Imagine, if you will, you are about to play in a singles tournament and the tournament referee calls your name and introduces you to your opponent who is .... YOU. Same player, same ability. Now imagine one of the players looks at the other and thinks "Look at that schmuck. I'm gonna whip his ass. And when I've beaten his donkey I'm gonna beat him too". "He'll never be able to return my first serve and I'll crucify him with my forehand. I'll murder that pathetic second serve and make mincemeat of his ridiculously poor backhand". Now imagine the other player thinking "OMG my poor donkey. And he's gonna thrash me too. I'll never be able to return that first serve and he'll crucify me with his forehand. He'll murder my pathetic second serve and make mincemeat of my ridiculously poor backhand". Who do you reckon would win? Answers on a postcard (remember them?). The positive player would not only win but win comfortably. So be positive. Don't be your own opponent.
At my club I am known as a technophobe. They say I don't know my ibox from my xpad. That's as maybe but at least I know how to use a spel cheker. Anyway the reason for this drivel is that the technical side of tennis isn't the be all and end all. You may want to get a superhero's forehand but if you keep playing to your opponent's strength then you will be giving away points. Play to their weakness (backhand?), make your opponent move, try to give them less time by taking the ball early. If they don't like being at the net - try to bring them to the net. Yes practice those shots but don't ignore the tactics. Now back to my smell chequer.
As this has a worldwide audience and millions across the globe are hanging on my every word the next bit may need a little more explanation. In England there was a footballer (soccer player to our American cousins) called Peter Crouch. Now Crouchy was was a good striker (the one who scores the goals) who played at the highest level. In the latter stages of his career he developed a goal celebration for which he became famous. It was a sort of robotic dance. It would make me think of how some people play their forehands and backhands with lots of jerky movements. So don't be a robot - try to iron out your shots by preparing earlier. Develop a loop on your back swing. You could think of it as a 'C' shape. This will help give you one smooth path through the whole shot. And remember to hit through the point of contact to give you a smoother follow through.
I'm often asked 'What's the best racket on the market?'. My reply is that if there one better than the rest then everyone would be using it. The best racket for you really depends on ... you. It can be daunting looking for a racket. There are many different aspects to consider when buying a racket - head size, weight, balance, beam width, stringing pattern, grip size, cost and of course most importantly ... colour. Seriously, don't go splashing out a large sum of money on a racket just because it looks nice. Very basically you need to consider what type of player you are. Do you have a big swing or a compact swing. If you have a big swing you possibly want a heavier racket with a smaller head size. For a more compact swing you may need a lighter racket with a larger head size. The key point is, if possible, TRY BEFORE YOU BUY. Ask someone if you can borrow their racket for a while, or there are some companies who will lend you test rackets.
Isn't it amazing how the professionals make the game look so easy. Why is that? Well countless 1000s of hours of practice and superhuman fitness may have something to do with it. And ESP. ESP? Extrasensory perception? That explains a lot. Well no because in this case ESP stands for Early Shot Preparation. I see a lot of club players start the shot when the ball is virtually on top of them. Try to prepare earlier for your shot by getting the racket back before the ball bounces. If you have to move for the ball then prepare the racket as you are moving. So you too can look like a pro. Now for the countless 1000s of hours of practice...........
I love volleys. Volleys are my favourite shot. But it wasn't always like that. When I was young [[enter insulting ageist joke here]] I would be playing doubles and I would dutifully stand at the net when my partner was serving hoping against hope that the ball wouldn't come my way. Then one day it happened - receiver miscued a return and there was the ball looming large and coming in my direction. AAHH! Nightmare!! So I stuck my racket out and hit a perfect volley between the opponents for a winner. 'Hold on' I thought 'I meant to do that.' As ever since then instead of cowering at the net when my partner serves I will be looking to get involved in the point. As the pictures show, move forward to meet the ball in front with your racket head up. Keep practising and learn to love 'em.
Anyone seen an octopus falling out of a tree? I have. Well I haven’t actually but I’ve seen the next best thing. It was when one of our players decided it was time to come to the net and finish the point. Arms and legs flailing in all directions – here comes the ball – KERPOW. Everyone ducked for cover. Now there is nothing wrong with coming to the net but it needs to be done in an orderly manner. Get forward swiftly and under control. Make sure you steady yourself in a good ready position before your opponent hits the ball. That way you will be able to make a better volley and hopefully finish the point.
The second most common question I am asked is ‘what size racquet should I buy for my child’. (The most common question is ‘Wot, you STILL ‘ere?). Racquets come in various sizes usually measured in inches if you are in the UK. The junior sizes are 19, 21, 23, 25, 26 inches with 27 inch being adult size. To get the right size get your child to hold a racquet straight down by his/her side. The top of the racquet should be 1 inch above the ground. Make sure your child is perfectly upright because some of the little horrors will do a good impression of the leaning tower of Piza if they think they want a bigger racquet.
Over the years I have seen many different serves. What I find extraordinary is the amount of unnecessary movement people put into their serves before and during the action. I have seen players rocking their arms back and forth like they are sawing wood, pointing their racket up to the sky as if they are duck shooting or even doing the hokey cokey before they serve – left foot in, left foot out, in, out, in, out, shake it all about – SERVE. The serve is actually quite simple – throw the ball up and hit it. Cut out any unnecessary movement and see your serve improve