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Nailing the Basics Part III

Making yourself tougher to beat
By: Simon Grieve

Nailing The Basics Part III
By Steve Jarrett Kent Boys U18 County Cup Coach


‘Coaches need an advanced understanding of the basics, rather than a basic understanding of the advanced’ Alistair Higham LTA National Coaching Director.

This quote reflects what I have tried to put across in my three articles.

Last year I was asked by the LTA to present my ideas of how to get the basics right when coaching developing players. My goal was to give practical advice that was uncomplicated, yet very effective. In this final article I will explain what I call ‘The 3’s’. They are simple points that may get you thinking and will keep reminding you that tennis is a game, not a beauty contest for who has the nicest looking strokes!

The 3’s

3 ways of winning a point:
1. An unforced error from your opponent
2. A forcing error from you
3. A winner from you

Tennis matches are usually won by the player who makes the fewest mistakes. Therefore, it is important to minimise unforced errors whilst developing the ability to hit forcing shots and winners. This is a tough feat to achieve, but it can be improved greatly through good decision-making.

3 ways of pressuring your opponent:

1. Pace of shot
2. Taking the ball early
3. Hitting to spaces

Imagine Andre Agassi stepping inside the baseline attacking a return down the line. Through hours of quality practice he can do all three whilst keeping his unforced errors to a minimum.

Agassi Backhand

3 decisions to improve shot selection:

1. If under pressure hit deep to the backhand/weaker side
2. If under a little pressure hit forcing shots, Do Not Defend
3. If not under pressure ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!!!

Training correct decision-making based on court positioning will really help players reduce unforced errors and make them tougher to beat. Check out Kirilenko above, well inside the baseline, body weight moving forward, a perfect
opportunity to attack the ball!

Kirilenko Backhand

3 points to help when not playing well:

1. Watch the ball through the air (focus on the seems of the ball)
2. Keep your feet active
3. Put all your energy into competing against your opponent, not yourself.

Winning matches when you are not performing well is one sign of a good competitor. However, these points may help get your game back on track because it’s always nicer to play well!

And finally,

3 Ball mentality. Concentrating on getting 3 balls over the net and in, particularly at the beginning of a match:

1. Gets you into the point
2. Allows you to find out what your opponent can or cannot do.
3. Can help calm nerves by giving you a goal to achieve.

Good shot selection will help you become more consistent. This in turn will make you a much tougher opponent to play against, perhaps someone who will strike fear into opponents even before you step on court.

Good Luck, practice hard and use the 3's to make you a better player!

Steve Jarrett is a performance tennis coach and tennis manager of the Tonbridge ITI centre. Steve played competitive tennis at the University of Texas, Pan America and has been the Kent boys U18 County Cup coach for the past 11 years.

We hope you have enjoyed Steve’s series of ‘Nailing the Basics’

Best wishes,

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