It might be a cliché, but the biggest help for your game is the ability to analyze and understand your own weaknesses and bad habits on the court. Knowing when something goes wrong and why is key to improving as a player and getting better results.
One of the most common things you see on the court is players doing the same mistake over and over and then beating themselves up about it. It’s extremely destructive and something we all do from time to time.
How do you troubleshoot yourself? Well, you make sure to learn the fundamentals. If you don’t know them, I can’t stress more how valuable it is to go to proper tennis coach and work on them. You don’t need to take a huge amount of lessons to make sure you’re hitting a proper shot. But tennis will be more fun with proper technique and your potential growth as a player will be magnified.
TENNISNERD TIP: Watch pro player practice videos on YouTube!
So, you feel like you know your technique somewhat, but the best way to open up your understanding of what you do wrong is to record yourself (using your smartphone or digital camera) during points play.
Why points play? Because you’re one player when you’re hitting and practicing and one player when you’re playing points. You need to do both to become a better player. I see way too many players focusing on only playing training matches or even those that shy away from playing points because they tense up and feel like lesser players than they (think) they are.
Also, nobody likes losing, right? Even the danger of losing feels so horrible to some that they try to avoid altogether (Djokovic too, these days, but now by avoiding to play!).
So recording your points play will help you understand a few things:
- Your weaknesses will be brought to light. Both technical, psychological and strategic.
- You will see your game a bit differently.
Don’t let the results of number two get you down. A lot of players think they hit the forehand like Federer before they watch footage of their own game and cringe. Take the information as an opportunity to learn and use the footage to correct things in your game.
Also, it will help you to be honest with yourself about your tennis skills. It’s easy to think you’re better than you are and tell yourself: “This guy (opponent) sucks. I should beat him easily.” That’s the worst attitude to bring to the court and it will put you in an uphill position mentally, feeling like if you don’t win easily, you’re a loser and should hate yourself.
Tennis is a complex sport where most of the battle is done mentally and you don’t want to put false expectations on yourself. All you really can do is play your best tennis and if you lose, that’s life and you congratulate the opponent for playing better than you on the day.
When you’re fair to yourself about your own game, it will be much easier to troubleshoot your tennis and recognise what is going wrong in your game. Maybe you’re not preparing your shots properly, your footwork is sloppy or you’re rushing your service motion. Try to always be conscious of how you’re playing. Really use the time between points or games to understand what is happening in the match and what you can do to fix the things you need to fix. Being aware is the first step.
The key outtakes from this post:
- Record yourself when playing points.
- Don’t beat yourself up around how you play. Think constructively of what you need to change.
- Be confident but don’t overestimate your own abilities so much that it affects your ability to win.
- If you’re serious about your tennis – take lessons, but don’t forget to play matches too.
Good luck on the court!