You can practice all day, but if you don’t polish your control over energy, you won’t improve at all and you won’t win. “Play within yourself.” How many times have you heard that phrase? You are playing within yourself whether you like it or not. Within each of us, there are two types of physical “engines”, an upper body engine and a lower body clock engine. To control these engines well, we need to become aware of and master both conscious and unconscious control over several types of physical energy flows. Our upper engine controls our unit turns. This consists of our arms, hands, wrists, and torso. The unit turn determines how much we turn sideways, and “load” our coil, our power developed, and which type of energy flow we use on each shot. The lower body clock controls our leg speed, foot work and court coverage and it also controls which type of energy we apply into each shot. When you master the engines, and energy flow into these, you will create dominant play. The arms, hands, wrists, and torso have to remain super relaxed for the most speed of coil possible, and the lower body is the opposite: Legs and feet are Samuari stiff and choppy quick, shins tensed, on the balls of your feet, knees kept bent, legs kept split wide off ready position split step. It’s the initial burst of speed we are tuning. The upper body derives this burst of speed from relaxation, while the lower body derives it from shin/knee/foot pad tension. It’s the Kuerten drunken monkey upper body, super loose, versus the Bruce Lee lower body, which is tense and super fast. It takes a lot of focus and intention, and disciplined practice to attain both types of energy simultaneously. My purpose in writing this piece is to help you become an energy master. A greater awareness of the interior energy battle will help you win the exterior one. If you master the body clock/engine transitions and your unit turns, those errors will go away for the most part and you will now beat players you never beat before. It will allow you to go for more power and at the same time make fewer unforced errors. Even at the highest level of play, most points are lost due to mistakes. Two out of three points are lost to mistakes, not winners. Most mistakes are caused by body clock rhythm errors with most of those self induced and some induced by your opponents. On slower courts, this figure goes up even higher! It’s your mental energy flow to the body clock engines that controls and creates these mistakes you make. Energy flows also determine which style we are playing, lull-(slow), jam- (radically changes ball path after the bounce) or finish-(hitting a winner). Most club players make far more mistakes than the pros, even while hitting for far less. The club player typically has no idea about the relationship between movement and the load, inside him which are totally controlling and causing his mistakes as well as the great shots. Coiling and loading shots takes a lot of fast foot-torso-work. THE REASON YOU WIN OR LOSE IS THE SAME ONE DETERMINING WHETHER YOU IMPROVE OR NOT So you have gotten yourself into a match, and now you have nowhere to run or hide from the body clock and the score. You are going to win or you are going to lose. The court is a box. And so are your body clock/engines. “It’s fight or flight out there.”, and our emotions create and fuel this internal energy. Our internal energy has two sides to it, a mental side and a physical side. This application of physical/mental energy flow to the body clock engines is the reason why you win or lose, and it’s also the reason whether you improve or not. Your mastery over lull-jam-finish modes, and their transitions, and your ability to put together sequences that your opponent does not like, creates win or loss and not so obviously, controls imporovement. Every match is made up of many small energy bursts and small emotional bursts. These bursts power our internal body clock/engines during a match. These energies fall into three categories. THREE BODY CLOCK ENERGY CATEGORIES: LULL-JAM-FINISH Lull energy: It is felt internally as a “no miss” energy, a slower speed, low risk, lower speed of racquet and shot. It’s the, “put your opponent to sleep” shots with 2-5’ high net clearance and medium spin and your version of a medium mental attack. It feels as if you are projecting your thumb across the net onto the forehead of your opponent and managing him with that thumb. Is putting your opponent to sleep and moving him around just enough to allow him to beat himself without much pressure on your part. The French players are expert at this, Simon and Monfils, while Gasquet and Chardy are expert at finishing modes. The lull master keeps his shots out of the middle of the court, yet near the sidelines without taking risk. Jam energy: It’s energy that jams your opponent’s timing. It’s a very high speedy energy, a transition energy, that is higher risk and faster in nature. It is felt inside your body as a higher speed, higher risk application of spin and speed/depth/height change. Even drop shots have to be disguised. This energy changes the speed of the ball radically or the direction or the height just after the ball bounces, and it’s this “radical change” which jams internal opponent rhythm. It’s as if you are jamming a spike into his body and causing his energy to jam. Psyches are also used to jam. Finish energy: The riskiest type of energy. It’s low net clearance, high speed or high touch. It’s simply higher risk, put the ball away. Some of those bursts are finish based: they are clean winners. This applies to drop shots as well as flat or angled winners. This is lower net clearance, higher risk, higher stick speed shot. There are psychological components of each of these energies as well as the physical incoming shot. Mastering the energies requires the ability to master both psych and body energy. DEFEND THE BODY CLOCK INTERNAL SPEED Blazing fast Cheetah feet, and drunken monkey upper torso. There are two internal body clock/engines running us at all times, an upper body engine and a lower body engine which are fueled by our energy types at all times. Our mental unit turn tells us to kill a shot, or push a shot, or jam a shot, or lull a shot, and the feet are on board if moving quickly, and the upper body is on board if moving fluidly. When the feet slow down, your clock/engine jams up. When the engine running your torso slows down and there is no fluid coil and no load to your shots.... If the incoming shot slows down your timing, it has succeeded. The body clock is jammed when one or both of the bodies’ engines slows down . They have to be running at the same speed, a fast one, no matter what incoming shot! You have to defend your body clock speed just as you defend your contact point, regardless of incoming shots. Keep the engine speeds high and keep the contact point the same arced distance in front of you. This arc is determined by your own length of arm. Higher incoming shots out front more, and lower shots are allowed into the body more before striking your own outgoing shot. If you place your arm out high, and let it drop, that is the arc you are defending on contact, both at net and on ground. Same goes true for volleys. We miss into the net on low balls due to too far out front contact, and long on high balls due to too late contact, which would be our normal contact on medium shots for both errors. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE UNIT TURN AND THE SPLIT STEP Edberg came into net almost sitting down in his split. That gave him quicker lateral movement. Murray will go 6”-9" up in the air on his split. So did Chang and Hewitt. Players with the biggest or widest most extreme splits, often have the best defense/better foot work/quicker feet, ie, Chang, Hewitt, Sanchez vicario, Nadal, Murray, etc.. The split step affects the unit turn so profoundly. Ever notice how wide Djokovic stands while returning serve? It’s a full shoulder width and a half. So do all top returners, wider than anyone else. The advanced split step will point one foot to the side fence (the same side the ball is heading towards) and plant the other foot pointing towards the net, perpendicular to each other. This advanced split step causes a faster unit turn, because the turned foot pivots the upper body when that pivoted foot lands. When the pointed foot lands, it forces a faster unit turn, a faster decision on which shot you are going to hit. Turning sideways faster is a strategy is all about removing time from the unit turn, deciding ahead of time which shots to hit, so you don’t have to waste time thinking about it during the point, and to at the same time to force your opponent to spend more time reacting and thinking! Your mental unit turn has to be just as practiced and polished as the physical, and your decision on which energy type to use has to be automatic: lull-jam-finish. That is the decision of which energy to use, lull, jam, or finish, and how deep and hard and high the shot will be. Typical combinations are: two lull shots, two jam shots, and two finish shots. The physical unit turn is the only thing all top pros have in common. It’s the mental unit turn and their mastery over the three energy types that separates the very top from the next tier down.