During my years of coaching, I have noticed a lack of knowledge with American tennis players at all levels as to how well they understand the game and how well they understand their own game. These players have been working on their technique for years and have been handfed balls as their training. Some of these players may look good, yet they struggle to compete, and have great difficulty in constructing points properly, which, in turn, can drastically hurt their tennis careers.
There are tennis players we have seen play that we think are good because they look good when they strike a ball, but when they play in a match or tournament, they end up being inferior players. Part of the development of becoming the best tennis player you can be is by studying other players and how they construct points and why they hit certain shots at certain times. Studying tennis is an art, and anticipating where the ball is going to be hit takes experience and knowledge about the game.
One excellent way to study tennis is to sit down and watch professional matches on television. While watching, you should try to figure out the patterns of play and if the forehand or backhand side is trying to get broken down to receive errors.
Questions to ask while doing an analysis are:
►Where are the players serving most of the time?
►Where are they serving on the important points?
►How are the players moving?
►Are they moving defensively or aggressively?
►How high over the net are they playing?
►What kind of margin from the sidelines and baseline are they playing with so that they play high percentage tennis?
►What kind of attitude do these players have?
►When do they show signs of positive reinforcement and when are they a bit negative?
►How much time do they take between points to prepare for the next point?
When I was a junior tennis player, I would sit down with my coach and study matches so that I could learn how the world’s best play the sport and how they respond to all the different circumstances that are thrown at them in a match situation. For example, the most important shots in high-level tennis are the serve and return, so understanding when and where the opponent is most likely going to serve or return before the point starts is vital to success. Another example is that a technical deficiency is going to show up on the most important points of a game, and smart tennis players are going to try to exploit that during those stressful times, because that is when that stroke will most likely break down. Lastly, points are usually developed out of the backhand corner with backhands or forehands, because that is where the majority of players are most comfortable playing from. When the person goes to the forehand, they are usually trying to break down that side to get them out of the comfort zone of the backhand side.
The more you watch the tennis professionals play on television and study their matches, the more you will begin to understand the game and certain patterns of play. I hope that you will be able to apply what you have learned to your own game. Good luck studying!
Todd Widom is a former top 200 ATP professional in both singles and doubles, and owner of TW Tennis, South Florida’s top small group/private tennis training geared exclusively for the high-performance junior, collegiate or professional tennis player. Todd may be reached by e-mail at Todd@TWTennis.com or visit TWTennis.com.