You need to place the ball where you want to and when you want, to do some damage. Look for the smart targets thread somewhere on the first or second page of the tips section. Those are really good spots to practice for. And of course you need to stay consistent to avoid beating yourself.
If you don't have a coach, try to practice repetitions, basic movement & footwork, watching the ball, and hitting targets, by yourself as if you did have one.
Try this, practice by yourself, get on the court and position yourself as though you are going to drop feed yourself a backhand, toss the ball up just high enough to give yourself some time to run around and hit a forehand instead. Hit it to one of the smart targets with good pace. Sounds easy but I'd bet a lot of people 4.0 & under would have a hard time getting say 7-8 out of 10. There's a lot going on, you're moving a lot with your feet repositioning yourself and making small adjustments to set up for the right contact point, you're watching the ball closely and setting up your stroke to generate your own power off a paceless ball that is traveling more vertically than horizontally, then you're trying to consistently hit a target. That is a lot to coordinate. Do this for both targets, from the middle and sides of the court, for both high and low balls. Repeat for your backhand side. Work on one shot consecutively (one target and one ball height).
Doesn't sound cool? Maybe paying someone $50/hr to toss balls to you does? Of course you would be getting an extra pair of eyes and corrections with a coach, but its still good practice for all of the points above. You also get to make the bulk of your mistakes in practice so you won't during a game, and its good run-around forehand practice too. I'm pretty sure most ppl won't try this because it sounds too simplistic, but if they can't consistently do well on a simple excerice like this they aren't breaking into the better ranks anytime soon. You can think of it as a self-test & prove it to yourself if it sounds too easy. Practice this 1-1.5 hours once a week and I'm sure you'll be breaking out of the 3.5's.
Last edited by Hi I'm Ray; 01-19-2013 at 02:35 AM.