You are a passionate and self-directed tennis player. You are working hard to improve your game but it is simply not your style to keep a coach on your regular payroll. Rather, you would much prefer to pick up some tips from a fellow tennis player at IB.
I am fortunate enough to start tennis at a very young age and I have been teaching tennis for 5 years. I would like to share with you some tips that you can easily implement while your unsuspecting opponents wonder what hit them.
#1: Early Preparation
We have all been told over and over again to take the ball early (which we will talk about in the next section), but it is impossible to do so without proper footwork and early preparation. Keep in mind that early preparation does simply refer to “taking your racquet back early”, it also means that you should pivot and turn your shoulders and hips. In the early stages of preparation, both hands should remain on the racquet (for both forehand and backhand). Your non-hitting hand will release gradually as you take your racquet back (two-handed backhand is an exception) to prepare for impact. Once you deliver the most amazing return of your life, do not just stand there and watch the ball hoping for a winner. Always assume that your opponent will return your shots and be prepared for it.
#2: Contact Point
Good timing is essential to deliver your desired target, let it be either a high net clearance or landing angle and distance. A powerful and penetrative groundstroke will always demonstrate rhythm and timing all due to a solid contact point. The ideal contact point is just slightly above your waist height out in front of you. Mr. Federer has the perfect demonstration in this photo. At contact, you may have noticed that his eyes are still on the ball (which is one of the biggest overlooked aspect of tennis) and the contact point is just above his waist. He is also taking the ball early and hitting it in front of him. This ensures that he can generate the maximum power and spin consistently.
#3: Increase Pace and Topspin
We are aiming to hit penetrating strokes on both wings to maximize pace and topspin. Topspin is generated from the direction of your racquet’s strings across the ball at contact. If you swing straight through the ball, your shot will be flat and inconsistent. By swinging back across the ball, it will generate topspin. This will accomplish three things: first, the ball will have a high net clearance and you don’t have to worry about it hitting into the net; second, the air pressure created from the topspin will force the ball to dip inside the court; third, the ball will quickly jump out of your opponent’s sweet spot after the bounce, making it harder for your opponent to attack. In order to generate more topspin without sacrificing pace, you need to get your whole body to work. Matter of fact, the majority of your topspin is generated from the rotation of your torso and shoulders, not your wrist movement. Bending your knees will help you to generate additional power with an upward leg push as you rotate your torso and shoulders. Think about this process as shifting the weight of your body from your legs to your torso to your shoulders and finally onto the racquet for an explosive topspin stroke.
#4: Nutrition and Cardio
Watching what you eat and sticking with your workout schedule is often easier said than done. Yet it is no secret that healthy eating and regular cardio exercise are integral to both looking your best on and off the courts. Try starting your day with a tall glass of water, by the time you are thirsty, you are likely already dehydrated. Throughout your day, get rid of your worst meal and force yourself to eat the colours of the rainbow (Purple/black = blackberries/blueberries; red = tomatoes, watermelon; orange/yellow = squash carrots; green = kale, broccoli; white/beige = potatoes, cauliflower). When it comes to cardio and fitness, a few of the basic things you need to work on are endurance, recovery time, and core strength. Endurance can be achieved through running at moderate speed for 10 to 20 mins at least twice every week. Within your cardio workouts, try incorporate sprinting and resistance workouts as well, to improve recovery time and core strength.
#5: Mental Game
You are in total control of the game, executing different strategies and manipulating all points, moving your opponent all around the court. And suddenly, you find yourself having a mental breakdown after missing a couple of easy shots and the momentum completely changes. You are now being dominated by your opponent. In another example, you are hitting perfect rally shots but immediately once you start a game, you feel as if you had forgotten how to tennis. If this is you, pay special attention to this section. The biggest advice I can give you is to stop thinking during a point. Do not think about your plans after the game or how to humiliate your partner after you have won. Concentrate 100% on your current game and let it drop completely after the point is over. Do not think back at your last rally; always be prepared for the next point with a clear and upbeat mindset. Lastly, as attempting as it may be, do not throw your racquet or swear when you are on the court, have fun and remember it is just a game.
Before I let you go, here is a quote from late Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger:
"People who participate in tennis three hours per week at a moderately vigorous intensity cut in half their risk of death from any cause..."
Now pick up your dusty racaquet and hit up the courts, and dont forget to have fun!