Tennis Tip Volume I: Visualization


Every now then, the Tennis Center will put up some tennis tips that could be able to help your mental and physical performance on the courts. Consider this the first installment.

Visualization

Mark McGwire leads the major leagues in home runs, and in blank stares. Visualization, he calls it. Before each at-bat McGwire will imagine the pitcher throwing the baseball. He will imagine how the pitch will move, maybe a fastball or a curveball, and he will imagine smashing the ball with his Paul Bunyan swing.

New York Times, 1998

  • It is more than just a buzz word spoken by motivational speakers across the globe. If done correctly, visualization can help you in pre-match prep as well as before or during any set, game, or point in a match (depending on how much you decide to employ this).
  • Envisioning yourself doing something on the court, while in deep focus for a sustained amount of time before you step foot on the court, helps you to stay calm and feel confident as well as assist the physical aspect of the sport by performing a bit of a reverse direction in the muscle memory phenomenon and help you execute the strategies, tactics and shots that you previously envisioned executing in specific situations.
  • It is also important to keep in mind that you are not playing against yourself, so visualizing some of your opponent’s play beforehand to the degree that you know them as a player will truly make this endeavor successful.
  • Lastly, the key to making this all work is to do this with a clear, stable, mind and emotional state. I’m sure most everybody goes into a match with a base strategy, optimistically seeing every game as a potential a hold of serve or a break, and perhaps every point with some sort of pre-determined general strategy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…but I can guarantee you that it is more likely to contribute positively to your play if it is well thought out in a peaceful mental state. Going into a point upset about previous happenings and saying to yourself, “I’m going to go for a huge winner down the line off the serve” may work, but thinking the same thing while remaining calm is much more likely to be fruitful because you are likely to not rush the return when the serve comes around. This means you will have better footwork, better technique and are more likely to connect on the sweet spot rather than potentially just reaching for the ball and swinging for the fences out of frustration.
  • Of course, it is easier said than done, but I have had some success over time through the use of visualization, and have also seen a good deal of success of others through visualization. It also translates to many (if not all) sports, and perhaps other facets of your life as well.

Strings and Grips


You know, a lot of players begin to over-think technique and racquet selection at times, but the case could be made that the strings and the grips you use during play just as, or more important.

Strings and Stringing

There are so many different types of strings out there, but oftentimes players just go with what others around them are getting, what is the newest fad, or just what is available and/or recommended at the local pro shop.

Sometimes trial and error is what’s necessary. It can get expensive, but first consider what the company that produced your racquet suggests to use in that racquet, and get it strung based on your playing ability.

If you have already tried that, then take your time and sift through some of the hundreds of reviews out there at your disposal and find a string that would be both good for your racquet and your playing style and then decided what tension would be best to get it strung at.

Tension is also very important…if you can generate your own power consistently, then get it strung very tight and because the racquet naturally will lose a few pounds of tension over time.

Grips

The grips you use on your strokes also have a great deal of impact on your play. Even the slightest modification could mean everything in the world and provide with more power and/or consistency.

Working with this is tricky though, especially if you are playing a lot of matches. Not only is it hard to switch grips pretty much on the fly, but even if you do and get some good results, you may find yourself reverting back to the grip that you used to use out of habit, leading to some in-match problems and inconsistency.

Work hard and take a ton of reps when you are switching the grips used on your swings, and do it in other ways than simply getting balls fed to you and using the new grip all the time. Make sure you practice alternating between forehand and backhand grip so you get used to switching your grip mid-point so you can integrate your new grip usage as best you can in match play.

A different aspect to this is over-gripping. This is not a common problem amongst the more advanced players, but some players may find improvement if they simply built up or reduced the size of the grip on their racquet. If you aren’t sure if you are using the proper size of grip, contact a person in the know or consult with the professionals at Google and maybe you will find some information that you previously weren’t aware of.

Or you can check out the images below: