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Hardscrabble Scramble
July 1998 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Mechanical Or Mental?

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Mike Whittington

In my last article I stressed the importance of the shot before the shot that ends the point. Knowing which shot started your downfall in a point can be just as important as the shot itself. Now let's take that one step further and look at the final shot. It is also important to know if your errors are mechanical breakdowns or strategical/mental blunders.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you've hit a short ball to your opponent who drives the ball wide and deep to your backhand. As you are running deep to your backhand corner you attempt to hit a sharp angle cross court backhand pass. Unfortunately, the ball goes into the net. If this happens a few times you'll probably hit the practice court to work on that sharp passing shot. You know from my previous article that your short shot allowing your opponent to drive the ball deep was the start of the whole losing point process, but what about the backhand passing shot? Was that a mechanical error? Did you just not hit up enough on the ball? Or was this a strategical error in that you were in a defensive position and this wasn't your smartest shot selection at the time.

In a recent tournament I noticed a junior player that really got down on himself for missing a big, flat serve several times. Over and over this flat hard serve was attempted without success. A week after the loss this player came to me to work on his flat serve. Although his flat serve did need some work, it wasn't what would probably have saved him during the match. Had he kicked in his first serve with spin, he would have prevented his opponent from attacking his second serve for valuable service breaks. As a player he saw a mechanical breakdown and as a coach I saw a strategical breakdown in that he should not have attempted that serve at that point during the match.

If you are unsure why you are losing points or matches or are a bit unsure as to how to direct your practice, have a friend of coach chart your next few matches. It can be a valuable tool finding the weaknesses in your game. Try to learn if you are hitting the the right shots at the right time. Remember that it is better to rely on having control and confidence in your shots and decisions on the court than to hope your opponent misses his or her shot!

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This column is copyrighted by Mike Whittington, all rights reserved.

At the time at which he wrote this column, Mike Whittington was a USPTA pro in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he served as director of tennis at the Hardscrabble Country Club.


 

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