Dec 16, 2009

Top Five Mistakes of Inexperienced Tennis Players

1. Poking at the ball due to over-caution: It's surprising how many players have two sets of strokes: their long, fluid, practice strokes and their short, choppy, match strokes. When these players get into matches, they become so over-cautious, they're afraid to take a real swing at the ball. They just poke at the ball, as if enough gentleness will coax it into behaving properly.

Of course, you learn long strokes not because they look pretty, but because they work better. When you poke at the ball, your racquet is in the process of decelerating when it meets the ball. This makes it unstable, and the result is an unpredictable racquet angle that can send the ball all over the place.

In addition, short, pokey strokes generally don't produce any topspin, which is the best tool for consistency, and they don't generate any pace. Failing to generate good offense is a great risk in itself, because you prolong points you should have already won. You'll have no offense with pokey strokes.

2. Getting caught in "No Person's Land": When you move inside your baseline to get a ball, you have to either get back behind your baseline or move to the net right away. From inside the area between the baseline and the service line, you can't volley effectively, and any ball that lands behind you won't be playable with a groundstroke. If you're good at the net, move forward whenever you can hit a strong approach shot. If not, learn to backpedal quickly, but still go to net if you don't have time to get all the way back before it's time to hit the next ball. You don't want to get caught retreating when the ball

3. Hitting to your opponent: At every level of tennis, the easiest direction in which to hit the ball is the direction from which it came. This is one of the main reasons players tend to hit back to their opponents. We also tend to hit toward whatever we're most focused upon. By far the most conspicuous thing on the other side of the net is your opponent, so your attention, and thus your shot, tends to be drawn in that direction. To overcome this, try to focus your eyes on the ball while visualizing target zones on the court.

4. Not attacking dinky serves: Against many opponents, the easiest balls coming your way will be second serves. Inexperienced players hit truly dinky second serves that are just begging to be attacked. You can hit them hard and deep, at a sharp angle, or very short (drop shot). If you keep punishing these dinky serves, your opponent will probably start trying to hit a better one than he can, and his resulting double faults will drive him nuts. Frustration will increase his errors, giving you lots of bonus points.

5. Admiring your shot: Yes, hitting a good shot is central to tennis, but you can't rest on your laurels--at least, not right away. If you stand there watching the beautiful flight of your shot, you'll be way out of position when that beauty comes back. Generally, you need to start moving immediately back toward the middle of the range of angles your opponent could hit next. This position is somewhat diagonally opposite your opponent if you're at your baseline, and it's somewhat toward the ball if you're at the net.

Credit to Jeff Cooper