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The Secret of Playing Good Tennis
by Tomaz Mencinger

"Playing good tennis" is a very simple idea but very difficult to implement and understand. All right, now just what does that mean? Of course we all try to play good tennis, don't we? NO, probably not.

Most players are not focused on playing good tennis; they are focused on trying to beat their opponent. Isn't that the same? NO. (Not to mention those who are focused on not losing, but that's another story.)

When you try to beat your opponent you are too focused on him or her instead on tennis demands, statistics and rules. Some of the shots that you may play are very low percentage BUT if you see that they would bring success against your opponent you go and try them. BIG mistake. You beat yourself because you play against statistics and the laws of physics.

The other problem is that you may try shots that you are not skilled enough to execute with good percentage and effectiveness. You are trying the right tactic but you are not good enough to do it.

Your ego is your biggest problem here.

You don't want to admit that you are not good enough and you have a zillion excuses why today for some strange and unlucky reason your shot didn't go in.

Sorry, you are not good enough. There is no mysterious force preventing you from playing your best. It's not your bad karma or Murphy's Law. No, you are just not good enough... YET!

That doesn't mean that you won't be or that you can't improve BUT you must look in the face of truth and reality IF you want to play your best tennis in the current circumstances--which are outside conditions and inside conditions--your skills, tactics, physical abilities and mental toughness.

And ONLY if you are totally honest with yourself and ACCEPT yourself the way you are at the moment--maybe with a solid forehand, weak backhand, insecure volley and overhead and not too much fitness, ONLY THEN can you realize what YOUR good tennis looks like.

And only then will you be able to realistically set your goals and prepare tactics for your best tennis. Maybe it won't look like Roger Federer BUT you will win matches and you will be satisfied.

That DOESN'T MEAN that you must resign to your fate. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't try better shots. That doesn't mean that you should risk and just go for it. There is an INTELLIGENT RISK and a NOT SO intelligent risk.

There is also the golden middle that you need to find inside your mind: you need to accept your current state--technique, tactical knowledge, physical abilities and mental skills and feel good about them AND AT THE SAME TIME have the desire to improve.

Your four main areas will not serve you well if you feel bad about them. You will miss many more serves if you feel bad about your serve and think that it sucks THAN if you accept you serve as it is and feel good about it.

It's technically the same serve with the same motion--but in the first case you won't hit it well and in the second case you will.

You need to nurture yourself and your 4 main areas. Like if you had a garden with apple trees, cherries, peaches, apricots and other kinds of fruit and you see them flower in the spring and everything is going really well. But you don't look for mistakes and you don't feel that your apple tree is too low or too wide.

You just accept it the way it is and YOU STILL are motivated to water it, to cut some branches and to make it more productive.

We are so used to being motivated ONLY if something is WRONG and we try to fix it. This is not the best approach. Why? Because we begin our FIXING process in a negative mindset. We are filled with negative energy and we work with it. We block our creative powers because we operate ONLY from our left brain hemisphere which is only analytical.

ONLY when we accept the current state, feel good about it AND ARE STILL motivated and enthusiastic about improving it, will the best results happen. We won't force the creative process; we will have positive energy and will be able to create from the whole brain. That's when beautiful and great things happen.

Reflect on your life experiences to find times when you have felt that way in the past... When did you feel good about something and still want to improve it? When you find that memory, you'll know what this means.

And now TRANSFER this idea, this experience to your tennis game. Question your beliefs about your tennis to reflect on thing which you typically might not think about very logically. Does your weak backhand REALLY say anything about you? Is there any logical connection between your backhand and YOU as a person?

When you cut that connection and realize that there is none, then you'll be able to see your backhand with compassion and will do your best to help it grow and improve. But as long as you see your backhand as bad, weak, "loser" backhand, then it won't respond to your attempts at fixing it. You will force things too much and that will slow down or even stop the progress. Actually you can even make your backhand worse and worse by constantly feeling bad about it. It will become more and more unreliable. You are feeding your backhand with NEGATIVE ENERGY and it SHOWS.

So back to the secret--how to play good tennis. You've probably heard these phrases before: Just play point by point, and Play the ball, not the opponent. Are they more clear now after what you've read so far?

If you want to play good tennis and win matches, you need to focus on playing good tennis. My personal judgment is that a good player is focused 80% on playing good tennis and only about 20% on how to outplay his or her opponent.

He or she does adjust their game to make it difficult for their opponent but the main focus is on the game of tennis.

Because that is the real game that is played out there--there are two people who are demonstrating to one another who is a better TENNIS player. NOT who is a better human! They are both playing this game called tennis which has certain rules. And whoever is a better player of THIS GAME, wins the match.

Winning the match doesn't mean that one player is a better HUMAN than the other player. It means that he or she plays the game of TENNIS better than the other person.

Imagine that your coach was feeding balls to you from the basket and you would have certain targets to hit. You are not playing against your coach, you are playing the GAME of tennis--how to hit this ball fast and precise into that target.

It's almost the same when you play the match--your opponent will send over the ball and then you will show him or her how fast, precise and tactically correct you are able to hit the ball over.

In the long term the one who is more skilled at this wins the match. That person is a better tennis player in that moment. That doesn't mean that the winner is a more worthy person although that's what the whole world is trying to convince us.

Now what if I take Roger Federer and make him play baseball against second league players. Would he be better? I'm sure he wouldn't. Is he less worthy now? Does that make him a lesser human? No, it has nothing to do with his inner sense of worth.

Back to the secret--one of the main points about the secret of playing good tennis is to see it separately from you--from your inner self worth. If you can keep the distance between missing an easy shot and feeling anything about yourself, then you have found one of the secrets to good tennis.

The next secret is that you need to focus on the game of tennis. Play the game, not the opponent. Understand the basic tactical patterns--when to play cross court, when down the line, how to cover the court properly, where to serve and return and so on.

These tennis "rules" must make 80% of your game against anyone. The other 20% of your tactics are adjustments to your opponent's weaknesses and strengths.

So that is the third secret--how to play against a specific type of player considering your tennis skills and outer conditions. But that's only the 20% of the whole game. Maybe that's a topic for another article...

So next time, when you get on the court, see if you can play only the tennis game and not compete with your opponent. Furthermore, see if you can cut that connection between missing a shot and your inner worth.

When you get there, you'll find tennis freedom inside of you.


Tomaz Mencinger hails from Slovenia and publishes the TennisMindGame Web site at www.TennisMindGame.com.

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