Are you Truly Practicing or Just Spending Time on the Court?

Developing your game takes a great deal of practice.  Unfortunately, many players mistake practice with time on the court.  Here is what true practice looks like:

Have a clear goal for each session.

Ideally you want to pick two main objectives for your practice sessions.  Having too many things to focus on is counterproductive. Having nothing specific to work on will lead you to achieve the same thing – nothing.

Warm up before you start.

A short off-court warm up should not only get you ready physically but also mentally.  Take ten minutes to loosen up and stretch but more importantly use this time to start focusing on your goals for the session.

Once you step on the court put your game face on.

Practice starts from the first ball hit. Whether you start from the service line or the baseline, start with optimal intensity and focus.

Set a good base when warming up your strokes.

During the on-court warm-up focus on achieving optimal footwork, paying special attention to your split step, adjustment steps and recovery steps; work on hitting the ball at the ideal contact point and keeping the ball high over the net and deep on the court. Be consistent! Minimize mistakes, but pay special attention to, never missing in the net.

Practice with match intensity.

From the first ball hit, never let the ball bounce twice, run for every ball and work hard to execute to the best of your ability.

Work on your mental game.

Stay positive! If you do not have anything nice to say about your game – don’t say it. Do not make mistakes due to distractions and failing to track the ball into your racquet.

Chose precise targets.

When drilling, always aim at small targets and be very precise on the type of shot you are working on.  For example: Do not hit crosscourt.  Hit crosscourt topspin backhands, 3 feet over the net, landing pass the service line, at medium speed.

Always start the point with a serve when possible.

One easy way to make your practices more effective is to start the rally with a serve instead of underhand any time you can. This small adjustment will allow you to practice the two most important shots in tennis (serve and return) on a much more consistent basis. 

Hit as hard as you can without mistakes.

Racquet acceleration is key in today’s game and it should be present in every practice.  As a player, always search for the fine-line where you are swinging as fast as possible without making too many mistakes.  Adjust your shots accordingly.  If you are missing, hit with more spin.  If that does not work, slow the stroke down.  If you are not missing, swing faster.  TEST YOUR LIMITS THROUGHOUT PRACTICE!

Focus on swinging smoothly and relaxed.

An important goal for every player should be to develop more efficient strokes – maximum speed with minimum effort.  To achieve this, one has to learn to use only the muscles involved in the stroke and relax everything else.  Keep asking yourself:  Can I accomplish the same result with less effort?

 Evaluate

After your practice session evaluate your performance.  Think about what you did well and what you can do better on your next session.

So, what is it?  Are you practicing or just spending time on the court?