Transferring tennis practice performance to the tournament environment

If you put a lot of effort into your tennis career, it is normal that you expect good results. When players work hard and consistently lose in opening rounds, something has to be wrong. Our Marcin Bieniek, a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional Enjoy Tennis Blog, is dedicating this month’s column to the art of translating your successful practice sessions into match wins.

It is a known fact that practice improves performance, but the reality is that many players struggle to transfer their practice success to the competitive environment.

Quality practice and understanding the real world of competition are two factors that always guarantee some kind of success at any level. It is crucial for players to analyze why they can play really well on the practice court, while they underperform when playing for ranking points. The biggest myth is that weak mental side is responsible for the lack of results. That’s an easy excuse. If you really want to improve your performance and play your best tennis in any environment, it is time to face the reality. Below you can find 3 crucial factors that, if properly addressed, will allow you to achieve the results you deserve.

1. Proper practice

A lot of people practice, but only a small percentage of them do it the right way. Volume is not an indicator of your chances to succeed. What is important is quality and … skills that are used in your real matches. How is it possible that with so much knowledge available most players still practice the wrong way?

What we can see during every practice is a lot of consistency drills based on crosscourt shots. Players hit a lot of forehands and backhands and are able to execute different patterns scheduled by coach. That’s not what tennis match really is about.

Every point in tennis starts with serve and return. That is why these skills should be trained almost all the time. Additionally, serve and return are not isolated strokes, as they are mostly connected with the next unexpected shot. Training scenarios that happen during matches are the best way to work on areas that we can REALLY use during tournaments.

2. Playing under pressure

Training environment is comfortable — we know everyone, we play our favorite drills and we don’t lose anything when we miss a shot. Tennis matches are way different. When you compete, you try to prove that you are better than your rival, you can advance to the next round and earn ranking points that will allow you to get to the next level, people gather around your court and constantly judge you. All these factors stress players, so it should not be surprising that players who are not prepared for that can’t perform well.

It is important to learn how to play under pressure and it can be achieved both by performing specific exercises on the court and also by getting out of the comfort zone in personal life.

3. Playing points

To be able to make proper decisions and use their strengths to win points, players have to actually play points. That is priority. During weekly schedule, players have to be able to play different formats of games, including semi-open drills, open drills and regular practice matches. Tennis match is a real test of skills, so this aspect can’t be forgotten in the preparatory period for the next competition. Every time players compete against other players, they have to face uncomfortable situations where every mistake feels heavier. In the beginning, it can be difficult, but with time, players get experience that allows them to focus solely on their performance, no matter the score.

Behind every disappointment there is a reason. It is as true in tennis as in life. When you work hard but your performance doesn’t grow in competitive environment, it is time to make some changes. Use recommendations from this article and approach your training regimen from a different perspective. You will see that underperformance will happen only … to your rivals.

MORE ARTICLES BY TENNIS COACH MARCIN BIENIEK:

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