More often than not, the difference in skill between you and the opponent on the opposite side of the net is very little. That’s why factors such as experience, fitness and mindset play a significant role in determining the winner.
But there are some small tweaks you can make to your game that will cut down your errors during a match, no matter what the level of competition. Many players will develop their game using a trial and error method of learning, as well as one-on-one and group coaching, But there are a number of common mistakes that can be easily rectified. Because of that, a few small adjustments will revolutionise your game.
From shot technique to footwork and shot selection, here are a few errors that continue to hold back beginner and intermediate players.
Even the top professional players are guilty of poor shot selection from time to time. However, the likes of Roger Federer and Andy Murray are having to react to their opponents within a millisecond, while you should have a larger amount of time to come up with a clever return during a match.
While this is not a technical fault, shot selection is a skill that can be developed through an increased amount of match play, as well as coaching drills. An unforced error as the result of poor shot selection is one of the biggest reasons for lost points in tennis. Many players look to hit winners from completely wrong areas of the court.
The key is to identify your situation on the court, and build up points with a number of well-hit ground strokes. This is often more effective than one attempted clean winner. Following a simple rule of not attempting winners from behind the baseline is a good place to start. Aiming for certain sections of the court proving much more effective.
We are all guilty of sitting back and admiring a beautifully struck topspin forehand or a backhand slice down the line. But this is another sure-fire reason for making mistakes in tennis. Making contact is only half the job. Ensuring that you are correctly set up for the next shot is just as important.
Shot preparation entails finding the ideal court position, before adjusting your hitting stance after the split step. No matter what your fitness levels are or what your style of play is, a lack of recovery time is undoubtedly one of the biggest mistakes made by players in tennis. You should be aiming to step into your shots with your weight behind your stroke in order to hit the ball harder and earlier, as well as reducing your opponent’s reaction and recovery time.
Good footwork is as important in your defensive work as it is in attacking play. In preparation for receiving an attacking shot from your opponent, often taking a few steps backwards will provide you with more time to deal with the ball.
Lack of Topspin
In the modern era topspin has grown in importance, with an old-school or incorrect grip severely affecting your on-court performance. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, topspin is when the ball spins forwards, putting more air pressure on top of the ball, and making the ball dip over the net.
At a beginner or intermediate level, making use of such a technique on your ground strokes will single-handedly improve your consistency, allowing you to control the pace on the ball far easier. The semi-western or full-western grip are now mainstays within the modern game. Both involve players coming from below the ball’s contact point and brushing up on the ball before completing a thorough follow through.
The importance of the serve is heightened even more at the beginner’s level of tennis. A consistently powerful or well-placed shot often means easy points. Because of that, the ball toss is perhaps the most important part of the stroke.
Even the slightest misjudgement can result in a fault. Many players have issues with the height of their ball toss. Low tosses often jam a player, affecting both the accuracy and speed of a serve. Meanwhile, a toss that soars high into the sky makes it difficult to hit the ball on the sweet spot of your racquet. If you are looking to improve in this area, stand on the baseline with your racquet held straight up in the air, keeping in mind that the sweet spot of your racquet should make contact with the ball at this point.
Your mentality and mindset during a match will often play a major part in determining your success - especially in singles. Many of us become increasingly frustrated at continued unforced errors, and no matter your demeanour away from the court, it can sometimes get the better of you.
Whether you’re dealing with a player who constantly gets the ball back in play, reacting to yet another ace or getting frustrated because of another missed volley, focusing on the next point is key.
You can compare this to other sports, too. Just as golfers have to put bad shots behind them and focus on the next shot, tennis players must do the same. Again, this is something that will come with experience.
For those playing at club level, there can often be plenty of distractions throughout a game, with noise, bad line calls and weather conditions just a few examples. However, it comes as little surprise that the likes of Federer and Novak Djokovic have risen to the top of the game after learning to handle their volatile personalities. If they can do it at the very top of the game, with millions in prize money and places in the world rankings at stake, you should try your utmost to keep calm on the court.
These are just a few examples of the correctable errors found in tennis. The only way to overcome these problems is to get out on the court. There is no substitute for experience and practice.