Improve Your Tennis Game

Edited by Jerry Rivers, Lynn, Eng, VC

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Tennis is a great competitive, recreational and social sport. It is a sport for singles and doubles play, and can be played nearly all of your life. Whether you are a beginner or already a highly competitive player, this tutorial has helpful steps that you can use. Follow the instructions below on how to improve your tennis game.

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Steps to improve your tennis game

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  1. 1
    Get fit physically - As with any sport, tennis is enjoyed most when you are playing your best
    To play your best means that you should be as physically as fit as possible. It not only helps your performance, and keeps you healthy, but it will also help prevent unnecessary injuries.
    1. It is ideal if you can cross-train with another running sport, such as basketball. If this is not possible, try swimming or biking. If you play singles, there are times in league or tournament play when you will be pushed hard after splitting two sets, and then must play one more set to decide the winner.
    2. If you are competing in a tournament, you may have only a few minutes rest before you must face another opponent when you are already exhausted from the first match. To keep your level of play high throughout long matches, get in the best shape you can.
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  2. 2
    Get fit mentally - There are three techniques to practice for mental fitness in tennis
    Self-talk, mental toughness, and visualization.
    1. Self-talk - One technique that is used by world class tennis players is called "self-talk". When you see a top 10 player in the world talking to himself or herself, or stopping for a moment before stepping up to serve, there is a strategic reason for it. The top professional is most likely focusing toward a specific goal with positive/constructive thoughts.  
      1. In top tennis academies all over the world, self-talk, or self-hypnosis, is a part of every training session. If you want to improve your tennis game, it will work for you, too.
      2. During games, staying composed is critical for your concentration. Tell yourself to stay calm when facing such situations as a bad line call, or if you mis-hit a ball.
    2. Mental toughness for tennis  
      1. For mental toughness in tennis, you must focus on every stroke during each point in a tennis match. Never think beyond that because dwelling on the score if either way ahead or way behind will throw off your concentration. As you play each point, find your opponent's weaknesses. As you discover those weaknesses, exploit and attack them.
      2. Practice as often as possible. Drill on specific strokes from various positions, especially on your weaknesses.
    3. Practice hitting the ball from the baseline (ground strokes) and keep the ball landing beyond the service line, and in the court. Play a game with it, by counting each one bouncing beyond the service line as one point. The first one to 10 wins. This will improve your ground strokes, and help your confidence for those baseline rallies.  
      1. Play practice points with an instructor or a good player. Practice the right way, and play each point to win. Role play challenging situations, as if the score is 6-7 in a tiebreaker for example.
      2. Get eight hours of sleep daily, and even more on days in which you have had a hard workout.
      3. Eating a well-balanced diet plays a crucial role in your mental toughness.
    4. Visualization improves tennis performance - The best athletes in tennis, or any sport, use visualization regularly, as often as before every point. Have a plan for each point, then visualize yourself playing and winning the point. Similar to self-talk, it will yield positive results, and boost your self-confidence. It will help you stay calm throughout the match, also.  
      1. Read books such as Timothy Galwey's Inner Game of Tennis, and Brad Gilbert's Winning Ugly.
      2. Take a few minutes before every tennis match to visualize yourself returning serves deftly from both the deuce and advantage side. Picture yourself serving aces, and well-placed serves of different spins. If you know the opponent's weaknesses, imagine yourself exploiting them. If he has trouble, for example, returning a slice serve, visualize yourself hitting them. Visualize yourself winning each and every match.
      3. Visualize using all senses. For example, "see and hear" the tennis arena crowd cheering as you make a put-away winner. Visualize yourself hitting great slice and drop shots to bring your opponent to the net, and then pass him if that is his weakness. Take in the scene visually as the crowd cheers such execution. Envision the colors, and sense the aromas of the scene as you play winning tennis. Imagine the exhilarating feeling as you crush a powerful forehand in your mind. Sports psychologists say to practice this a few minutes daily to improve your tennis.
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  3. 3
    Play tennis players who play tennis better than you - Any tennis coach will tell you to play tennis players who are better than you
