After reflecting on my recent trip with some of my top players to Newks Tennis Academy in Texas, a hub for some of the top juniors and up and coming pro’s in the world, it was very clear that the pro’s (and those wanting to turn pro) did certain things that made them great. The best news is that these same things can be done by both competitive and recreational players to improve their tennis!
Most people think that the pro’s do things that only a pro can do, and that the game of a recreationally competitive player is at complete opposites to that of pro players. And although this is true in certain areas, the basic fundamentals of playing tennis in a way that will ensure you win the match and beat your opponent stay the same. Here’s 5 ways that this rings true:
1. The Pro’s do the basics exceptionally well – what I mean by that is the pro’s don’t actually try and reinvent the wheel from what they have learnt from when they first started playing tennis. For example, they play a match that focuses on reducing their unforced errors and not just focusing on hitting winners. They focus on playing strong cross-court high percentage tennis that opens the court up for them to attack, and they look to engage their strengths to dictate a match against their opponent.
What we can learn from this is that a competitive local player should not try and do too much to win a tennis match. In other words do the basics right. Play shots that will generally go in between 90-99% of the time, rather than trying to look spectacular by hitting a huge serve, or a massive forehand winner that only goes in 40% of the time.
2. They are mentally tough – Pro’s (for the most part) hold their emotions. They stay in the present moment, focusing on the present point at hand. They don’t dwell on the previous points and the missed opportunities and they don’t worry about future points. At their best pro’s are 100% focused on that present point.
Recreational players can do this too. Tell yourself before each point to focus on that present moment and put all distractions of past and future points out of your mind. Think about giving 100% concentrative effort on that point.
3. Fitness and strength are significant to their preparation – tennis is one of the most unique fitness sports. To begin it uses both the Anaerobic (fast, explosive energy) and aerobic (oxygen use) energy systems. It also requires power and muscular endurance. Both of these fitness and strength components are opposites to each other. This makes tennis both difficult and hard to train for. However that presents a benefit for local competitive players.
Those that can train their fitness by doing lots of interval training and train their strength through both power and muscular endurance related exercises will generate a significant advantage over their opponents. 99% of locally competitive players don’t do this, so if you want an easy advantage, focus on your fitness and strength like the pro’s do.
4. Pro’s optimize their diet and lifestyle to improve their performance – you don’t need to optimize your diet and lifestyle to the extremes like the pro’s do, such as Novak Djokovic or Serena William’s diet, but some simple steps the night before and the day of the match can make a huge difference.
Firstly eat a high carbohydrate meal the night before complete with some protein and good sources of fats (i.e. olive oil, coconut oil). Get to bed early and start to visualize your match the next day, (visualizing how you’ll go about playing great tennis).
Depending on when your match is the next day will determine your meal plan and timing, but don’t eat too much before your match. Fruit and energy bars/gels will get you through your match. A great product is Endura Rehydration Formula that has a magnesium mix that is perfect to take with water, and is a product that the pro’s drink before, during and after their match.
Don’t wait to be thirsty before you drink, neither wait till you’re hungry in a match to eat. Drink at every change of ends and eat some sort of food between sets that is high in glucose and/or fructose (sugar) such as fruit or an energy bar/gel to give you a quick burst of energy.
5. Pro’s have a gameplan – a pro recognizes that each match brings with it new players, new challenges and new conditions. A great player will take into their match a specific gameplan of what they want to accomplish to beat their opponent. This will generally be a strategy that pins their strength against their opponent’s weakness.
A recreational player can do this too. Obviously recreational players don’t have the data that the pro’s have that gives them insights into an opponent’s weakness, so unless you’ve played your upcoming opponent before you’ll have to figure this out as quickly as possible during the warmup and early games of a set.
A few quick questions to ask yourself, what is their weak shot? Do they prefer moving in a certain direction than another in order to strike a ball? How is there 1st and 2nd serve, any opportunity for attack? what’s their strategy like, are they impatient, a big hitter? What style of player are they? etc.
By figuring out the answers to these questions you’ll be able to tailor a match towards attacking these weaknesses and avoiding playing to their strengths.