Finding a way to get out of a playing slump can be very
frustrating but it's something that happens to all tennis
players. It's important to realize that your play and
improvement comes with peaks and valleys. Learning how
to handle those valleys can actually help you become a
better player in the long run. You will continue to have
slumps throughout your career as we all do, but you'll
know how to handle them better. There are a few things
you can think of to get you playing better, sooner.
I always tell my students to try to relax and really watch
the ball much closer. As a result (hopefully), they will
not try to muscle the ball but simply get better rhythm by
not trying to force shots. It's very easy to try to overhit
and rush your swing when you are a little out of sync--it's
kind of like trying to win an entire set with one shot! You
really have to get yourself to take it one shot at a time
and one point at a time. Visualizing what you want to happen
in the point will also help. You shouldn't visualize what
you are afraid will happen.
Practice the basics and keep it simple. For example, make
sure you are getting your first serve in before forcing
serve and volley play. When you are in a slump you want to
tackle one problem at a time to correct the overall picture.
Many times you'll find that the one simple correction will
clear up several other problems and allow things to come
together better. Practice by hitting simple shots with your
practice partner or ball machine. Don't complicate things
with multi-shot drills and workouts --the simpler the
better when in a rut.
Sometimes when you are in a slump, a lesson with your
teaching pro will do the trick. When players are hitting
the ball badly they have a tendency to think they are
doing a lot of things wrong and therefore look for answers
during match play. Leave the practice to the practice court
and ask your pro for advice. You might find that instead of
doing several things wrong you have developed one bad habit
that you are doing several times. Video and match charting
can also help pinpoint the little things you may not notice.
Finally, it might be time to take a few days off from
tennis. I know that with my USTA league teams they have
played a lot of matches over the last few months and are
physically and mentally tired right now. If they continue
to play without proper rest they seem to find themselves a
little off on the timing and falling into a slump. Although
practice is important it is just as important to know when
to back off and get the mind and body ready again. All
players, including touring pros, go through slumps throughout
their career. It's how you handle these difficult times that
will help you grow as a player.