Advice on how to transfer hitting form to match play

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by kanulondon, Oct 19, 2013.

  1. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    Hello All, just looking for some more advice please :oops:

    So I've played two league matches this week, the first I lost against a much better, younger, fitter player who's had clearly much more court time as he's a college/uni student. I've no problems there...

    But the other match, I haven't actually finished but I am down 3-6 1-3, I'll finish it in the next week or so. We're very even.

    In both matches however I've noticed that when we hit to warm up, I swing freely and totally go for my shots. I've been around long enough to know that hitting isn't an indication of form come match time (esp of an opponent)

    During the second match it was clear my opponent couldn't live with my forehand and under pressure fluffed many of his shots (during practice) He actually was very worried at the start of the was relieved when he got his first game.

    However come game time with respect to me...

    - My play becomes more tentative
    - My forehand mph slows down
    - I don't quite push, but at times it isn't far from it
    - My serve totally breaks down (but that's another issue), luckily he wasn't very aggressive and never hit a winner from my weak 2nd serves (as happened in my first match)

    So what ideas do you have for me?

    At the end of the day this is a friendly league ladder that means nothing at all (although the winner gets £20 and a certificate!). I almost feel I should play these league matches like practice matches, go for my shots, hit harder, swing faster (as I do in warm up / hitting practice) but there's a niggling voice in my head that tells me to ...
    'keep the rally going',
    'don't overdo it',
    'just stay in the point'

    Also, I don't enjoy losing, but I am a realist! If I could take even half of my hitting warm up 'looseness' into the real game, it would help no end.

    Any thoughts?

    Anyone else had the same problem?

    I am not a ball basher and I do use some form of strategy come game time, but I just want to relax more and hit the ball harder as I believe I could be getting a lot more UE's from my opponents.

    KL
     
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  2. Baxter

    Baxter Professional

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    This happens to almost everyone. I think the only solution is to play so many matches that it becomes routine. You will still probably get nervous on points and shots you think are important, but that's unavoidable. It's only a game, and these matches aren't a Wimbledon final. You and the guy across the net are the only two people on the planet who care about the outcome, and if you can convince yourself that really don't give a cr*p, you have a huge advantage over your opponent. That doesn't mean you should stop focusing and trying to win every point.
     
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  3. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    I agree, I've discovered over the last year that this issue effects many people. You are describing my 15 year old daughter to a tee. In practice she consistently gets 3 games per set off of her former D1 High School coach. She gets 3 games off of her former private couch who is at least a 5.0, probably higher but come game time she completely tenses up and although she went 12-3 for the season, it was not always pretty or easy for her. She went three sets with a girls who could barely hold a racket. She lost in the third rd of districts to a girl she convincingly beat during the regular season even when she was playing tentative. When she played the number one seed and defending district champion during the regular season she just blocked everything. You would never know how good she can play.

    I've asked many coaches and experienced players about it and they always say the same thing. Play Play Play.. Especially tournaments. That's the only way to overcome it. I could see a difference from the beginning of the season towards the end. She was getting more comfortable but she has a ways to go if she hopes to make it to the finals next year,
     
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  4. TCF

    TCF Hall of Fame

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    So true!! It is absolutely amazing how a junior can look one way in practice rallies and practice matches. Then the very next day look so tentative during a tournament match. Its very, very common.
     
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  5. ATP100

    ATP100 Professional

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    You should "practice" at 30% speed.
    I know, you won't like it, but it will make you better in the long run
    when you play league or tourneys.
    Be patient the power will come naturally.
     
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  6. Baxter

    Baxter Professional

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    I feel for you! My daughter played her first high school match last Wednesday and got double bageled by a weaker, but more experienced player. She was so nervous she was on the verge of throwing up for most of the match. I felt so sorry for her but there was nothing I could do. She played basketball and volleyball in Jr. High and never had a problem with nerves, but the fact that those are true team sports is the reason. What's a dad/coach to do?
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2013
    #6
  7. italia

    italia New User

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    I guess everybody suffer the same, more or less. I always try to tell me that I am just practicing, not playing a match. I don't focus on winning the points, but on hitting a good ball back to my opponent's court. Forget about the match, the game or event the current points. Focus on the ball and hit.
     
