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Hardscrabble Scramble
January 2000 Article

Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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Getting Out Of A Slump?

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Mike Whittington

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.

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Hardscrabble Scramble Archive

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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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