Generally you will find yourself in one of four situations prior to playing a tournament match:
1.) You are playing someone you do not know anything about
2.) You are playing someone you know and are expected to win on paper or have won in the past
3.) You are playing someone you know and are expected to lose on paper or have lost in the past
4.) You are playing someone you know and both players have won before and the match up is fairly even
What should you do?
A.) Start every match playing high %. Play yourself into a rhythm. Lots of cross court ground strokes. Lots of spin first serves. Returns deep down the middle. Play path on approach shots and passing shots.
B.) Do your own analysis. Do not rely on what you hear from other people (outside of your parents and coaches). Do not think about rankings, seedings, or common opponents. Start analyzing your opponent from the moment you see them, begin the match playing high % with your best strategy and tactics, and quickly identify a weakness to exploit. Often times the information you hear from others is unreliable for a number of reasons. Trust your own ability to breakdown your opponent. Regardless of what you do or do not know about your opponent, give them respect prior to the match. Speak positively about their abilities as this will take pressure off you. Avoid thinking things like “I hate playing this person,” or “this person is a cheater,” as these thoughts do not benefit you. If you are playing someone who you have played before…remember…they have likely spent time working on their weaknesses since the last time you played – so continue to analyze them until the same weakness or a new weakness is found.
C.) On the big points — have a very specific plan. Start with where you are going to serve or return, then decide if you are going to play offensive or grind, and then rely on your tactical instincts during the point.
D.) If you are playing someone who you have beaten in the past…remind yourself that deep down your opponent does not believe they can beat you. Expect them to begin the match playing very well since they will have “less pressure,” so do not panic if they start playing very well. Start playing high %. Weather the storm and then when their level drops, seize the momentum of the match.
E.) If you are playing someone who you have lost to in the past…remind yourself that you have put in a lot of hard work since then and that they will have “more pressure” on them. Start the match playing high % and do not give them too much respect by overplaying. Demonstrate through high % play and lots of positive emotion that it is going to be a fight and you expect to win.
Things to ask yourself before a tournament…
1.) Are you prepared?
2.) Can you figure out your opponent?
3.) Do you know yourself?
4.) How well do you handle momentum swings?
5.) Can you finish matches?
PEAKING @ QUALIFIER
Goals for next 2 months:
1.) Improve overall offensive skills
2.) Improve inside out and inside in forehands
3.) Improve backhand down the line
4.) Improve ability to slice on both the forehand and the backhand
5.) Improve confidence in coming forward and volleying short
Goal: Work on playing aggressive during practice.
Why: It will give you something specific to work on during practice that should help take your mind off pre tournament nerves. It will also prepare you in case you need to play fearless yet in control in an aggressive way during the weekend. Most players will separate themselves from their primary strategies and tactics by doing this and therefore will be more concerned with being prepared for the event rather than “how they are playing.”
(1) Start with having an aggressive mentality — in other words: come to practice with the understanding that you will be aggressive; start the warm up with all closed stance
(2) Hit big shots to safe targets — you do not want to miss consistently by trying to hit the ball “to good,” you should always have a safe target
(3) Stick with it even if you do make some mistakes
(4) Be at peace — if you go for some shots and lose some practice matches, no big deal
(5) Sneak in some serve and volley and return and come in
Keep in Mind: Just because you are working on playing aggressive the week before a tournament in practice does not mean you should be super aggressive at all times during the weekend. Work on the skill of being aggressive the week prior and then manage your aggression v high % tactics based on the situation.
QUALITY OF BALL
1.) A ball you will make
2.) A ball that will NOT be attacked
3.) A ball that will eventually win you the point
4.) Quality of Ball > rally ball…because you are not trying to rally in tennis. You are trying to win the point.
5.) Forcing an error > hitting a winner
6.) Quality of ball changes based on the situation..
7.) Play within your capabilities
8.) Do not try to hit winners…that is too much pressure..hit a high quality ball and if it turns out to be a winner then great!
BENEFITS OF PLAYING LOCAL
1.) Improves match count
2.) Could help you with your 1/3 balance
3.) Helps you deal with pressure
4.) You get to play people you know and often times the same people (build rivalries)
5.) You can encourage others to sign up by signing up early
6.) It can help you develop as a player (development > points)
7.) You can use it as a warm up event for other tournaments
8.) Get used to playing in challenging conditions (or even just outside)
9.) Gives you an opportunity to work on your game in certain matches
10.) If you would be practicing anyway…you should just play!
The following are expectations for all players at Apex Tennis @ FAC.
1.) Work hard
2.) Be positive
3.) Respect all coaches and other players
4.) Have fun
In our preparation for Polar Bear, we have been working on weapons.
A weapon is something that you know you can do better than your opponent and can win you free points.
We have focused on 3 obvious weapons (each for one week): Inside out/inside in forehands, backhands down the line/slice, and attacking the net.
By way of review…there are 5 ways to be offensive in tennis…1.) change direction of the ball, 2.) hit the ball harder — less spin, 3.) change the spin by hitting the ball heavier, 4.) change the spin by slicing the ball, and 5.) taking the ball earlier or coming to the net.
Being aggressive or offensive with the ball can help us cope with the nerves we feel during a tennis match.
1.) Have tremendous energy with your feet. Usually when nervous, the feet slow down. Make sure you are putting yourself in a good position to hit quality shots.
2.) Know yourself. Do you typically over hit or under hit? Coach yourself in between the points by encouraging yourself to do the opposite.
