Tennis is undoubtedly a game of fine margins. No matter what level you're playing at, very little separates the best from the rest. You can easily improve your game by focusing on a few simple changes. Attitude, shot selection, performing under pressure and dedication are just a few areas anyone can work on.
Your attitude towards the game is certain to have an impact on your performance on the court. Plenty of players are quick to blame everything around them for missing a simple put-away or a double fault. The best players are those who have a positive attitude and fight to the end. Key to this is the ability to take each point as it comes, putting mistakes to the back of your mind once they’ve been made.
Really it comes down to taking responsibility. Outbursts directed toward umpires and coaches is something that you’ll rarely see from the top players.
This ability to focus when it matters will come in handy no matter who your opponent is. If you can rise to the challenge, saving a match point or closing out a match, you’ll be that much more difficult to beat. The ability to thrive under pressure is key in any sport, but even more so when you’re on your own on the tennis court.
Having a range of tactical options is a sure-fire way to get more wins under your belt. From Roger Federer to the best player at your local club, the top individuals generally keep things simple. Keeping unforced errors to a minimum, consistently placing the ball deep into the court and knowing when to go for winners are all key. While you can still make use of your main assets, whether it be a big first serve or penetrating backhand slice, understanding the game you are in is vital.
The ability to execute a game plan is one of the most difficult parts of tennis, with weather conditions, court surface and your opponent’s style of play all contributing. However, one-dimensional players are will be worked out and beaten with ease. Developing a range of different point-winning tactics is vital if you want to take the step up.
Even on the professional circuit, the best players have an aura surrounding them. This can win them games before they have even stepped onto the court. That’s why confidence in your ability is another vital ingredient for progression in tennis.
But you can’t just ‘get’ self-confidence. It’s something that develops, through training, practising match play scenarios and competing on a regular basis. If you can increase your consistency when it comes to making winners, chasing down a ball or producing an ace when break point down, that confidence will build. Self-confidence will also help you to stick to a game plan, even when things are not turning out as you had hoped.
Imagine you are in a heated encounter with your arch rival. Your opponent is continuously returning the ball no matter what you try. This is where your tactical awareness has to combine with your shot selection skills. The ability to know which shot to use under stressful conditions is one of the toughest parts of the game.
Instinctively selecting a shot which will put your opponent on the back-foot, whether it’s a kick serve out wide or a whipped cross-court forehand, is something achieved through practice and decision making. Many professional players have admitted to overthinking things following a defeat. Match experience will boost your ability to go into auto-pilot when it comes to playing the next shot.
Setting yourself objectives is a must if you want to assess the current state of your game and improve upon your weaknesses. Coming up with general objectives as well as more specific goals will help you win more matches.
So think about incremental changes, like increasing your first serve percentage. And look toward broader goals, like reaching the final of the club tournament.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Just identify three or four realistic improvements that can be made to your game. Professional players will work tirelessly on their weaknesses, and although you may not have the time or motivation to match their efforts, this is a must for those looking to make it to the next level of the game.
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