fluctuation in skills

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by raiden031, Jan 6, 2009.

  1. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

    Aug 31, 2006
    Just wondering if there is any good reads out there explaining why tennis skills seem to fluctuate. Or if anyone has some knowledge in the subject I'd like to hear it.

    For instance the past month or two I've been serving well. Hitting the lines, high first-serve percentages, etc. The last few days have been disappointing though (especially last night). I keep missing my first serves by 4 feet. I'm not hitting cleanly.

    Same thing has been happening to my volleys. I'm not hitting cleanly and they are floating too much. I'm also placing poorly and they are coming back more even when I have a good setup for an offensive shot.

    On the contrary, my backhand has been unbelievable recently. I always have big trouble returning serves with the backhand in my monday night block, but last night I was returning everything. Forehand has also been pretty reliable.

    EDIT: Whats interesting is that its not just that some days my shots go in and some days they don't, but that I feel less coordinated some days and that execution of the shot is more difficult.

    Why do I keep going through these ups and downs like this?
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2009
  2. akybo

    akybo Rookie

    Mar 8, 2008
    I think I know what it is about,it happens to me too.
    Some days I find my strokes and realise what I do good.Then,next time,I try to do what I remeber the last time,but this counsious act just make things exagerate a bit so the failling.
    The key is to forget what you realised then and just focus to get a good position to the ball,the body with practice will learn how to hit properly.
  3. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    Don't you guys play sports?
    EVERY athelete has up and down days. Your body is fresh, your body is tired, your body is stiff, your body is loose, your body is strong, your body is weak.
    Then your MIND..... want, disinterested, distracted, worn out tired, fresh and too eager, pumped and amped, burned out.
    How many did I list?
    That's about one half the different reason you play differently every day!
    So you see CharlesBarkely put up 52 one day. OK, last week he averaged 24, next game he scored 20.
  4. smoothtennis

    smoothtennis Hall of Fame

    May 8, 2007
    Fort Worth, TX
    Ahhh, it happens Raiden - that is just the nature of being human.

    A few weeks ago, my hitting partner couldn't hit three balls in a row over a three hour period. I was actually getting scared - I really was. Same strokes, same everything. Nothing was working for him.

    A week later, he was back to 12+ shot rallies no problem - with power. It happens. <shrug>
  5. Ballinbob

    Ballinbob Hall of Fame

    Sep 7, 2008
    This happens to me as well...alot. Almost the exact same thing as you. I'll serve well for a day and my forehand will suck, then my forehand will be great and my serve will suck ect.

    Judging by what everyone is saying though it seems normal? I don't know.. It sure is annoying though.
  6. Syfo-Dias

    Syfo-Dias Semi-Pro

    May 29, 2005
    I can definitely relate. Last month I went a few weeks where I was playing way better than usual for some reason. My serve felt really on and I was able to hit aces all over the place. I won every set I played during that span of time. Then the next week I play everything felt really off for some reason. I think it may have partly been due to playing outside and feeling kind of cold. I always seem to play better on indoor courts where it's nice and warm. Seems like whenever it gets less than 60 degrees I just don't move as well and play suffers. I guess that's probably true for most people though. Also, I think energy level makes a big difference. Feeling the slightest bit tired always messes up my game. Thank god for Redline. :)
  7. GeorgeLucas

    GeorgeLucas Banned

    Mar 27, 2006
    Happens to everyone. One of the best ways of improving is taking note of what you are doing when you are "in the zone". After a great match, go home and shadow swing - watch yourself in the mirror and note your stroke path, takeback, and other factors. During the match, remember what hitting these sweet balls feels like. Once your current "zone game" becomes your "average game", you can wait for another tennis high and get even better!
  8. ericwong

    ericwong Rookie

    Mar 5, 2004
    It happened to me a couple of times. Under such circumstances, I tried to hit conservatively, thinking to myself tried to get the balls in as much as possible. This helps me to build my confidence before I go out to blasting mode. I do this exercise during my matches and practise.
  9. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    Remember one very important point in almost all sports!
    You are judged by your worst days !!
    Nobody sees you play well, nobody cares about your winners. Those are quickly forgotten. What they remember is your bad days, loss's, or moments, points, strategy, whatevers.
    What YOU remember is your best moments, your best shots, your best wins, and your best moments.
    That's why YOU perception of your skill is very different than what other's think of your game.
    I played real matches against what would now be 6.5's, but I claimed I was 4.5 then and another level below now.
  10. vbranis

    vbranis Professional

    Jan 26, 2008
    Palm Springs, CA
    I can relate to the OP 100%. I can go through a 1-2 month span playing great tennis, and having supreme confidence in all my shots. Then, for no apparent reason (e.g. no sickness, lack of practice, mental/physical fatigue,etc.) I begin to have close sets with guys I was beating 6-1 during my "glory" period. I can remember the way I used to hit my shots and how it felt, but I just can't seem to duplicate it. As much as I try moving my feet, concentrating, swinging faster, adding spin, I can't find my range. So a month (or more) goes by, and one day, boom, I start playing terrific tennis again. Just like that, NOT gradually, it's like flipping a switch. Without changing my stroke or anything. I still don't know why this happens, and I'd be curious to find out how to find the "zone" again when I'm out of it.

