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All past email lessons are posted at my website from 1 January 1998 to 1 November 2002.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT and MENTAL MEANDERINGS
1. Because you can mechanically do a stroke perfectly does not mean you have the stroke! Strokes are based on feel not mechanics.
2. There are many 'perfect' tennis players with 'perfect' technical strokes out there, but I can tell you one thing, they are not in the top ten professionals of the world because the top ten are swinging, jumping, diving, and flailing at the ball with controlled abandonment!
3. Remember the basic principles for learning tennis with my system is to develop a 'feel' for different strokes along with developing mental skills through REPETITION. Repetition of simple procedures create that 'feel' NOT an over emphasis on the technical skills and mechanics. Click here for an article that I wrote on 'feel' vs 'mechanics' in April 2001
Tom's Online Tennis Lesson
Moving out of your comfort zone
Welcome to Tom's Online Tennis Lesson, sponsored by TennisWarrior.com, "Where you can learn to think like a pro!"
One of the most important mental challenges I teach my students is to take risks. Most players will not challenge themselves by venturing outside of their comfort zone. In a practice match if they have a particular shot they are comfortable hitting, that's the one they hit. Even if it's the wrong shot!
Remember the practice match oxymoron? It goes like this. You may be having a practice match, but there is very little practice...everyone is trying to win! As a result players continue to hit the wrong shots and never change an incorrect pattern of play. During practice matches you must PRACTICE moving out of your comfort zone and taking some risks. If you do not, you become predictable.
Let me show you an example where players have become to predictable. When teaching a doubles clinic I would often play with my students. When my opponents were up at the net volleying they would be amazed how I could, with very little speed, figure out where they would hit the ball. I would explain that the reason why I could read their shots quickly was because they were hitting the most comfortable shot and not attempting to hit the correct shots. Usually the shots that are the most comfortable to a player are the easiest ones to hit, but not necessarily the correct shot. All I had to do was stay mentally ready to cover that side.
Because my students had not challenged themselves to hit the more difficult correct shots during their practice they had unknowingly become predictable.
Here is what I noticed that made my opponents so predictable. You should PRACTICE changing this pattern of play in your fun matches or in your practice sessions. The explanation will be for a right handed player. For lefties it will be the opposite.
THE EASIEST SHOT TO HIT WHEN EXECUTING A FOREHAND VOLLEY FOR A RIGHT HANDED PLAYER IS TOWARD THE LEFT. THE EASIEST SHOT TO HIT WHEN EXECUTING A BACKHAND VOLLEY FOR A RIGHT HANDED PLAYER IS TOWARD THE RIGHT.
Why? Because moving the arm across the body to hit a crosscourt shot is more natural and easier than moving the arm across the body than outward to hit to the opposite direction. And if that's the easiest shot, that's the shot players practice. Whether it's the right or wrong shot is irrelevant!
This simple fact enables me to anticipate many of their volleys without using my speed. Now, let's take this fact and show you a doubles scenario that occurs constantly. The players are in a one-up, one-back formation. The right handed net player on the deuce side receives an extremely low forehand volley. Where does he hit the ball? Answer, crosscourt. Why? It's the easiest shot. You may be thinking, what's wrong with that? Well, for starters there is a net person that's catercorner to them. The chance of taking a low ball and hitting it back low at the opposing net player is not very probable. More than likely he will pop it up and set up his opponent to smash the ball down at his feet.
Usually the player who popped up the low ball to the net person feels like there are no other probabilities. They have been so conditioned to hit the easiest shot and not the correct shot, they think it was the only option they had! By the way the correct shot would have been to hit the low ball away from the netman back toward the person who was on the baseline and wait for a better opportunity to hit at the netman's feet. A better opportunity would be a ball that is high and short.
The next time you are practicing attempt to hit a number of forehand volleys toward the right and a number of backhand volleys to the left. Even if you do not make the volleys, at least you will begin changing the incorrect pattern of play. Stepping out of your comfort zone will increase the options you will have in match play and make you less predictable.
Remember, the easiest shot to hit when executing a forehand volley for a right handed player is toward the left. The easiest shot to hit when executing a backhand volley for a right handed player is toward the right. If you would like to break this predictable pattern you must make a conscious effort to PRACTICE. Here is where a ball machine or a friend feeding balls to you can make a huge difference in your game. Get out there and hit forehand volley after forehand volley to the right side and backhand volley after backhand volley to the left side.
To direct the ball correctly with your volleys simply aim the racket face toward the direction you would like the ball to go. We have been over this before - the racket face determines the direction of the ball. Point the racket face toward the left and that's where the ball will go. Point the racket face toward the right and that's the direction the ball will also go. The concept is simple, but the application of that concept requires many hours of repetition to acquire a feel for the racket face.
In this fashion you will break out of your comfort zone and begin developing a new volley for your repertoire. Also as an extra bonus, you will be politically correct. You are on the LEFT as well as on the RIGHT. :)
Your tennis pro,
APPENDUM: I teach a total system of thinking in regard to stroke production and mental attitude which I cannot explain in one email. Although each lesson can stand alone you will derive tremendous physical and mental benefit by understanding the total philosophy. These emails, my web site, books, and tapes are part of a course in tennis, not just isolated tennis tips. They all fit together into a system. A system that once understood can help you not only learn tennis at a faster rate, and develop mental toughness, but also give you the knowledge necessary to help guide you and your children to a better understanding of the developmental process.
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Tom- I want to add kudos for your books. I played a USTA 45's tournament over Labor Day weekend, and I want to share this. As I went on the court, I took your " Relaxation and How To Think Like a Pro " with me and sat them in my chair to read during the change overs. During the warmup, I did just what you said, and shut off my mind, just by clicking it off. I started " seeing " the ball even more clearly. I played my traditional serve and volley game and hit a series of shots because I knew where the ball was going. I hit several outright winners under pressure situations, when my opponent approached the net without overhitting. I just told myself to hit out, but @ 80% effort. I continued to serve & volley and I could " see " where shots were going and where they were going to land. On match point, I hit a backhand volley that landed perfectly in the corner, because I " knew " it was going to land there, I won 6-3, 6-3.
I had to play the # 1 seed a couple of hours later and lost the first set because of a series of unforced errors. I re-read you book on " refocusing " after a missed shot. The next shot is going to be better than the last missed one. I refocused and changed by attack plan and won the 2nd set 6-3. Unfortunately, I ran out of gas because of a lack of better conditioning on my part, but I knew in my mind that I was creating fear in my opponent every time I came to the net. He was a pusher and lobbed every return of service and I had to hit 3-4 overheads, but I never lost focus during the battle. Even when I missed, the refocus technique made me play the next shot better and often time for a winner. But I knew my opponent was just hoping I would just miss or get more tired. I got more tired, but your book made me feel like I had won. I will purchase your supplements and get in better physical condition, but mentally I felt I was always in the match. After the match I analyzed the match and I could have done some tactical and mechanical things differently, but mentally I stuck with my serve and volley game plan and I know I am approaching the next level in " Thinking Like a Pro ", I can win every time I step on the court. Keep up the great work and I would like to come out and take a camp with you and possibly work with you in the future. Lastly, my ranking in the Mid-Atlantic is going up. I look forward to the day when I can meet you personally and take a camp with you.
Thanks - Don Johnson
Don Johnson, Washington, DC
Copyright © 2002 Tom Veneziano. All rights reserved