Knowing how to improve a skill is often difficult and confusing, particularly in tennis. There is a wealth of information from coaches, in books or online about how player’s should optimise their performance, which can be confusing. Player’s are often given conflicting tips about how to get better, and sometimes find themselves at a standstill. Personally, I believe that improving in tennis is simple and requires three keys: good information, persistence and hard work. These are as follows:
Firstly, it’s important to analyse what area of your game needs the most improvement. This can be tactical, physical, mental or technical. Coaches are often essential for both this analysis and for providing information, but it’s a good idea to do your own research. By concentrating on the area you want to improve, it’s easier to prevent confusion. Watching professional tennis can also be helpful, as it provides evidence for statements that coaches or advisors may make. Try to find information that is simple, can be found in multiple sources and offers precise, step-by-step processes.
It’s impossible to improve consistently in tennis without working hard. This said, training must be done intelligently and with focus. Practicing the wrong things will never allow you to improve, regardless of how hard you work! Challenging yourself in the right areas and with the correct drills is therefore essential. Make sure your practice is deliberate, with a precise focus.
Training should challenge you enough that you have to work hard and can improve, but not too hard that you are discouraged or “burn out”. Learning generally occurs in the area between your comfort and discomfort zone.
Finally, remember that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to improving in tennis. Training in which you feel challenged and are working with a high intensity is far more beneficial than training that is low intensity and within your comfort zone. Try working within each area of tennis (technical, tactical, mental and physical) and challenging yourself in each.
As the final key for improvement in tennis, persistence is essential for continual and consistent improvement. This can particularly be seen with changes in technique- you may often find yourself feeling discouraged, uncoordinated or lacking in power or speed. Sometimes, technique or match play has to get worse before it can get better. Remember that this is normal, and an unavoidable part of tennis. Setting measurable and achievable goals can assist you with keeping motivated, as can rewarding yourself for success. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to master something straight away!
By combining these elements, you should start to see big improvements in your game. Remember to stay focused, mix up your training, practice deliberately and work hard. Most importantly, enjoy what you’re doing!