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Wed, Oct. 16

Column: Use these tips to up your tennis game a notch

Wouldn't you like to take your tennis game up a level without rewriting the book? Well, then read on because I'm going to give you a few tips that may give you the tools to do just that.

Tennis is a game of consistency, but if you don't have much of that you're in trouble, especially when you're playing someone who can chase down ball after ball.

So what do you do in this instance?

When you're on the short side of most groundstroke rallies, it's time to take the net at every opportunity. Now if you don't own at least a so-so volley and overhead, you'd better go back to stage one, and that's take some lessons and get some extra practice in.

That said, by taking the net on a player who hits decent groundies, you are applying more pressure on their shots and have the chance by being close to the net to knock some shots out of the air for possible winners or at the least - tougher shots for them to deal with. And if you're gonna go down in flames, you'd might as well be the aggressor because it's more fun for you and your opponent.

To just sit back and lose point after point as you hit the ball long, in the net, wide or just watch them hit winners by you doesn't make for an hour or so of much enjoyment.

So, now you're in the game, but you can't break the player who has the big serve, what can you do here?

If they're hitting to your weaker side and that's the problem, cheat. No, I don't mean cheat them by calling it out, although that's one way to get in their head, I mean to squeeze over to the side they've been hitting to and force them to hit to your strength...the side you return better from.

When the serve coming at you is harder than you're used to, back up and take just block the ball back with a volley type motion. Be ready to spring forward with your footwork so you're playing the ball, it's not playing you.

Keeping a good attitude is hard when you're getting waxed, but if you want to have a chance of doing better, keep your chin up and your chest out.

Bad body language is the beginning of your opponent romping over and through you.

Excuses need to go out the window, and positive thoughts must continue to flow through whatever amount of brain matter you own. Laugh when you make a mistake and on changeovers give some thought to what your plan of action is for the next couple games.

Current Davis Cup captain Jim Courier would bring a book out on changeovers to take his mind off the pressure he was feeling...but in social tennis that might be considered rude.

In doubles, hopefully you have some good extra help, but in some cases the partner you're playing with may seem like an anchor around your waist - like you're on the Titanic and have only a short period of time before the ship goes down.

If you have a choice in partners, make sure you get someone you enjoy playing with that can enhance your game, not bring it down. Unfortunately many times you're stuck with who you draw and vice-versa.

As a partner, do your best to be positive, cover your side of the court, and if you're the better player don't give advice unless it's asked for.

If you're the partner that's sinking the ship, keep smiling-don't make excuses as the mistakes mount and tell your partner in crime that you'll keep plugging. What other choices are there?

Unless, you don't mind your partner taking over more of the court and shots by poaching or using different formations that may enhance your chances.

Last but not least, just remember the following. Hit the ball to the open court. If they like it deep, hit it short and when they run up, lob it over their head. Get your serves in. Double faults don't cut it, if you have to weenie it in, do it. Smile no matter what happens. Get your racquet low to the ball and don't hit the net. And in your down time, PRACTICE!

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at choward4541@q.com or 928-642-6775.

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