When I write my first tennis book, the title is going to be "Nothing Hits the Net."
Why? It's simple. The game of tennis is a lifting game, and if you don't ever hit the net your percentages go way up in winning points, games, sets and matches. Over and beyond that the bottom line is having a well-rounded game of strokes where you see how good you are at hitting target areas under stress.
Every level of tennis gets to see how they conquer the challenge and aspect of consistency, placement, power and touch - under pressure and with various types of opponents.
We all have the same obstacles: a 3-foot high net, the length and width of the court, and the physical laws within those bounds and restraints.
The questions we all ask are pretty much the same. We have similar hang-ups, misconceptions and the same hurdles to tackle.
And, normally our motivation is to beat someone, show how good we can become, or prove a point to ourselves that we can do this better than many others who might currently be kicking us around the court with a smug demeanor.
Our goals can be as simple as playing recreationally or at a tournament level.
The statement of, "Look good, feel good, play good," or "Image is everything," really does fall short. Both quotes are advertising thoughts that sound good. But tell that to the Parks and Recreation player who rips you a new one in cut-off blue jeans, a T-shirt and a racquet bought at a swap meet.
Back to this important part of the game called "stress."
Stress can do some funny things to tennis players.
Who hasn't doubled-faulted by just having the thought enter your head? Or, after you draw your opponent off the court (during a point) you still find a way to hit the ball out instead of the winner that seemed evident. It's mentally disastrous. Both are most likely stress related.
Many very good athletes who compete in different sports have looked at tennis thinking how easy it must be, only to get taught a lesson by a 10- or 11-year-old who schools them in a match. They learn the hard way. And it can be quite humbling having a young kid say, "You just need a little more coaching mister."
Becoming a good player comes down to the correct practice of special skills while learning to keep from freezing up during match play.
Your match performance, while staying relaxed, poised, and gaining confidence in your game, is a physical and mental talent that takes time to develop. Becoming a seasoned student of the game is not an overnight situation so don't have unrealistic expectations.
And if you're an uptight player, life on the court will be tough to deal with because unforced errors will be a very likely event.
A little laughter goes a long way to lightening up the pressure that is almost always self-imposed.
Learning to become an independent thinker is a part of tennis that good players catch on to fairly fast. You don't have to be a an Einstein to correct mistakes that take place. The answers to playing a good game of tennis are quite simple so don't spend a lot of time looking outside the gate for help. Self evaluate on and off the court.
Reinventing the wheel isn't necessary, nor is spending lots of time on special tricks and gimmicks. Tennis is a very "nuts and bolts" straightforward contest.
It's a lifting game. There's a net in the way if you didn't notice. Top spin is important to learn because of the characteristics it offers. You need to practice in a way to "own" your shots. Don't get too caught up in your wins and losses while developing your strokes.
Work hard and play hard at this silly game, but remember to maintain a great sense of humor. If it reaches that point where it's more agonizing than fun, it's time to smile a little more and backtrack a bit.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org