Competitive Point Situations

I got a little carried away with the depth of information for this topic. I kept to the theme of 10 by referencing 10 different title subjects to explain the benefits and fun of training with point-situational competition. The article includes an explanation of what competitive point-situational training is all about, the objectives of competitive point situational play and eight categories of examples of point-situational games. Point-situational training has applications for teaching professionals working with groups of students, high school, college and USTA league teams and for playing partners looking to add variety to their hitting time.

One

Competitive Point and Point Situation Games Explained

In point situational play, general rules of play and playing formats are manipulated to place specific demands and expectations on players. Examples include point-situational formats requiring players to close out games when ahead or recover when behind, to execute specific shot combinations and sequential patterns either prior to playing out points, throughout the entirety of a point or at predetermined or non-predetermined times during a match, to increase or slow down the tempo and flow of play and decrease or increase the use of certain shots or shot sequences.

Two

The objectives of point-situational play are to improve:

  1. Problem-solving skills,
  2. Response under pressure,
  3. Ability to hit targets and target areas,
  4. Ability to execute specific patterns,
  5. Score management,
  6. Response to different playing styles and situations,
  7. Ability to utilize strengths and mask weaknesses,
  8. Weaknesses and strokes and stroke patterns most difficult to successfully execute,
  9. Ability to control the tempo and flow of a match,
  10. Ability to disrupt rhythm of your opponent,
  11. First strike capabilities with the serve return,
  12. Ability to dictate and control play with an aggressive, offensive style of play,
  13. Ability to extend the point with a consistent, defensive style of play,
  14. Ability to transition from defense to offense,
  15. Dynamic court coverage (complex coordination and movement, dynamic balance, linear/multi-directional speed, and agility),
  16. Level of fitness (strength, endurance, flexibility, core and shoulder stability and power),
  17. Variety and the ability to utilize the entire court with a range of different shot options,
  18. Ability to vary stroke variables (spin, trajectory, direction, pace, bounce, depth and net clearance),
  19. Intensity, focus and concentration, and
  20. Shot tolerance and ability to win points of different rally lengths (short points lasting 1 – 4 shots, medium length points lasting 5 – 9 shot and long points lasting 10 and more shots)

Three

Category #1 – Score/Risk Management

Learn how to assess risk based on the score. Learn when to “lock down” and refuse to make a mistake and when to be more free swinging. Learn how to close out a game, set, and match when ahead and how to stay in a game, set and match when behind. Learn how to establish and sustain momentum to build a lead and how to reverse momentum when down in the score. Learn how to recognize which points in a match have more consequence to the outcome and which points have less consequence and although there should be a mentality to fight for every point, learn how to manage effort and to be peak performance at the most pivotal points of the match. Examples of point situations include:

  1. Start each game up or down x number of points. As a variation, start each game up or down x number of points based on results of the previous game(s).
  2. Continue play until one player is ahead by x number of point (or games). End game and declare winner when one player (or team) is ahead by x number of points (or games).
  3. Play points until one player or team wins x number of points in a row.
  4. Continue serving complete games until broken. Serve then transfers to opposing player to continue serving until broken.
  5. Assign weight or extra value to predetermined games (i.e., the fourth and fifth games of the set).

Four

Category #2 – Shot Tolerance/Consistency

Learn how to stay in a point as long as necessary to win the point. Learn how to sustain intensity and focus through the entire duration of a point. Learn to how get into a point and establish consistency, tempo and rhythm. Examples of point situations include:

  1. Exact a penalty or subtract a point for hitting an unforced error, hitting the ball into the net and/or hitting the ball wide of the sidelines, etc.
  2. Reward a bonus point for each point won when the rally exceeds x or a greater number of shots (i.e., for a rally of 9 or more shots). As an alternative, offer points of escalating value for each point won for rallies of 1- 4 shots, 5 – 8 shots and 9 or more shots.
  3. Require completion of a specific basic one-lane rally or a more complex rally pattern of x number of shots to start each point. For example, hit a six-shot cross-court, down-the-line rally prior to the start of each point.
  4. Allow only one serve to start each point.
  5. Track and total the number of unforced errors. Establish a limit to the number of unforced errors. If a player or team exceeds the established limit, the player or team loses the match (regardless of the score). As an alternative, track both unforced errors and winners. Establish a limit to a negative differential. If the established differential is exceeded (x number more errors than winners), the player or team loses the match (regardless of the score).

Five

Category #3 – Offense/Defense Patterns and Tactics

From an offensive perspective… Learn how to execute offensive play patterns. Learn how to gain and maintain a positional court advantage. Learn how to take time away from your opponent by taking the ball early. Learn how to attack short balls. Learn how to aggressively finish a point with a winner or forced error. Learn how to create situations to hit your strongest, most offensive shots for the majority of shots played during a match. Learn how to shorten the average length of points played to your advantage. From a defensive perspective… Learn how to stay in the point by extending the rally, absorbing pace, changing the tempo, and varying pace, spin, and net clearance. Learn how to disrupt rhythm and do whatever is necessary first to neutralize the point and then to transition to offense. Examples of point situations include:

  1. Designate one player with the role of being the first player allowed to dictate play with redirection. Require both players to hit cross-court until the designated player changes the direction (redirects the ball down-the-line) and then both players can play the point out with no restrictions on placement of the ball.
  2. Have both players start each point hitting past the service line. If a player hits a ball short of the service line, the player receiving the short ball must approach the net and finish the point at the net.
  3. Allow one player or team (or both players or teams) only x number of bounces (or no bounces) each point. All shots must be hit in the air prior to the bounce after the bounce limit has been reached.
  4. Play an offense/defense game where one player must conclude the point by hitting no more than x number of shots. If the player tasked on offense must hit one more shot past the designated number of shots, he/she losses the point. From the defensive perspective, the player on defense tries to win the point by requiring the player on offense to have to hit one more shot past the designated number of shots.
  5. Designate role-playing offensive and defensive assignments. Have one player or team play an aggressive, attacking, high-risk offensive game. Have the opposing player or team respond as necessary. Likewise, designate one player or team to play a defensive “get everything back in play” strategy. Have the opposing player or team respond as necessary.

Six

Category #4 – Serve and Serve Return and First Strike Capabilities with the Serve and Serve Return

Learn how to dictate play with the serve by hitting specific targets and target zones and executing specific serve patterns. Learn how to take time away from your opponent and apply pressure with the serve and subsequent shots. Learn how to attack and dictate play with the return (by similarly taking time away and applying pressure). Learn also how to neutralize the advantage of the server and get into the point with the return and subsequent shots following the return. Examples of point situations include:

  1. Require the serve to be hit to a designated target area to start each point. To increase the complexity of the game, require the return to be hit cross-court, down-the-line or to a designated target area based on the target hit by the server. For example, require a cross-court (preferably angled) shot in response to receiving a serve hit out wide to the outside corner of the service box.
  2. Require the server (serve returner) to finish the point in less than three shots (or lose the point regardless of the ultimate outcome). On a more positive note, award bonus points in escalating value if the server (serve returner) can successfully conclude the point in three shots, two shots or one shot (which in the case of the server would be an ace or unreturnable serve).
  3. Choreograph the start of each point in a collaborative effort by both the server and serve returner. Require the server and serve returner to hit a two or more shot pattern hitting specific designated targets (including the serve) with specific designated shots after the serve. For example, require the server to hit a serve out wide, followed by a forehand approach hit deep to the opposite corner concluded with a forehand angled cross court volley.
  4. Require one player to return serve from a starting position x feet inside the baseline (or x feet behind the baseline).
  5. Require the server to state his/her plan for the first two (or more) shots hit prior to each point. Award bonus points whenever the shot pattern follows according to plan.

Seven

Category #5 – Mental Toughness/Concentration/Focus

Learn how to establish and maintain composure, focus, concentration, intensity, and confidence. Examples of point situations include:

  1. Start and maintain a two-ball rally until a mistake is made with one of the balls. Then play out the point with the remaining ball.
  2. Require one player or team to play all points from a disadvantage of playing on the court side looking into the sun or playing with other adverse playing condition (such as playing against a fierce headwind.
  3. Require players to be silent (no talking or negative or positive outbursts) during match play. Players are to use only hand signals to make calls and not say anything (except to call out the score) during all play (including during changeovers between games and sets).
  4. Using a time clock, reduce time between points to no more than x number of seconds between points. Or, using a time clock, extend time between points by requiring no less than x number of seconds between points.
  5. Rally Games. With the goal of executing repetitive hitting patterns and the discipline and focus required to execute repetitive hitting patterns, have pairs or teams of players compete against each other to hit the most number of consecutive shots according to the pattern requirements before the end of the allotted game time or have pairs or teams of players compete against each other to be the first to hit x number of shots in a row according to the pattern requirements. Patterns can be designed to be progressively more complicated and difficult to perform as players improve in ability and execution.

Eight

Category #6 – Touch, Feel and Finesse

Learn how to absorb and vary pace, mix spins, hit acute angles, execute short and deep patterns, manipulate the bounce, etc. Examples of point situations include:

  1. Require one or both players to hit groundstrokes with only slice (topspin).
  2. Play a volley, no bounce game with a requirement to hit the ball up only. Limit the court to the service box only.
  3. Play a mini-court game using only the service box(es). Require balls to be hit with no pace.
  4. Play two bounce points (ball must bounce twice in the court prior to hitting each shot).
  5. Play two-touch points where both players must first trap the ball (as the first touch) and then hit the ball back in play (with the second touch).

