13! That's how much I suck - 13!

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by danno123, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. danno123

    danno123 Rookie

    Sep 20, 2010
    I read "The Talent Code" and have really started trying to incorporate "deliberate practice" into my training routine. I made a list of my problem areas and decided to work on the weakest areas of my game using deliberate practice. I didn't have a match this morning, so I set the ball machine up to run drills on stuff I suck at, like consistency and overheads.

    To practice consistency, I set the ball machine to hit about 120 random direction (but easily reachable) deep balls and the goal of the drill was to see how many shots in a row I could return. I wasn't trying to do anything fancy - just get the ball in. My longest strings were only 13 shots. I had no idea my strokes were that inconsistent. My prior training routine, which consisted of "try to look like Federer and slam impossible winners on every shot" is clearly not working. I'll be running the consistency drill a lot until I can get at least 25 in a row.

    The overhead/lob drill was an eye-opener as well. My overhead sucks. When I'm at the net and I see my opponent lob, I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach that's something just shy of terror. I hit a lot of overheads this morning. Many went into the net, some even went into the fence, but by the end I was at least getting most of them in. I'll be running that drill again too. (But not for a few days - I'm old and don't want to injure my shoulder).
  2. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter G.O.A.T.

    Jun 10, 2010
    You have to practice with purpose. IMO, the best practice you can do is cross court drills with a partner of equal ability. High percentage tennis, with few exceptions (approach shots, and passing shots from well in front of the baseline), is a cross court game. Further, if you can hit cross court, you can hit down the line, but, not necessarily vice versa. So, your time and effort is best spent practicing cross court.

    - Aim for a target within 5 feet of the corner. That means you have to hit with plenty of arch to get it that deep.
    - Drill with the intent to keep the ball in play indefinitely. Footwork is at a premium and will be severely tested.
    - When practicing CC forehands, run around backhands if possible. Same with backhands.
    - No matter where your opponent hits the ball, maintain your target as 5 feet from the corner.
    - The only exception is if your opponent hits a short, weak shot. Then go for a down the line approach shot if the ball is below the net at contact, or a winner into the open court if the ball is well above the net at contact, because that's what you would do with a short shot in match play.
    - 30 minutes of CC's (15 fh's/15 bh's) is a real workout.
    - You can also practice CC's with one person hitting volleys at the net. The target for the net player is the same - 5 feet from the corner. The target for the backcourt player is to pass the net player cross court. Therefore, the net player must straddle the center line in between each volley in order to give the back court player a target to hit to and still keep the ball from going wide.

    If you don't have a drilling partner, then use the ball machine. But, a partner is better because you'll have to exert much more energy setting up for more inconsistent (realistic) shots, rather than the more consistent shots that a ball machine will give you.

    PS: A great way to practice your overhead (especially if you don't have a partner willing to feed lobs), is to practice them against a wall. Hit down to the ground so that the ball hits the ground, then the wall, and feeds you practice lobs automatically. Try to keep it going. Stay on your toes and keep your feet moving. My method for setting up for smashes is to move laterally first, then vertically, as needed to get under the ball.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  3. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

    Nov 24, 2008
    Hey, I applaud your efforts to try something specific to improve! But if you really want to take The Talent Code to heart, forget about the ball machine for now and start at the very beginning. Start with shadow swinging slowly in a mirror and get your stance/grip/swing pattern exactly right. Then drop feed or have someone toss feed you balls and hit deliberately and correctly, over and over, and over - make sure your footwork is sound. Then work up to slow racquet feeds, and finally hitting with a partner or a ball machine.

    The very premise of The Talent Code is slow, deliberate and correct practice, for many repetitions - over several months to years. Remember, he describes very accomplished piano players practicing pieces so slowly that they are unrecognizable. This is a slow process that takes a lot of patience.
  4. dozu

    dozu Banned

    Feb 19, 2004
    i am surprised - just to get it IN and you only managed 13? I can do that with my left hand.... something is not right here... I have seen your practice vid, you are better than that.

    anywho - my favorite solo drill is to hit all CC against the wall and I have to hit 15 good ones to win a point... if you can do that, ball machine will be piece of cake.
  5. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Yeah, Dozu is correct, you need at least 15 in a row vs the wall, preferably closer to 35, to achieve any consistency on the court.
    I'm the most erratic player on our courts, and I can hit 25 forehands or backhands against the wall without a miss.
  6. rkelley

    rkelley Hall of Fame

    Sep 28, 2010
    Something I do is not just look at consistency alone, but judge every aspect of the shot. Did I move to the shot and set-up how I wanted to? Did I stroke it with good form (legs bent, shoulders turned, good kenetic chain, balanced, etc)? Did I hit the ball the way I meant to hit it (center of the racquet, amount of topspin, pace, etc.). Did the ball go where I wanted it to go (height over the net, depth and location in the court).

    If all of those things happen the way you intended, and the ball goes where you wanted it to go and how you wanted it to get there, only then was there a result that matched the execution, and execution that matched the intent. It's surprising how many shots I hit that don't meet all of those criteria but still land in and are still pretty decent shots - at least for me.
  7. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation G.O.A.T.

    Oct 20, 2006
    I like what our pal rkelley is getting at there.

    Think on this: Which shot in that string of 25 good strokes is more important, the 2nd one or the 24th? See what I'm getting at? Each one is important on its own and if you're focusing on trying to rack up 25 in a row, you're not focusing on what's probably more important. Eye on the ball comes to mind among other things. Quick first move after your split-step, early stroke preparation, shuffle steps for better positioning just prior to the stroke, smart shot pace and direction based on the location and height of the incoming ball... blah, blah, blah. In the middle of a match, 25 in a row isn't too high on everyone's list. Other vital habits contribute to overall consistency.

