Want To Be A Better Tennis Player?

December 04, 2002
By ODU Athletics

Dec. 4, 2002


by Darryl Cummings

If a person wants to be good in tennis, there is a formula to follow. Being good is being the best one can be given their age, athletic ability, mechanics, and resources. Once a person becomes good they never really lose that level. It is similar to riding a bicycle, once one gets it, one never really forgets it. To be good, a player needs to play the game. I know it sounds easy, however, it has been forgotten especially in the United States at this given time. Here is my formula:

60-80 tournament singles matches 20 tournaments averaging 3-4 singles matches
80-100 practice singles matches 50% at level, 25% above, and 25% playing down
45-60 tournament doubles matches 15 tournaments averaging 3-4 doubles matches
30-40 doubles practice matches 50% at level, 25% above, and 25% playing down
140-180 total singles matches
75-100 total doubles matches

A player will need to play this type of schedule until they find out how good they can become.

When playing in practice remember that a match is 2-out-of-3 sets. When playing only a set one does not get the changing of tactics and increase or decreasing of intensity that occurs between sets. If a player is a junior tennis player, playing with adults is a very important part of the process. Many adults have already been there and done that. The junior player will gain from the adults experience while playing.

When playing tournaments, a player will need to incorporate the same guideline as practicing 50% at level, 25% above, and 25% playing down. A player will also need to win some tournaments. No matter how bad a player thinks they are there is a tournament somewhere they can win. Oh by the way, no matter how good a player thinks they are there are tournaments where you will get kicked. If not, then they are one of the top players in the world and they do not need to be reading this.

A player will need to exhaust their areas tennis resources and if they become the "top dog" in their area they will need to play regional, national, and international competition. The player will need to be a part of someone's 25% of playing up. When they are playing the up and coming players is when they will learn a great deal about themselves as a tennis player.

It is a good idea to play on as many different surfaces as possible for development. Being a player is being able to adjust to a variety of conditions. Bill Tilden, a great American champion said " Every time I find myself playing tennis under new conditions, I wish I knew more about the game itself. We group many games under the term "tennis." They are played under the same rules and in the same spirit but they are not the same game."

If the person is a junior tennis player developing they will need to be able to arrange their own practices and matches. This kind of independence needed is the same kind of independence needed in becoming a good player. I know! What about lessons & drills? Well, if the person wants to be a player, then lessons & drills are needed as a result of an evaluation of playing the game. If the players are missing a shot due to mechanics, then they will probably need the help of a professional if they cannot figure it out themselves. Players will need to do some drilling. Drills that require two players to control the ball among themselves with movement and consistency are very helpful for development. Hopefully, players will realize what they need more or less of as a result of playing the game. If players want to be good at playing they have to play. If they want to be a good lesson takers then they should take lessons.

I never really liked the word lesson/s. When I think of lessons I think of dependency. I prefer the word coaching. I believe effective coaching should lead the student to become more independent of the coach. Good coaching is not needing a coach all the time. As a player goes through their career they should need coaching less and less, or they may need a little consulting. I know what about the pro''s ? The professional coaches are more like mangers arranging schedules, travel arrangements, practice partners, and organizing practices, and providing emotional support. To be the best they can be will require the player to follow this progressional guideline.

"He or she who wants milk should not sit on a stool in the middle of the pasture expecting the cow to back up to him or her"

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