    1. However, if you practice with a player with good strokes, and he or she is a competitive athlete, expect that person to progress rapidly as you play against that player. I recommend playing against that person as well.
    2. Play against different good players, as they will each have a unique style. Facing these different styles of tennis will boost your game and confidence. You will face a similar style along the way in league or tournament play.
    3. Always look for the weaknesses of each style, and then persist against them. If you have to win by constantly lobbing when the opponent has no overhead smash, so be it. As Brad Gilbert, a former great player and author of Winning Ugly says, the object of a competitive match is to win, and not to look pretty.
    4. Play two to three times a week at least.
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  4. 4
    Hit against a wall - To "groove" your strokes, and develop muscle memory (kinesthetic sense) while strengthening those body parts that are stressed during grueling three-set matches
    Practice hitting all your strokes repeatedly. For example, against the wall you can hit a serve from the usual 21 feet that hits the wall above a three-foot line. Then practice returning it as it bounces off the wall. For volley practice, simply drill from different close-proximity distances, hitting from both wings.
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  5. 5
    Take lessons from a certified USPTA or USPTR instructor - Take lessons from a professional who has taught at all levels
    You can learn much to improve your game from one of these certified instructors even at the advanced level.  
    1. Keep in mind that some tennis players, especially beginners, believe that if they take lessons from a top-level young player, they will learn to play well, also. This is not the best way to learn the strokes and strategy to improve your game unless your instructor is also skilled in how to teach you to play and improve.
    2. For example, John McEnroe was a gifted serve-and-volley specialist, who was number one in the world a few years in the '80s. He was brilliant in singles and doubles, and arguably the best doubles player of all time. However, "Johnny Mac" has an awful temper, and can explode with a tantrum with the slightest provocation. This is not conducive to teaching the sport.
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  6. 6
    Steps on-court to improve your tennis
    1. Prepare early - Especially on a hard court or grass surface, the ball is coming quickly at the higher levels. Take a quick first (plyometric) step if you must run to hit the ball. Get there early. Then, pivot and turn the shoulder as soon as you are in position. Have your racket arm back for a well-executed stroke. Be sure to follow-through fully so that you can put the zip on the ball.
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    2. Visualize hitting any ball that crosses the net, and tell yourself (self-talk) that you will run down every ball. Watch the top professional tennis players as they split step before service returns, before each ground stroke, and even while at the net for volleys.
    3. As soon as you follow through, recover and take a small hop onto the balls of your feet (split step) to be ready for the next ball approaching. The split step is very important to help you accelerate quickly.
    4. Leave a margin for error. Visualize hitting the ball so that it always lands not closer than a towel width from the sidelines. Be aggressive while you use tactics to attack the opponent's weaknesses, but that doesn't mean you have to go for an outright winner for every point. Set up your points aggressively, but stay calm to win each point.
    5. Have the same ritual each time for your serve - Visualize hitting it.  
      1. In other words, to stay calm, and build a consistent serve, bounce the ball two or three times before you serve. Take your time for a good toss each and every serve.
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      2. Note how slowly all pros set up, lift the ball slowly for their ball toss, and then hit a forceful first serve that they vary when needed.
      3. Try those serves that you hit in practice for your first serve.
      4. Practice your second serve so that you are confident, even in high-stress situations.
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  7. 7
    As your tennis game improves, your tennis level of play will rise
    Your USTA rating, in time, will go higher as a result. Have a certified pro rate your level if you are playing in a league or tournaments.
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  8. 8
    The worldwide standard for your tennis level is by a rating system developed by the United States Tennis Association, or USTA, and range from a 0 to 7:
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  • Beginner: 0 - 2.5
  • Intermediate 3.0 to 4.0
  • Advanced 4.5 to 5.5
  • World Class 6.0 - 7.0

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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Categories : Sports

Recent edits by: Eng, Lynn, Jerry Rivers

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