Ok this isn't so much a coaching tip and more of a bit of advice for your well being. Over the years I have seen many cases of tennis elbow (or lateral epicondylitis as it is technically known). And it doesn't just affect your tennis - it affects your routine daily life from knocking in a nail to ironing your clothes. So what is tennis elbow. Well if you hold you playing arm out with your palm facing downwards and then put your on playing hand on top of your elbow, then clench and un-clench your fist you should be able to feel the muscles on your elbow tensing and un-tensing. This is the area where tennis elbow occurs. So if you are playing and you feel a pain or an ache in that area of your elbow STOP. Seek advice. It can be caused by poor technique especially on the backhand, or maybe a racket grip that is too small, or simply holding the racket too tightly. But whatever, don't wait till its too late because once you get it, it is a devil to get rid of.
My very tenuous claim to fame is that I used to play doubles with an Olympic gold medal sprinter. Anyway, one day, in the middle of a match, we were both at the back of the court and our opponents played a drop shot which was an equal distance between us ... and I got to it before he did. Obviously not because I was quicker but having played a bit more tennis than him I was able to anticipate the the shot earlier. Good anticipation will allow you more time to get to the ball and prepare for the shot. Watch you opponent's swing - is it a short swing or long swing? A short swing will often result in a short shot. What about the angle of the racket? You opponent's stance? If you are out of position is you opponent going to put it in the space. All these things will give you clues and often give you the extra bit of time you need to play a good shot.
We've all done it many times. We play a really good point and then when we get the opportunity to finish the point, what happens? A wild swing and klonk - off the frame and into the bottom of the net. "It's always the easy ones" as my old mate Len used to say. So why does this happen? Well when we see what is perceived to be an easy shot all the basics go out of the window. So what to do. Well close the window for a start. The easy ones aren't easy - you still have to play the shot with the correct footwork, balance, racket control and above all watching the ball. So next time you have an "easy" put-away don't do an impression of Mr Tickles on steroids but be calm and clinical - and remember the basics.
When you play your shots have a think about what happens after you have made contact. Are you completely balanced or do you have to take a couple of steps to regain you balance after the shot? If it's the former then well done. Otherwise read on. Balance is vital to any good tennis shot. So how do we get good balance? Firstly good footwork to get ourselves in the correct position to hit the ball. Hit the ball too close to your body or too late and you are liable to fall backwards. Too far in front or to the side and you are liable to fall forwards. We also need a solid base to hit from. Don't have you feet too close together. Bending you knees will also help. Apply these and see you shots improve!
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.....
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.
Anyone remember the old Batman TV series? Kiddies if you don’t know what I’m talking about then look it up on Face Tube. During each episode there would be a dust up between Batman and his adversaries such as the Joker and the Penguin. When Batman landed a knuckle sandwich on the bad guy a caption would come up - ‘WALLOP!’, ‘BIFF!’, ‘SPLAT!’. This is a bit like watching some players warm up in for a tennis match. Straight on court and ‘POW!’, 'BANG!'. Before the match starts, warm up slowly, in the service boxes if necessary with a shortened swing and exaggerate watching the ball onto your racket. Then you can move back and don't forget to practice every shot - including 1st and 2nd serves. It will help. Ah they don’t make telly like that any more – thank goodness.
It is very important to be patient when you are trading on a tennis court. ‘TRADING?!’ I hear you cry. ‘It’s bad enough trying to win the point without having to negotiate the price of a barrel of crude oil at the same time’. Well actually ‘trading’ is the modern parlance for the phase in a point where neither player is on top. So don’t try and force the issue – be patient and wait for your opportunity to present itself.