Play within yourself for success

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by TonLars, Nov 7, 2011.

  1. TonLars

    TonLars Professional

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    Just thought I would share an email I sent today to contribute to this instruction part of the forum. Some may find it useful:

    Hello (parents),

    Just wanted to give you guys a report on my lesson today with (player) and some thoughts. (Dad) was present when we discussed some of the goals regarding (player's) focus during matches. I want (player) to concentrate on the things he can control, and not on those things outside of that, such as winning. Players are not always able to feel or play at their best, and cannot help to an extent how their opponent is playing, or what the conditions are like and so forth. (Player) should however be able to control his effort level and attitude no matter what, and his chances of winning will be much better. If he is too wrapped up in winning and dwelling on missed shots, he will probably not play to his potential. Mental toughness is the most important element for him to improve right now. I highly recommend the books I referrenced in my last email, as well as any video you can find from Dr. Jim Loehr on "ideal performance state" and mental toughness.

    The second goal I have for (player) is building a foundation of consistency, solid shotmaking and smart decisions to build upon. Part of this will be working on a few things with his technique. Much of it also is playing within himself, and realizing that tennis is a game of mistakes rather than scoring touchdowns or hitting homeruns. He must allow the opponent the chance to miss, rather than beat himself. He needs to abandon the temptations to hit the more gratifying and flashy shots which might make him look like a better player, and instead hit the shots he knows he can make ideally 80-90%+ of the time, which will allow him to win. Please go over these things with him when you can, I will be as well.

    I can share a couple stories with you that demonstrate these points. It is interesting that I had some things in common with (player) as a junior player. I liked to play very aggressive, yet had a couple small deficincies in my technique and was prone to errors on off days. I had been extremely frustrated on court often on these days and in practice. In college as a freshman, our nationally ranked team faced another ranked team in a very important match for playoff positioning. The team score was tied 4-4 and came down to my match which was in the third set and going beyond 3 hours. I played against a player that hit with no pace but was quick and made very few unforced errors, while I was hitting occasional winners but losing points on missing. I ended up losing the match, and felt horrible. I made a pact to myself at that point that I would never beat myself in a match again, and would commit to hitting at 50-60% pace, keeping every ball in play and running everything down my opponent hit. Though it was a conservative style of play, it paid off in huge ways. I began to enjoy playing tennis again, cutting my error rate down exponentially, and I also moved up from #5 singles to #1 in a short amount of time. I did it by slowing my shots down, working hard covering the court, and letting the opponent take risks or try to beat me at the same strategy. Eventually I ran into some really proficient aggressive players who could put me away, and that is when I began to develop my aggressive game to beat them and continue to move up to the next levels, but I could not have done it without the foundation of solid and smart play.

    Toward the end of (player's) lesson today, we played a baseline points game that made consistency a priority. Points were normal with the additional rule that if (player) could hit 6 balls in play he would automatically win the point right then. I also stated that I would be hitting only solid shots and not trying to hit hard or get him on the run too much. The first game, he lost 11-0, usually missing within 2-3 shots, a couple times even on the first ball feed. After we discussed some of the things earlier in this email, he was getting the 6-shot points very frequently, and I began to also hit a little harder and into the corners. He ended up winning the game 13-11; a huge turnaround from the first game! Hopefully he can see that slowing the pace down and simply keeping the ball in play, without beating himself, will allow him much more success. As he moves up, he will need to develop his offensive game as well when he needs to do more, but at his level, or especially to begin any match, one must have the game plan to allow opponents' errors. A consistent foundation is different for every player, and for (player) right now that may mean hitting at 50% or less so that he is rarely committing unnecessary errors. Once he can demonstrate consistency, the foundation gradually increases in pace all the way to where the pros are hitting most shots at 80%+ of maximum power. If a player without consistent foundation tries to hit at this pace or go for too difficult of shots than what is mastered, a player will self-desruct.

    Hopefully this helps, and we can work together toward strengthening (player's) tennis game! He certainly has the talent. Talk to you soon.
     
