There is a pandemic that has overcome the tennis world and is making tennis players believe that hitting harder, faster, stronger is the key to success. The truth is that hitting smarter, not faster, is where the big bucks are made. Plus, you don’t need tennis lessons to make it happen. All you need is 2 minutes and a willingness to absorb the virtual gold laid out below :).
Hitting faster isn’t all bad
Let me first clarify something. I do not mean to suggest that hitting faster is bad (okay, I kinda meant to imply that to get your attention). In fact, I just wrote an article on increasing the power of your serve. What I mean to suggest here is that hitting smarter is better than hitting faster. But let me go on the record here:
Power is a skill necessary for the next level
I mean, just take a quick gander at the top level players. Likely, they have more power than you :).
But what you might not realize is that what makes that power effective (and even possible) is control. That control allows them to hit not just faster, but more importantly smarter.
It’s not the most powerful professionals that are winning. It is the professionals that choose the right shot at the right time and have the control to make it happen.
Hitting faster without control is like a blindfolded Formula 1 racer without power steering*.
*try turning the steering wheel while your car is off, you’ll see what I mean. Also, don’t drive blindfolded.
Build on a consistent foundation
Hitting faster is certainly a stage of getting better, but it is the last stage to focus on. In case you didn’t know, there are 3 stages of progress for every skill in tennis and it’s incredibly important to progress in the right order.
- Consistency. Make a shot over and over again.
- Precision. Make a shot in the same place consistently.
- Power. Make a shot consistently and precisely with more speed.
So, if you can not hit your forehand cross-court 50 times in a row you have no business trying to hit it any harder. Adding 20mph to a shot that you can’t make to begin with is going to prove quite fruitless wouldn’t you say? You have to build a solid foundation from which to grow your shots.
Every shot in tennis must have its foundation in consistency
Wanna get better? Get consistent. Wanna be more precise? Get consistent. Once you have mastered these areas and have that foundation to draw from, then we can talk miles per hour.
This progress flow is essential to hitting smarter and your success as a player.
I have no doubt that you have worked on these concepts before. However, I’m willing to bet that you worked on more than one stage at a time and likely in the wrong order. It might not seem like a big deal but not following the correct progress flow is 100% the reason you are not the player you could be.
Let’s fix that right now.
Where should you start?
First, you have to figure out what stage you are on with the shot you are looking to improve.
If you can already make 100 forehands in a row, then that shot is ready to master precision. If you can make 100 in a row cross-court and down the line, you are ready to [read the following in a muscular Austrian accent] feel the power!
But let’s tap the brakes for a sec.
No matter how good you are or how long you have been playing, consistency is crucial and is usually not practiced enough or not practiced properly. So if it were up to me…[dramatic pause]… I would start with mastering consistency.
Master consistency :)
Luckily, you don’t need to pour your life savings into tennis lessons in order to get consistent. The best way to start? Grab a hitting partner and, well… hit. A ball machine won’t do it. A tennis pro and a basket of balls won’t do it.
Just rally. No points, no pressure. Don’t worry about missing. Don’t float it in just to make it. Hit as if you were in a real match, but without the weight of competition on your shoulders. Just a good old fashioned rally.
Hit 25 in row? Great! Now hit 50. Get 50? Do 100.
To get such high numbers you will realize quickly that hitting as hard as you can is not a viable option. Rather you need to be hitting smart.
At first this will require a lot of focus, but this kind of practice will cause your shots to become second nature.
From there, you will be able to think less about just making the shot. You will be able to focus on where to hit you next shot and have a consistent foundation to make sure it gets there. You will have a better idea about strategy because you can now analyze your opponent and their shots instead of just you and yours.
Once you build consistency into your game, a whole new world of tennis will open to you. So get pumped and get out there (well, after you read the last paragraph I mean)
Remember the ABC’s of tennis
Always Be Consistent*.
*I think this often got misinterpreted in my junior matches as Always Be Cheating, but that’s neither here nor there :).
If there is one thing I want you to take away from this article, it is that consistency needs to be at the foundation of every shot you hit. As if that wasn’t obvious.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t ever make a mistake. It simply means that you understand the limits of your shots and that to expand those limits you need to focus first on consistency.
It means you won’t attempt a hairpin turn at 100mph while blindfolded :).
Thanks for reading and have fun out there!