Wilson Tip of the Month:
Every time I watch the Olympics on television I am reminded of how forgiving the sport of tennis is with regard to mistakes. In some Olympic sports athletes work for four years only to have ONE slip (figure skating or gymnastics) completely ruin their chance for a medal. In tennis, you could begin a game by hitting three straight double-faults and you have not even lost a game yet!
Yet, for many tennis players, mistakes drive them crazy i.e. "My grandmother could have made that volley." Particularly those shots which have been practiced thousands of times. The fact is, tennis is a game of errors and mistake management more than it is about winners. Think about it, in one of your typical matches what percent of the shots are winners versus mistakes(Either by you or your opponent)? There will always be far more errors made in any given match. Forced or unforced, they are still mistakes.
Therefore, the ability to manage mistakes effectively begins with two basic premises:
1. There are going to be mistakes in any match you play.
2. While no mistake is desirable, by understanding them you can minimize the damage.
SIMPLIFY THE MISTAKE PROCESS
One primary reason mistakes can overwhelm and consume tennis players is because they make it more complicated than necessary, i.e. "Every time I serve I make four or five major mistakes" type of thought process.
Remember, when you hit the ball there are ONLY four mistakes you can make in tennis!
Into the net
That is it! Of those four mistakes, somewhere between 80% - 90% either go into the net or long at all levels of play! The wide mistake percentage may go up a little more in doubles due to the fact of people trying to angle their shots but not enough to dramatically change the percentages.
Of those four mistakes, the one into the net is the worst because you do not give the opponent a chance to make a play on the ball. The point is over. How many times have you been at the net and hit a volley which, if you had let the ball go would have been long? Ever played a serve which was "just out"? The fact is, as long as the ball is going over the net there is a CHANCE the opponent will try to make a play.
So yes, the basic strategy of "just get the ball over the net" can have a major impact on the whole issue of mistakes.
WHAT ARE NOT MISTAKES?
It is all those other comments or beliefs tennis players have which do not involve the actual point of contact between the ball and the strings. Some examples are:
"I just know my forehand groundstroke swing has so many mistakes in it."
"I should have stayed back instead of trying to come in on that last point."
"If I had been in a better position I would not have hit that volley into the net."
Those and others like them are not mistakes! They fall under categories like "Stroke mechanics" or "Strategy decisions" or "Court positioning tactics." Mistakes are the END RESULT of a shot and so remember - there are only four of them!
HOW TO CORRECT MISTAKES
Once again, simplifying the process will help. Here is an easy way to understand why mistakes happen and what is needed to correct them.
The ball is going to go wherever the strings are pointed at contact. For example, if the strings are pointed too much towards the ground the ball will go into the net; too open the ball may go long.
To correct the balls into the net or long (80%-90% of the mistakes) change the angle of the racquet face at contact. To correct the balls which go wide, then contact the ball a little later / earlier.
Understanding what is happening at the point of contact between the strings and ball will do more to correct your mistakes than focusing on your swing, decision-making or court positioning.
Dave Kensler has 25 years of teaching experience with Peter Burwash International (PBI), the most successful international tennis management company. PBI directs tennis programs at 60+ exclusive resorts, hotels and clubs in 23 countries and has taught over 3 million students in their 30-year history. For information on PBI tennis destinations and employment opportunities please go to http://www.pbitennis.com. All PBI Tennis Professionals play with Wilson rackets, use Wilson bags and wear Wilson shoes. 2006 marked the 20th Anniversary of PBI Tennis Professionals using Wilson products.