How to translate your tennis practice into match wins

This is a guest post by professional tennis coach Marcin Bieniek, giving us tips on how to train smart and translate our hard work into won tennis matches. Marcin reminds us of details that make a difference, so read on and take your game to the next level.

Hard work pays off and you can’t improve without breaking a sweat

It doesn’t matter if you like practice or not, training sessions are crucial to improve your skills, make sure that you don’t have weaknesses that opponents can use and ultimately enable you to win more matches. Technique is the most popular area that players love to spend time on while practicing, but you can also get better with strategy, mental skills, physical shape, and nutritional habits.

Moreover, remember that you should never be happy with your current level because this approach leads to stagnation. Always strive for more, like for example Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova do, and you will see that there are many opportunities to play even better.

Petra Kvitova practices at the 2017 Bank of the West Classic

To get the biggest results of your work you have to focus on quality of your practice sessions. It is much better to spend less time on the court with top-quality plan than to “eat and sleep” in the club while playing with no purpose or understanding of training actions. There are many players who stay on the court for 3-4 hours per day, but they can’t win a single match. Why is that? Do they need more time or should they change the coach? Each example is individual, but many athletes practice in the wrong way. Their drills and activities have nothing in common with environment that they are going to meet during a tournament. Remember that the more similar exercises are to the match’s conditions, the easier it is to transfer and use these skills while being under pressure.

Maria Sharapova training with cones at the 2017 Bank of the West Classic

If you really want to improve competitive skills, you have to apply these important rules while preparing for your next tournament:

1. ALL DRILLS NEED GOALS

There is nothing worse than hitting balls without a goal. Each stroke has its own purpose, so you have to train this ability to have “purposeful” shots during a match. Stop doing exercises like hitting cross-court shots for ten minutes or returning with no specific targets. Practice shots that you are going to use while competing. Work on depth, angles, and areas that you want to use to expose opponent’s weaknesses. The easiest way to always have a goal is to use training cones. Set zones and you will see that instead of focusing on your racquet (technical approach), you will start to direct focus on the opponent’s side (tactical approach). 

This high-visibility Pacific X Disk Cone can help you practice shot placement.

2. PLAY A LOT OF POINTS

Drills are important to get enough repetitions, to make skills your new habits. Being able to automatically respond to rival’s hits is an ability that you are going to use during a match, but don’t forget that closed situations are based on predictable scenarios. Tennis match is an unpredictable environment where your opponent can come up with different solutions, so you have to be prepared to deal with these obstacles. That is why you have to practice open situations, which means playing many points.

Playing practice sets and games gives you possibility to work on many aspects at the same time and additionally in the exact environment that you are going to compete in: serves, returns, ads, deuces, dealing with mistakes, coping with different styles. If you want to take your game to the next level and win more matches, you have to incorporate more playing scenarios into your training routines.

Sharapova always has good balls at hand

3. USE NEW BALLS

That is the number one mistake that I see among players at all levels of play. I know that training balls are cheaper and last longer, but I believe that going to a tournament and losing in the first round is more expensive than buying two cans of new balls. All matches are played with new balls and we have to remember about some characteristics of them.

New balls are faster, bounce higher and are more difficult to control, so the more you practice with new ones, the better prepared you will be. This advantage to start the match on your terms can give you an easy lead that it will be really hard for your opponents to turn around.

I recommend these balls: Wilson US Open 4-Ball CanHead ATP 4-Ball Can, and Tretorn Serie + 4-Ball Can.

Little things can make a big difference. Changes can be positive or negative, so educate yourself, prepare and see more won matches on your side. It is not as hard as you can think, but it definitely takes time. Let’s not waste it anymore – Do we start today?

Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach, currently working with a Top 60 ITF player, and founder of instructional website TennisIsland.us. He is also the author of Enjoy Tennis Blog, a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA. 

MORE FROM MARCIN BIENIEK:

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