Nine

Category # 7 – Dynamic Court Coverage/Footwork/Fitness

Develop multi-directional speed, quickness, and agility. Develop endurance, power and strength. Develop strength, muscular endurance, core and shoulder stability and power. Examples of point situations (with an emphasis on escalating density) include:

  1. Players play points with one player required to only cover half the court but free to hit to the full court while the other player must only hit to half the court but cover the full court. Roles are reassigned after the conclusion of each point. The winner of the previous point covers only half the court, and the loser covers the full court. The winner of each point can choose which side to cover (or which side the opponent must hit to) or sides can be designated by rotation or by the identified needs of the players.
  2. Require players or teams to run wide left or right, up (to cover a drop shot) or back (to run down a lob) to start each point.
  3. Require player(s) to run to, run around and/or touch a marker (such as a cone) or defined court area after each shot for x number of shots prior to start playing out the point.
  4. Require one player to only hit to one defined target area (i.e., left or ad side of the court) or rephrased, have one player limited to hitting to only one target area while having to defend the entire court.
  5. Require one or both players in singles to cover the doubles alleys.

Ten

Category #8 – Point Construction/General Application

Through repetition and situation-based live competition, learn how to construct a point and develop better court and match presence. Learn by a “games theory” model of sequential repetition of basic patterns how to approximate and better determine probabilities and outcomes leading to better shot selections and choices. Examples of point situations include:

  1. Play team singles. Players stay in and play points until they lose a point or until they win x number points in a row. When a player comes out, he/she is replaced by a team partner who similarly stays in until he/she loses a point or wins x number of points in a row.
  2. Play a version of table tennis doubles. Players alternate hitting each shot with a team partner.
  3. Designate (mark off) an area on the court players cannot hit without losing the point. For example, mark a mid-court area where the center service line intersects with the service line.
  4. Rally Games – Play a rally game where a pair of players or team of players collaborate to execute a specific pattern or hit x number of designated shots in a row in less time than other opposing pairs or teams. Rally games can progress by increased demands for volume and complexity. Rally games can also include competition for pairs or teams of players to compete to see who can be the first to execute a specific stroke combination pattern or sequence x number of times.
  5. King or Queen of the Court (Attack and Defend) – One or two players defend or receive on one side of the court. The remaining players on the opposite side of the court take turns trying to win a designated number of points or consecutive points to replace the player(s) on the receiving end of the court. Players vie to win x number of points or x number of consecutive points while defending or receiving to win the overall game. Points can be initiated by a serve, drop hit courtesy feed or a feed requiring players to hit or move to hit a specific shot or shot sequence. There are two basic rotational options. Players can either rotate out after each point until they win the designated number of points or consecutive points or they can stay in until they lose or win the designated number of consecutive points. With six or more players, the game could include points running simultaneously on each half of the court. After losing a point, players rotate to the end of the adjacent line until winning the designated number of points or consecutive points. When a player proceeds to win the designated number of points or consecutive points, the player then replaces the player he/she last defeated. Options can extend to multiple courts. Players work up to a top court by winning x number of designated points or consecutive points from lower court positions. Players get bumped down should they fail to win points to provide space for players moving up. (e.g., Player X wins two consecutive service points on court 3, replaces Player Y to then return serve, proceeds to win three service return points, then moves up to court 2 and in the process bumps down Player Z who takes his old spot to return serve on court 3.)

The Importance of “Soft Hands” and a Relaxed Grip (and How “Soft Hands” and a Relaxed Grip Translate to a More Fluid and Effortless Style of Play)

  1. A player with skilled or “soft” hands has wrist mobility and can use wrist flexion and extension as well as ulnar and radial deviation of the wrist to generate racquet head speed, extra bite with the use of spin and sharper and more severe angles. It is ulnar and radial deviation of the wrist that helps create lag and an explosive whipping action as the body uncoils in hitting groundstrokes. It is this same wrist deviation that creates the windshield wiper motion and the ability to generate more topspin with the groundstrokes. Wrist mobility and flexibility provide the ability to maneuver the racquet face to create the sharp angles that players like Djokovic and Medvedev seem to make on a routine basis. It is wrist extension combined with forearm pronation and supination that help add that extra bite to the Federer slice forehand and backhand groundstrokes. It is a loose and relaxed wrist flexion at the beginning of the motion that initiates the whipping/cartwheel action and “snap” at contact for the Alexander Zverev serve.
  2. A player with the ability to maneuver hand and racquet position and path is better able to disguise intent and all stroke variables (such as direction, spin, trajectory, and depth).
  3. A player with flexibility and “soft hands” can better take advantage of the elastic energy generated through the stretch-shortening cycle. The stretch-shortening cycle is an active stretch of eccentric contraction of a muscle or muscle group followed by an immediate shortening or concentric contraction of the same muscle or muscle group. In this process of rapid stretch and eccentric contraction, the muscles and accompanying tendons experience an increase in their elastic energy. This stored elastic energy is released when the eccentric contraction is followed by an immediate concentric contraction leading to an increase in force production. The process almost by definition requires a relaxed grip and a fluid and effortless stroke pattern.
  4. A player with “soft hands” can absorb pace (particularly important when handling pace with the volley). “Soft hands” create the ability to cushion the ball to create angles, drop the ball short and hit lob volleys when at the net. It provides the ability to deaden the drop shot so the ball drops short and sits or spins away from your opponent. “Soft hands” creates the ability to take pace of the ball with spin for the groundstrokes to disrupt rhythm and to better manage the tempo of the rally to your advantage.
  5. A player with “soft hands” is more adaptive (can adjust to get a racquet on the ball in response to balls hit outside the strike zone) and as a result, tends to be better in retrieval skills when on the defensive.
  6. A relaxed grip and “soft hands” leads to less fatigue. Relaxation promotes fluidity, flexibility, and elasticity through the entire kinetic chain and a more effortless stroke pattern. Maintaining a relaxed grip and “soft hands” when not hitting the ball (in support of the racquet in the ready position and when moving to the ball) also minimizes fatigue particularly over the course of a long match.
  7. A player lacking “soft hands” and a relaxed grip tends to be more tense and rigid and is less able to generate that “pop” you see at contact with players who have a more fluid playing style. A player who is more rigid can generate arm speed but is less able to incorporate all body segments in a synchronized chain to transfer acceleration into the hand and racquet. A relaxed start to a stroke is particularly important for the serve to establish a lively arm which begins with wrist flexion at the start of the motion and to generate “pop” or racquet head speed at the point of contact. For relaxation, Pancho Gonzales (a prominent player in 50’s and 60’s) shook out his hand prior to gripping the racquet before hitting each serve.
  8. Tension and a rigid grip can lead to muscle imbalances and injury by disrupting muscle group interactions (such as the relationship between agonist, antagonist, and synergist muscle groups) and fascial (connective tissue) lines responsible for body movement and force transmission. Players should seek to establish elasticity in the fascial system and fluid, effortless movement. Rigidity at the opposite end of the spectrum is like jumping rope while only landing on your heels (which invites stress and injury).
  9. Soft hands” and a relaxed grip and stance enhance the ability to manipulate height, trajectory depth, bounce height and projection and direction of the ball after the bounce and provide players with variety and more shot options.
  10. Perhaps this is more subjective but hitting and moving with fluidity and elasticity (by starting with a relaxed and grip and posture) is more aesthetically appealing and more fun. If not more aesthetically appealing, a more fluid style employing more elasticity is more functional and efficient by relying less on muscle power. This equates to being able to be able to play at a higher level of performance and sustain this high level of performance for a longer duration (which definitely is more fun).

Anticipation

Things to consider when playing singles to better read and predict the intentions and patterns of your opponent and the consequences of your shots and decisions

