Tennis – A Formula For Living

Written in conjunction with P. C. Peters & the Fitzpatrick Tennis Assoc

The lessons we learn from playing tennis, are lessons we can use and benefit from for the rest of our lives. The points that follow can be used in the business world, your social life and to assist you in developing your philosophies for successful living.

The Head Game

Since tennis is at least 50% mental, your mental attitude before as well as after you go on the court is vital to winning. Your mind is the most powerful force you possess, because it controls your thoughts, your attitude under pressure and also your physical endurance to pain and fatigue.

  • Develop a positive attitude about yourself and the things you can accomplish. Never doubt your abilities even when losing. Remember many a match is lost even before you get on the court.
  • If you truly love tennis, develop a determination and drive to win that will be seen and felt by your opponent. Remember your opponent is looking for weaknesses in you, and if your opponent feels that he/she can break down your confidence level it will give him/her added confidence.
  • Patience is certainly a virtue, in life as well as in tennis, for if you can wait but not get tired of waiting, you will be developing composure and calmness. Remember most matches are won because your opponent makes more errors than you, and not because you hit more winners than him/her.
  • One of the most important elements in life and tennis is your ability to focus and concentrate for a given period of time. Many a match is lost because you allowed yourself to get distracted, or annoyed. Remember, most matches only last 1 1/2 hours. Therefore, your goal should be to give your total attention and concentration for that total period of time. If your opponent beats you, let it be because he/she was better than you, not because your mind was not in the match.
  • Discipline your mind, body and strokes so that when you get on the court, under pressure, you will be able to do the things that you have been practicing. Remember, it is the habits that you develop through the discipline of practice that you will use when the going gets tough. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can suddenly develop a new shot during the match that you haven’t been practicing.
  • Since we cannot always predict how we are going to feel, or the circumstances we will encounter on the court, being flexible and having the ability to change is the key to being successful. Remember, always change a losing game, but never change a winning game.

Tips on Strategy

The Serve and Volley Approach

  • When serving, always take a deep breath before 1st and 2nd serves in order to calm you and allow you to focus on the spot you are aiming for. Remember, serving is the only time in a point that you are not reacting to what your opponent did.
  • When following your serve to the net, keep your racquet in front of your body so that you can meet the ball, and not let the ball meet you. Remember, your opponent is going to try and hit the ball at your feet, so the closer you get to the net the better.
  • When volleying, keep the racquet head above the level of your wrist on contact. With the racquet in front of your body you need very little backswing in volleys. Remember, the net is lower [3 feet] in the middle than it is on the sidelines. [3 1/2 feet] Therefore, a cross-court volley is easier than down-the-line.
  • If your opponent has a slice backhand, it will rise above the level of the net as you approach. If your opponent has a top spin, it will dip below the level of the net as you approach. Remember, most players have a weaker backhand than forehand. Attack the weakest side first, but change up to gain the element of surprise.
  • When returning serve, let your opponent see you moving in on their second serve. If they lack confidence in their second serve this will unnerve them and possibly cause them to double fault. Remember, most players will take the pace off the second serve and if you are attacking their second serve you can get some important points.
  • If a player gets close to the net when attacking you, think about lobbing them the next time. Remember, some players will try to intimidate you by crowding the net. If you have a good lob they will think twice about crowding the net.

Tips on Ground Strokes

  • During the warm-up try to decide your opponent’s weakest side [usually the backhand]. Observe if they prefer to hit crosscourt more than down the line. Observe if they take a big loopy back swing to see if they can be rushed. Remember, just because a person looks good in warm-up, doesn’t mean that they can look that good once the match begins.
  • One of the best strategies for a base line player is to stay under the ball for the complete stroke in order to hit deep, and immediately return to the Ready Position for the next shot. Remember, even a good player has trouble hitting winners off deep shots that have little pace on them.
  • When someone drop-shots you, think about the re-drop shot when playing on a slow surface instead of the deep approach shot. Remember, the re-drop shot can often catch your opponent by surprise.
  • The down-the-line theory says that when your opponent gives you a short [inside the service box], hit your approach shot back down the line deep and come into the net. When you get to the net cover the down-the-line return and the middle of the net. However, if your opponent has an obvious weak side, approach the net on that side instead. Remember, only attack the net when your opponent gives you a short ball [inside the service box].
  • Most points will be crosscourt because the ball goes over the lowest part of the net. Therefore, in order to have your opponent hit a short ball, hit the ball down the line after the third or fourth crosscourt shot. Remember, your strategy should be to take advantage of all short balls so that you can put your opponent on the defense. This is one way to get a short ball from your opponent.

REMEMBER:  There are no easy shots, only shots that are less difficult than others.
REMEMBER:  When you practice you should practice with a purpose in mind, not just to have fun.