"Don't trust everything you see on the internet!" ~ Abraham Lincoln
Super Stars Of Social Media
Recently, I was interacting with a player on a social media tennis coaching forum, who said he wants to hit an 130 MPH Serve. From the look of him, he seemed to have the athleticism to become a strong 4.5 player or above, but the problem was a lack of wisdom in his approach to the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were a fairly common out of control 3.5 player.
I took at a look at his highly compromised balance, as he tried to throw his whole body weight into the serve. His ability then to recover, on balance, to move to a successful return was nowhere near ideal. In fact, in points where the opponent returned the serve, I would expect him to not have a very high win percentage. I tried to discuss with him the idea, that it would be better to hit 120 MPH with control, finishing on balance, ready for the next shot. As the conversation went onward, it felt like talking with a goldfish, that continues to spit out the thing, it just ate over and over again.
This was written long ago, but it is timely in that someone just posted an interesting video of player looking down at the ground as they prepared to toss, leading to quite a bit of head movement, before tossing, and the claim was made that this helped that professional player, and the person posting to have more accurate serves. I don’t doubt that for a moment, but there is likely going to be a problem in the land of unintended consequences.
Plan For The Next Shot
When you move from practicing only your serve, and move onto practicing your Serve-Plus One (S+1), the shot that follows the serve, the imperative is to land on balance so that you can recover and prepare to play a strong return from the opponent. This will protect you from losing in the first two shots, which is very important to winning the 0-4 shot battle.
"Winning Quick Is Good, Losing Fast Is Not" ~ Craig O'Shannessy (paraphrase mine)
This is a huge concept springing out of the data that shows 55% - 70% of all points end before someone makes the fifth shot, meaning that if you make your first two shots, you have an amazingly high chance of winning the point. The most common way a point is lost in a match is that the return of serve is missed, but the second most common is that the server misses their second shot, the S+1. Practice taking that first shot after serve deep cross court, or deep down the middle, and you will find that you don’t lose early.
Throwing Yourself Off Balance
Now back to the conversation with the guy on the forum, because he was serving, then falling off balance way to his left, I asked him how he planned to play a deep crosscourt ball to his forehand, and he immediately shot back that he would return the ball. It turns out he was more or less blind to how vulnerable he was to a deep cross-court return, especially practicing his serve in the vacuum of having no returner.
Concrete, Good Example
Yesterday, I was on a public court, and there were two guys on the court next to me, and they were solid weekend warrior types, 3.5/4.0, and the one player had more experience. I really liked the approach Kevin took in helping Rodney out, saying ‘Taking shorter backswings, helps you keep the ball in, especially on return of serve’. I was in the middle of a lesson, but even after that, it took all I had to keep quiet not to affirm Kevin, because that’s something my parents would do. The essence of this is that everything we should be doing is about making sure we don’t miss too often. It’s too bad this young man was so obsessed with the absolute speed of his serve, and probably not serve percentage, and absolutely not concerned with what comes next.
Learning On Social Media Can Be Limited And Sometimes Not At All Helpful
This all points to the conclusion that people need live coaches who can work with them in person, even virtually through a video feed. But in the isolation of one shot in a video, it’s difficult to create the proper context to really learn the game.
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