by Doug Browne
Quotas – my old college teammate from Grosse Pointe Michigan abhorred quotas as he deemed them grossly unfair. In this case, I’m talking about a player’s ability to understand how many winners he is capable of making in a big match. In other words, I believe all sports participants, whether it be team-sports or individual games like golf and tennis have a ‘cap’ or an average of spectacular players per outing.
Therefore, if you are a tennis player who possesses a big forehand drive, you are far more capable than most to strike winners from various angles on the tennis court. However, even tennis legend Roger Federer, who routinely runs around his one-handed backhand to rip his inside-out forehand drive, has a statistical number of all-out clean winners per set or per match.
Moreover, when Federer competes against his rival Rafael Nadal, he must be cognizant of his ability or inability to constantly run around his backhand and over-hit his forehand drive. Simply stated, Roger Federer can not beat Nadal unless he is able to ‘roll over’ his backhand stroke and thus save energy to win the crucial points with sustained energy. Now, as we analyze a young Lely high school player or a CTA 3.5 player, coaches must state the obvious; play to or around your ability level – do not expect adrenaline to inject a brand new forehand or backhand stroke.
Thanks to huge advances in tennis computer software, coaches (parents) are able to chart an entire match on their telephones. The tennis match statistics don’t lie; four forehand groundstroke winners verses 19 forehand ‘groundie’ errors. Or perhaps, the software offered the player hitting five service aces but on the other side of the ledger, the player threw in 14 double-faults!
Now, if the player took stock of the match findings, it would benefit him to get a grasp of his strengths and weaknesses. In my prime as a player, good or bad, (I’m not sure) I was so realistic of my ability that I rarely tried ridiculous shots. When I lost a tennis match it was usually due to my opponent’s better talent on that day. Although it may be ‘tough to swallow’ for most combatants due to their massive egos, get a grip of reality so one may prevent disaster.
One of the keys to success for any rising tennis player is to work out details in practice sessions. In particular, top coaches will provide drills to help their players develop weapons. During the week, coaches will assess their student’s capabilities; perhaps the player can only rip a winner from the short court. If so, the improving student should never try to drive a big forehand from deep into the court (near the baseline) or his numbers will plummet.
When the student understands his player quota, he will drastically cut down on his silly mistakes. In summary, remember one item – you are as good as your practice sessions. Match day is not the time to experiment, it is the time to be aware of whom you are as a player and stick with the plan.
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing his tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.