Wednesday, February 29, 2012

GETTING ANA IVANOVIC BACK TO #1


When Ana Ivanovic loses matches you can almost hear a collective groan from tennis fans around the world.  Many people want to see her get back to the form that won her a Grand Slam title (French Open) and the #1 ranking in the world. She is simply one of the nicest players competing on the WTA Tour.

Getting back to her past form will not happen unless Ana works on several key areas of her game.  Here is a breakdown of those areas:
                                         
1.      The Serve:
Ana’s problem with the serve is well known.  Many coaches have tried to find the solution by working on her toss, which tends to become wayward at the worst times. Isolating the toss will not solve the problem.  Here is the solution...

a.      Work on the coordination of the left (toss) and right (racquet) arms together.  Do this by having Ana close her eyes and serve.  Initially she will miss-hit or miss the ball completely, but in time she will begin to coordinate the left and right arm and achieve a greater degree of teamwork between the two.

2.      Wide Forehands:
Ana is renowned for her big forehand but when she has to move wide it often breaks down. Here is the solution…

a.      Everything in tennis starts in the ground and Ana has poor “ground” on wide forehands.  Her problem starts in the right leg.  Ana must learn to use her right leg to step open-stance and prepare a platform for the forehand.  This platform will create the timing, power and balance needed to play wide forehands effectively.

3.      Play with a Strategy
Ana is a player who thinks that if she plays her game well enough, it will beat anyone in the world.  This way of thinking hurts her because with so many good players around, to consistently win matches you must develop a strategy for each player.  Playing everyone the same way will never work.  Strategies could include slowing the ball down or speeding it up. With some players she might need to keep the ball up higher or down low.  Ultimately she must look for ways to prevent her opponent playing at her best!

These are not major things to work on but together they would make a big difference to Ana’s results and her ranking.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

THE TENNIS EQUIVALENT TO THE BOXING JAB


Many years ago I was watching a boxing bout on TV. During the fight the commentator  made the statement “In boxing the jab is everything, from the jab comes everything”.

It seems that in boxing the jab does many things and the fighter who can dominate with the jab has an enormous advantage.  The jab establishes distance, allowing one fighter to control the space between himself and his opponent.  The boxing jab is also used as a first step from which other punches follow.  A jab can be followed by a hook, an upper-cut or another jab. What the commentator also said that day was that the fighter who dominates with the jab will control the fight.

I began to wonder what the tennis equivalent was to the boxing jab.  I believe the crosscourt is the tennis “Jab”.  The crosscourt is used as a way to set up the point.  Whenever the crosscourt is strong enough it will create the first step to attack.  A wide crosscourt can force a short half court return from the opponent which can be attacked.  A player dominating with the crosscourt on either side will often force their opponent to change down the line, which is a low percentage option. The crosscourt is also used as the best form of defense, often neutralizing the point almost immediately.

One of the main problems both Nadal and Federer have with the Djokovic game is the strength of his crosscourt forehand and backhand.  Until they can both find an answer to the Djokovic crosscourt dominance they will both struggle to gain any advantage in the groundstroke exchanges.

Work to develop your tennis “Jab” and you will see an immediate improvement in your results.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

THE 5 CORE ELEMENTS OF MATCH-PLAY




In the heat of the battle it’s difficult to think clearly.  With so many things going on it's sometimes easy to forget the basics. But to play at your best certain parts of your game must function in order to win matches. 

Some people call them “The Percentages”, but everyone has a slightly different version of what “The Percentages” actually means.  I like to call them the “5 Core Elements” needed to play at your best.

I expect my students to mentally check the 5 core elements at different times during the match, particularly during those important periods of a match such as after a break of serve, or when either their opponent or themselves establish momentum. 

Important moments in a match can mean either you or your opponent are ahead on the scoreboard, it's about maintaining positive momentum or reversing negative momentum in your favour.

The 5 Core Elements of match Play are:

1.     High Percentage of First Serves
Any time your 1st serve begins to fail and you are beginning points with your 2nd serve you are automatically putting pressure on yourself .

2.     Consistent Returns
Remember that the serve is an advantage, while the return means you are at a disadvantage.  By getting the return back in play consistently you are neutralizing the servers’ advantage and can now work at winning the point.

3.     Pressure in the Rally
It’s impossible to win points at the highest level if you can’t exert pressure on your opponent during the rally. Creating pressure during the rally can give you the opening to either hit a winner or draw an error from your opponent.

4.     Low unforced Errors
By keeping the unforced error count to a minimum you force your opponent to come up with more and that often means that they try to do too much themselves.  Great players never beat themselves.

5.     Mentally Stable
Keep mentally stable when you are up a break, otherwise you come out of the patterns and mindset that got you the break in the first place!  Likewise, if you go down a break or a set, analyze the situation clearly and come up with a plan to get back on level terms.  Sulking won’t help you and neither will becoming too confident and “show boating”

When using the 5 Core Elements of Match Play remember that every match is different.  If you served well in yesterdays match you may serve poorly in today’s match, you need to monitor your performance throughout the match and be constantly aware of the 5 elements in each match you play.