By: Marissa Johnson
One of the keys to being a successful athlete is knowing what it takes to win. On the flipside, it’s also key to know why you lost. Whether your opponent was just having a killer game, you got frustrated with your equipment, or even that you weren’t physically feeling your best, they all point to a lack of focus. Whatever the reason, or excuse might be, there are still ways to overcome the loss and take the win in your next match. If you can stay true to these five steps, you will increase your odds of having amazing experience in your next match, no matter who your opponent is or their skill level.
1. First Serve
The first swing taken is one of the most important. If serving is not your strength, practice until it becomes a shot you’re confident about. Being the server should be an advantage! It’s the only time that you can completely dictate how the point starts and it allows you to strategize how the point might play out. The first serve should be strong and placed well. That does not mean you should try to ace your opponent every time. When your first serve is hit well, then you’re in control!
If you’re comfortable with your first serve here’s a question to ask yourself to take it to the next level. When you watch the pros play, you will find they can get their first serve in most of the time and more often they win the point. f strong and placed well, your first serve can dictate the point. You can be the boss and plan what shot your opponent might hit off of your strategically placed serve. This one key point just might be the most important thing to ensure you win the match.
2. The Return
Hitting the return might be just as important as the serve. When returning off the first serve, you should try to hit an effective return to one side of the court. The goal is not to just hit the ball right back to the opponent but to make them work for their shot. If your opponent has an amazing first serve that really pulls you off the court, try for a high topspin shot that will allow you more time to recover.
When it comes to the opponent’s second serve, consider placement before power. If the odds are in your favor and you are confident in hitting a winner off the serve, then go for it! If you’re up 30 or 40-love, then you have a little buffer in case you miss the return. If it’s a close game score such as 30-30, then go for a nicely placed deep shot.
Sometimes we feel as if we aren’t playing our best. The first thing to go is generally consistency. We try to play like we normally do but our body just isn’t allowing it or our mental state can’t align with our desired play. This is when we should take a deep breath, and start analyzing the point. We could try to mix up our shots and change the pace of the ball. As long as we can keep returning the ball, we know we have the opportunity to win the match. A trick to help stay consistent is to pick a number that serves as my goal to keep in before I miss. For example, I know that if I can keep the ball in at least five times in a row, I will most likely win the point so I use that number. Practice working on your consistency with a partner, and strive to beat your high number every time you practice. Once you master playing consistently, you will be a very tough player to beat.
Whether it’s very detailed (every point) or just a general strategy, like hit to their backhand, you need to have something planned. Oftentimes we go into a match with a “go with the flow” mentality. The goal is to make educated guesses as to where the ball may be hit based on the shots that you go for. It’s easier to strategize when you’re serving. For example, when you serve you plan to deliver a nice flat one right to their backhand because it’s their weaker side. Your opponent might hit a weak return and from there, the next strategy move could be to hit a wide forehand to move them out of position.
The best way to deal with the point when it doesn’t start out or go the way you planned is to just immediately think about hitting the ball away from the opponent. This will help you gain control of the point. The more you move them around, the more likely they will hit the ball right where you want. 5. Stay Positive
This is the most important step to winning your matches. Just think of how many matches you could have won had you kept a calm, positive attitude when a point didn’t go your way. Instead of getting frustrated or angry, we should be focusing on how to strategize our next play. We miss a huge point and all of a sudden that’s all we can think about for the remainder of the game. And guess who probably won that game… not you.
There are several tricks to stay positive on the court; take deep breaths, think about the future, or try to figure out the real issues (it could be footwork, a certain shot that isn’t working, or maybe it’s consistency). Mastering the act of staying positive will be a huge stepping stone in your tennis success!
Serves, returns, consistency, strategy and positivity need to be practiced daily on the court. Keep up the good work and even if the outcome doesn’t turn out as hoped, if you walk away from the match learning a little about yourself and feeling like you improved your tennis game then you are a winner! For more information about tennis at The Village Clubs, visit us here to learn more about our tennis leagues, or group and private tennis lessons and conditioning classes.