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  8. Mrnoital

    Mrnoital Banned

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    I'll give you some firsthand advice, Don't get frustrated with her. It took me a while to get it through my thick head that my daughter was really nervous. I couldn't understand why she was playing so tentatively and blocking shots and not stroking the ball, hitting puff balls etc. Her previous season was easy for her because she was not serious about it, She had never had lessons, she was just having fun. But after 9 months of lessons 4 days a week, she became a much more serious player and with that comes the desire to win... and with that the pressure to perform well.

    I never gave her a hard time. I'm not living vicariously through her and I would always encourage her to just do her best but I am guilty of getting frustrated because I knew how well she can play and didn't know what the problem was. After I finally realized what the problem was I felt like a heel.

    The truth is, you can't do a whole lot to help her other than to encourage her and reinforce the idea that with experience she will become more relaxed. Good luck.
     
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  9. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    As others have said, this is super common. In fact, it's one of my specialties!

    Seriously, one of the things that's helped me is to manage my thinking. When I practice I'm usually very focused about certain set-up cues that are important to me (they're different for everyone). The point is I'm thinking about hitting the ball. I'm not thinking about the score, or if I'm going to miss, or hoping my opponent misses the next shot, etc. So in a game I try to force myself to think about those same set-up cues, hit them, and then whatever happens happens.

    It's hard, because that whole mindset of "don't miss" can get into your head so easily. Then you start being more careful, your stroke start breaking down, and then you get more tense. But thinking about not missing is NOT thinking about hitting the ball, and there's nothing you can do anyways to guarantee that you won't miss. All you can do is plan a smart shot, hit your set-up cues and swing.
     
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  10. Me Against The World

    Me Against The World New User

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    Well in my personal experience I can play a game just like I can warm up, but when the game comes to a point where the pace on the ball is much slower than you start to mess up and you hit much more tentatively. But i feel like you can't really fix this in a week because it's more of a matter of developing your stroke. But i think you should maybe try to attack his weaknesses and go for the easy shots. I know it's easier said than done, but it's better to have this mentality rather than to "keep the rally going" and as you win more points your confidence goes up and you'll be able to do much better than you probably would have.
     
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  11. Baxter

    Baxter Professional

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    This is all going on at boarding school 900 miles away, so I'm not really involved, as she has a new coach now. We worked on her game all summer and she really has some nice looking and powerful strokes, but this was her first competitive match and she just fell to pieces. I'm glad I wasn't there, but I was very supportive and empathetic afterwards on the phone (lots of texts too of course). She was surprised at what happened. When we play she picks up her game when people stop to watch to her, so we both thought she was a natural showman.
     
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  12. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    The best advice I can give is to ensure practice replicates the pressure of matches as closely as possible. Ensure every practice situation (with the exception of working on technical elements) has some form of consequence and challenge. Many coaches and players set up practices to drill a certain element without giving thought to how that would apply in a match situation, so the more pressure you can create in training (using scoring systems, target measuring etc etc) the more likely the athlete will be able to replicate the skill in a match.

    The second element to this is to develop routines to help manage thinking process' and time.
     
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  13. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Watch the ball, hit it hard, and...

    ...don't think. Don't play your opponent, play the ball. The ball doesn't know who hit it, and once it crosses the net, it doesn't matter. Just track it down and give it your best ride...
     
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  14. LakeSnake

    LakeSnake Semi-Pro

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    Kanu,
    try this... "give yourself permission to fail". Set aside a single shot and just swing freely as if you were rallying. Once it's over, you can go back to being tense and results-oriented. What should happen is that it will feel good. It may or may not go in. Then you can try it again, later. Eventually, this should start to take over and become more the norm.

    (I got this from The Inner Game of Music, so it's probably in the Inner Game of Tennis, too! :))
     
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  15. Rui

    Rui Rookie

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    It's a problem that runs deep in many players. Since it will probably never disappear completely, practicing and getting better will raise her personal anxiety threshold.