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  2. aimr75

    aimr75 Hall of Fame

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    an insightful and useful post in this section for a change.. thanks for sharing
     
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  3. Can't think of a name

    Can't think of a name Rookie

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    Sticky this page and give this man a medal of some sort. I'm gunna get this tattooed on my arm so I never forget..
     
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  4. MarinaHighTennis

    MarinaHighTennis Professional

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    Sadly its true that tennis is not a winning game. Which I'd thought I'd share a game I made up with my friend (from my first video).

    Basically you feed the ball and if you make an unforced error, you minus one point. If you hit a winner, plus one. If you get 5 points you win. Negative ten you lose. It helps tell you something about tennis. I've used this to teach juniors and new kids but so far no one won.
     
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  5. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    Great stuff. I hear this advice from my coach and think it to myself all the time, but it hits home a lot better coming from a near pro level player. Although, I never thought of it as developing a foundation of consistency, really helpful.
     
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  6. TonyB

    TonyB Hall of Fame

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    This bolded part is the most important revelation in any developing player's education. Seriously.

    A while back I played someone whom I had never beaten. He was very consistent and always hit with a lot of spin and ran down every shot. I made a promise to myself that I would definitely NOT go for any winner or any forcing shot until I first hit 3 rally balls. Deep, moderately-paced balls, hit with good net clearance and a good amount of spin. Even if the available shot was a clear put-away, I would refrain from hitting it and instead just try to improve my position in the rally.

    First set I won 6-2. I was out-rallying my opponent, who had always beaten me by being more consistent. But because of my new mentality (of not going for winners right away), I was able to beat him at his own game and actually construct points to my advantage. Second set, I decided to become more aggressive and I lost 6-4. During that second set, I never felt as comfortable as the first set. I always felt like I was trying too hard and not "letting the point develop".

    Bottom line is: try to construct points in such a way as to give your opponent the OPPORTUNITY to make an error before you do. If your opponent manages to equal you in consistency, then you might have to step it up a notch and go for stronger shots. But until then, allow your opponent to make the first mistake. Chances are that he/she will.
     
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  7. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    Good points.

    This thread reminds me of a match I played a few weeks ago. I beat a guy 6-1 6-2 mostly by waiting for him to make the error. However, I did hit about 4 good forehand DTL winners.

    After the match the guy said "man, you were killing me with that forehand, I needed to figure out how to stop that." I thought geeze, those winners were such a tiny fraction of the points I won, but somehow he focused on them as the deciding factor in the match. This story just shows that a lot of people are unaware of the huge roll errors play.
     
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  8. tball

    tball Semi-Pro

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    The situation becomes interesting when you face someone like that. I occasionally do. I cannot out-rally them. I tried many times. The only way for me to win with them, is to "rip" it, at every opportunity I got. I had much more success this way.

    I have the impression that out-rallying only works on someone who is erratic and has inconsistent strokes. If the one you are playing has more consistent technique than you, I cannot see how this strategy would work. Would it?
     
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  9. TonLars

    TonLars Professional

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    A better approach would be to improve your consistency, not settle for a low-percentage play strategy. But, I understand your point though, so think of it like this. If you do come against someone that is a very solid player, then executing offense is important. Doing so at the right times. Playing aggressive mindlessly will give players erratic results, with one usually losing on errors. Any player, no matter how talented, will not be able to go all out and for lines successfully all the time. The key is taking smarter risks on the right opportunities rather than going for an even more difficult shot out of position, or just because you feel like trying it.
     
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  10. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    This post is awesome. Really nailed my weaknesses. I used to lose as a junior trying to hit as hard as I could the whole match. I didn't have a good enough coach to drill me into consistency. It is something I have a much better grasp on now, but old habits are tough to break.
     
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  11. 10sEmporer

    10sEmporer Banned

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    going with the consensus - nice post.... so everybody should start pushing.

    but, I'd expand the concept - consistency, is only a part of percentage tennis.

    these 2 things may sound similar, but they can mean differently.

    sure, if you push and the other guy self destructs, then keep pushing and you win.

    but what if the pushes are not good enough, and they get eaten up by the opp... perhaps he blasts lots of winners or forcing shots from the baseline... perhaps he charges the net and pick those pushes off.

    now there is no comfort zone... and percentage tennis is no longer 'consistent tennis', you have to switch gear, take more chances, take the net away from him, etc.