    BTW, this has happened several times.
  11. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    Ever heard of biorythims?
    If you were female, it might be more explanable
    But this is MENS TENNIS FORUM, so as a guy, you have to accept somedaze it's barely worth getting out of bed and others, you should play the lottery.
  12. phoenicks

    phoenicks Professional

    Mar 5, 2008
    a few factor will caused this,

    1) not enough rest, lethargic
    2) haven't established a consistent stroke mechanics or style
    3) Keep changing your stroke pattern
    4) Racquet honeymoon period
  13. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

    Apr 4, 2008
    how long have you been playing? how many hours a week do you play? do you only play and rarely drill ,go to the wall, use a ball machine, hit a bucket of serves to the targets,etc. muscle memory comes from repetition. the more you practice, the more(productive) hours on the court you put in you will find the difference between the "good" days and "bad "days will get smaller. no one plays in the zone every time they step on the court. that is why you hear the pros say you have to learn how to win when you are not playing well.
  14. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

    Aug 31, 2006
    I've been playing about 8 years total (only 2 years seriously). I've logged about 1130 hours of playing (yes I keep track). Lately I'm averaging about 8-10 hours a week. I do a lot of hitting against the wall and a lot of match play in both singles and doubles.

    See I think my good days/bad days cycle has gotten better over time. But what happens is that nowadays its the strokes that are cyclical, not my overall game. I can still beat people on bad days, its just that one stroke will be very bad and one stroke will be very good. Then they flip flop. I don't have too many days where all my strokes are good, and I don't have days where all of them are bad.

    Also when others experience this, is it a matter of shots landing in vs. landing out, or do you feel like your muscle coordination is actually lost a little bit and you just can't execute well like I do?
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  15. maleyoyo

    maleyoyo Rookie

    Apr 11, 2005
    It happens to me as well and I think I know the reason why. For me, it has every thing to do with the balance of practice time vs playing matches.There is a direct corelation between practice time and consistency during matches.
    Even top pros spend considerably more time on practice courts than actual tournaments,and they still have ups and downs (but not as much).
    Another thing about inconsistent strokes is your opponent may have something to do with it because he figures out your glaring weakness and exploits it or it's just a matter of one on one match-up.
    Tennis is all about mental, so structured practices will reduce chances of making errors during pressured situations.
  16. CoachingMastery

    CoachingMastery Professional

    Mar 31, 2008

    Read chapter 13 in my book, TENNIS MASTERY, (page 261 -278) which deals with this concept specifically. The "Improvement Rollercoaster" is what you are probably experiencing...an effect that is multifacited in cause, extent, and what you can expect.

    Namely, when one plays a good game of tennis, the expectations change.

    The best way to play your best is to focus not on the outcome (not just outcome of the game, set or match...but the outcome of any given shot or rally), but to focus on the moment. "Where do I want to hit this next shot" is a simple statement that brings your mind to the present instead of thinking how great you are playing or how bad you are playing or what will happen if I miss this shot or make this shot...what will I say if I lose this match or win it; etc.

    As some have said, tennis, like all sports, will produce good days and not so good ones. It is interesting to hear players focus on the bad days, even when they have hit some good shots. All they see is the bad and dwell on it.

    Every day on the court can be a learning experience, if you let it. Looking only at the overall outcome or even individual situations will prevent you from improving if you don't understand how to look at such events so you come away smarter and more experienced.

    Good luck in all your games! (You will create your own luck, by the way!)
  17. dozu

    dozu Banned

    Feb 19, 2004
    the fluctuation is perfectly normal.

    Professionals actually map out match strategies around these fluctuations. Pro golfers, before each round, will go to the range and find out what kind of swing he has for THAT DAY, and decide how to play the round.
  18. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

    Oct 20, 2006
    I've thought on this a little bit myself just because it gets sort of spooky when my skills occasionally take a vacation on me for no apparent reason. In some ways I can compare the mechanics for tennis shots with golf, which I play here and there, but at least with golf, the ball has enough manners to sit still while I'm trying to hit the durned thang. For tennis, we need well timed swings, but they also need to be on time with a moving ball.

    My eyesight is borderline crappy so I'm definitely aware of my visual limitations on days when my eyes seem to have a sort of diminished agility - they don't home in on the ball especially well. That's only one thing that can contribute to poor timing. If I'm a little worn out and making a slow first move to the ball, I'll eventually be trying to catch up with it and that will kill my timing and mechanics, too. If you've ever had dehydration sneak up on you, it's just a miserable feeling where nothing seems to work right and maybe I'll even get a little bought of the "sugar-shakes" if I'm running on empty. These are all empirical things that can kill the timing I need to hit with consistency.

    I haven't studied much in terms of neuromuscular functions, but I'm also under the impression that any ingrained muscle memory I have for tennis is always rusting away. Without proper practice, it won't maintain itself for too long. Pretty much when I coach kids, I try to steer them toward habits that will keep them "ahead of the ball" so that they can play more often with good timing. If my habits are in tact, I feel like I can get by, even if I've had a bad night's sleep or a long week of overdoing it.
  19. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    Yeah, fricken golf....
    For me, 4 days every other at the same course, I can go from 92 to 104, with everything in between. I'll hit 6 pars one day, and score 100. Then the next I hit two pars, and go 94.
    See how basketball players shine one day, then basically are useless after their best days.
    See how someone can WIN a major, and lose first or second round next tournament to the 87th ranked.....
    Fact of life If you don't know about ups and downs, you have never played any sports at a competitive level.
  20. ohplease

    ohplease Professional

    Feb 18, 2004
    There are two things going on here:

    1) Athletic performance varies. It happens.

    2) Your most effective game right now might be a little too dependent on your needing to play a little too well. Try to tailor your game to be more robust in the face of bad days (where even your "B" or "C" game can eek out some wins). We all know the guy who doesn't look like much that beats everybody.

    Alternatively, you might need to tighten up the variability of your strokes. There's a reason commentators talk about "not much can go wrong with that motion" in all athletic endeavors as a virtue.

    If you can only win when all the stars align and everything breaks your way, you're doing it wrong. Or you don't win very often.

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