Learning from Mistakes
The Test of a Good Player
Ask yourself the following questions to measure your progress toward becoming a great tennis player.
- Covering the Court
- Hit the ball
- Control my shots
- Setting up the points
- Control my nerves
- Learn from my mistakes
- Intimidate my opponents
- Pressure my opponent
- Enjoy the battle
- Handle the outcome
There are many mistakes we make when playing tennis. Some are pretty obvious. Did you fail to notice:
- Your opponent was left handed?
- He could run side to side but not forward?
- He ran around all his backhands?
- He had no overhead?
- He had a weak second serve.
- He popped up the service return.
- He panicked every time you came to net.
- His slice backhand sailed enough for you to have an easy volley.
A good example of gathering feedback and learning is reading the serve.
Reading the Serve
One goal of serving is to mix up the direction. If you know where the serve is going, it should be easier to return. Ideally, one should be able to serve wide, down the center or right at the receiver with the same toss. In reality, few players can do this. Generally, most servers toss the ball to their side to slice it, over their head to hit it flat and behind their head to hit a topspin or kick serve. If you watch the server’s toss you may be able to read where he or she is trying to hit it. In addition, you will see the ball sooner if you watch the toss.
To learn from your mistakes, you must recognize the mistake, figure out what to do about it and then practice the remedy so when it happens again you can win the point. If you don’t recognize your mistake or figure out the remedy, ask your teaching pro or an experienced player.
The Roddick Serve
What makes Andy Roddick’s serve so great? Clearly the power and consistency. 150 mph on the first serve and 110 mph on the second serve with a huge kick. What was he doing different from everyone else? His shoulder turn was different. The standard technique is to pull the shoulder back as you toss the ball. Andy tossed the ball and then pulled the shoulder muscle back and forth in one motion. It is the same motion a baseball player
His knee bend was different. The standard is to bend the knees with the toss and then jump up and hit the ball. Andy jumped like a basketball player jumps for a rebound. After the toss, bends his knees and jumps up in one motion. Add a live arm, a longer followthrough and a big body and you have a huge serve.
The Modern Serve
Andy Roddick brought a couple of new sources of power to the serve. For one, his jump was different. He jumped like a rebounder in basketball. That is, he bent his knees down and up in one motion. Prior to this, servers bent down with the toss, paused,
For another, Roddick puled his arm back and forth in one motion. Prior to this, the server would turn his shoulders with the toss, pause, and then reach up and hit the ball.
To see a combination of the Sampras and Roddick innovations, check out Madison Keys and Camila Giorgi’s serves.
If you make all of your first serves, you will never double fault. If you only have one serve and it goes in 80% of the time, you need not worry about those few double faults. Good servers like to hit flat first serves in the corners or right at the receiver and hit topspin second serves to the receiver’s backhand. Double faults occur for various reasons. If your opponent is successfully attacking your second serve, you may be hitting it with less spin, making it faster but riskier. You may just be getting nervous. Tense muscles do not function the same as relaxed muscles, thereby sending the ball in unintended directions. A change in technique often places doubt in a server’s mind and may cause frustration and choking. The second serve should be practiced regularly so it goes in the court every time.