If you're a fan of tennis you are most likely a fan of watching the sport on TV or if you're lucky enough, live. Either way, the entertainment value of watching the greatest tennis players in the world battle it out is well worth the time and money to do so. The problem lies with what we get out of the matches we watch. Meaning, the lessons that we think we are getting from watching the pros leave us with some bad habits that prevent us from getting better. Let's take a look at the top 3 "lessons" that negatively impact your play.
#1: Conservative Play Is More Than You Think
Pros finish points with a winner on average of about 1/3 of the time. This is an astounding number that is not realistic for recreational or even college level players. We often think that hitting winners is the best way to winning a point. This leads to a style of play that is both reckless and full of self inflicting errors. Instead, consider a forced error to be what you should strive for. This means your opponent missed their shot because you hit a ball that was difficult for them to hit. This can be done by hitting the ball with pace or in a spot that makes them have to hit on the run. Either way, you are adding pressure to your opponent without adding pressure to yourself by trying to hit the lines for winners.
Form Is Flawed
Watching a professional tennis player live without slow motion analysis leaves us thinking that their groundstrokes are very choppy and quick. This leads to form that makes contact well behind us due to having bent arms while swinging at the ball. In actuality, players strive for making contact in front of them (see below).
We cannot see this because of how fast they swing. Slow your swing down, start early and continually work on hitting the ball more out in front of you for better power and less stress on your arm.
Expectations Are Rarely Met
When watching a professional match, it is most likely going to be a full of great shots with very few errors. This leads us to have these same expectations when walking onto the court before our match. When expectations exceed capability, frustrations arise. Instead, have a more realistic approach to your match, understanding that the majority of the points will end with an error on your end or your opponents. This gives you a better understanding of what shots to go for and what shots to lay off of. After all, we are trying to enjoy ourselves while playing (at least I hope so!).
Take Home Message
I often ask the players I coach (and even myself), "do you have the right to be angry with your performance?" Meaning did you prepare enough to have expectations that you did not meet in your match? Most often the answer is no. We are not pros and cannot designate daily practice like they can so it's important to understand our circumstances. This will hopefully allow you to enjoy your matches more.
Want to learn about choking in tennis and how to avoid it? Try this video!