How to Prepare for Tournament Play

Here is an on-court game plan I follow to get my game tournament ready (particularly after I’ve taken some time off from competitive play). Hopefully this plan has application for your game as well.

  1. Hit for rhythm (baseline focus). Take the time to hit a lot of balls in repetition. Adjust your pace, spin, depth, net clearance, trajectory and direction to keep the ball in play and extend the rally.  Establish a good foundation of consistency and depth.
  2. Hit for rhythm (net play focus). Follow the same kind of focus with your volleys and overheads.
  3. Hit with intensity.  Maintain active and lively feet and go for every ball (particularly important in your early season hitting sessions).  Go for everything.  Do your best to run down every shot.
  4. Establish and hit for patterns (or shot combination sequences). Examples include cross court/down-the-line baseline patterns and closing approach and volley patterns.
  5. Hit a lot of serves. Get a cart of bucket of balls and hit serves.  Hit for targets.  Work and differentiate between It’s much easier to control and dictate play following a first serve versus a second serve. Getting your first serve consistently in play applies real and imagined pressure on your opponent.
  6. Play points with the goal of extending the rally. Work to hit more shots and make your opponent hit more shots. Learn how to successfully “grind out” a point. Establish a requirement for the point to only count after hitting x number of shots in succession. Another option is to not allow winners for the first two or more shots.
  7. Play points with the requirement of only one serve (not two) to start out each point. This requirement improves intensity and focus and helps to develop a reliable and dependable second serve.
  8. Play points with a penalty for unforced errors or any mistake hit into the net.
  9. Manipulate the score and scoring format to accomplish specific goals and to recreate playing pressure situations. Examples include starting each game up 30 – love or down love – 30, serving consecutive games until broken, allowing only one or x number of bounces per point, etc.
  10. Play meaningful matches with consequences in which the results are important to you (such as ladder or tournament matches).

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