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Hit Tennis Winners with Control, Not Power

Hitting tennis winners with power and no control is meaningless. Do not incorrectly equate winners with power. This is a misconception that lures many players into control problems. Winners do not mean power!

Hitting a winner simply means hitting a shot that is not returnable. You could be hitting a shot 10 miles an hour or 100 miles an hour. If the ball is unreturnable, it's a winner. Power does not have to be part of a winner.

Why is this important to understand? Because most players overplay their winners. Overplaying is one of the main reasons players lose control of their put-aways. For some reason, when they finally have the right opportunity to win the point, they abandon control and go with power. Let me repeat that: They abandon control and go with power.

Overemphasizing power makes them tighten up their muscles, lose their visual focus, and yes, sometimes even hold their breath. Somehow, by holding their breath, they think they're going to gain control of the situation. They don't; instead they turn blue and the ball usually goes anywhere but where they're aiming. By the way, power is achieved by timing and rhythm, not by tightening up your muscles and trying to knock the cover off the ball.

All players have been guilty of overplaying their winners. I believe the main reason this occurs is because they are confusing winners with power. When I tell one of my students that he or she should have hit a winner on the last shot, the next time they invariably focus on power and overplay that same shot.

Now, don't misunderstand what I'm saying It's all right to hit a winner with power, but you must maintain control when you do. Power without control is meaningless. When most players hit with power they inevitably go outside of their control range. You must learn what your control range is with a given amount of power. If you step outside this control range, life on the tennis court becomes tough, not to mention frustrating.

Therefore, the solution to this problem is to practice toning it down a notch. The next opportunity you have to hit a winner, take your time and slow it down a little. Think about placing it for a winner, not pulverizing it for a winner!

When you do this, you will find that two interesting things occur:

1. You will be more relaxed.

2. You will wind up hitting the ball hard anyway. A perfect combination.

You will be relaxed but still alert. And the power you achieve will come correctly from timing and rhythm.

In this situation, just like many other situations in life, less is more. The next time you're playing, give it a try. It may take you a while to acquire a feel for this technique, but you'll be one up on your competition.

Remember, they'll still be thinking that winners mean power and will overplay many of their shots.

If you would like to increase your power and still stay in your control range, here is a principle that can help: practice! In your practice sessions, try hitting high ball after high ball for a winner with minimum power, then increase that power as you see your control improve. If you find yourself tightening up again and trying to muscle the ball, back off a little and practice relaxing until you can hit with the amount of power that feels comfortable. I am constantly telling players to relax on their winners and not to overplay. It's just human nature to want to do more on your winners when that magical moment occurs ... and you should! But that does not mean you have to abandon control.

Article by Tom Veneziano as featured in the January/February 2003 issue of "Tennis Life Magazine." Look for more of Tom's articles in future magazines."

  Tom Veneziano
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