Practice makes perfect, right?  Over the years that has changed to “perfect practice makes perfect.”  But what is that?  You’ve heard about having specific goals in your practices on the tennis court but there hasn’t been very tangible examples that we can all put into practice.  I’m hoping I can shed light on some ideas that you can take directly to the tennis court to optimize the time you have practicing to see real results in your matches.

Here are my top 5 ways to get the most out of your practices. 

#1: Make mini tennis more deliberate

When we warm up with our partner hitting mini tennis (ball is hit between the two players with the service boxes as the boundary to hit the ball in), it’s a time we use to chat and catch up with that person.  We put very little emphasis on what we are doing with the ball other than making sure that person is getting to rally back and forth with you.  Instead, focus on spin and targets.  More specifically, try to put topspin on the ball every time you are hitting.  Watch the ball after you hit it to see how much the ball is spinning.  Make adjustment accordingly.  Also, focus on hitting the ball right at the center line.  See if you can consistently get the ball to hit at or near the line.  This will start your practice session with great focus and attention to detail.

#2: Always have targets

Hitting a ball back to someone is not good enough in a practice.  Focus on a more specific target.  Even if you’re hitting back and forth, make sure you’re aiming for the right or left side of the person to really zero in on a target.  Targets make you move your feet and also give you a sense of how you’re doing.  Hitting the ball down the line too much?  You’re probably late and not preparing fast enough.  Without targets, you wouldn’t notice or be able to make adjustments.  This includes the depth of the ball.  If you pay attention to how deep you’re hitting, you may be surprised by how often the ball lands in the service box rather than close to the baseline.  Again, this will give you data to make adjustments in your practice.

#3: What are you good and bad at?

Having an honest look at your game can reveal some opportunities to get better in more ways than one.  For example, if you have a weakness such as a backhand, you can work on that backhand by trying to hit more of them in practice (and preferably, you know what target is more difficult on that side too) but also find ways to avoid them by hitting your strengths more.  Going along with the idea that your backhand is your weakness, let’s assume your forehand is your strength.  If you are a righty playing against another righty, as soon as you hit a strong backhand crosscourt to your opponents backhand, you can shy to that same backhand side to run around your backhand side to hit a forehand.   By practicing this pattern, you can get a feel of how to maximize your strength and minimize your weakness.  Regardless of what your strengths and weaknesses are, try to implement them in practices to better utilize what you’re best at.

#4: Are you practicing the mental game?

Many of us perform better in practices than matches. This problem is predictable when we aren’t working on our mental game.  Are you taking time between hits to check on your thoughts?  Are you staying engaged?  Do you get down on yourself too much?  Just like your muscles, your mental game can only get strong if it’s constantly being used.  Take the time in your practices to really dial into that part of your game.  You’ll realize that the more you play, the more important your mental toughness is in your performance.

#5: Is there a plan B?

Many of us have a style of play that we gravitate towards.  We like to hit certain strokes to a certain parts of the court and know that is the plan of action for our matches.  What if you have an opponent that your best game fits well with that player’s style of play?  For example, if you like to be aggressive and come to the net, this might not work well with someone who likes to hit targets and is good at passing shots.  My point is, are you practicing an all court game?  Are you able to rally at the baseline just as well as coming to the net?  Can you serve to all parts of the box?  Most players will practice the same patterns they are used to and assume that as long as they can do those patterns really well, they will have a good chance at winning.  The most successful tennis players are those that can change their game to give their opponent the shots they like the least.  The book, Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert is a great book to read that talks exactly about this.  “Whatever it takes” is Brad’s way of playing his matches.  The only problem is if you do not have all the shots in the book, you will be limited by what you can do.  Work on a Plan B or C just as much as Plan A to give yourself an opportunity to beat any style of player.

Need more ideas on how to improve your game?  Book me for a free consultation and we can set up a game plan to get you playing the best version of tennis you are capable of!

Also, check out my lastest video on attacking low and short balls: