The process of learning the game of tennis is a long one. A task which can take a lifetime yet still not reach perfection. From picking up the racket for the first time, learning how to balance the ball until the mechanics of shot making is learned it can be a long process. But even after we have perfected the Rafael Nadal topspin forehand or the Federer second serve there is much still to learn. We can practice until the cows return home but if we are unable to choose the correct point in a rally to execute these skills then all our practice may be in vain.
Being a good shot maker and a good match player are two completely things. A shot maker may have a fantastic one off shot with everything done at the right time, correct swing path, angle and swing yet be unable to execute during a match or suffer from nerves. A match player will know their own game inside and out. They will be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and how they can match up effectively to the next player. A good match player will be saavy and play the correct shot on the tennis court. A good shot maker on the other hand will play the shot they want to play regardless of it being a good fit for the situation.
As a coach I have seen many players make rapid progress with their shots improving from pushing to hitting the ball in a matter of weeks. If players can dedicate themselves to practice this can be done. Unfortunately when the player plays a match this doesn’t necessarily translate into great match play. Put simply the fighting qualities of a tennis player must be developed and honed. This includes learning to play the right shot at the right time. How do we do this I hear you say? Its all about exposure to match practice, learning the hard way from more capable players taking a few losses but learning from the losses.
Before all else tennis is about keeping that little green thing in the court. Forget about technique or the racket that has topspin painted on it. If you can keep the ball in the court you stand a chance of winning the point and winning the match. Even when it looks as if you could and should give up getting that extra ball in court can make all the difference. All the top players have great defensive games. Nadal Murray and Djokovic have all superb games based on unshakeable defence.
Playing the percentages.
Winning tennis is all about simple math. Play shots which are safe but effective. Why go for the lines when one foot from the sidelines will do? Do shots really have to be so perfect anyway? Keeping the ball deep is usually an effective tactic. It keeps your opponent on the back foot and prevents them coming forward. The same can be said for serving. If you take a few mph off your serve just to ensure it goes in then the extra percentage on the 1st serve could be telling in the match.