We've all come across them - the big hitter, the all-or-nothing player. BOOM! It either flashes past you for a winner or it has everyone ducking for cover. So how do we play them. A lot of players make the mistake of trying to outhit them even through it isn't their natural game. So it is important to be yourself - play your own game. If the ball is coming fast at you, don't panic. Keep your balance, watch the ball carefully and maybe abbreviate your back swing. Don't give them any pace to work with. Try to break their rhythm by varying you shots using different spins, different angles. Get the ball back one more time and often they will make the mistake first.
The serve is unique. Not only is it the most important shot in the game but it is the only shot where our opponent has no influence and so we are in complete control - which makes us happy. Right?! So why is it that, in my lessons when I announce we will be doing serving practice, do some people screw their face up like they have just eaten a lemon. The problem often lies with the most important part of the serve - the toss. You could have the best serve in the world but if the toss is 2 metres away from you you won't have a very good serve. Similarly if you toss the ball in 10 different places you will end up with 10 different serves. So how do you make the toss better? Firstly by not thinking of it as a toss - it's a deliberate placement like placing something on a high shelf. Take your time over this bit of the serve to get it right. Keep your arm straight and don't cock you wrist on the placement. Let the ball go at the highest possible point - probably about eye level. Practice in front of a fence or wall. Stand a metre from the fence/wall place the ball in the air and it should drop between you and the fence/wall. Keep practising!
The title of the post is 'Know where the lines are". Bit obvious really - they are on the sides of the court. Unfortunately too many players are happy to play it safe and just push the ball down the middle. So next time you practice see if you can put the ball nearer the side line and/or baseline. Don't aim at the lines - aim inside the lines. This will give you a margin for error. How far you aim inside the lines will depend on your ability. Try it. Now watch your opponent move.....
I recently did a lesson where the player asked why his forehand was so inconsistent. After feeding him 6 balls the answer was obvious. He played a different shot with each ball. Not that he was trying to play a different shot. But each shot was different because the contact point was wildly different. So imagine there is a bubble just to the side of you, slightly in front and around waist high. Now see if you can make contact with the ball within that imaginary bubble. This means moving your feet and getting in the position. The size of the bubble will largely depend on your ability but the smaller you can make it the better.
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.