  1. Look at the location and height of the service toss to get a read on the intended spin, bounce and location of the serve. A service toss up and behind the tossing shoulder indicates a higher bouncing kick serve either at the body or to the center T on the deuce side of the court and either at the body or out wide on the add side of the court. A toss veering more to the right for right-handed players indicates a lower bouncing slice serve generally angled out wide when serving from the deuce side of the court. Of course, elite players can vary location, spin, trajectory, bounce and pace with minimal variation in service toss location (making it more difficult to read). This then requires a more advanced and thorough observation (either live or by study of film) to determine player preferences, tendencies, and patterns.
  2. Note the footwork or lack of footwork to the ball. As an example, if a player is slow or late getting up to a short ball, the responding shot will invariably be short and/or up. A (right-handed) player who in running around her backhand to hit a forehand kicks back and loads her rear leg behind and to the left of the front leg thus closing her stance to the ball will almost always hit the responding shot cross court in an inside/out pattern.
  3. Note the swing path and swing mechanics and the ability of the player to adjust as necessary in response to different velocities, spins, trajectories, directional angles and bounce heights. A player with a straight take back is going to experience problems with higher bouncing balls up and out of the strike zone. A player with a loopy, big backswing unable to adjust to shorten the swing is likely to experience problems hitting the ball on the rise, maintaining a tighter position to the baseline, handling balls hit flat and with more pace and responding to patterns and point situations which require less time to respond.
  4. Check out the grips on both the forehand and backhand sides of your opponent. Choice of grips can betray specific vulnerabilities or tendencies. A player preparing to return serve with a continental or backhand grip is likely to block or chip the return when receiving serves hit to the forehand. A player who hits a one-handed backhand with a continental or mild eastern grip is going to face problems coming over the ball (hitting topspin) particularly when responding to balls hit up and out of the strike zone. A player who hits a two-handed backhand using a continental or mild eastern grip with the non dominant hand will similarly have difficulty hitting heavy topspin. A player with a more extreme western forehand grip is likely to experience difficulties with low shots. Of course, this is not to say that a player cannot modify his/her grip depending on the requirements of the shot. Better players can and often subtly change their grip to close or open the racquet face to generate more or less spin and to adjust to balls hit outside their strike zone. What is perceived initially to be a potential weakness can prove not to be a weakness with closer observation.
  5. Check out the angle of the racquet face with the take back or backswing. You can anticipate slice (or a flatter ball) when your opponent sets with an open face on the forehand side. A shift from two hands to one hand combined with an open face take back indicates slice off the backhand side for players who regularly hit their backhand with two hands. Intent is easier to disguise with the backhand for players who regularly hit with one hand but there are still cues in the take back that help to identify the type and degree of spin. To recognize slice, look for the extent of wrist extension and forearm pronation and the degree to which the racquet face opens and the racquet edge turns in toward the shoulder.
  6. This is more subtle, but I like to look at the hand skills (the ability to maneuver the racquet face angle and swing velocity and path as necessary to get the ball back in play, hit targets, etc.) to assess how my opponent is likely to respond to different shots and point situations. A skilled player with soft hands can use wrist flexion and extension and ulnar and radial deviation of the wrist to adjust the racquet face angle and to generate racquet head speed. A player with soft hands is characterized by finesse, creativity and elastic, fluid, and effortless strokes. On the other end of the spectrum is a player who is more rigid, less athletic, and mechanical in stroke execution. A player with soft hands is adaptive (can adjust to get a racquet on the ball in response to balls hit outside the strike zone) and can absorb and generate pace, vary the type and degree of spin, height, trajectory, and directional angles and by nature, is more unpredictable. A player who is more rigid is vulnerable to changes in tempo, rhythm, pace, and spin.
  7. Key on positioning (recovering and repositioning after each shot) to better anticipate responses from your opponent and to provide yourself with the best opportunity to counter and respond to every shot hit by your opponent. When operating from the backcourt, look to bisect the angle of your opponent’s best shot options to your right and left. This translates to a recovery position just right of the center mark after hitting a ball crosscourt (from your right to the right side of your opponent). In terms of your depth or your positioning in relation to the baseline, look to recover a few feet behind the baseline and then adjust your depth either in or back based on the severity (imposed pressure) of your previous shot. You can move in or play tighter to the baseline in a more offensive position after pressuring your opponent into a defensive response and either hold your position or move back after hitting a weaker shot. When playing in the forecourt, bisect the possible angles of return which essentially requires you to follow the line of the ball. Protect against the down-the-line pass. Force your opponent to attempt a cross-court angle pass which is a much tighter window. Get as tight as possible to the net to cut off angles and to put yourself in position to finish the point with a volley winner. You can get tighter to the net if your previous shot is hit low and stays down (knowing it will be difficult for your opponent to lift the ball over your head). You should fade back from the net if your previous shot sits up and fall back more considerably, stay low and possibly guess to move to your left or right if you leave your opponent with a sitter (such as a short lob).
  8. One way to better anticipate what shot to expect in a point exchange is to understand the concept of mirroring. With variation based on the ability level to execute, there is a tendency for players to mirror the shots they receive. For example, if you hit a high, heavy, and loopy shot, you can often expect the same shot in reply. Similarly, if you hit a shot hard and flat, you are likely to receive a hard and flat shot in reply. If you take pace off the ball, it is hard for players at most levels to generate pace, so you can expect the corresponding shot to be hit at a slower pace by your opponent. When you hit a shot crosscourt, the expected response is for your opponent to maintain direction and hit the ball back in a crosscourt direction (particularly when hitting from a neutral or defensive position). The same mirroring response applies to spin, trajectory, net clearance, etc.
  9. For better anticipation and court awareness, it is important to know basic shot patterns and styles of play. Most points begin with a cross court pattern (maintaining the direction of the serve) with depth being the primary objective for the return and subsequent shots. The initial pattern then changes when one player (Player A) hits a short or weak shot which provides the opponent (Player B) with the opportunity to attack by redirection to the open court, hitting an angle (preferably targeting the spot on the court where the service line intersects with singles sideline), hitting behind Player A as he or she is recovering to the opposite direction, or taking the ball out of the air with a volley or swinging volley. There are a number of first-strike patterns beginning with the serve and return. A classic first-strike pattern is an angled serve hit out wide followed by a shot hit down-the-line or inside-out to the open court. There are serve and stay back, return and stay back, serve and come in (serve and volley) and return and come in patterns. There are four basic styles of play or playing personalities – counterpunchers, all-court players, aggressive baseliners, and serve-and-volleyers. Of course, the best players do not always stay to script and vary their style as necessary for the best results.
  10. After factoring all the cues and references noted above, it is still necessary to dig a little deeper to get a better and more complete picture of your opponent. By observation prior to the start of your match or if not possible during the warm-up and the course of play, assess the tendencies, patterns, strengths, and weaknesses specific to your opponent. Assess the shot tolerance of your opponent. How disciplined is your opponent to stay in a rally as long as necessary to win a point? Is your opponent more successful with rallies of 0 – 4 shots, 5 – 8 shots or 9+ shots? What triggers your opponent to change direction, tempo, pace, spin, trajectory, etc.? What triggers a more offensive response and when attacking, does your opponent tend to repeat specific patterns and/or aim targets? Does your opponent prefer to play at a fast or slow tempo? What are the target tendencies with the serve and return? How is the composure and focus of your opponent when ahead and when behind? The more you can discern about your opponent the better able you will be to anticipate shot locations and patterns of your opponent and the consequences of your shots, shot locations and pattern choices.

So you want to be amazing with your net play? Here is what you need to do…

  1. You need to be able to generate pace. You actually need to hit both hard and soft but to decisively finish the point in your favor (which is the aim whenever you approach the net) it does benefit to be able to “stick” the volley away and out of the reach of your opponent. Generating pace with the volley is not accomplished with a big swing pattern and racquet head acceleration but with momentum, weight transfer and timing.
  2. You need to absorb and manage pace. You must be able to handle balls coming at you more quickly and with more pace. This requires the ability to take pace off the ball to drop balls short, pop balls up and back, create angles and sometimes to simply get the ball back in play. 
  3. You need to have touch and feel. Volleying at the highest level requires hand skills to absorb pace (as mentioned earlier), subtly change direction, hit acute angles, create underspin to keep the ball low and/or create sidespin to keep the ball away from your opponent. Net play requires soft hands when the need is to finesse the volley and firm hands in rapid, up-tempo volley exchanges.
  4. You must be relentless. You need to be fully committed whenever you approach the net. In executing an attacking strategy or style of play, you need to look for every opportunity to close into the net. And you need to keep on coming in regardless of periodic setbacks (where you get passed or make an error). The goal is not necessarily to win every point but most the points.
  5. You need to be precise. Net play requires precision, precision with your shot location, precision with motor control of your body through the shot sequence and recovery and precision with your balance and footwork. There can be no exaggerated movement and swing patterns. Volleys require a sharp, concise and compact stroke pattern and synchronized, tight coordination of body segments. The arm and racquet need to work to together as a unit with less elbow flexion and rotation than the groundstrokes.
  6. You need to be able to close and feel comfortable playing tight to the net. The goal for every successful volleyer is to finish the point with a shot right on top of the net.
  7. You need to be smart and know the percentages. You must be smart on how and when you approach the net. You can play the odds and come in on everything (off the serve and serve return) but that is tough to pull off. Singles players on the ATP tour come to the net on average seven times per set (more on faster playing surfaces and less on slower playing surfaces). Maxine Cressy who seemingly comes to the net on every point actually closes the net on average 20 times per set. How successful should you be when approaching the net? The best players on the ATP tour pick the right time and opportunity to come in and as a result, win the point (by finishing the point with a winner or forcing a mistake by their opponent) 70% to 75% of the time when approaching the net. The players on the ATP tour with the best conversion ratios selectively come in behind balls which they can aggressively attack. They consistently hit their targets with the approach shot. They follow the line of the ball in approaching the net and with each subsequent volley to close off down-the-line passing lanes. They are quick to move in to pounce on weak replies when recognizing they have pulled their opponent off the court. They are good at identifying and exploiting opponent weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The top players also realize that things cannot always be efficient and clean when approaching the net. Take for example a situation where you are winning on average 45% of the points when you stay back and struggling but persistently winning 55% of the points when you come in. You cannot worry that you are not converting 70% or more of the points at the net, you need to get in. The top players recognize what is necessary to win matches and more often than not make the smart decision.
  8. You need to have a complimentary arsenal of shots and shot options. In addition to the volley, you need to have a strong overhead. A strong overhead allows you to be confident closing tight to the net. You need to be able to execute a half-volley and swinging volley. You need to be able to improvise and adjust your hand position (grip) and angle of your racquet face when out of position in an emergency response to get the ball back in play. There are times where you will need to step back or adjust your footing to take the ball on the bounce to hit a groundstroke (which can be difficult when you have less court to work with).
  9. You need quick reflexes. You need to be able to respond to balls hit at you at 90 plus miles per hour (mph) and react in less than one second in quick volley exchanges at the net.
  10. You need quick feet, dynamic balance and a strong, wide and solid base of support. Footwork requires quick, efficient, and decisive multidirectional movement up, back left and right. This necessitates a strong lower body and core. Court coverage and positioning is not just about closing when at the net. There are times when you will need to move back to defend from a better vantage position or to cover the court in anticipation of a lob.