3.) If you typically under hit…be aggressive by increasing your racquet head speed, putting your body in the shot, using and pushing off the ground, going to the ball and taking it earlier, and focus on stepping into the ball during the warm up to — increase confidence, improve ability to hit closed stance, cultivate an aggressive mentality, and set the tone for the match that you will be the aggressor.
3.) Focus on tactics rather than the score
4.) Prior to the match, hope your opponent performs well and you have a challenging match
5.) Remember, there is no clock in tennis, take your time and breathe. You can always come back. You will never run out of time.
Some tips for performing well in a shortened scoring format…
1.) Stay positive before and during your match. It is what It is, you cannot change it. View the change as an opportunity.
2.) Do everything you can to start fast — warm up properly, eat properly, listen to music &/or relax before you take the court — do whatever gets you going so you can begin the match with maximum intensity.
3.) As important as a fast start is…do not put too much pressure on yourself to start fast or panic if you do not win the first couple of games. Shortened scoring is a very easy scoring system to come back from losing the first set and that is why we see so many 3 set matches under this scenario. The most important thing is sustained focused. If you have a long mental lapse, the score can get away from quickly and it could cost you the match. Need to stay focused and eliminate taking points, much less games, off. Due to the shortened format, you should be able to have peak focus the whole time.
4.) Play extremely high %. You do not have time to “find your shots” or play yourself into rhythm. Lots of cross court ground strokes, good height over the net, and spin serves.
5.) Do what you do best on deuce points. Hit your favorite serve, run your best play, and be proactive not reactive. You control the flow of the point.
1.) Keep the ball low
2.) Play cross court and to the big part of the court
3.) Use slice serves
4.) Attack the net and use your slice
5.) Have a positive mentality about the wind
Weapon: Something that you know that you do better than your opponent and has the ability to win you points. Could be a big forehand, backhand down the line, attacking the net, fight, movement…
I = YOU…this is from YOUR perspective…
1.) I understand what professionalism is. Professionalism is how well I take care of the things that are in my control. I pride myself in having a complete tennis bag (racquets, strings, grips, jump rope, notebook, clothes, sun screen, towel), notebook (PDP, practice log, tournament log, extra notes, blog posts), and provisions (drinks & snacks) for every practice and tournament situation.
2.) I understand what toughness is. Toughness is how well I respond to things that are outside of my control. I pride myself in responding to challenging situations with the upmost toughness and will not lose a match because of my response to adversity.
3.) I understand the 4 basic strategies. Build cross court, isolate a corner, move opponent, and attack the net. I understand these are broad. I understand my primary and secondary strategy.
4.) I understand what tactics are. Tactics are very specifically plays or shot combinations that I use to carry out my strategies. I understand what my “go to” tactics are and understand serving tactics (serve wide, open court; serve T, hit behind).
5.) I understand there are 3 things that are completely in my control. My focus, my emotions, and my footwork. I focus on these three aspects in every match and strive to do these things better than my opponent every match.
6.) I understand the importance of leadership. We are a player led program and I am the leader. The best way I can show leadership is manifested in 5 different ways. 1.) Buy in. 2.) Know our drills and methods. 3.) Lead by example. 4.) Encourage others through words of positivity. 5.) Uphold our standards when they need to be upheld.
7.) I do not believe in re-feeds or ties. I do not make excuses for when I fall short. It is on me. I will do better. I will demand more of myself.
8.) I speak positively about all things within our program and especially outside of our program. The best thing for our program is for other programs around us to do a tremendous job so it only challenges us more. I specifically speak positively about my opponents and under no circumstances do I ever label someone a cheater. The only time that I do not speak extremely positive about my opponent is when I am breaking their game down with my coaches from a strategic and tactical perspective.
9.) I understand “Tennis Concepts”:
1.) High % Rules: Behind baseline, miss behind baseline; inside baseline, miss inside baseline; moving left hit right, moving right hit left; ball rising = drive, ball dropping = roll; high % serves; do not miss 2nd serve returns
2.) Momentum Rules: Micro Level — if you were attacked and lost point, attack back; if you made an unforced error, play high %; if you attacked and won point; play high %; if your opponent made an unforced error, play high %. Macro Level — have momentum = play high %; need momentum = attack. It takes two points to have momentum.
3.) Contact Points: High ground stroke = inside the ball; low ground stroke = outside the ball; high volley = outside the ball; low volley = inside the ball
4.) Skills of Tennis: Consistency > accuracy > movement > spins > power
5.) Offensive Skills: Heavy top spin, slice, harder, change direction, take the ball earlier
6.) Shape: Appropriate combination of height and spin based on where you are, the ball that is coming, where your opponent is, and where you are hitting
7.) Types of Volleys: Deep, dead, drop, and avoid dump
8.) Movement: Ready steps, split steps, sprint to the ball, correct footwork at contact, and recovery
9.) Technique: Shot mechanics — ready position, unit turn, set, extension/space/contact, & finish. All shots have: proper space, extension, acceleration, contact, and finish. Ground stroke motion is down, out, and around.
10.) Tournament Scheduling: On paper — 1/3 events you will win, 1/3 events that you should win some and lose some; 1/3 events that will really challenge you
10.) I believe there is no better place to be from a training perspective than NW Arkansas. There are no reasons that I am not able to accomplish to my goals, however lofty they are, right here in NW Arkansas. I will be the centerpiece of the process that helps put NW Arkansas on the top of the tennis universe.