In tennis, there are only 2 ways to win the point. Either one player can hit the winner or he can miss the ball. Definitely, the more spectacular way is to hit the ball away from the opponent and hear how all the audience clap the hands but the reality, especially at lower levels of performance, is completely different. There is significant amount of errors and the player, who makes them less, most of the time is the winner of the battle.
Generally, players don’t like the errors. Tennis is specific and little different than basketball or soccer because own mistake doesn’t allow us to win the point and at the same time, gives this point to the opponent. Because we compete against the opponent, we don’t want to make it easier for the rival to beat us so every error has an impact on the scoreboard but also on our mental side.
It is important to understand that we can’t avoid mistakes but we have control over reducing the number of them. Mistakes can be divided into forced and unforced errors where forced errors are related to the rival’s game while unforced errors are the ones that we have to fully take responsibility for. To reduce the number of errors, we have to focus on our reaction to mistakes. What happens after missing the ball has a big impact on our next performance and it shouldn’t be surprising that young or inexperienced players who get angry after missing the ball, can’t maintain good level of play for more than just few points in a row.
After missing the ball, we are allowed to take 20 seconds between the points and 90 seconds after odd number of games. It can look like really short time but the reality is that it is more than enough to prepare effectively for the next point without mistake. Here is what you should do immediately after committing an error:
WHERE did I miss?
We can miss the ball in 3 different ways in tennis. We can hit the ball into the net, we can stretch it wide or we can send the ball too long. Immediately after losing the point, we should ask ourself this question to be aware of the type of mistake we have made. Without this information, it will be definitely more difficult to go to the step 2 with proper quality.
WHY did I miss?
The next step is based on finding the reason of missing the ball in specific way. If we have missed the ball into the net, we have to understand why we have missed the ball exactly there. We should analyze technical, tactical, physical and mental components to make sure that we precisely aim our focus at proper area. Straight legs? Lack of topspin? Aiming too low? Being afraid of missing? Find the reason and work with it.
WHAT should I do differently?
We already know where we have missed the ball and why it has happened. Now we have the last stage that will give us information what we should do during the next point. We have analyzed the past but know we have to focus on the future. After missing the ball into the net and knowing that we have aimed too low, we should give ourself instruction to keep the ball at neutral level over the net while hitting from the baseline to make sure that even when we try to put pressure, we still keep good clearance over the net.
WHERE, WHY, WHAT. These 3 simple steps will guarantee less errors, more effective performance and visible results. After every point is over, players have to go through this routine to be aware of what has happened as well as to plan ahead what to do. Awareness + effective planning is always a proven way to increase the chance for success so using these 3 questions should be our tool that we always take with us on the court.
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