Originally Posted by Limpinhitter
Tennis is a very simple game. When playing a tennis match, there are 2 things that you need to focus on:
(1) Executing your shots, one shot at a time, and
(2) Executing your gameplan, one point at a time.
That is all you should be thinking about during a match. Put everything else, including the score, out of your mind. It is all irrelevant. Until the match is over, the score is irrelevant. You still have to execute your shots and your gameplan no matter what the score is. If you execute your shots and your gameplan to the best of your ability, you have done all you can do to win. There is nothing else to be done. Knowing that should put your mind at ease and make mental match preparation much simpler.
Having said that, let me be clear about what I mean by executing your shots and executing your gameplan.
Shot execution: By executing your shots, I mean executing your technique - doing all of the little things from moving your feet, getting set up, watching the ball, taking a full relaxed swing and follow through, etc. etc., that go into hitting a tennis ball. When a player is nervous, his technique suffers and he doesn't execute his shots properly, UNLESS he focuses on doing just that - fully executing his shots, one shot at a time. That's why most players find that, until they have some experience in match play, they don't play as well during a sanctioned match as they do in practice matches, and don't understand why. Even top pros go through this when they get nervous for a big match. But, because of their massive experience, they get by that within a few points or games.
Gameplan execution: Most pros and many amateurs understand that tennis is a percentage game, and their gameplan is founded upon the principles of high percentage tennis. In other words, your gameplan has a foundation based on the principles of high percentage tennis and that never changes no matter who you play. Knowing that should also put your mind at ease in terms of what are you going to do during the match.
There's more good news. The basic principles of high percentage tennis are very simple. Did I mention that tennis is a simple game? Having recently typed out these principles in another thread, I'll just copy them below for you.
I hope all this helps to put you at ease and allows you to enjoy your match knowing in advance what you need to do when you play.
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The key to giving yourself the best chance to win is to understand that tennis is a percentage game, and knowing what the high percentage shot is in any given situation. In practice, it's actually very simple. The winning part comes down more to making high percentage choices with discipline and then just executing your shots.
Having said that, cross court is always the primary high percentage target from the baseline. Trying to redirect a cross court shot dtl presents a few problems. (1) It goes against directionals and, therefore, has a tendency to go wide, (2) you have a shorter court with a higher net, and, perhaps most importantly, (3) unless you hit a winner (a low percentage play from behind the baseline to no matter where you hit it), you have left yourself out of position and given your opponent a wide open court cross court to your other side.
The exceptions to hitting cross court are: (1) when your opponent hits a short or weak ball, or (2) when you have an opportunity to run around your backhand and hit an inside out, or inside in forehand. Obviously, what amounts to a short weak ball, or an opportunity to run around the backhand, changes as the level of play goes up. For a low level player, a short weak ball is when he's closer to the service line than the baseline. For a pro, it's when he can take a ball inside the baseline. For Federer and Nadal, it's any ball that doesn't put them on defense. Anyway . . .
On a short/weak ball there are two scenarios: (1) If the ball is a high sitter, it is a high percentage play to go for a winner into the open court. (2) If it's low, and you have to lift it above the net, going for a winner (other than a drop shot which is a good option on a low short ball), is a low percentage play because it's too difficult to hit up over the net, and get the ball back down inside the court, with enough pace to be a winner. Rather, on low short balls you should hit an approach shot dtl and position yourself at net so that you take away a dtl pass attempt and force your opponent to go for a cross court pass or lob. He only has a small window to get the ball by you cross court and keep the ball inside the sideline. Those percentages favor you. For every successful pass, he'll hit at least one UE and one shot you can volley away. A cross court approach shot is a tactical error because you have left yourself open to be passed on either side, the open side and behind you as you scramble to cover the open side.
When you run around your backhand to hit inside out, you are in effect hitting cross court with your stronger stroke and only a little bit out of position. Hitting inside in is going with directionals, but, its the short court and the high net and will leave you out of position if it isn't a winner or at least puts your opponent on the stretch so that he can't hit big to your open cross court.
That's a major part of high percentage tennis right there. Hope that helps.
PS: According to Vic Braden, the average pro point lasts for 3 shots in play, serve, return and one more shot in play before someone hits an UE or a winner. For amateurs it's 2 shots in play, serve and return. This is why I say that the majority of your practice time should be devoted to: (1) serves, (2) returns, and (3) cross court drills. The point is, it's important that you know you can hang with anyone hitting cross court on either side for as long as it takes to get an opportunity to attack. There's no excuse to be stuck with a weak side that you can't hit cross court for as long as it takes. Trying to get out of it with a low percentage shot selection is not a winning tactic over the course of a match.
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I'm glad you liked it. Understand that this is the foundation of your gameplan and you can go a long way and win a lot of matches with this alone. But, there are going to be exceptions to every rule that you can only learn through experience. For example, from time to time you may play someone who has a shot that he can hit against these rules on a high percentage basis. But, most won't be able to. So, don't panic if, for example, an opponent rips a dtl groundie for a winner. You have to believe in the system. Just clap your racquet knowing that if he keeps going for it (the way you did), in the long run, he's going to lose more points than he wins. When an opponent hits a dtl groundie to me, I smile inside knowing that he's going to be doing a lot more running than I am, and he's going to hit more UE's than I am, too.
PS: One thing I didn't mention. When you hit cross court, your target is about 5 feet from the corner. Keeping the ball deep and cross court prevents your opponent from attacking and tends to draw weak shots that you can attack. If you hit short cross court, without hitting a sharp angle, then you've given your opponent the opportunity to attack.
Hopefully, you see how important cross court drills, with a target of 5 feet from the corner, are. Finding a like minded drilling partner is crucial. A machine is a good substitute, but, not nearly as good as a partner who will give you all kinds of variety that you'll get in match play.
PPS: When you hit a dtl approach shot, it's a good idea to aim for that same target 5 feet from the corner. You have more time to catch up to a passing shot when it's coming from behind the baseline. You can mix that up with a short low approach and force your opponent to hit up while you're at the net ready to knock it away.