Tennis has become an incredibly difficult sport to master. There are so many different aspects of becoming a good player: hitting the ball, strategy, fitness, and learning how to compete are just some of them.
Most players take a lot of private lessons to get the fundamentals of their game to become habit. The majority of pros tend to feed balls to beginning players to help them get some timing and rhythm and to establish consistent footwork and swings. Here is the problem: when you are actually playing a game or even just hitting with another player, there are very few times when the ball will come to you the same way twice or three times in a row. The opponent in a point is actually trying to hit the ball so you cannot establish your timing and rhythm or do things consistently. Even pros who understand this are likely to hit a few balls in a row in a manner that makes it easier for the student to hit the shot the way we would like them to.
This is why it is so important for players to spend a lot of time in group situations. They need to learn how to hit the ball, move, and recover the same way, regardless of the type of shot that is hit to them. The more players they hit with (better than they are, at the same level, and not as good) and the more time they spend in this uncomfortable situation, the better they will be at dealing with what is likely to happen in a match. Private lessons should be used to work on one or two specific shots or ideas, with the group situation being the testing ground for how well the player has learned the shot or strategy.
The last piece of the puzzle is playing a match using what you have practiced in your private lessons and your group practice. Putting the right combination of these things together gives a player the best chance to improve, gain confidence, and eventually be successful on the court in an actual match situation.
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 email@example.com.