    Plus, there have been several good ideas presented here to help mitigate it.
     
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  16. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    Thanks for all the great advice here. I like the idea of giving myself permission to fail!

    I would certainly choose the forehand but I just need to take a far more laid back approach.

    I hope your daughter overcomes her issues
     
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  17. EP1998

    EP1998 Semi-Pro

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    Very good advice. Do you have any suggestions for how to build pressure into practice? I could use some new ideas please! Thanks in advance!
     
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  18. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo Legend

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    When there's a calling to do something really stupid, just fight it off a little bit longer! You have an entire change-over for that.
     
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  19. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    I totally feel your frustration. When I first started playing 2 1/2 years ago, I took lots of lessons, practiced a lot, and thought to myself, "Wow, this isnt too bad. I think I can do pretty OK in a league or even lower level tournaments." My technical skills were very solid. Then I joined a league and played real matches and everything broke down BIG TIME! I felt like an utter beginner, like I've never hit a ball before!

    As I'm getting more experience playing matches, it's getting better, but I still have a long way to go.

    One thing that helps sometimes is if I just focus on the *feeling* of what it feels like when I'm loose and hitting well. Thinking doesnt help and in fact for me it makes things worse. I can't tell myself things like, "swing through the ball" or "follow through", etc. I just have to remember the *feeling* of what it was like when I was hitting well [in practice].

    What I wouldn't do to for the "answer" to this question of how to hit as well in matches as in practice! Or what to do when you know you're getting tight but cant seem to undo it.

    If someone out there has a sure, definite answer to this problem, he can make a ton of money!
     
    #19
  20. boosted180

    boosted180 New User

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    I really like this advice! That's exactly why in practice we hit better - we only focus on the ball instead of the opponent, score, losing, wining, etc. I'll keep this in mind next time I play a match.
     
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  21. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    Good advice boosted. I like the idea about 'feeling' as that's something I can totally associate with.

    KL
     
    #21
  22. Morgan

    Morgan Rookie

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    This sounds like good advice. I have the same problem as OP. I'm a novice at match play and get nervous even for a simple friendly match - and can feel that I don't "hit out" like when I warm up. The other day lost the first set to a player that I should have beaten mostly because of my mistakes and his dinking the ball. But once I started to relax a little and took the match a little more lightly, my balls started to go in and I easily won the second set. I think most of our issues is between the ears and needs to be fixed by some self talk to relax.
     
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  23. fuzzfactory

    fuzzfactory Rookie

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    When this happens to me I usually remind myself of a few things to calm me back down..

    1. Stay loose. When you get nervous you tense up, thus all your shots generally go long. To counteract this, your body subconsciously will want to "stay in the game" and thus you end up moonballing everything. I just try to remember to keep my wrist loose, as for me that's the area I tense up the most.

    2. Stay light on the feet and allow adequate time to set up each shot. Nerves tend to hinder movement and abbreviate your motions, so remind yourself to allow enough time to fully set-up for each shot and to go through with your stroke.

    3. Pretend you're just rallying and that you're feeding balls to the opponent. Once you get in a little groove, start imagining that you're working on his movement and start placing your shots. If I imagine that I'm better than the opponent, it allows me to regain my confidence to "bully" him around. If you can't fool yourself and the opponent is obviously better, then you have nothing to lose so swing away anyway!
     
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  24. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Try it, you'll like it...

    ...that comes via my coach Dave Hodge, who was then Men's Assistant at
    CU Boulder. After Dave moved on to Stanford, Sam Winterbotham, head coach, worked with me. In this mode, he once said "Tennis is serial. When the point's over, it's done. Learn from it, good or bad, but don't look back. Move on to the next point, then the point after that, and so on."
     
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  25. jakeytennis

    jakeytennis Rookie

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    you can rationalize in your head to help cure nervousness. remind yourself that it's only a game, and the results have no significant impact on your life.

    But fixing the source of nervousness is tough.
    i think its easier to eliminate all the symptoms.

    when I get nervous, my face and arms and grip get really tense, so I relax them.