    I am not disagreeing, just saying the concept is broader.
     
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  12. wihamilton

    wihamilton Hall of Fame

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    Good stuff thanks for sharing
     
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  13. TonLars

    TonLars Professional

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    Thanks Will! Just want to say thanks for your awesome videos!
     
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  14. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Cool stuff...

    ...when I was getting coached by the Men's coaches at CU Boulder, they liked the fact that I was willing to take it to the other guy, but they didn't like the fact that, all too often, I wound up handing it to the other guy. It's fine to play aggressively, which I do, but my focus is using what I have to make the other guy do stupid stuff while trying to ensure that I don't do stupid stuff. Dave Hodge used to make me do the Grind drill all the time, which is pretty much along the lines of the drills you describe. Good stuff, and a good lesson for all of us...
     
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  15. NYCtennis1

    NYCtennis1 Rookie

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    It's amazing how when I first started playing I thought playing super aggressive tennis was the only way to enjoy my time on the court. But the real way to enjoy your tennis is just by playing well and if not winning, competing in matches. I enjoy winning a well executed point that ends in a UE from my opponent more than a short "go for broke" point. Although I do feel that Tony hits the nail on the head when talking about building your aggressiveness through your consistency. Great stuff as always TonLars:)
     
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  16. HunterST

    HunterST Hall of Fame

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    I have to ask, though, aren't there some other concerns even when a player is still developing the foundation of consistency? For example, what if a player is leaving a ton of balls short and allowing his opponent to attack? Or worse, developing bad technique habits to just get the ball in the court.
     
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  17. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Great post. So, so true.

    I came to the same conclusions as you when I was in my late 20's. I can be dense. Back then everyone told me that I hit great with lots of pace, but I'd lose to guys with weaker but more reliable strokes. This was somewhat masked by my serve, which could win me games without requiring me to hit any other stroke. If I could put together one decent return game I could win a set, but against players who were less bothered by my serve this broke down. I started to really focus on getting more reasonable quality balls back over the net. Not huge hits and/or great placement, just decent stuff mostly cross court. It did wonders for my consistency.

    I'd love to hear how it goes with your student.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2011
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  18. 10sEmporer

    10sEmporer Banned

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    valid question.

    keep the perspective in mind... the OP's is prolly valid for those who have already developed repeatable swings (which cannot be said for 90% of the people here). Most people here can't hit 5 good balls against the wall or the ball machine.

    so stroke production first, then just play smooth with 80% swings.... 60% is prolly too low if the opp is at the same level.
     
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  19. wihamilton

    wihamilton Hall of Fame

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    You're welcome! I really enjoy making them. When are we going to start seeing some TonLars instructional videos on Youtube??? =)
     
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  20. 10sEmporer

    10sEmporer Banned

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    the other point I wonna touch on, is game plan adjustment.

    say I go in with a plan to play 80% and let my opp self destruct.... but he is not cooperating, at least for the first few games.

    now here is the tricky part, do I get out of the plan and hoping he will self destruct eventually? or do I change plan?

    the answer is not that easy... look at how Fed lost to Tsonga in Wimby.... he stayed with the plan and hoping Tsonga's level will go down, but it didn't happen.

    It takes experience and keen observation to gather data and make the right decision.
     
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  21. ExpertLoser

    ExpertLoser New User

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    TonLars -

    Thanks for posting - I've often felt like Marat Safin, skill is there (not near his level of course!) but can't get out of my own way psychologically - shot selection, playing the percentages, onsistency vs. flash, ego, etc.

    In general, thanks to everyone who posts here at TT. I've learned SO much about the mental aspect of the game just by reading others' posts - I could have spent 3 lifetimes climbing the Himalaya's to speak to the tennis gurus and likely not have been as enriched.
     
