Things to Look For in Evaluating Ability, Skill and Talent

Here are the 10 plus things I look for in evaluating playing ability and potential for development.

  1. Directional intent and control – Ability to hit specific crosscourt, down-the-line, angled and deep targets and target areas.
  2. Consistency and shot tolerance –Ability to sustain a rally (as long as necessary to win a point) and repeat shots, patterns and set sequences.
  3. Depth and control of depth –  Ability to control and vary depth of shots from different positions on the court and in response to shots hit with varying depth, spin, pace, etc.
  4. Trajectory, net clearance and bounce – Ability to control and vary net clearance and trajectory and ability to influence the bounce (by managing net clearance, trajectory and spin). Also, ability to control the bounce and point of contact in relation to the body (spacing) and court position in response to balls hit with varying spin, trajectory, depth and direction.
  5. Court presence –Racquet and footwork preparation and court positioning prior to the shot and in recovery after the shot.  Ability to anticipate and read shots and ability to make adjustments to maintain rally tempo, rhythm and flow.
  6. Use of spin – Ability to respond and manage a rally with spin (how you use spin to respond to low balls, high balls and balls hit with more and less spin, pace, etc.). Ability to change and match or mirror spin.
  7. Pace – Ability to both generate pace and take pace off the ball as necessary to maintain consistency and accomplish identified goals.
  8. Footwork and court coverage – Ability to cover the court (left, right, up and back) and ability to move with agility, balance and core stability both to the ball and in recovery after the shot. Also, ability to slide on clay composition courts, hit from an open stance, load and drive off anchor leg, etc.
  9. Technique – Ability to extend, maintain and control the racquet head through the hitting zone. Swing patterns and ability to generate racquet head speed. Kinetic incorporation and synchronization of the major body components and muscle groups. Stroke deficiencies that could hinder execution and performance.
  10. Serve and serve return –First-strike capabilities (the ability to dictate playa and finish the point with the serve and serve return). Ability to hit targets, vary spin and vary pace. Ritual in preparation to serve and receive and positioning adjustments prior to receiving the serve. Recovery after the serve and serve return and ability to execute specific “set” patterns with both the serve and serve return.
  11. Physical Condition – Complex coordination and movement, dynamic balance, linear/multi-directional speed, strength, endurance or stamina, flexibility, core and shoulder stability and explosive and reactive power. Ability to generate force production through the stretch-shortening cycle of eccentric and concentric contractions, loading and unloading of weight distribution, horizontal and vertical linear momentum, and angular momentum. Ability to stabilize the musculature of the trunk and lower extremities.
  12. Mental fortitude – Mental toughness (when ahead and when behind), concentration, focus, self-discipline, body language, routines, stress control, spirit and other attributes affecting mental and emotional control on the tennis court.
  13. Intangibles – Athletic ability, enthusiasm, energy, spirit, receptivity to learning, problem-solving skills and other factors influencing performance and performance potential.

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