    I dont breath as much, so i try to exhale better.

    I tend to spin my racket in my hand a lot before returning serves, I know i do this because I'm nervous, so I just force myself to stop spinning my racket in my hand.

    So try to rationalize to cure nervousness. but here's a warning: if you play without being nervous, you might play less determined. so watch out for that.

    if you cant solve your nervousness from the source, try to eliminate all the symptoms such as a tensed face, spinning racket in hand, or whatever else you might do that you know is because of nervousness.
     
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  26. spaceman_spiff

    spaceman_spiff Professional

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    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned this, but if I were you the first thing I'd do is work on my serve, especially the 2nd serve.

    I don't think I've ever seen someone who struggles with serves mentally but still plays confidently the rest of the time. Usually, they're so nervous about their serves that it starts to affect the rest of their game. On the other hand, a lot of the mentally toughest players I've seen have a solid serve game that they know they can rely on to get easy points or at least ensure neutral rallies.

    Start with the 2nd serve. Once you have a solid 2nd serve that you can always rely on without just pushing it in, then start working on a well-placed, solid 1st serve. Once you get both of those, match play becomes a lot easier mentally.
     
    #26
  27. Niou

    Niou New User

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    Just lose a game on purpose !
    Hit Homeruns without making it obvious that you are losing this one game on purpose (due to respect to your opponent).
    If you lost one game with Homeruns you can play your game again because it can't get worse than hitting balls way out.

    Helps me remember to just have fun and appreciate my opponent !
     
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  28. kanulondon

    kanulondon Rookie

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    Interesting as I was having a bad serve day!

    Kl
     
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  29. Silent

    Silent Semi-Pro

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    Your wife/girlfriend will still be willing to sleep with you even if you lose, even if you miss easy shots.

    So swing away !
     
    #29
  30. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    For me this problem is worse in doubles. In singles you aren't playing with anyone else - so you can just blow a few points trying to loosen up. But in doubles you feel you can't AND you don't get many balls to rally..

    I have heard of breathing strategies and such. But its pretty tough to do in the match..
     
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  31. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    There are many ways you can do this, from simple handicap scoring to more elaborate systems. For example if you're working on 2nd serve and looking to target a certain area of the box by marking out a target area, instead of just hitting it and playing out the point you have to hit 2 in a row before you can play. If you hit the first one into the target area, but then miss the second you lose the point immediately, regardless of whether it went into the service box or not. Playing out points with systems like this in place will help condition you to play with pressure. Basically use your imagination!
     
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  32. EP1998

    EP1998 Semi-Pro

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    Thanks, the serve one is good. Havent tried that one before!
     
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  33. cjs

    cjs Semi-Pro

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    I went through a phase where I'd smoke a ciggie just before walking on court. Its the only time I'd every smoke, so it'd give me a massive head spin dizzy feeling that somehow seemed to get rid of my first game nerves.

    Thankfully I don't need to do that any more.
     
    #33
  34. red rook

    red rook Rookie

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    I've learned that when I get nervous (competitive matches), my play would change as well. It took some time to figure out what mechanically was going on. One my grip got tighter, disallowing range of motion and fluidity in my arm. Also my grip started to migrate to a grip that I used to play (more eastern). Third my footwork would get sloppy and I would tend to not do my unit turn (never got a nice turn taking away power). I think getting rid of nervousness would make these go away (by playing more and more matches) but I'm having to fix these manually as I play for now.
     
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  35. geepeeone

    geepeeone New User

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    Wow! I love this simple solution. People I play with don't want any form of wager, any suggestions??
     
    #35
  36. Egoista

    Egoista Professional

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    Just kick fear in the face
     
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  37. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

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    Play occasional tie breaks during your practice sessions. That will help with reproducing some of those loose, consistent rally balls that you hit during a practice grind when you flip the switch and try to earn points. It can also encourage more deliberate practice once you finish with a breaker and switch back into some grinding. Once a competitive setting and a practice workout become more similar "between the ears", you'll be able to call upon the stuff you want more often.
     
    #37

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