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John Mills, USPTA
- Watch the ball.
- After you hit the ball, watch the closest opponent's racket to you. That way you will gain information of what will happen next.
- Quit looking where you are hitting or serving the ball.
- Always think "Start the Point."
- Never look at your opponent's attire or face in a match. (do not make the match personal).
- When you are in the offense, move through your volley.
- When you are in the defense, stop and hit the volley.
- Volleys should be pulled. For example, for a right hander, pull right to left, high to low or out to in.
- Think of your volley as a comma.
- On your serve, example for a right hander, if the ball is to the right of your left hand or if you have to move your plant foot, (left foot for a right hander), do not hit the ball.
- On your serve and overhead, use your racket arm for height, like a ladder. Use your legs, your coil and wrist-snap for power. Save your shoulder. Think of how fast you can make the tip of the racket go, not how fast you can move your shoulder or the butt of the racket.
- When playing singles, keep a majority of all of your shots at three quarter depth. Keeping even a strong opponent at that depth will at least give you time to chase his or her shots.
- In doubles, remember to keep the ball low. All opponents are looking to kill the soft high balls.
- In doubles, the order of competing is to listen to your partner hitting the ball, then you want to know which opponent's racket you are playing against, then you want to rate that racket as green light, yellow light and red light. Green light, below the waist, move forward to attack. Red light, between the waist and shoulder, stop and defend. Yellow light, ball above their head, more like they are hitting an overhead at you. Cautiously move back quickly and try to stop right before they hit the ball and play the ball or move forward so as to take the shock of a hard overhead.
- The game is getting quicker, keep taking the short backswing on your ground strokes.
- Remember, you cannot win the point every time you hit it. Learn how to set the point up by changing the arc of your shots, the spin, your opponent's direction, etc.
- The most important shots in tennis are the serve, the serve return and your ground stroke.
- Having problems with your serve? Go out sometime and see how long it takes you to hit 5 serves in a row into the service box, four times. This will really calm you down in match play.
- The best way to get better is to hit more balls. Find a practice partner and hit at least two times a month for one and half hours.
- Always have a new can of balls in your bag. You are worth it.
Good luck on the courts!
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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.
John Mills currently teaches tennis at the University of Houston, Clear Lake campus. John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.