Back in North Carolina where I was coaching at a school that didn’t have much popularity with tennis, I would recruit soccer players to come join my tennis team. First of all, they could move their feet, which is extremely important but there was something even more important than that: they knew how to compete. I would tell them the rules of tennis and they would go out and beat players that were playing the game of tennis for years compared to the soccer players playing only a few months. They had what I called “the winning attitude.”
Having the Right Visual
Imagine the net is a brick wall. How tall do you have to be to stand at the baseline and see the court on the other side of the net (remember you can’t see through the net)? Try it. More than likely you won’t be able to see it because you have to be 6’7”! Here is a picture to show you what I mean:
The Winning Attitude
With this mental picture in your head, you can start seeing what the pros see. They know that at the baseline they cannot be aggressive to the ball. This is because they have to hit UP on the ball, which limits how fast they can hit it and also decreases their window over the net they can get it in. The harder they hit it, the lower over the net they have to aim, making it very risky to play aggressive from the baseline. Instead, they know they just don’t lose from the baseline. This means they are patient with their strokes as they are keeping the ball deep and to the weaker side of their opponent in hopes of a mistake or a short ball. The short ball is the invitation to increase their aggressiveness and come to the net where they can put the ball into the open court.
How to Get the Most Out of This Concept
From my experience, players struggle with one of 3 things. 1) They have no confidence in their net game so they stay back even on short balls. 2) They think they need to win the point outright with one swing on a short ball, creating a lot of mistakes or 3) They come in on weak balls and often get passed or lobbed. If you struggle with the concept described in the last section, it is more than likely that one of the 3 things just mentioned is the cause of you unable to do what the pros do in their tennis matches. By figuring out what your problem is, you can start putting yourself into those situations more often to start getting more comfortable with it. Do this by hitting more volleys or coming in on short balls during practice or have the ball machine feed short balls to work on your approach shots. All of these tactics can help depending on what you need to focus on. Figure that out and your game will be in a much better state of mind. Happy training!