So you want “amazing” groundstrokes? Here is what you have to do…

  1. You have to hit it hard (and sometimes not so hard) – You will need to hit hard to hit to get balls past your opponent and/or force your opponent into making errors. On the men’s ATP tour, you will need to average forehand speeds at or around 80 miles per hour (mph) and backhand speeds at or around 75 mph and be able to crank groundstrokes over 100 mph when necessary. The numbers are not that far off on the women’s WTA tour. Female players on the tour average 75 mph with the forehand and 70 mph with the backhand. Of course, there is more to just hitting hard. The effectiveness of your groundstrokes is more of a function of pace combined with spin (rpm’s, revolutions per minute). A groundstroke hit hard and flat (with relatively little spin) is going to have a entirely different impression on your opponent than a ball hit hard with excessive spin (rpm’s) whether hit with topspin or slice. Other equally important factors to be discussed later include the depth, direction, location, and trajectory of your shots. You will also need to hit softly (take pace off the ball) to disrupt the rhythm of your opponent, vary the pace of your shots and if you really want to be effective, vary your pace (and the other factors mentioned above) with disguise and in combination so that your opponent has difficulty reading or anticipating your shots and intentions.
  2. You need to hit with spin – To become an accomplished player, you need to manipulate (or control) the bounce, net clearance, and depth with spin. You need to be able to hit topspin to get the ball up and outside the strike zone of your opponent, to hit sharper angles, to hit with consistency and higher margin (high net clearance) when hitting with pace (and racquet head acceleration) and to dip the ball at the feet of an opponent positioned at the net. You need to be able to hit underspin with and without sidespin to get a ball to sit up and not project or carry into the court. You will need to hit slice (with a low angle of incidence) to get the ball to stay down. You need to be able to take pace off the ball with slice and use slice in conjunction with sidespin to get the ball to spin away or in at the body of your opponent. To compete at the highest level, you will also need to strategically vary and interchange the type and level of spin during each point and over the course of a match to expose weaknesses and disrupt the rhythm of your opponent. How much spin do you need at the highest level? As mentioned earlier, it is not just a matter of how much spin but how much spin in conjunction with pace (or lack of pace). The top ATP players regularly hit forehand groundstrokes at 80 mph combined with spins averaging 3,300 revolutions per minute (rpm) and backhand groundstrokes at 75 mph combined with spins averaging 2,700 rpm. It creates a heavy, penetrating ball (that is tough to respond to particularly if you are not used to or exposed to this kind of sustained pace, spin, and pressure). Watch a professional men’s or women’s match on TV or in person from a north-south alignment and you may be misguided to thinking the pace is manageable but look at the rallies from courtside in an east-west alignment and you will get a true sense of how big and heavy the players are hitting the ball.
  3. You need to hit it in. Sounds simple and can be simple if you maintain direction (versus change or redirect the shot you are receiving), hit over the low part of the net, hit cross-court (particularly to start the point), hit to big target areas, maintain high net clearance, accelerate with spin to get the ball to clear the net with high margin and still drop in, actively move your feet not only to the ball but in recovery after the shot, prepare early and create proper spacing with adjustments steps, maintain balance and stability, establish and maintain an efficient stroke pattern effectively incorporating all body segments in the kinetic chain and elastic energy in the stretch-shortening cycle, hit with length (extension and control of the racquet face through the hitting zone), establish rhythm and timing of the swing in relation to the bounce, take pace off the ball when the rally is at a pace too hard to manage, maintain focus and concentration with no lapses no matter how long the rally, and are physically fit enough to be able to consistently execute at a high level through the duration of a long match. Consistency, the ability to keep the ball in play is the first cornerstone of development for any aspiring high-performance player. The top players have a high shot tolerance (the ability and willingness to hit as many balls in play as necessary to win a point). Getting the ball back in play is not easy as you progress in level. At a high-performance level, you will need to defend in response to balls hit heavy, hard, and deep, to balls hit low and above your strike zone, to balls hit wide right and left and directly at your body and to balls hit short with little bounce requiring you to run up and to balls hit deep with a high bounce requiring you to run back. Good things happen when you work to extend the rally making your opponent hit one more shot. You draw errors through attrition. You draw errors by forcing your opponent to impatiently go for too much too soon. You draw errors by physically wearing down your opponent. All of which can be demoralizing to your opponent. Small caveat though, you may not always want to extend the rally and play out long rallies. You may face an opponent better skilled at staying in the point and prolonging the rally. If this is case, you need the skills to be more aggressive and opportunistic in transition from defense to offense.
  4. You need to hit it where you want to hit it (or better stated, hit it where your opponent does not want you to hit it). In singles, the best players work or set up the point by hitting to one of four target zones (to the outside of the court either deep just inside the baseline or short (and angled) just short of the service line. You will need to hit progressively smaller and more narrowly defined targets in competition particularly in the later stages of matches to be successful at the highest level. For example, a passing shot requires almost pinpoint accuracy (with little margin of error) to get past a skilled player at the net. Execution requires hitting targets in response to shots hit with varying pace, spins, depth, trajectories, angles of incidence, directional angles, and bounce heights. You will need to be accurate hitting from different positions on the court and be accurate under the pressure of competition.
  5. You have to hit it the right way. There is no one way to hit groundstrokes with different grip and spin options, one or two hands on the backhand, straight arm versus bent arm orientation for the forehand, compact versus long take backs and swing patterns, etc. There are important commonalties with the best players. The top players fully incorporate and coordinate all body segments through the kinetic chain and stretch-shortening cycle with neuromuscular synchronization, show tremendous balance and controlled weight distribution, consistently drop the hand(s) to an optimum loaded and leveraged hitting slot position, exhibit ultimate control of the racquet face through the hitting window to direct the ball to their intended target, achieve maximum racquet head acceleration, maintain their fundamental swing pattern when taking the ball outside of their normal strike zone, and in general, have sound, efficient biomechanics. The top ATP and WTA players consistently sustain and repeat their swing patterns and stroke components through extended rallies and through the course of long and intense matches. You seldom see the elite players experience a breakdown in mechanics. The top players also exhibit good hand skills to be able to adjust the angle and direction of the racquet face to get balls back in play when hitting from a disadvantaged court position or a disadvantaged position in relation to the ball and bounce.
  6. You need to be able to finish. Very often you can win points by getting one more ball back in play. More likely as you progress in level, you will need to do more to conclude the point in your favor. When establishing a positional advantage and/or opening, you will need to drive through the court, hit with redirection, hit sharper angles, etc. (essentially do more with the ball) to win the point. It may also not be enough to finish an attacking sequence with just your groundstrokes. When pressuring your opponent off the court, often the most effective and perhaps only way to finish the point and ensure your opponent is not able to get back into the court to neutralize the point is to move in to take the ball out of the air with a volley or overhead.
  7. You need to get to the ball. To be technical, the game of tennis requires a considerable amount of dynamic court coverage with explosive starting and stopping, linear and multi-directional footwork patterns, acceleration, deceleration, and repeated short sprints up to an extreme distance of approximately 80 feet. Tennis includes an average of three to five changes of direction per point. With an average of 60 points per set, that amounts to 360 to 600 changes of direction per two-set match. On average, 70% of court movement is in a lateral direction, 20% in a forward direction and 10% in a backward direction. In an analysis of 2016 ATP singles playing data, the average court distance covered per point was 65 feet. The average court distance covered for points with rallies of five or more shots was 138 feet and the average court distance covered per match was 2.8 miles. On average the serve returner had to cover 10% more court distance per point (12% more if the first serve was put in play and 7% more for second-serve points). Efficient movement in tennis requires hitting from open and closed positions and technical mastery of many different footwork patterns and steps including split, adjustment, shuffle, crossover, skip, gravity, drop, scissors kick, carioca, and backpedal steps.
  8. You have to be physically fit. Tennis requires complex coordination and movement, dynamic balance, linear/multi-directional speed, strength, endurance, stamina, flexibility, core and shoulder stability and explosive and reactive power. Force production begins in the legs and is transferred throughout the body to the finer control muscles of the hand and wrist. Force is transferred through a kinetic chain involving many different body segments. Power is transferred in sequence from the feet in pushing off the ground to the lower legs, upper legs, hips, trunk, shoulders, upper arms, forearms, and hand(s). More body segments are engaged in an extended kinetic chain for the groundstrokes where the requirement is to generate high racquet head acceleration at the point of impact. A reduced number of body segments operate more as a unit where more precision (and less racquet head acceleration) is required for strokes such as the volley. All tennis strokes and movement patterns follow a strength curve with descent (eccentric), amortization and ascent (concentric) phases of energy distribution. Tennis force production includes a stretch-shortening cycle of eccentric and concentric contractions, loading and unloading of weight distribution, horizontal and vertical linear momentum, and angular momentum. Footwork requires an explosive first step and an efficient, quick, and agile step pattern to the ball to facilitate the shot and in recovery after execution of the shot. It requires dynamic balance with a quiet upper body, head positioned within the shoulder triangle and centered over the hips, controlled center of gravity and a wide and low base of support. Multidirectional movement in tennis requires concentric strength (particularly in the propulsion or push-off phase), eccentric strength (most exemplified in deceleration) and stabilization strength (strength to stabilize the musculature of the trunk and lower extremities). Tennis operates in multiple anatomical planes. In the sagittal plan, actions include flexion, extension and foot dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. Actions in the frontal plane include abduction, adduction, scapula elevation and depression and foot inversion and eversion. In the transverse plane, actions include rotation, hand pronation and supination and horizontal flexion and extension. Other multiplane actions include hand ulnar and radial deviation, thumb opposition and reposition and circumduction. Tennis requires execution of all five movement patterns – bending and lifting (e.g., squatting), single-leg movements (e.g., single-leg stance and lunging), pushing movements, pulling movement and rotational (spiral) movements. The top professionals and the players with the most dynamic, powerful, and versatile groundstrokes train with strength and conditioning coaches in tennis-specific periodized training blocks to develop maximize strength and fitness. There are no shortcuts. You need to put in the time one and off the court to be successful at a high-performance level.
  9. You have to be intense. You need to stay focused and purposeful with your shot selection, movement to the ball, preparation, execution, and recovery each shot and point. You need to control your emotions, be confident in your ability to execute and compete and embrace the challenge of competition. You need to be resilient, particularly when things are not going so well and not overly exuberant when things are going well.
  10. You need to do your homework and have a plan. You need to assess your strengths and weaknesses and put yourself in a position to hit your strongest shots in the most favorable court positions and situations. You also need to assess what your opponents do well, what they do not do well and their tendencies when hitting in different court positions and situations and when ahead and when behind in the score (which requires some advance research). As a consistent theme, the approach should be comprehensive and thorough.