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  22. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Wow do you send email to parents as a follow-up after every lesson?
     
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  23. DavaiMarat

    DavaiMarat Professional

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    Thanks Tony. It was enlightening. Often we talk too much about technique, spins, increasing power, etc but not enough on the stuff that happens between the ears.
    It's difficult to let go of the self made image we have ourselves on the court. I blame it on TV slow mo, blame it on our egos, blame it on our on insecurities in our own abilities. We all have a tendency to want to over hit to either look like a star or end the point before our nerves get the better of us.

    Thanks Tony for reminding us that Tennis is game and the ball doesn't care who looks betters or hits harder.

    A insightful post and good read.
     
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  24. GuyClinch

    GuyClinch Hall of Fame

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    To be the contrarian - I have long felt the opposite. The best players are usually young kids who have no fears about 'hitting out' and are willing to shank a ton of balls. Once these guys 'find the range' - they start playing great tennis.

    So for those guys - sure they need to play within themselves. But among the adult and/or female population I see plenty of people that don't want to take any risks - and thus will never really play high quality tennis..

    It's the same thing with overly westernized grips - some young kids learn to hit heavy spin and play 'safe' tennis and they might win at lower levels but find themselves outgunned at the higher levels when the 'hitter' finds his game and improves his footwork.
     
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  25. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    OK I was waiting for the opening. I was soundly criticized in another thread for saying that the way to improve is to sacrifice control for power, get the power, and then get back the control. OP is an advanced player now but in his junior days he probably competed in hitting the hardest forehand or the hardest serve. Nick's philosophy was get the students to hit as hard as possible, then control it. All the junior boys I have seen in the club have gone through phases when they would hit harder and serve harder and lose the game to the junior girls their parents/coaches made them play with. Today, they blow them out of the court. Consistency is a virtue of low level players, and top players who already have the power and need to rein in their game strategically. Without power, the former can never become the latter through consistency.
     
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  26. DavaiMarat

    DavaiMarat Professional

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    I think you are arguing apples and oranges here. Tony isn't talking about game development in juniors, he's talking about strategy in a match itself. I assume most of us have played competitive tennis correct? We all know to get out of the minors you need to learn how to hit with pace and depth. That's a given.

    What Tony is talking about is a strategy to win by playing percentages not trying to hit every shot for a winner or forcing error. Sometimes a ball that they cannot attack is worth just as much as a ball that's forcing them to defend.

    I read a interesting article on the nervous system and tennis recently. Talking about fast twitch and slow twitch nerves. Fast twitch nerves are engaged during being aggressive and forcing during tennis play while slow twitch are engaged more in defending and so called 'pushing the ball'. They found that the fast twitch nerves exhaust themselves a lot faster then the slow twitch which lead players prone to errors after 30-45 secs of play while the slow twitch tired much less easily. Great read. I believe it relates to what Tony is talking about.
     
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  27. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    As with most things in life, there are infinite sides to things. Playing percentage sometimes works sometimes don't. Against lesser players sure you can play within yourself, but if you want to win against equal or higher players you have to take risks. The risker it is, the more reward or more losing depending on your luck, your skills, whatever else going on opponent's mind, etc.

    How safe (high percentage) is safe? Smart players should always try to get to the edge where it's enough to beat opponent but not for himself to fail, be it done with a 10 shot consistence or a 2 shot consistence.
     
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  28. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Yep...

    ...I think that's the best way to rationalize agression and consistency, and in terms of the way a player develops, it's kind of a toss up as to which you ought to emphasize first...but if you ignore consistency, you're doomed, as tonlars suggests, to playing some great tennis some of the time. If you look at the top of the ATP, there is no dichotomy between the two...Djokovich was consistently more aggressive than the rest of the pack, so he won 3 majors. But it takes some work to get there.

    If you focus on the tools...good court movement, proactive point structuring, clean stroke mechanics...that'll most likely lead you to being a solid player who can "take smart risks on the right opportunities" as tonlars says. I think it's well to understand that consistency isn't the same as pushing the ball. Especially as the NTRP levels go up, you can't just plunk the ball back in the court, you need to do something with it, but you need to do it as many times as you need to to hit a winner or force an error..."consistent pressure."

