Improving Your Tennis Game
Many people want to level up their tennis game, and a good percentage of them want to do it as quickly as possible. The problem is that a lot of people don’t know where to start when they decide to improve their skills. If this happens, they may get stuck in a rut, or get frustrated and quit the sport altogether. To prevent this from happening, follow these eight essential tips to improve your tennis game.
Have A Plan
The first tip we’ll give you is something you can apply even before you step on the court. Simply put, it’s to have a plan whenever you go out and practice. Think about it this way, if you have a weak groundstroke that your opponents tend to take advantage of, will you improve it if you only practice your volleys? The same goes for when you have a below average backhand and you do nothing but work on your arsenal of forehanded shots. There may not be a forehand strike you can’t defend, but you’ll crumble when served a backhander.
Experts suggest following three steps to easily set up a game plan: identify the weakness, make a plan to fix it, and implement the plan – IPI, in short. If you don’t fix your flawed shots as soon as possible, you’re just going to be further ingraining bad tennis mechanics into your muscle memory. It’s also advisable to get started on your training as soon as possible to see the changes faster. Train as often as possible too, but make sure to listen your body if it needs a break.
Watch Yourself Back
Taking videos of yourself while training or playing can give you a good idea of the things you need to work on. You’ve seen this work in different sports such as basketball and football, so why not try it on tennis? Even as an amateur, you’ll notice a lot of these things such as being in the wrong place as well as hitting shots too deep or too short. You could even ask your coach or a buddy of yours to watch the tape back with you so you can get a second opinion on how you play.
Work On Your Feet
You may not think about it that much, but your footwork is an essential part of your tennis game. Forgetting to work on quickness and agility is a common mistake that novice players make. If you have good footwork, you can be in the best position to defend against shots, which compensates for your less than stellar mechanics. So stop blaming missed shots on your terrible luck or on your bad stroke, since you were probably out of position to begin with. When you’re out of position, you’ll be off-balance and unable to perform a full swing.
It may seem like a small thing, but you should concentrate on getting your back leg and, as a result, your body weight behind the ball. This lets you dish out more powerful shots with a lot less effort. This also allows for easier weight transfer for more consistent shots. In a sport where each game can last for hours on end, the difference between winning and losing could be your ability to conserve your energy.
So put on your tennis shoes and do some footwork exercises in the morning or after every practice session. A good example would be to catch tennis balls with your hands instead of hitting them back with your racquet. This forces you to get into the best position possible when receiving a shot, so you won’t be lunging at the ball with your racquet. You could also jump rope or do agility ladder drills to improve your footwork. It’s important to add some variety to your workouts so you’ll be prepared for whatever your opponent dishes out. This will also help prevent boredom.
Practice With Better Players
As the saying goes, “birds of the same feather flock together,” so playing against better opposition can only do you good. Don’t be afraid to ask higher level opposition to train with you from time to time. They’d be more than happy to impart some of their expertise on newer players. You might not think highly of the prospect of running around and chasing fast shots all day as well as losing most, if not every, set you play. However, hitting with more skilled opponents forces you to play some of the best tennis you have in a while, or ever, for that matter.
By the same token, if you practice with higher caliber opposition, you won’t be shaken up when you face them in competitions. You won’t crumble when you have to make the game-tying shot at five sets each, with the score at 30 to 40. As much as possible, enter yourself in a tournament featuring more experienced players. Challenge yourself. Beating easy competition might feel good, but it doesn’t help make you a better player. Participating in tournaments is a great way to highlight the things you need to work on.
Pay Close Attention
Playing against better players also teaches you how to pay attention to others’ games. Doing so will help you identify their respective weaknesses, which you can then expose. Practice memorizing your opponents’ shot tendencies and patterns. It would also help to learn how to formulate and switch up your game plans on the fly. You can practice this by varying your shots during your warm-ups and practice sessions. Ask your training partners to hit shots in different places and return them using a variety of shots such as slices, top spins, as well as high and low balls. Continue to switch things up at the start of the match to figure the other player out.
Once you’ve figured your opponent out, stick to whatever it is you’re doing. You don’t get extra points for showboating on the tennis court. The best players will always try to hit their strongest shots. Being scattered with the styles of play you use may cause you to miss extremely easy shots. If you carefully watch top ranked players, you’ll see that they like to hit certain types of shots to start their play. For instance, John Isner and Rafael Nadal like to start with a forehand strike. Find your own shot and use it to your advantage.
Placement Over Power
Another mistake beginning tennis players make is putting 100% effort into their serves. We wouldn’t blame you for falling into this trap as a lot of tennis players think that the harder they hit, the better they are. But in reality, you should focus more on placement over power. Experts suggest only using 80% of your power when serving the ball. This will reduce the chances of you serving long and will also make your services less predictable to your opposition. Focus first on the accuracy of your shots over their spin or their speed. These will come along in time. While your opponent is running around the court, you’ll be able to control the pace of the game.
Although we’ve said that it’s better to focus on placement over power, you should avoid going for the line on every shot. If you do, there’s a bigger chance that you’ll go over the line. Choose your shots carefully and place them in areas where you know you’re not going to be at risk of hitting too much air. Over time, you’ll get more comfortable hitting shots closer to the line. Again, a well-placed shot trumps a powerful one almost every time.
Stretch, Stretch, Stretch
You should stretch before, during, and after you play tennis. This could be in the form of static stretching where you hold a pose for a certain amount of time, or you could take up a bit of dynamic stretching, which requires you to move through specific exercises. Increase the amount of stretching you do, as this will only do you good. Stretching helps loosen up the muscles and joints, which is helpful in a fine motor sport such as tennis.
Clean Up Your Diet
What you put in your body is also an important part of what makes you a better tennis player. Clean up your diet. You can run after the ball faster if you lessen the times you eat burgers and fries in a week. Or, you could cut them out completely for even better results. Instead of binging on junk food, eat some more vegetables and lean protein. Drinking more water can also help you feel less bloated.
Continue eating and drinking the right things even as you’re playing. Drink on every changeover, whether it’s a sports drink or water. On every other changeover, have a little snack. You could nibble on a protein bar or snack on some nuts. This will keep your energy levels up throughout the match, which, for a lot of coaches and pros, is the key to winning a tennis match.
Follow these tips and you’ll be a better tennis player in no time. Pay attention to even the smallest aspects of your game. It’s these little tweaks that can make a world of difference in your game.