Teaching yourself tennis requires you to use your native language to be able to understand what the proper technique is for tennis. I'm not talking about English, Spanish or any other language you may be referring to. I'm talking about imagery. Think about it. How does a child learn to walk? Do they listen to the verbal instructions from their parents or do they attempt to walk by imitating what they see. This is perhaps why instruction in tennis can be inefficient if only done verbally. Just as the author of Inner Game of Tennis, Tim Gallwey says, looking at the correct technique through someone else before trying it out can do wonders for your improvement. Here are the essentials on how to do just that.
Step 1: Watch The Player Not The Ball
If you are watching a good player live, keep your eyes on the player not the ball. This can help give you visual clues of what they are doing. Not only should you be keeping a close eye on their technique, also try to ask yourself why they are doing certain aspects of the swing. The more you understand why, the easier it will be to gain that technique for your own swing. If you are watching on TV or your computer, consider having a racquet in your hand to imitate the shots you are seeing. Try to allow it to become a natural feeling. Don't fight the awkwardness of the new swing but rather let it morph into a fluid and natural swing by avoiding tension in your grip.
Step 2: Have an Eye For Photography
This is the best tip I can give as this helped me improve my strokes considerably. In high school, I often copied my favorite players' swings which was a lot of fun but also helped me improve quickly. To do this effectively, I would pretend there is a photographer taking a picture of me before and after my swing. The reason I focused on the before and after but not the actual swing is because it was something I could control. The actual hitting of the ball requires timing and considerable practice. Just like we "dress for success," having the correct loading position and follow through can put you in a good position to start hitting the ball correctly.
Will I have a backhand like Djokovic? Nope. But emulating his makes mine better!
Step 3: Video Yourself
What you think you're doing and what you actually are doing can be two different things. Make sure you watch videos of yourself so you can be aware of some faults in your swing that you might have not been aware of. Body awareness is hard to have right away in terms of knowing where different parts of your body is during the swing. Analyzing your swing will be a great eye opener for new things to work on.
Step 4: Repeat
An adult's brain is built to perform while a child's brain is built to learn. Make sure you stay patient in your development of the strokes you are trying to do. The more time you give yourself to learn the new shots, the better chance you will have at acquiring them. If you are still struggling, just go back to step 1 and go through the processes again. Just like a student who aces a class the second time they take it, you might need another refresher of the elements you are trying to incorporate into your game.
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