    The drills that tonlars suggests are invaluable to working toward that goal. Once you're headed down that path, IMHO, a key to consistency is to put pressure on early and keep control of the point without succumbing to stupid errors. For example, a heavy body serve is a bread and butter serve, lots of times, because it often elicits a soft short ball to the middle of the court. Yes, you can go for an outrageous winner at that point, but if you just hit a heavy, inside out forehand two feet in from the baseline and two feet in from the sideline, your opponent is likely to chum up yet another soft ball in the middle of the court. Move in, hit a heavy cross court forehand two feet in, two feet in, and get ready to make him run back to the backhand side again...if the ball comes back. To an extent, the shorter I can make a point, the less chance I have of making an error...provided I control the point from the outset, keep the pressure on, but most importantly, don't make a stupid error and hand the point to the other guy...
     
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  29. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Read Tony's post again. I think it's really solid advice about building a foundation of consistency. But he also talks about eventually playing better players where you have to go for more, so he's not saying that everyone should become Chris Evert. From stroke production and form to strategy and shot selection I really agree with him about that foundation of consistency.

    And I say this from a perspective of someone who tends to hit big, tries to force errors and win points. I'm not a grinder. But I'm also a guy who's tried to get cute one too many times with a forcing shot from my opponent when I should have just hit the safe, solid shot and waited for something better to get aggressive with. And if my opponent makes an UFE in the meantime, it just makes my job easier.

    There's also a mental balance that has to be struck with being too defensive and too agressive. Finding and maintaining that balance during a match is a skill that needs practice too. If you're just blasting all the time you're not practicing how to find and maintain that mental happy place you need to be to have consistent success.
     
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  30. 10sEmporer

    10sEmporer Banned

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    we are all saying the same thing here.

    but to put things in perspective.... TonLars is semi-pro... and his student is prolly a good junior.... therefore 'mindset' becomes a big part of building that consistency foundation.

    for the 95% of the people here, it's swing flaw galore.... flawed swing at 60% speed is still flawed swing and will not be consistent.

    therefore - for the 95% crowd, swing flaws are still priority #1, whether in shoring up his own, or pounding the opp's in a battle.
     
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  31. Giannis

    Giannis Rookie

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    I agree with TonLars, it describes me and the problem i am trying to fix quite well. The only thing i would like to ask is about racket head speed. When you want to hit at 50-60-70 % of your maximum pace, should you mostly try to keep the RHS very high and just turn it into topspin or is it safer to cut down on RHS a bit aswell?
     
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  32. Larrysümmers

    Larrysümmers Hall of Fame

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    thats how you can tell between a player who has been playing for a long amount of time, and a player who hasnt been playing for very long. my thing in high school was when i went up against the bigger hitters, i tried to out hit them, and going against softer hitters i tried to blast winners because every shot seemed so good.

    what helped me out with this, is i started to hit more with a high level woman. she is consistent as hell(its hard to make her miss), but yet she didnt kill the ball. So playing her i quickly learned that i had to work the ball, and you have to find your high percentage shots. i also feel that it helped me undertand stroke production because you are not rushed and you focus more on hitting the shot than killing the ball
     
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  33. maverick66

    maverick66 Hall of Fame

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    You need to find that right mix of pace and spin that you can control and keep the ball from being attacked. Even at the top levels when guys start matches they are feeling it out and seeing how the other guy is playing. At the Jr and Rec levels players come out ripping and never get that chance to see what your opponent is doing.

    I wouldnt worry about % of racket head speed as much as making sure you are being consistent. If you wanna still go after the ball thats fine but keep it cross court and with a larger margin for error. Just dont give free points away out of the gate.

    In tonys post I read that he played the game where he killed a kid in a baseline game and that reminded me playing some of my coaches in my youth. Where I would rip harder and harder thinking this is what would win when in reality its being consistent and building the point is what wins. This is nothing shocking but something we could all use a reminding of it when we see pros rip huge forehands and thats all you see not the fact that they set up the point to get that shot.
     