When They Go Low, We Go High

How and when to effectively hit high and deep

Players most susceptible to high balls

  1. Players with straight takebacks and players who hit relatively flat tend to be more vulnerable to high and deep bouncing balls. The same players also tend to more vulnerable to a tactic of mixing the height of net clearance, trajectory, and bounce.
  2. Players who lack variety in their game and the ability to hit with different spins and degrees of spin tend also to be more vulnerable to high and low variations.
  3. Players who have trouble taking high bouncing balls on the rise or stepping up to take high arcing balls out of the air with a volley or swinging volley have difficulty adjusting to a high ball tactic and often as a result get pinned back well behind the baseline.
  4. Players with extreme grips can be attacked with high and low balls. A player with a western grip will have trouble with low balls. A player with a continental grip off either side will have trouble with balls higher in the strike zone. The response to high balls from a player with a continental grip (who cannot close off the grip as necessary) is almost always a slice (which makes things more predictable) and provides an opportunity to exploit (such as coming in behind your shot).

How to respond to high balls

  1. Responding effectively to high arcing and bouncing balls requires getting the tip of the racquet up in the unit turn and takeback to the set position. The best way to track the ball is to frame the ball with the face of the racquet as you turn to set the racquet to the set position. This allows you to effectively take the ball above your strike zone without compromising too much court position or to drop the racquet head to take the ball on the rise in a more advantageous hitting zone and court position. In both cases, it is preferable to hit from a more open stance with your forehand and from a more neutral or slightly open stance with your backhand.
  2. Hit with more spin when taking the ball above or below your strike zone. For example, hit with heavy spin when pressed back well behind the baseline to take a ball at shoulder height or even higher. To generate the necessary ground force and racquet head acceleration, load and kick back using a corkscrew footwork pattern. For added leverage, relax the hand, and utilize ulnar deviation to first drop the racquet head in relation to the ball and then radial deviation to drive the racquet head vertically up and horizontally across the ball for the desired heavy spin. Look to hit crosscourt with high net clearance and depth.
  3. Although potentially vulnerable to attack, slice is a good option when hitting above your strike zone particularly if you are a one-handed player responding to high balls hit to your backhand side. Slice is a good choice in response to low balls and slice with sidespin is effective when digging out low and short balls.

How to raise the height and depth of your shots

  1. Hitting high and deep with heavy topspin is the best way to get the ball up above the strike zone of your opponent. It can be a difficult shot since it is much easier to match trajectory (hitting a low flat shot back low and flat) than to change trajectory (hitting a low flat shot back high with topspin). There are two different ways to approach the shot. If you have time to get underneath the ball, you can hit the shot with a more extended, elongated finish. With less time, the shot may require a more abrupt and sharper follow through or finish (often with a finish on the same side as the start of your swing). Hitting a semi-lob or lob with little to no spin also works to get the ball up and back.

When best to hit the ball up and raise the trajectory arc of your shots

  1. One of the best times to hit high and deep is when you are having trouble with the pace and tempo of the rally. Getting the ball up helps to slow down the rally and buy more time to recover and respond to each shot. Hitting high and deep is a smart response when pushed off the court. The height and depth of your ball will give you time to recover back into the court. an effective means to disrupt rhythm regardless of the situation. It can test the patience of any opponent but particularly an opponent who tends to be more impatient. The goal in this case is to frustrate your opponent and bait your opponent into going for too much to draw unforced errors.

Conclusion

  1. A strategy of mixing spins as well as the height of the ball can be extremely disruptive to any player regardless of level and stye of play. Adding variety to your game and the ability to mix heights, depths and spins takes skill and a substantial amount of time and effort on the court to acquire this skill but once acquired the game becomes more fun and multi-dimensional.

Tennis Conditioning (Part 3)

Tennis Fitness Conditioning Plan

Acknowledging the difficulty of access to weight equipment, a good starting point for a tennis-specific program is to focus on bodyweight exercises and exercises utilizing (more easily attainable and affordable) resistance bands and loops, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls pull-up bars, plyometric boxes, and suspension trainers. With that in mind, I have laid out below the components of a basic program.

