To Improve Performance Start...
by Marvin L. Gay
- Preparing your tennis stroke early! As soon as you sight the ball off of your opponent's racquet, make a "snap" decision as to which of the three basic strokes you intend using for your return: prepare the appropriate forehand, backhand, or overhead "return stance" and move toward the ball. As you come into your comfortable hitting range, begin executing your stroke, making contact with the ball just at the perpendicular point of your "forward foot" instep. Beginners run to the ball, get ready (prepare) to hit the ball, then they try to hit the ball. Come on, follow me. You're no longer a beginner, you're a tennis player on a "competitive team!" Remember to prepare early!
- Standing on your toes just before and during each point! Starting on your toes, rather than flatfooted, gives you a "momentum boost"; a "burst of energy" that can give you the needed edge to win more points, more games and subsequently, the match.
- Following the ball (and moving in its direction), once it has been put in play, wherever it goes from wherever you are on the court! Many players make the mistake of claiming a certain territory on their side of the net and they look to play only the balls that come into that region of the court. This is far from the way to play effective doubles. Your ball is any ball that you can effectively "put away" and "win the point" or hit in a manner (setting up the next shot for your partner) such that you put your opponent in trouble. Remember, tennis is a very mobile game. Avoid claiming a region and parking there to watch your partner play!
- Setting the shot up for yourself and for your partner! Too often a doubles player plays as though he/she has no help and has to win each stroke and point all alone. It's not possible to hit a winner each time you hit the ball, but it's usually possible to hit a "setup shot" for your partner, if you remember you're part of a team. "Set him/her up," and he/she will do the same for you, when the time is right.
- Covering for your partner! Often a stroke will put your partner off the court, or at least, out of position. When this happens, be ready to play the "safe" ball to the "safe" spot on the court that gives your partner time to recover. This will often be a lob to the back court, preferably to a deep corner. If your partner is pulled out wide, move toward them as many steps as they were pulled out. This covers the hole that is created by your partner's move to the outside (to play a ball). If your opponents lob over your partner, be ready to drop back while switching sides to play the lob and let your partner move into the space you left. The premise here is that your partner was likely moving in when the lob came and cannot change directions easily. The un-lobbed upon partner can more effectively move to the ball in this situation.
- Visualizing your strokes before you hit the ball! Take mental pictures with your photographic memory "in practice." Allow your sub-conscious mind to "play" the game; there really isn't enough time during a point to think and execute; instinct and habit must become your friends on the court.
- Anticipating your opponent's next shot! We've come full circle... we're back to EARLY PREPARATION!
- HAVING FUN!!!
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