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  34. kiteboard

    kiteboard Hall of Fame

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    We have seen what happens to Nadal when he hits too short/conservatively. We have seen crappy players beat us with the same tactics of not going for any power, just consistency. We have seen players beat us by going for more and making it. We have seen players beat us by serving better and returning better. At a higher level, it's all about the first strike of the ball and being able to punish any weakness, any weak shot, right away, until you win most of those points. Unless you play for fun, work on the first serve and the first forehand after it, if you want to beat any good player, not just the pushers, the hackers, the gloaters who don't have any game but their own consistency.

    It's not just, "First learn to hit the ball hard, then learn how to keep it in." It's, "Learn how to hit the ball hard and keep it in, while making it look as if you are not going to hit the ball hard, but just keep it in." Disguise is nec. at any level, not just a higher one.

    The reason why the only thing all top players have in common is a quick sideways unit turn is this: it creates the ability to open the hips and drag the shots with power, and makes it difficult to over power us if we unit turn fast.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2011
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  35. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Larry,

    I don't understand your point. If every shot seemed so good [for attacking, your chance for going for a winner, I assume], why would you still want to work the ball and find your percentage? LOL. I mean, isn't the whole point of rallying, hitting percentage, easy shots to find shots that look good for you to put away?
     
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  36. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    Still incomplete. Id' say "Learn how to hit the ball hard and keep it in and away from opponent"

    But the topic here is "play within yourself" ...so well ..play within yourself ...whatever your level, your purpose at the court is :)
     
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  37. Larrysümmers

    Larrysümmers Hall of Fame

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    because these people hit shots are landing deep and i would go for winners on shots that i had no reason to even go for. im not talking about soft shots that land by the service line, im talking about shots that soft but deep.
     
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  38. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    So basically you just mistake deep landing shots for "good shots" to put away? Oh come one!!! That's so trivial :)
     
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  39. yonexpurestorm

    yonexpurestorm Rookie

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    its not about pusing or hitting hard all the time. its about point construction. sometimes you hit hard and sometimes you hit to keep the rally. tony is pointing out how the kid always tries to smash the ball. you cant smash the ball from 3 ft behind the baseline and expect to hit winners consistantly, but if you have an overhead at the net, by all means smash the ball over the fence.
     
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  40. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    All very true...

    ...and the theme was "Playing within yourself," a good idea for all of us. The only thing I'd caution against is, and go back to look at tonlars original post, the key assumption in this discussion is that you and your opponent are already in a baseline rally. That's where you'll end up a lot of the time, but not always, and a baseline rally is not how a point starts. The point starts with a serve and a return, which are the two most important shots in tennis, in that order. Which doesn't mean you need to try for aces or return winners all the time, because that's not playing within yourself.

    I saw a Women's Open final this summer where the winner won 6-0, 6-1, won most points off the serve or return, and lost very few of the rest of the points. And it wasn't just power, it was also thoughtful shot selection on the serve and return as well. "Playing within yourself" works with serve and return, too. On the serve, don't just be a fastballer, be a pitcher with a lot of different looks who gets in 60% of the first serves and doesn't give up much on the secon. On the return, it's great to hit a winner, but you have to make your opponent play, so if you have to chip or block the ball back, that's a good thing to do, especially on 30-30 points and the like.

    So playing within yourself once the rally is underway is a great way to approach winning tennis. Just don't forget to use your serve and return to put you in the driver's seat at the beginning of the rally...if there is one!
     
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  41. bertrevert

    bertrevert Hall of Fame

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    I like the idea that this can actually be more enjoyable.

    I haven't been quite enjoying my tennis lately. I love to hit aggressively. I am a high octane on court. However it really hasn't been working out. And I've been hard-pressed to put my finger on what the problem was except obviously consistency. Lost to a player who loved me hitting the ball hard to him. He loved beating me. Next week I see him have all sorts of problems when it comes to creating his own power against a much softer player. All sorts of errors crept into his game.