  1. Dynamic stretching
    Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching requires the use of continuous movement patterns that mimic the exercise or sport to be performed (in this case tennis). The purpose of dynamic stretching is to improve flexibility for a given sport or activity and to warm and activate the body in preparation for more strenuous effort. An example of dynamic stretching would be a sprinter doing long, exaggerated strides to prepare for a race. For tennis, I like to incorporate the following:
    • Small Arm Circles Fingers Up
    • Small Arm Circles Fingers Down
    • Left and Right Arm and Back Arm Swings
    • Alternating Arm Crossover Swings
    • Bow Draw Torso Twist (Transverse Plane) Rotations
    • Bow Draw Torso Twist Variation with Released Arm
    • Alternating Toe Touches
    • Jumping Jacks
    • Crossover Jacks
    • Walking Leg Kicks (Feet to Hands)
    • Walking Knees to Armpits
    • Walking High Knee Pulls (Hugs)
    • Walking Quad Pulls
    • Side Shuffles (Low Profile)
    • Walking Lunges
    • Walking Lunges with Elbow Knee Pushouts
    • Walking High Knee Hug Lunges
    • Skipping
    • High Knee Skipping
    • Carioca
    • High Knee Carioca
    • Butt Kicks
    • Butt Kick Pulls
    • Inchworms
    • Bear Crawl
  2. Planks and Push-Ups
    Begin by learning how to properly execute a low and high plank and push-up and then work on volume (multiple reps). If you can do one, you can two, if you can do two, you can do three… The proper technique for the plank is:
    • Feet and ankles dorsiflexed
    • Knees aligned with hips, ankles, and feet
    • Knees horizontally aligned
    • Ankles, knees, and shoulders aligned
    • Torso neutral and aligned with hips
    • Braced torso centered over base of support
    • Neutral lumbar spine
    • Shoulders Level and horizontally aligned
    • Neutral head position
    • Neutral scapula
    • Stable shoulders with torque generated through hands (spread floor apart with hands
    Additionally, for push-ups …
    • Maintain a neutral scapula with fluid-controlled movement against rib cage
    • Extend arms with palms directly under shoulders and arms tucked to sides in up position
    • Flex arms with upper arms parallel, or slightly below parallel to ground, tuck elbows to sides and face cubital fossa (inside of elbow) forward in down position
    There are many plank variations (such as plank jacks, spiderman planks, T planks, renegade planks, etc.) to increase difficulty, intensity and to make things fun and challenging. Similarly, there are a countless number of progressions and options for push-ups (building from the basic plank position). For the fun of it, I have compiled a list below of different push-up options.
    • Incline Push-Ups
    • Wall and Wall Bounce (Fascial) Push-Ups
    • Hands Free Push-Ups
    • Standard Push-Ups
    • Decline (Elevated Feet) Push-Ups
    • Single-Leg Push-Ups
    • Dive Bomber Push-Ups
    • Pike Push-Ups
    • Close Grip Push-Ups
    • Wide Grip Push-Ups
    • Diamond Push-Ups
    • Scapula Push-Up with Protraction and Retraction
    • Loop Band Push-Ups
    • Weighted Push-Ups
    • Plyometric Push-Up (Hands off Ground, Clap Hands)
    • Plank Jack Push-Ups
    • T Plank Push-Ups
    • Dumbbell T Plank Push-Ups
    • Spider-Man Push-Ups
    • Shoulder Tap Push-Ups
    • Dumbbell Renegade Push-Ups
    • Alligator Walk Push-Ups
    • Bear Crawl Push-Ups
    • Medicine Ball Pass (One-Arm) Push-Ups
    • Around the World Push-Ups
    • Pseudo Planche Push-Ups
    • Staggered Hand Push-Ups
    • Rotational Push-Ups
    • Star Push-Ups
    • X Push-Ups
    One of things I like to do with players is to build in challenges and push-ups and push-up variations offer a range of different options (since push-up-based challenges are easy to explain and set up, do not require special equipment, and can be conducted with limited space).
  3. Squats and squat-based exercises
    Start by learning proper execution and technique (stability, posture, and body alignment).
    • Feet neutral with no more than 12% turn-out
    • Feet flat and stable heels (driving up and down through weight of heels)
    • Knees aligned with hips.
    • Knees over feet
    • Knees push out with depth
    • Hips flexed and horizontally aligned
    • Torso and tibia are parallel (with tibia and torso as vertical as possible)
    • Lumbar spine remains neutral and centered over base of support
    • Head neutral (with eyes fixed forward)
    With success start building volume (repetitions and sets) and then work on increasing intensity and complexity. You can increase intensity by the positioning of your arms (e.g., hands behind your head, arms pointing forward at 90° shoulder flexion, arms overhead, arms overhead supporting PVC bar) and by adding weight (such as a goblet squat where you cup your hands to support a dumbbell, kettlebell or even a racquet bag at your chest). You can increase both intensity and complexity by integrating other components. One example is a squat press in which you squat down and then drive up to press a weight (e.g., dumbbell) overhead. You can support weight in each hand or preferable for tennis in only one hand (which adds an anti-rotation torsional buttressing benefit). A second example is medicine ball wall balls. You can also increase intensity by adding a plyometric element (e.g., squat jumps or squat tuck jumps).
  4. Split squats or lunges and split squat (lunge) based exercises
    Begin by establishing the proper execution of a basic lunge or split squat pattern and then work on volume (multiple reps). The proper technique (stability, posture, and body alignment) is:
    • Front foot flat and stable
    • Back foot on the ball of foot with toes flexed
    • Knees Aligned with hip and feet
    • Front knee directly over the lead ankle (some allowances depending on body structure)
    • Hips flexed and horizontally aligned
    • Torso vertical with shoulders directly above hips
    • Lumbar spine remains neutral
    • Torso remains centered over base of support
    As with all exercise patterns, the objective is to increase intensity and complexity incrementally over time. For the split squat as well as for squats, there are many different components you can add to increase difficulty. You can raise the back foot (Bulgarian squat). You can add a dynamic walking element (walking lunges). You can incorporate a lifting component (e.g., walking lunges with a dumbbell hammer curl and overhead press) or a transverse plane component (walking lunges with trunk rotations). You can also make walking lunges more tennis specific by adding a tennis swing. The objective is to challenge your system with progressive overload and muscle confusion.
  5. Shoulder and upper extremity strengthening and stabilization
    I like to work with resistance bands – single bands (free standing, anchored at one end or anchored in the middle to work with each end of the band simultaneously or independently). The focus for all shoulder and upper extremity strength exercises is to address all types of movement of the shoulder and shoulder girdle in the three different planes of motion – sagittal (forward and back movements), frontal (side to side movements) and transverse (twisting or rotational movements). This includes adduction, abduction, flexion, extension, internal rotation, external rotation, medial rotation, lateral rotation, and 360° circumduction, horizontal abduction and adduction, scapular depression, elevation, protraction, and retraction (all of which come into play in tennis). The exercises I most often use for tennis are band pull aparts, straight arm pulldowns, single arm/offset rows and presses, high rows with external rotations, diagonal D2 flexions, internal and external rotations, flies and reverse flies, trunk rotations, side, front and diagonal raises, upright rows, and shoulder shrugs. Resistance band anchor points can be raised or lowered to target different muscle groups for many of these exercises. Grips can be varied to change the emphasis. For example, band pull aparts with a pronated grip combines horizontal abductions with medial shoulder rotations and band pull aparts with a supinated grip combine horizontal abductions with lateral shoulder rotations. You can progressively increase tension by using different weighted bands and/or doubling or tripling up bands. To add complexity, you can integrate movement patterns such as squat rows and split squat rows and presses and squat diagonal D2 flexions. Finally, try to maintain constant tension with the bands by adjusting your hand positioning or body positioning in reference to the anchor point.
  6. Core training
    The function of core muscles is to:
    • Control center of gravity
    • Establish and control balance, stability, alignment, posture and center of gravity
    • Stabilize and support midsection to provide a platform of support for jumping, throwing, and changing directions rapidly
    • Transmit forces between the upper and lower body
    • Protect the spine and back
    The requirement of core training is to strengthen and stabilize the core muscles (to create torso stiffness). Best core exercises maintain a neutral spine with movement originating from the hips and not the back. Planks and pushups as well as squats and split squats contribute to building core stability and strength. There are other floor-based exercises that can be included in a workout program. I approach floor exercises from four different positions – prone (lying face down) position, supine (lying face up), quadruped or tabletop (on hands and knees) and bridge (lying face up with knees bent and hips off of floor in alignment with the torso) plus front, reverse and side plank positions as referenced before. Prone position exercises include supermans, swimmers and snow angels. Examples of supine position exercises are McGill curls, leg raises and windshield wipers. I like to have players work up to hollow holds (a more difficult supine position to master). In the hollow hold position your back is pressed into the ground and your legs, shoulders and arms are raised off the ground. Exercises include a standard hollow hold for time, hollow hold rocks and hollow hold presses, pullovers and flies with dumbbells or a medicine ball. Quadruped or tabletop exercises include leg raises, donkey kicks, bird dogs and cat/camels. Quadruped exercises can be made more difficult by raising your knees off the ground and by integrating other components (such as resistance band rows). Bridge (or glute bridge) exercises include holds, leg raises, leg marches and hip dips. You can elevate your legs to increase intensity. As with the hollow hold, I like to work with dumbbells or kettlebells to perform glute bridge dumbbell presses, flies, and pullovers. Anti-rotation exercises (particularly vertical-based anti-rotation exercises) also serve to strengthen and stabilize the core muscles. Anti-rotation exercises work to build core stability and strength by training the primary core muscles to resist force and prevent rotation and torque. Anti-rotation exercises include torsional buttressing, unilateral, unilateral loaded and force resistance moves. Examples include single-arm resistance band chest presses, rows and flies, shoulder tap/dumbbell renegade planks, kettlebell or dumbbell single-arm swings, and single-arm suitcase, rack and waiter carries.
  7. Agility, footwork, speedwork and explosive power
    Time should be dedicated to working on agility, quickness, complex coordination, tennis specific footwork patterns, dynamic balance and at a more advanced level, explosive power through plyometrics.
    • I like to incorporate sprinting drills such as A skips (high knee hopping and skipping action), B skips (A skips with a kick, snap down and negative foot strike) and C skips (A skips with hip rotations), bounds, and sprints from a crossover, high plank and mountain climber start. I work with 5 – 30 second sprints at submaximal or maximal intensity (depending on the goals) with 1:3 – 1:5 work to recovery ratios. An example would be a 10 second sprint at high intensity followed by a 30 second slow jog or walk repeated 12 times for total time of eight minutes or a 20 second sprint at high intensity followed by a one-minute slow jog or walk repeated six times for total time of eight minutes of work. To integrate patterns, one option is to do repeated medicine ball overhead throws (reverse overhead heaves, rotational side throws) and sprints to run down and retrieve the medicine ball or catch the medicine ball on the bounce (if working on a firm surface).
    • Jumping rope (with progressively more complex patterns and cadences) can be included in this segment or in the introduction as part of the dynamic warm-up.
    • There are many agility patterns using ladders, small hurdles, Bosu balls and plyometric boxes. Standard ladder drills or patterns include one in the hole, two in the hole, Ickey shuffle, hopscotch, and slalom. Almost all the patterns (using ladders, hurdles, etc.) can include hitting or shadow hitting. For example, a player can move using a crossover step up and over a Bosu ball to then hit a forehand followed by the same pattern in the opposite direction to hit a backhand. The focus is short, bursts of intense effort for 10 to 30 seconds followed by 20 to 25 seconds of recovery between efforts.
    • The lines on the court can be used for many different agility patterns such as forward and backward line hops, single leg forward and backward line hops, lateral line hops, single Leg lateral line hops, scissors, line jacks and Heisman high knees.
    • Cones are particularly effective in working on complex footwork patterns, acceleration/deceleration, dynamic balance, and multi-directional speed work. Cone-to-cone patterns include traditional pro agility, Illinois agility and letter Z, X, L and M courses. Cones can also be set up for various weave/slalom courses. As with all footwork and agility options, cone patterns can include shadow swinging or hitting of hand-fed balls.
    • Plyometrics engage the muscles through the stretch shortening cycle. The stretch-shortenings cycle is an active stretch of eccentric contraction of a muscle or muscle group followed by an immediate shortening or concentric in of the same muscle or muscle group. In this process of rapid stretch and eccentric contraction, the muscles and accompanying tendons experience an increase in their elastic energy. This elastic energy is released when the eccentric contraction is followed by an immediate concentric contraction leading to an increase in force production. It is the process that defines many plyometric moves such as the squat jump, squat tuck jump, alternating lunge jump, drop jump and bounds (all of which could be included in a tennis-specific fitness conditioning program). I also like to include box jumps and step ups.
  8. Pull-Ups
    The pull-up is a compound exercise which strengthens muscles in the upper back, shoulder, and arms. The primary muscles worked are the lats (latissimus dorsi). The secondary muscles worked are the biceps, rear deltoids, forearm flexors and rotator cuffs. The pull-up also helps build grip strength essential for tennis. The pull-up can be varied with different grips (pronated, supinated, mixed supinated and pronated and neutral), grip widths (narrow to wide) and thumb positions (over, under or no thumbs). The motion can also be varied. Generally, you want to achieve full range of motion (fully extending up and down) but this can be achieved with constant tension or with a “dead hang” in which you fully relax and pause at the bottom of the exercise. Pull-ups can also be achieved with a gymnastic hip snap to create momentum and swing (“kipping” or “butterfly” pull-ups). If unable to do pull-ups, start at chin level and hold this position for as long as you can and then after slowly dropping down continue to hang onto the bar with arms fully suspended for as long as possible. Scapular pull-ups also provide a good starting platform. Beginning from a passive, fully extended hanging position, work on depressing and retracting your shoulder blades (almost like a reverse shrug). Keep your arms extended and pull your head away from the bar as you draw your shoulder blades together. Hold for one second and then repeat. This scapular depression/retraction is the key motion necessary to initiate a complete pull-up. Just like push-ups, if you can do one pull-up, you can do two and if you can two, you can do three, etc.
  9. Stretching and flexibility
    The most common type of stretching, static stretching, is executed by extending the targeted muscle group to its maximal point and holding it for 30 seconds or more.
    There are two types of static stretches:
    • Active: Added force is applied by the individual for greater intensity
    • Passive: Added force is applied by an external force (e.g., partner or assistive device) to increase intensity.
    Using a foam roller or similar device, myofascial release relieves tension and improves flexibility in the fascia (a densely woven specialized system of connective tissue that covers and unites all the body’s compartments), and underlying muscle. Perform small, continuous back-and-forth movements over a targeted area of two to six inches for 30 to 60 seconds.
  10. How to tie everything together
    What to include and how to program? Normally the focus is to start with more complex, muti-joint compound exercises before single-joint, isolation exercises. Other options include alternating push and pull exercises and alternating lower body with upper body exercises (or focusing on lower body exercises first before upper body exercises). In sequencing the components of this largely body-weight program, I would recommend beginning with a dynamic warm-up and then in this order squats/squat-based exercises, split-squats/split squat-based exercises, planks/pushups, shoulder strength and stabilization, pull-ups, footwork, speed and agility patterns and/or plyometrics and core floor-based and anti-rotational exercises followed by stretching and myofascial release. Not everything has be included in one session. It is possible (and quite reasonable) to break out components into different days (such as separate the footwork, speed, agility and/or plyometrics into a different day).
    Repetitions, sets and time commitments – The general premise for repetitions when working with weight loads is a lower number of repetitions for more intense strength-based exercises (when working with 80 – 90% of one repetition max weight loads) and a larger number of repetitions for less intense muscular endurance-based exercises (when working with 60 – 70% of one repetition max weight loads). For this program (which utilizes mostly body weight-based exercises), I would suggest eight – 15 repetitions or repetitions to fatigue and two to three sets for squats and split squats. I normally set up a circuit for shoulder strength and stabilization (grouping exercises by the different resistance band anchor points). Descending pyramids (progressively lower number of repetitions) and ascending pyramids (progressively higher number of repetitions) work well with pull-ups and push-ups. Agility, footwork, and speed patterns should be timed based. Everything can be modified based on your time commitment. To achieve the best results, I would recommend 20 -60 minutes of purposeful exercise two to three days per week combined with time on the court hitting tennis balls.
    Rest and recovery – As per the General Adaptation System (GAS) principle, it is imperative to build in time for rest and recovery. Work to rest ratios between sets or timed sequences/circuits should range from 1:2 to 1:5 (as per the standard work to rest ratios for competitive tennis) with the intensity of your effort and the goals of your workout dictating actual times for rest and recovery. The program should have days between workouts for active recovery. Active recovery as the name suggests does not mean no activity. It could include cross training and other sporting activities and should include tennis.

