Mastering the Mental and Technical Demands of the “Easy” Shots in Tennis
You force your opponent to hit a high, slow ball back. With the whole court open, you have time to react. But then, you hit the net. We’ve all been there, missing the high mid-court shots, high volleys, or comfortable overheads. In other words, missing the “easy” shots. However, these “easy” shots are not as easy as they seem. Players assume they should not miss them because the ball is slow and high and they have enough time to prepare. In reality, these shots require a different set of skills that need practice. Underestimating their difficulty and impact on the game is a common and expensive mistake.
Missing a clear opportunity to finish a point, game, or set can have significant consequences beyond just losing the point. These mistakes can change the course of a match if they happen at a crucial moment, as they often lead to a series of negative outcomes: losing the point, becoming rattled, and giving the opponent an advantage. This combination is a recipe for disaster. Additionally, if you fail to capitalize on an “easy” shot, it will make it more challenging to handle similar situations in the future.
Underestimating easy shots will be costly. You must be prepared. Solely practicing harder shots will not adequately prepare you for battle. High, slow shots have distinct technical demands that must be internalized, but the main challenge lies in dealing with their mental demands. These shots require full commitment and focus. Any hesitation or distraction will result in a mistake.
To prepare, dedicate practice time to internalize the fundamental aspects of these shots, particularly during the competitive season. Devoting 20 minutes per practice session to honing your ability to put away high, slow volleys or groundstrokes and overheads will significantly enhance your performance when confronted with supposedly “simple” shots in competition. Yet this alone will prove insufficient; mastery of four crucial concepts is also necessary:
1 – Decide early.
A common mistake is using the extra time to try to figure out what the opponent is going to do and waiting until you swing to decide where you will hit the ball. This will usually lead to costly mistakes.
2 – Slow down.
Getting anxious about the opportunity to put away the shot will lead to rushed shots that are difficult to control, so slow down a bit before you hit.
3 – Focus on the contact point.
Late decisions and anxiety always lead to distractions and missed contact points. Use the extra time to focus on the contact point.
4 – Hit the adequate shot.
Hitting too hard or too close to the lines will lead to mistakes. Do not worry about the opponent reaching the shot. Play the odds, do not go for a clean winner. Chose big targets and hit a speed you can control.
Having extra time is a double edge sword. Do not underestimate these shots. Most close matches are won or lost based on a player’s ability to consistently make 2nd severs, 2nd server returns, overheads, high volleys and high mid-court shots under pressure, in other words, the “easy” shots.”Edgar Giffenig