player believes she has the upper hand and the other player believes that they are beaten or being beaten. Stan suggested that in any match the winner will have always won more sets of three points in a row than the loser. To that end whenever Stan had won two points in a row, he fought like a tiger for the third, trying to get over. Similarly, whenever he had lost two points in a row, sensing a potential momentum shift, he fought like the dickens for the third point, anything to reverse the downward spiral.
Enjoy yourself. I learned this from a great friend, a mentor, and one of the best doubles partners I ever had. Bill Strei, no matter what the situation or score, always seemed to enjoy himself. Helped him play loose I guess, but equally it often unnerved many an uptight opponent who was investing way too much psychic goo in the outcome of the match. It is a game after all, life goes on whether you win or lose (Lendl learned this from a logo therapist and reversed his initial grand slam defeats) and if the game isn’t pleasurable to play, then find something else. That said, go out and try to win tomorrow anyway.
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Virtual Tennis Academy
Current professional tour coach, Heath Waters and wife, top 100 and former no. 33 in the world ranked tour player, Lindsay Lee-Waters, are proud to release the first predominantly all streaming video based e-learning tennis instructional website at www.virtualtennisacademy.com
Subscribers will receive personal video tennis instruction directly from Heath and Lindsay as well as mental coaching, sports performance training, and much more from a hand chosen team of experts currently working with professional tennis players on tour. Now anyone in the world, no matter what level, can receive the same world class training the world's best tennis players receive right from the convenience of their own home.
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.
Schedule Jeff Greenwald to Speak
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