    What are your expectations of your tennis performance? If I played a point where I hit 13 shots in a single rally, that would be a MONSTER POINT, no doubt about it. If it's really bugging you that the longest string of shots that landed was only 13, you may need to think about just how tough this game actually is for mere mortals such as ourselves. It can be a sobering process, but you sound like you have to get a handle on the difference between just how good your are compared with how good you want to be.

    No, I'm not taking a verbal dump on you. I'm on your side. It just sounds like you're way too hot to declare yourself incompetent with a racquet. This business is hard my friend. Get comfortable with that reality. The real gains you're looking to make with your skills may take twice the effort and dedication as you think it will. We can't just go through the motions - significant improvement in tennis means putting in more than a few hard miles.
  8. TennisCJC

    TennisCJC Legend

    Apr 20, 2010
    You are definately "getting it". Drills were you get 10-20 balls in without an unforced error are great. Also, work on hit 10 good balls in a row where a good ball has enough topspin to be safe and enough pace and depth to at least protect you - something your opponent cannot kill. My rules are lift the ball 1-2 feet over the net if both feet inside the baseline, lift the ball 3-4 feet if at or within 3 feet behind the baseline, and lift 4+++ feet if more than 3 feet behind baseline.

    Ball machines are also great for volleys and I suggest you work on "the lost art" of net play. It will give your game a diminsion where you can pressure opponents by net presence. Make a couple of volleys and your opponent will really feel pressured when you come in.

    Also, do serve consistency drills. Can you make 10 out of 15 1st serves? Serving a bucket of balls alternating points, can you make 10 1st serves without hitting a double fault - serve points where you attempt 2nd serve if you miss 1st serve? Can you make 10 2nd serves in a row? These are good drills.

    Consistency will beat 90% of the players in the world.
  9. christos_liaskos

    christos_liaskos Professional

    Sep 2, 2006
    Sheffield, England
    As the last few guys have mentioned, the quality of the shot is important too. If you come on here tomorrow and declare you managed 100 in a row....and then go on to say you were holding your racket like a fran pan a hitting the ball over the net in the way you toss a pancake, then that 100 shots is a worse result that the 13 you are already on.

    What I've found when coaching is that if you tell an individual or a group of players that 'the aim of this exercise is not to miss, if you miss then you get 10 laps around the court etc etc', then all of a sudden the quality of the shots drops dramatically. Yes they are achieving the ultimate goal but they are learning nothing from this process by just 'prodding stabbing and poking' at the ball to get it over. Where's that going to get you in a match against anyone half decent?

    I don't coach much at the moment due to health problems, just do a couple of individuals a week. One with a young boy who we are working on what you are working on. However, I have not just set him the target of us rallying together. I have told him I want him to hit 'quality decent shots'. I want his swing at the ball and his movement around the court to be aggressive and attacking. Keep those knees bent, fast feet, get prepaired for the shot, and then take a full attacking swing at the ball. Now here is the important part. The physical movement of the legs and the swinging arm may be attacking and aggressive, but the intent and your target is far from attacking. It's to give your self a safe, high percentage target. And yes it sounds simple enough to say 'your taget is the center of the court' and leave it at that. But it needs to be more than that. I use throw down lines and use a BIG box in the center of the court, a little cone is a waste of time. And as we rally I tell the boy to 'attack' the box 'come on, keep height over that net!' 'Attack the box!' If you find your self pulled out of court then your sole focus in your mind should be get height on this ball over the net and aim for the center of that box! 'Come on recover after your shot!' 'Split step' 'Keep that footwork aggressive!'.

    I came up with this when thinking I want my players to play with high intensity, but that doesnt mean all of a suddent that balls should flying everywhere. It means these guys should be running, split stepping, swinging, recovering, for an hour, not missing a shot, and coming of half dead at the end of it :D. Hope some of that helps :)
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2011
  10. christos_liaskos

    christos_liaskos Professional

    Sep 2, 2006
    Sheffield, England
    To add to my previous post. I have found myself thinking about this process quite a lot lately. You have to hit a good, solid, quality ball, but you are not being aggressive with the aiming of that shot.

    I came up with this boxing analogy, (bare in mind I dont really know anything about boxing :D)....
    It seems to me a good strategy in boxing, high percentage and not high risk, is to go in at the body. Break your opponent down, but with big heavy aggressive shots. Sound familiar? Hit that ball aggressively, get some spin on it. The boxer isn't going to miss that big target, just like you aren't going to miss the center of the court. And yes the boxer isn't going to knock his opponent out with one of these shots, but hes forcing his opponent to drop his defence, or your opponent to drop a short ball. (And the next step of this process? the boxer needs to take advantage of his opponent's tiring and lowering of the arms and you need to take advantage of that short ball and punish. Neither you or the boxer wants to give his opponent time to recover.)

    We all want to play like Roger and finish points quickly with precision, arrow like shots. But that is high risk for most of us. Breaking our opponent down by aiming for 'areas' (not lines) of the court, such as down the middle, the forehand side or backhand side is the way most people should be trying to construct their points, and then taking advantage of that opening when it comes. (Ofcourse some people are naturally aggressive, but beware that if you think you fall into this category ask yourself what your success rate actually is? It might be much lower than you realise because you want to play like Roger)

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