As tennis players, there’s likely no better feeling than hitting a big, booming shot for a winner. I mean, the sheer exhilaration we’ve all felt blasting the heck out of the ball, right?
But how often when doing this do you end up making an unforced error? Too often, I’ll bet.
Well, here’s what seems to be an easy concept that will put more winners on your side of the scoreboard: placement over power equals winner.
Or, to put it in an easy to remember equation: P/P=W.
As easy as this seems on paper, this is something that takes patience, recognizing how openings on your opponent’s side of the court develop, and practicing placing your shots.
My first experience with learning how to place the ball came from the first tennis coach I had when I was young. He would simply say, “Hit it where they ain’t!”
What I learned from this was how to watch the ball (focused vision when receiving), then see my opponent, and the court (broader range focused vision after sending the ball) to anticipate where to be to hit the ball back, and where to place it resulting in a winner – or forcing my opponent to make an error.
A good first step to help achieve the P/P=W is to develop consistency. This is one of those boring, mundane aspects of playing tennis that can really pay big dividends.
Simply go to the practice wall for about 15 minutes and start by hitting as few as three balls in a row on each of your shots.
Try forehands first, then backhands and repeat until you can do it without missing. As you get more consistent, increase the number to five balls.
Next, try the same with volleys. This will be more challenging and take patience. You might want to use either red or orange “transition” balls for volleys at first, since they go slower and are easier to control.
Then, work your way up to the regulation yellow balls. Keep in mind that the wall will always return the ball and yellow balls generally come back as fast and hard as you hit them.
I hope this will be an incentive for you to work more to control rather than power the ball, which leads to a better understanding of P/P=W.
After practicing on the wall, try going out with a practice partner and working on consistency drills. Just like the wall, start by hitting three forehands each, then three backhands.
Increase your numbers as you build more confidence. Same thing with the volleys. Unlike the wall, you’ll have the added aspect of dealing with the net.
Next, try playing out some points. Rally at least three or four balls before trying to “place” a winning shot.
Before you know it, you’ll be winning more points with the P/P=W equation in your back pocket!
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. firstname.lastname@example.org