“You have a cavity forming Ben.” These words I’ve never heard before. Cavity? Me? I’m already recounting the days of neglecting my teeth. Did I skip flossing too much? Did I not take the time to brush my teeth enough? My thoughts were interrupted by my dentist explaining a bit more. He went on to tell me what the problem was and how I could fix it before having any fillings done. I took his advice and within a month, had no cavities. Here are the two things that I learned from my dentist that made me a better tennis player.
Path of Least Resistance
Nature will always follow the easiest route. Take a river for example. It flows downstream and around any barriers, not through them. Cavities form the same way, where the weakest tooth is. This applies to tennis as well. Strong opponents are like nature. They will attack your weakest link. Is it your serve? Backhand? Whatever it is, you need to address this. I’m not talking about making your weakness a weapon. That is not being efficient with your time towards improving your game. Focus more on having the mental strength to put the ball on your weaker side in a neutral position every time you hit it. I have always told my players I coach that I want to see errors from your strong side, not your weak side. There shouldn’t be times that you think you can hurt your opponent on your weaker shot so put it back into the court where it cannot be turned into an offensive shot. For me, it was the backhand. I developed a “boring” backhand where it would get the job done by me placing the ball well past the service line to keep my opponent from hurting me with it.
I also took this into how I make my practices harder. I have had plenty of people that I have hit with wonder why I am missing more than usual or they are celebrating a “win” against me. Practice is for improvement, not an ego boost. Naturally, we will take practice as easy as we let it so it’s important to realize human nature is not going to get you better on the tennis court. Make an effort to make practices difficult. An easy example of this is to recognize where you like to hit the ball and hit it somewhere else. For me I like my forehand down the line so whenever I practice, the majority of my shots are crosscourt. This allows me to work on a shot that troubles me and gives me confidence to be able to have an ability to mix it up when playing my opponent. If I can only hit a certain shot, then there is no plan B. This makes it much easier to defeat you.
Reversing the Equilibrium
How I was able to get my cavity to disappear is to provide my body the opportunity to make more enamel than what was being destroyed by the cavity. Reversing the equilibrium is an important concept in getting better in tennis. If you haven’t improved for awhile, you are at an equilibrium in your game. Maybe a better word for this is stagnant. Either way, when you reach this point in tennis, it will take greater effort to reverse it in the direction you want it to be. Want to make it to 4.0? Something has to change rather drastically for you to start improving again.
It always comes down to effort. My cavity-free teeth happen because I put the time to keep it that way. Have a mindset like this with your tennis game and watch your improvement sky rocket!