The 3 keys to improve your tennis game, by Philippe Dehaes

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Tennis is a very difficult game that requires many qualities: physical and technical, but also to have a good tactical sense and of course of great mental qualities.
Here is a series of exercises that will allow you to work each compartment of the game specifically.

1. TACTICS – KNOWING YOURSELF

In order to win a large amount of games, it will be important to first define the type of player you want to be. Your tennis profile will be directly related to your character. Rather a defender if you are calm, calculator, reserved or an attacker if you like risks, if you are creative, enthusiastic, aggressive or instinctive.

Your physical fitness will also have to be taken into account when analyzing your profile. If you are a true defender and you love to make the exchange last, run your opponent and wait for him to make mistakes, it may be complicated if you are significantly overweight. Do not forget that a match is played in 2 winning sets ...

Orient your game according to what you like to do and especially what you do! Nothing is more important than highlighting your intrinsic qualities. Do not try things that you do not control even if it seems to be the right tactic to put in place to beat the opponent of the day. Reproduce as often as possible the game patterns that seem easy and that give you confidence.
Let’s take an example: you have an unsure volley? Work your attacks so that you have the simplest volley to play if you go to the net.

Some good exercises to improve your tactics:

Players play a set in which they change sides after each game. They must take advantage of these breaks to see what they will try to do in the next game.

The player tells his training partner the best shot or most effective game pattern. After each point played, the score is doubled if he managed to use this move or tactical scheme to win the exchange.

Players play crosscourt, forehand against forehand. If one of the players decides to change the direction and play along the line, in the opponent's backhand, he must then play a volley after this change of direction.

This exercise offers several advantages:

  • Detect the right ball to attack (if I attack from too far, I may get passed)
  • Change of rhythm (I have to hit my attack harder)
  • Patience, learn to accept the long exchanges (capital on clay)

 

2. TECHNIQUE, LISTENING TO YOUR BODY

I would need many pages to detail the specifics of each shot. So I propose a different approach to work on your technique in training.

Relaxation is an essential factor in finding a good rhythm. You will work on your general posture and try to find the most natural position possible between each hit. This position of attention must allow you to react quickly, to analyze the situation during the exchange and to recover between each stoke.

  • My face: am I able to play without crunching my face with the keystroke? Hit balls while keeping the muscles relaxed.
  • My shoulders: start each preparation with a shoulder orientation (not an arm pull back).
  • My arms: are they relaxed or tense? The racquet head is above the hands and elbows slightly bent in front of you. I am quiet, I observe, I am ready to react.
  • My hands: For a right-handed man, my right hand is not tense on the handle. It is the left hand that almost completely supports the racket between each stroke.
  • My footwork: hitting balls while forcing you not to "move behind" the ball. Feel the balance. A good footwork must allow to play each ball in the best possible conditions. Seek a stable position behind the ball.
  • Breathing: the key ... it could be the subject of a complete chapter! It is the miracle cure to manage my relaxation and manage my emotions. Hit balls while exhaling as you touch the ball, and you’ll see very quick improvements!

 

Tennis Players

 

3. MENTAL – TRUSTING YOURSELF

The objective is of course to refuse defeat at all costs, never to give up a point, never to be discouraged, never to give up. But there are also other elements that come into play to define a good mind:

  • Management of the event (I play an interclub final, I play the club tournament which is the most important of the year, I play against a player I have never beaten or a player against whom I cannot lose)
  • The management of my emotions during the match (Am I calm and serene? How to react if I start the match badly, what should I do in important moments etc ...)

Exercises to improve your "mental game"

  • Play a match in the best of five sets and each set, one starts with a 4/1 lead (Learn to play under pressure)
  • Play a set in which you each have the opportunity to take a total of four free points at the times you feel appropriate (Mastering your emotions)
  • Start a set at 4/4 to learn how to negotiate the set ends (play well in important moments)

To improve your game, it is essential that you concentrate during your training on the specific part you want to improve. For example, if during the warm-up you apply to work your technique, do not be upset if you miss balls. If you want to work tactical diagrams by playing points, do not make a fixation on your technique. Trust yourself and dare to try things.

For an hour of tennis, I suggest you divide your training into three. The first twenty minutes are dedicated to the warm-up and the technical part. The second part: you set up tactical exercises with or without serve. And finally finish with some free points to work on your game.


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Philippe Dehaes tennis coach Daria Kasatkina

Philippe Dehaes

After having coached many Belgian players like Xavier Malisse, Kristophe Vliegen and Christophe Rochus, as well as the Davis Cup national team from 2006 to 2008, Philippe Dehaes is now coach of Daria Kasatkina, the rising star of women's tennis.