I have always thought my math skills were pretty good. My grades in every math related class I ever took were A's; except for geometry (C). Ironically, one of the best things I do on the tennis court is to use angles to win the point…weird.
Tennis is really all about math. If you can make a high percentage of first serves, make a high percentage of return of serves, hit three or four shots in a row more often than your opponent, and keep your unforced errors to a minimum, you will almost always win the match. I really never understood these things when I was a young tennis player. I always felt that I should be trying to win the point, basically on almost every shot that I hit. I never walked up to the line reminding myself of the advantages of getting the first serve in, returning the serve deep and down the middle, and hitting two or three shots in a row on most of the points I played. Quite a big mistake, and my results as a junior tennis player reflected that.
As I got older and started competing against players who were better than me, I began to realize more about the math involved in winning a tennis match. I lost numerous matches when I hit way more great shots than my opponent, and won many matches when I really did not feel like I was hitting the ball very well. My math started to become a battle of hitting more good volleys than passing shots from my opponent. I won this match up more often than not but I would have been a lot better off focusing on the things I stated above. Serving a high percentage of first serves, returning serve consistently, and making a two or three good shots after the serve and return of serve, will have the most impact on the result of the match.
Remember to use the math to help give yourself the best chance to win your matches, even against very high level players.
Steve Annacone, USPTA Elite Pro, is the Director of Annacone Tennis, www.annaconetennis.com and MyHamptonsPro, www.myhamptonspro.com throughout the Hamptons, NY. In addition, Steve and Miguel Coelho have introduced the JET (Junior Elite Tennis) program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (Tucson, AZ) for high level players ages 8-18. Please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org