So let's talk about my top five on-court mistakes and how you can avoid them.
Mistake No. 1 – Underestimating My Opponent
I have done a podcast episode about how to evaluate your opponent during the warm-up. The link to that is down below. I've talked about that because that's exactly when you should start evaluating your opponent. As soon as you step on court, you have to start looking them over and try to figure out what their game is about. The mistake I make a lot of times, however, is that I evaluate what I think is happening during the warm-up, and then I let that become my entire view of what a player is capable of. And I often underestimate what they truly can do on court.
The reality is that a lot of time what you see in those opening minutes when you're warming up has nothing to do with what the reality is once you start playing competitive matches. Some people take some time to warm-up. And what you see during the warm-up is not how they truly play. Some people are just lazy and don't put a lot of effort into the warm-up. And some people consciously go out of their way to not show you what their game truly looks like during the warm-up.
So, one mistake I make is sort of deciding during the warm-up how someone is going to play and then never re-evaluating that. And the way to avoid that mistake is to continuously be thinking about what is your opponent doing, what is going on on the other side of the net. How is it impacting the match? How can you best deal with it?
That leads me into Mistake No. 2 that I sometimes make –
Mistake No. 2 – Overestimating My Opponent
My second mistake that I often make is overestimating my opponent. A lot of people are very relaxed during the warm-up and can do quite a bit. They have a phenomenal serve. They have some kind of spin that they're able to put on the ball. They do all kinds of things during the warm-up. Or perhaps they just come out on court and they're in excellent physical shape and they look like they're going to be able to run you right off the court.
And then what happens during the match is that these people don't really play the way you thought they were playing during the warm-up. They tighten up. They become nervous. Things change based on what you're able to do. Suddenly, you start seeing some weaknesses that didn't show up during the warm-up. And again, I have a tendency to sort of peg someone as to what kind of player I think they are during the warm-up and I often forget about re-evaluating that on on on-going basis.
Again, just like underestimating your opponent, you shouldn't overestimate your opponent. Because then you end up playing the wrong kind of game to them. You may be going for too much when it's really not necessary. That is a common thing that I do. So my Mistake No. 2 is overestimating my opponent and the way to deal with that is to continuously evaluate what is happening out on court, what exactly is your opponent giving to you, how do you need to best deal with that.
Mistake No. 3 – Losing Patience
My third mistake is often losing patience. I know a lot of players have this problem. You want to finish the point. You don't want to get in these long back and forth exchanges and so, rather than waiting for the right ball, every ball you hit, you're trying to hit a winner. I do this all of the time. Especially when I'm playing up at the net. I want to hit an incredible volley and finish the point, when a lot of times what's really necessary is to keep the ball in play. Be consistent and let my opponents make the error.
Unfortunately, I find myself again and again losing patience with these long drawn out exchanges that I know are not the way I want to play tennis. And I will go for too much too early and end up with me making the mistake and giving away the point.
The way to deal with that mistake, losing patience, is to realize that you've got to be patient. That's part of playing winning recreational-level tennis. You've got to be patient and usually, you must remember, the winner of a point will be the one who makes the least amount of mistakes. So let the other player make the mistake. Be patient.
Mistake No. 4 – Not Talking to My Partner
My Mistake No. 4 is that I often find that I do not talk to my partner enough. Even though, again, I've done a whole podcast episode on talking to your doubles partner and what you should talk about, I have a tendency to just assume that people know how to play doubles the way I play doubles. And a lot of ladies don't. And I need to be sure that I spend more time talking to them in a nice, straight-forward way. Not a passive aggressive way. And not in a way that makes them feel like they're stupid. I don't think I talk to people like that but I'm always fearful that I'm going to be too much of a coach out there. You're not your partner's coach. You're a fellow partner and you need to be sure that that's how you talk to people.
So the way to avoid or correct that mistake is to talk to your partner. Talking is the only way you're going to both get on the same page as far as strategy and psychology. And talking to your partner is often the way to correctly evaluate your opponents. So talking to your partner can be a way with Mistakes No. 1 and 2 also.
Mistake No. 5 – Playing “Low Percentage” Tennis
Finally, my fifth mistake is playing low percentage tennis. I talked earlier about how I lose my patience sometimes and want to just finish off a point. And even worse than that, I will try to finish off a point with some kind of incredible angle or some super close-to-the-line down-the-line shot. I tend to go for too much. I overplay points. And a lot of times that is not necessary. It is, as I said before, usually the player who wins the point is the player who makes the least amount of mistakes. But I often can't hold back. I try for these shots that I know I can make in practice but they often aren't necessary in a match. My opponents may not be at a level that those types of shots are justified. Or they aren't necessary because of where the score is.
To deal with this, I have to keep reminding myself to just play simple, straight-forward tennis and not go for the crazy low-percentage shots that look pretty when they work but often don't work.
Well, those are my top five mistakes. What kinds of mistakes do you keep making out on court? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE
Check out these other Tennis Quick Tips episodes that are mentioned in this podcast:
- How to Quickly Evaluate Your Opponents – Tennis Quick Tips Podcast Episode 17
- How to Communicate in Doubles – Tennis Quick Tips Episode 81
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