Tennis is an extremely complex sport. It is not easy to figure out how to correct a problem or a mistake, and even tougher when you are the one out on the court playing a competitive match. Technique is very important, but often it breaks down because of a player's strategy or noise that is occurring in their thought process as the shot is being hit.
Most players practice technique relentlessly and many are baffled by a shot that they miss in a match, after having executed the shot flawlessly 99 percent of the time in practice. The pressure to win the point, or to make a shot in a long point during the match, can be the culprit. It is not the actual pressure-it is the way the player handles that pressure during match play. The best players are incredibly good at hitting their normal shot at crucial times. Their reply to dealing with the moment is to do what they normally do. That means they hit a normal shot, at normal speed, to their normal target almost all of the time instead of playing safe or going for broke.
Most of us tend to go towards the latter when we are experiencing a difficult situation. Try to figure out if there is an actual technique issue happening when you make an error in a match or if it is occurring because of the situation or the perceived pressure.
Don't tell yourself to buckle down, try harder, or play safe if things are tight. If the cause is related to strategy or your mental approach, tell yourself to hit more of your regular shots throughout the match and watch your technique errors decrease, enabling you to be more successful in crunch time.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com in East Hampton, NY . Steve is also a tennis professional at Ventana Golf and Country Club in Tucson, AZ. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org