This is a lot but there is a lot more that could be included in setting up a tennis-specific conditioning program. What I could have included but did not reference are kettlebell swings (particularly alternating arm kettlebell swings). Kettlebell swings and other applications using kettlebells can be extremely beneficial for tennis. Exercises using a suspension trainer can be incorporated into a tennis-specific program. Suspension trainers are portable and can be easily connected to tennis fencing. I would recommend using the components outlined above as a basis to get started and then experiment and make modifications to determine what works best for you and your goals and what you are most likely going stick with over the long term.

Tennis Conditioning (Part 2)

Physical training to prepare for the complexity and variability of the game of tennis needs to include the following components.

  1. Exercises to stabilize and strengthen the shoulder and the glide and ball-and-socket functions of the shoulder
  2. Extended kinetic chain (whole body movement), integrated compound exercises
  3. Exercises to stabilize and strengthen the core
  4. Exercises to build foundational leg (lower body) strength
  5. Exercises to build explosive power in the legs to enhance ground force (push-off) in the first kinetic chain link
  6. Movement patterns to improve dynamic balance, coordination, agility, speed, and quickness (particularly in the first step to the ball), acceleration and deceleration plus adaptive and reactive movement patterns to simulate variability of play
  7. Exercises to improve flexibility and range of motion
  8. Unilateral (both contralateral and ipsilateral)/offset patterns and exercises to correct strength imbalances and increase core stability, strength and dynamic balance through anti-rotation, torsional buttressing of the core muscles to support offset weight loads and to maintain position, posture, and balance plus other applicable exercises to address imbalances in muscle length tension relationship (inherent in the nature of the game with one-arm dominance and the requirement for a lower center of gravity)
  9. Steady-state and interval-based cardio training to improve stamina and endurance
  10. Dynamic stretching exercises (mimicking the movements patterns of tennis) to warm and prepare the body for more strenuous effort prior to the start of workouts and static, myofascial (with foam roller or ball), proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) hold-relax, contract-relax and/or hold-relax with agonist contraction) and/or active isolated stretching (AIS) stretch-based exercises to be performed at the conclusion of workouts

There should be an emphasis on vertical-based exercises from both universal athletic and split-stance positions and compound (multi-joint) exercises (versus isolation exercises). A tennis conditioning program should encompass the five movement patterns – bending and lifting (e.g., squatting), single-leg movements (e.g., single-leg stance and lunging), pushing movements, pulling movement and rotational (spiral) movements and should be progressive with a linear and/or undulating progression in frequency, volume, load, repetitions, intensity and/or difficulty. Exercises should simulate specific tennis work intervals and work-to-rest ratios. The program should include scheduled days (times) for rest and recovery (active recovery) but not extended gaps in training with the risk for loss of gains (as per the theory of use and disuse).  Ideally, the program should include a periodization schedule with a preparation phase, pre-competition phase and a competition phase. In general, the workouts should begin in the preparation phase with a high-volume workload and a low level of intensity and complexity and end prior to competition with a high level of intensity and complexity and a low-volume workload.

What does this all mean?

  1. Tennis is a complex sport with many variables.
  2. Tennis players should train for all contingencies.
  3. Tennis is an anaerobic sport requiring a series of intermittent short explosive sprints.
  4. Tennis players need a strong foundational level of strength to execute stroke and movement patterns.
  5. Tennis players need an aerobic base to help with recovery and to sustain effort.

Tennis Conditioning (Part 1)

