How you learn tennis is crucial to how you develop the correct mental attitude for match play. If you are constantly forced into thinking this way or that way, or if you try to mold yourself into someone else's way of playing, in the long run you will do yourself a terrible disservice.
When everything is said and done, you are the one who plays the match. Not your coach, not the writer of the magazine articles, not the instructor on the tennis videos. You have to be equipped with the knowledge to perform in match play within your own style, your own creativity and your own personality.
If you are constantly bombarded with technical and strategic information that is not compatible with your style, you will be vanquished in your match performances. Why? Because you will be attempting to apply knowledge that is compatible with someone else's mind and not your own! We all process information differently. Thus our thinking and our acquisition of knowledge is a highly personal activity in the learning process.
Be engaged in your own learning process. Challenge your learning through the experience of hitting thousands of balls and the experience of playing hundreds of matches. You are the player who slowly, over time, will soak up the information you need and integrate that knowledge into your own style of play. Complement this process with the guiding knowledge of your coach and you are on your way!
There are literally hundreds of technical things to learn and hundreds of strategic moves to make. Do you think being overwhelmed with these bits of information is the way to learn? There must be a different way. Pros are just not that smart, yet they have learned the game! There is another way.
Your mind is a classroom that comes equipped with its own teacher. Your unconscious mind is your teacher that is constantly absorbing information and slowly teaching you what to do. Yes, some learning is conscious but the majority of detailed learning will be deferred to the unconscious super-teacher. A good coach will take advantage of this teacher and guide the process.
Tennis pro Victoria Azarenka, speaking to Tennis magazine about her coach Sam Sumyk, gave the key to taking control of your own tennis game. "Sam was not pushing me," Azarenka said, "but instead guiding me toward that winning attitude. He helped me to find my way, not pushing his way. It's important to have that education, that you have to learn to do it yourself. Because at the end of the day you're the one who's holding the racquet." (Tennis magazine, June 2012, "Beautiful Mind" by Stephen Tignor.)
You must learn to stay alert in practice and in match play to begin putting the puzzle together piece by piece to eventually see the whole picture. There is no rush. This process takes months and years as you advance from one level to another.
Rely on your coach and follow his or her advice, though it will not be his or her mind that plays the match but yours! Therefore, it is important to learn to do it yourself. Little by little, take your coach's information and work it into your own unique way of thinking. This way when you are in a crucial match and changing ends, you will not find yourself frantically looking for your cell phone to call your coach for a tip.