    I am resolved to slow it down. I want to enjoy my tennis more. Going for too much too early can be exhilarating, a bit of a high, however losing too many points, not fun at all, and eventually games that you shouldn't lose, really not fun at all.

    A change in attitude, in strings, in racquet, in game plans, in whatever it takes comes about out of necessity, and losing when you know you an do better teaches you just that. I will try this method for sure...
     
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  42. 10sEmporer

    10sEmporer Banned

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    you guys make it sound so easy - "hey I am gonna slow down to 60% and I am gonna beat this guy who cleans my clock all the time"

    first of all, who hits 90-100% anyway, who can keep that up over 2 hours? unless you are Gonzo.

    so if the baseline is 80% anyway, and if UFEs are made at 80%, then I guarantee you that 60% aint gonna help much.... if the game is still 'gravity dependent' (forgot who came up with the term here), then 60% is only gonna give a slightly higher margin for error, not enough to compensate for the fact that now you are under the gun all the time.

    gotta fix those technical flaws first.... just look at all the videos posted here, how many of them will benefit from slowing down to 60%? maybe 10% of them.... 20% max.

    all the good players, they are already playing within themselves.
     
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  43. danno123

    danno123 Rookie

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    I seems to me that most of the supposed disagreement in this thread isn't real disagreement. After all, the concept of "playing within your ability during matches" is not at all inconsistent with the concept of "try to increase your ability through practice." Indeed, both tenets are essential to player development. For example, if a kid keeps missing a particular shot, say a hard backhand down the line pass, the solution is twofold: (1) stop trying to hit that shot so much in matches until you have it; and (2) practice that shot a lot during practice so you DO have it.
     
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  44. pug

    pug Semi-Pro

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    Tony,

    Great post. Wish you were my coach!
     
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  45. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    If I understand your premise correctly, that tennis is a percentage game, and that, in order to give yourself the best chance to win, you have to put the percentages in your favor, then I agree. But, rather than focusing on playing within yourself, which is too non-specific, I prefer to focus on two elements of high percentage tennis and to execute them with discipline: (1) employ a high percentage game plan (which is pretty much universal and well known), and (2) focusing on executing your shots, one at a time. If you execute your game plan and execute your shots, one at a time, to the best of your ability, you're doing all you can do, and you will play your best tennis and give yourself the best chance to win. I would not advise someone to underhit a shot in order to increase the chances of keeping it in play. For one, I'm not sure it would work. It may result in less than optimal execution of a shot. Rather, I would emphasis the importance of staying relaxed throughout the shot and executing it fully and correctly.

    It's also important to employ "the power of positive thinking." Most people don't know what that really means. It means - focus on what you want, not on what you want to avoid. Without getting in to a dissertation of the conscious and subconscious mind and their roles in sports psychology, suffice it to say that "what the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon." The body will obey the dominant message. If you consciously tell yourself "stay relaxed," (positive - what you want), that is the dominant message that the subconscious mind will record and repeat back to you. If you consciously tell yourself "don't get tight," (negative - what you want to avoid) the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between do and don't and will record the "tight" part, and that will be the dominant message repeated back to you. Visualization is a classic example of positive thinking - visualizing perfect execution.

    Applying positive thinking to your game plan is obvious - hit cross court under these circumstances, hit dtl under these circumstances, etc. As for shot execution, you may be able to mentally verbalize one or two elements that you want to focus on, but, it's nearly impossible to verbalize (even in your mind), all of the elements of a perfect shot during match play, even between points. That's where visualization comes in. Visualize perfect execution of perfect shots, and you will maximize the chances of hitting perfectd shots during play.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
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  46. TonLars

    TonLars Professional

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    Positive thinking and visualization of shot execution are important for mental toughness and staying focused, great post!

    Regarding slowing down one's shots, I definitely do not advise being tentative and sacrificing follow through and technique. But by using more spin, higher net clearance and thus slowing down one's shots, one can maintain better consistency. If someone cant meet their basic rallying goals, they should look to doing more of those things, or they will beat themselves through missing. For different players, one may be able to maintain consistency hitting more of a drive and swinging faster than the other who would need to slow it down and aim higher. Once a player has their foundation of consistency, they should gradually increase speed of their shots by learning to hit with more spin and more racquet head speed, and also not always have to hit quite as high by hitting a flatter drive. You hit as big as you can while maintaining consistency and playing within yourself, or in other words not trying to hit bigger or closer to the lines than one is capable of at that time.