Factors to Consider in Developing a Tennis-Specific Tennis Conditioning Program

  1. Tennis is unpredictable with variability of point length and length of match times. While points last on average from three to 15 seconds depending on styles of play, court surfaces and playing conditions, players must prepare to play points that last for as little as one second to points that last well over one minute. The longest men’s point on record at a grand slam event between Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon (won incidentally by Simon) lasted one minute and 40 seconds and included a rally of 71 shots. Match duration also varies based on scoring formats, player matchups and competitive balance, playing styles, court surface, playing conditions, etc. with matches lasting less than one hour and matches lasting four or more hours. The longest match in tennis history between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut (won by Isner) lasted 11 hours, five minutes. Tennis is a game of intermittent play with periods of activity followed by breaks for recovery, collection of balls, change sides for service and return and change of ends during odd games and sets. Factoring in time between points, games, and sets (20 seconds between points, 90 seconds during changeovers and two minutes between sets), average work to rest ratios range from 1:2 to 1:5.
  2. In addition to a variability in point length and match duration, tennis is also unpredictable with variability in shot selection and tactics, court coverage, strategy, and choice of playing style, match tempo and duration, weather (climate), court surface and opponent playing style, strategy, shot selection and tactics. Players must respond to varying levels or degrees of pace, spin, and trajectory. There is a requirement to hit from different court positions, respond to balls hit from different angles and lines of direction, maintain or redirect ball path direction, hit balls in the air with volleys or after the bounce as the ball is rising, at peak height or dropping, hit balls at varying heights and distances (spacing) from the body, generate pace or take pace off the ball and maintain, change, increase and/or decrease spin and the type of spin.
  3. The game of tennis requires a considerable amount of dynamic court coverage with explosive starting and stopping, linear and multi-directional footwork patterns, acceleration, deceleration, and repeated short sprints up to an extreme distance of approximately 80 feet. Tennis includes an average of three to five changes of direction per point. With an average of 60 points per set, that amounts to 360 to 600 changes of direction per two-set match. On average, 70% of court movement is in a lateral direction, 20% in a forward direction and 10% in a backward direction. In an analysis of 2016 ATP singles playing data, the average court distance covered per point was 65 feet. The average court distance covered for points with rallies of five or more shots was 138 feet and the average court distance covered per match was 2.8 miles. On average the serve returner had to cover 10% more court distance per point (12% more if the first serve was put in play and 7% more for second-serve points). Although not always a correlation due to different playing styles and match ups, on average players covering more court distance lost 58% of points played.
  4. With periods of low and high periods of intensity, stop/start requirements of play and repeated short explosive bursts of energy in sprinting to the ball, stroke execution and recovery after the shot, tennis can be categorized as primarily an anaerobic sport. Tennis predominantly taps the ATP-PCr (phosphocreatine) system (the first and most immediate source for energy) and the anaerobic glycolysis system (the second source for short-term energy utilized as stores of phosphocreatine are depleted). There is also an aerobic component to the sport in recovery (and replenishment of energy resources) between points and after play and to maintain stamina (and the ability to repeatedly generate explosive actions) through the duration of match play. The mean maximum heart rate for competitive match play ranges from 60 to 80% (with heart rates reaching 95% of maximum heart rate during long and intense rallies). Elite male tennis players have VO2max levels above 60 milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight (mL/kg/min) with mean maximum VO2 levels ranging from 60 to 70% during competitive match play. Average blood lactate concentration levels range from 1.7 to 3.8 mmol and can increase to 8.6 mmol during high intensity play.  In terms of ventilatory zones, elite players generally spend 77% of match time at or below VT1 (aerobic threshold), 20% at a moderate to high level of exertion between VT1 and VT2 (anaerobic threshold) and 3% at a high level of intensity above anaerobic threshold.
  5. Tennis requires complex coordination and movement, dynamic balance, linear/multi-directional speed, strength, endurance or stamina, flexibility, core and shoulder stability and explosive and reactive power. Success in tennis requires keen hand-eye coordination (particularly in the relationship between the hand and racquet face). A slight deviation in the angle and position of the racquet face at the point of contact can be the difference between hitting a shot two inches inside the line or two inches outside the line.
  6. Force production begins in the legs and is transferred throughout the body to the finer control muscles of the hand and wrist. Force is transferred through a kinetic chain involving many different body segments. Power is transferred in sequence from the feet in pushing off the ground to the lower legs, upper legs, hips, trunk, shoulders, upper arms, forearms, and hand(s). More body segments are engaged in an extended kinetic chain when the requirement is to generate high racquet head acceleration at the point of impact such as with the serve and groundstrokes. A reduced number of body segments operate more as a unit where more precision (and less racquet head acceleration) is required for strokes such as the volley. All tennis strokes and movement patterns follow a strength curve with descent (eccentric), amortization and ascent (concentric) phases of energy distribution. Tennis force production includes a stretch-shortening cycle of eccentric and concentric contractions, loading and unloading of weight distribution, horizontal and vertical linear momentum, and angular momentum.
  7. Footwork requires an explosive first step and an efficient, quick, and agile step pattern to the ball to facilitate the shot and in recovery after execution of the shot. It requires dynamic balance with a quiet upper body, head positioned within the shoulder triangle and centered over the hips, controlled center of gravity and a wide and low base of support.
  8. Multidirectional movement in tennis requires concentric strength (particularly in the propulsion or push-off phase), eccentric strength (most exemplified in deceleration) and stabilization strength (strength to stabilize the musculature of the trunk and lower extremities). Efficient movement in tennis requires hitting from open and closed positions and technical mastery of many different footwork patterns and steps including split, adjustment, shuffle, crossover, skip, gravity, drop, scissors kick, carioca, and backpedal steps.
  9. Tennis operates in multiple anatomical planes. In the sagittal plan, actions include flexion, extension and foot dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. Actions in the frontal plane include abduction, adduction, scapula elevation and depression and foot inversion and eversion. In the transverse plane, actions include rotation, hand pronation and supination and horizontal flexion and extension. Other multiplane actions include hand ulnar and radial deviation, thumb opposition and reposition and circumduction. Tennis requires execution of all five movement patterns – bending and lifting (e.g., squatting), single-leg movements (e.g., single-leg stance and lunging), pushing movements, pulling movement and rotational (spiral) movements.
  10. Muscles engaged in the first link of the kinetic chain include the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles -of the lower legs. Power and energy are next transmitted utilizing the hamstring and quadricep muscle groups of the upper legs and then transferred to the core muscles via the glute and other hip extensor and flexor muscles through hip flexion, extension, and rotation. The abdominals, obliques, latissimus dorsi and erector spinae are the main core or trunk muscles engaged in the next link of the kinetic chain. The abdominal muscles consist of the rectus abdominis transverse abdominis muscles. The kinetic chain then extends to the upper body.  The upper-body kinetic links include the major muscles of the chest, shoulders, upper back, and arms.  The main chest muscles are the pectorals. The shoulder muscles include the deltoids and rotator cuff muscles, and a group of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis) supporting the shoulder joint.  The main upper back muscles are the rhomboid and trapezius muscles.  The major muscles are the biceps and triceps in the upper arm and the flexor and extensor muscles in the lower arm or forearm. The fascial system (fibrous myofascial web) and other connective tissues (such as tendons and ligaments) also play an important role in the kinetic chain with proprioception (ability to sense and respond to stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium) and the distribution and transfer of elastic energy.

Why Do We Do The Things We Do?

Why do we do the things we do. Or why do all of us at times do things detrimental to our performance on the court? Why do we sometimes lack patience, try to do too much, lose focus, think negative thoughts, dwell on past mistakes, and lose our composure?

  1. Why do we get impatient during extended rallies and go for too much too soon (such as an impossible angle to end the point) rather than patiently wait for the right opportunity to attack with a higher percentage groundstroke or volley? Why are we not willing to stay in the point and hit as many balls as necessary to win the point? Why do we do the things we do?
  2. Why do we continue to go for big serves despite getting very few in play instead of taking a little bit off the serve to get a higher percentage of first serves in play? Is it the exhilaration of that one big serve (when it does go in), stubbornness or just a lack of thought process? (Ouch, that hurts.) Why do we do the things we do?
  3. Why do we discontinue moving at the net after botching a poach volley? Why do we often dwell on mistakes? Why do we hold back when we know it is important to be aggressive and to take every ball we can when at the net in doubles? Why do we do the things we do?
  4. Why do we have difficulty acknowledging the strengths of our opponents particularly for opponents who have a different playing style from our own? Why do we fail to recognize how these strengths pose match-up challenges to our ability to do the things we want to do with the ball? Why do we not instead note and appreciate what gave us problems and then look for ways to improve our game to better respond the next time we compete against the same opponent or an opponent with a similar playing style? Why do we do the things we do?
  5. Why do we try to try to outhit a big hitter even though we know it is not sustainable (and most likely will lead to a mistake) instead of taking pace off the ball and raising the height of net clearance and trajectory with spin? Conversely why do we become tentative, passive, and flat-footed when playing a steady, consistent player who hits with little to no pace rather than actively working the feet, hitting with racquet head acceleration, and taking advantage of opportunities to attack when presented with a short ball, open court and/or a court positioning advantage? Why do we play to the tempo, and pace of our opponent rather than to our strengths and playing style? Why do we do the things we do?
  6. Why do we press and try to do too much with the ball when opponents approach the net (often hitting our passing shots into the net or wide)? Why do we not instead “work the point” by first keeping the ball low to set up a better look or opening for a passing shot, hit a lob or at the very least put the ball in play to make our opponents have to beat us with the volley? Why do we do the things we do?
  7. Why do we focus our thoughts on not double faulting prior to hitting the second serve knowing fully well that dwelling on making a mistake or the consequence of making a mistake is negative and often leads to a negative outcome (and very often in this case, a double fault)? Why do we fall trap to the Law of Attraction which states that if your conscious mind is full of negative thoughts, you will end up attracting more negative thoughts and eventually start attracting a highly negative reality? Why do we not instead focus on process and purpose rather than outcome and result? Why do we do the things we do?
  8. Why do we have difficulty closing out a match when ahead and nearing the “finish line”. Why do we when faced with the anticipation of a win (particularly against a respected, formidable opponent) often divert our attention and focus away from the process and task orientation that enabled us to get the lead and instead redirect our focus to the outcome and what would happen should we win. Why do we not stay in the present and approach one point at a time? Why do we do the things we do?
  9. Why do we get upset and lose our temper when we make a costly mistake? Is it based on a fear of losing, a lack of confidence, general insecurity or possibly a concern for how others may judge our ability and talent based on the outcome of the match? Does this anger serve as an internal excuse for a poor performance? Would it not be better to harness adrenaline and the emotional response to conflict for inspiration, motivation, and determination? Would it not be better to view competition as a challenge where the goal is to achieve success rather than as a threat where the goal is to avoid failure? Why do we focus on the outcome (which can lead to frustration and anger when things do not go our way) rather than the process (how we hit the ball and the purpose of each shot)? Why do we do the things we do?
  10. Why do we experience lapses in our attention and focus? Why do we get distracted by outside interference, feel rushed and unsettled with the pace of play (between and during points), preoccupy our thoughts with previous points, missed opportunities and potential future calamities lying in wait or simply let our mind wander to other things affecting our lives rather than focusing our attention on one point at a time and the immediate task at hand? And why do we ignore our training and not utilize tools available to us to control our emotions and keep us on track such as a set ritual prior to the start of each point to reinforce our sense of purpose, establish a plan of attack, get emotionally charged and invigorated and control the tempo and pace of play? Why do we do the things we do?

Every tennis player has experienced setbacks, made mistakes, and has had difficulty coping. The question is how to best respond when things are not going as well as planned.

So, what to do?

Recognize attitude is a choice. You always have a choice on how to respond to conflict. We all have a choice to be happy, sad, positive, or negative, composed or agitated, resilient or resigned, etc.

Put things in perspective. Whatever happens on the court, no matter how disappointing, is rarely a life threatening or life altering occurrence. You can care, even passionately care but at the same time you do not want to care too much.

Acknowledge what is fun about tennis and tennis competition, the variety of things you can do with the ball, the dynamic nature of the game, the rhythm and tempo of exchanges, the tactics in constructing a point and more. Tennis is fun, engaging and yes at times frustrating because the outcome is always in doubt. What fun would tennis be if it was easy, and the outcome was never in question?

Focus on the things you have control over and not the things for which you have no control. Stay actively engaged in the present and focus on the process and not on the potential outcome or the consequence of a potential outcome.

Approach all conflicts and difficulties as challenges and opportunities for growth and development.

Utilize measures to stay on task such as an established ritual prior to the start of each point and positive self-talk.

“When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” Dr. Seuss