Killer coaching advice - play better matches!
TV analyst Barry Cowan shares his secrets to competing more effectively at all levels advice for beginners, intermediate and tournament players
If youre preparing for a tournament then do your research. Try to practise in the days leading up to the event on the surface the tournament is being played on and make sure you get used to playing in a variety of weather conditions particularly if you play a lot of tennis indoors. Play lots of points and tie-breaks to get you match tight and when youre playing sets try to make them as close to a tournament match situation as possible. Try to practise with players who have a variety of different playing styles. Eat the correct food (carbs and protein) and make sure youre fully hydrated. If you prepare badly youll be found out. Confidence and momentum is built on great preparation. Always have a clear idea of what youre trying to achieve at a tournament it could be specific (eg, technique) or outcome goals (eg, to win the event).
First, being nervous is a good sign it shows winning means something to you so use this as motivation. If you suffer from nerves when you compete particularly at the start of a match then try to focus on something simple that will help you relax. Footwork is often the first thing to suffer when a player is tight, so concentrate on getting your feet moving early on. A simple routine inbetween points will also help bouncing the ball a specific number of times before you serve, for example and lots of deep breaths will keep you calm too. If you have a friend or a coach watching courtside make lots of eye contact. And remember its supposed to be fun, so enjoy it.
Once you know who youve drawn, try to get an idea of how they play. Are they aggressive or defensive? Whats their biggest weapon? Do they have a weakness you can take advantage of? If you go on court with a simple gameplan youll be able to play with a clearer head and itll help you stay calm and focused during crucial stages of the match when you start to get tight. You should always know your own strengths and stick to them under pressure and also understand your own weaknesses and know how to protect them.
Clever match players do the simple things well. When rallying from the back of the court remember the percentage shot is cross-court (where the net is slightly lower and the court slightly longer). Only choose to go down the line if youre on or inside the baseline. When defending always try to somehow make your opponent hit one more shot. If you have a winning strategy then keep playing the same way.
If youre going through a bad patch dont waste emotional energy by beating yourself up over missed chances. And, equally, dont get ahead of yourself by assuming youve done the job even if you build up a big lead. A match isnt over until youre shaking hands. Take one point at a time and play every point at 100% intensity think Rafa! Remind yourself of what you need to do to win points and play to your strengths.
Whether its the rain, wind or sun thats making life difficult, accept that its impossible to play your best tennis in trying conditions so focus on your strengths and continue to move your feet. Winning is everything, dont worry about playing pretty tennis.
There arent many around these days but if youre playing an opponent who is coming forward a lot then try to force them to play as many volleys as possible. Rather than blasting your passing shots, try to get the ball down to their feet so theyre volleying from below the height of the net. And go for a