    It worked for me for sure, and it definitely is helping this particular student. Many professionals you see today began as career "pushers" before getting better and more consistent at swinging out.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
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  47. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Thanks!

    My practice routine reflects my approach to match play. I spend the bulk of my practice hitting cross court drills from the baseline AND from the net. High percentage tennis includes court positioning. And generally, hitting cross court from the baseline helps to keep you from being put out of position by your opponent. In these drills, my target is 5 feet of the corner, (hitting that target 2/3 of is a very good result). I also try to keep the ball in play as long as possible. This is not an exercise to try to overpower your opponent or hit winners. That's counterproductive. A 20 shot rally (10 each), for high level players is a good goal. To get the ball that deep from corner to corner (a long distance), I have to clear the net by 4-5 feet. I hit with pretty heavy topspin. That gives me a high margin for error over the net and into the court because of the verticle descent of the ball. THE HARD PART IS FINDING DRILLING PARTNERS WHO WANT TO WORK! :mad: But, that's another story.

    I spend the rest of my practice time working on my serve and return, the two most important shots in tennis, IMO. You can't play high percentage tennis without being able to put serves and returns in play, and get them in play with enough placement and pace that they don't get attacked. I've hit some pretty big second serves that landed short in the box and got spanked for winners. That's not high percentage IMO. You have to either make the returner reach for the ball, or jam him by hitting right at him. On return, I try to hit to the opposite corner from where I'm standing for court positioning purposes. If the serve is short and sits up, I might go for a winner straight ahead or cross court. That's a high percentage situation in which to go for a winner.

    Because of my practice routine, in a match, I'm prepared (mentally at least), to hit cross court indefinitely until my opponent either:

    (1) Hits an UE,
    (2) Hits a short or weak shot that I can attack - an approach shot dtl on a low ball, or a winner into the open court on a sitter, or
    (3) Makes the tactical error of redirecting the ball dtl. In that case, the opponent may make an occasional winner. But, more often than not, they'll hit an UE in to the doubles ally, or, I'll hit the next shot to the opposite corner and put them on the run.

    High percentage tennis also means knowing when to attack and/or go for a winner - when you have a short court. Foregoing high percentage opportunities to attack and/or hit winners is not high percentage tennis.

    During a cross court battle, if my opponent hits 20 cross courts in a row, I'll hit 21, etc. etc. I want my opponent to think he has to go for high risk, low percentage shots to win points. Of course, sometimes I'm the one who hits the short or weak shot, or the UE, but, that's a practice issue. In those cross court battles, I generally hit the ball as big as I can while remaining as relaxed as I can. But, if I think my opponent is feeding off of my power, I will hit a change up, a slice, even an intentional short angled ball, to get him out of his rhythm.

    Coincidentally, I just got an email from active.com (which I think is a USTA member service), that talks about high percentage tennis tactics and reducing UE's. Here's the link:

    http://www.active.com/tennis/Articl...lyrisid=[outmail.messageid]&email=[emailaddr]
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2011
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  48. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    Good stuff...


    ...similar in many ways to my practice routine. Just as another way to look at this issue, one of the ways you can cut to the chase is to play some serve and volley. Yep, you can get beat coming in behind serve, but these days, it's something you don't see all that much, and a lot of players don't know how to counter it. The trick is, as tonlars says, to take the S&V risk at the right time. S&V is something I use, as appropriate...anybody else?
     
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  49. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

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    Mostly in doubles. Not much in singles.
     
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  50. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

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    Yep. I do it as much as my opponents will allow. If I'm playing a strong player with good returns and groundies I'll do it once, maybe twice a game. If I'm playing a pusher, which I don't do much, I'll channel Paul Anacone and come in on everything.
     
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