Your game is generally it’s best when you are physically fresh and full of energy but what happens when you begin to get tired? What happens to your strokes when your legs start to feel like noodles or your racket seems to have gained an extra four pounds, when your back feels like a vice is being gripped around it, your mind can’t focus? This is when your weaknesses are exposed. Most matches are lost with a tired body or mind. How can you prevent yourself from losing when your body and mind start to betray you? The most common answer and approach to this dilemma is to workout and increase your fitness. I completely agree that fitness gives a player an upper hand any match but realistically everyone will become less fresh at the end of two or three-hour match then they were at the beginning. No amount of training can make you immune to fatigue on the court, just ask Nadal.
My son has been working with a new coach for the last six months (when he is home) who deals with this issue. The first twenty minutes of his lesson (after warm ups) is spent running extremely exhausting drills. He is forced to continuously move and remain in a low stance while drilling balls deep into the court. Rather than feeding balls the coach is dropping the balls to increase the pace and decrease the height of the ball. The purpose of the drill is two-fold, while my son is improving his foot work, leg strength and hitting he is also exhausting him in those first few minutes to expose his weaknesses. Within the first twenty minutes when the legs start to get tired, the arm sore and the mind frustrated the balls start to spray long on the forehand and hit into the net on the backhand. BINGO! The coach has exposed those shots that cost him so many matches.
The rest of the lesson is spent on dealing with what is going wrong when he feels fatigued. He knows how to hit a forehand and backhand he needs to know what part of the stroke is breaking down when he gets tired. In his case, when his legs get tired he struggles to stay down on his shots. When his arms are tired he feels the extra weight of the racket and takes the lift out of his swing. It is like a light going on, an insight into those frustrating moments when he feels like his forehand has let him down and he doesn’t know why. Now instead of reacting to the frustration he can deal with the problem.
Does this give you a free pass on fitness training? Absolutely not, and the drills he is doing are designed to strengthen his legs and increase his endurance. It does give you insight into why your shots aren’t doing what you want them to when you are tired and you can add simple cues to help you deal with the issue.
Think about practicing when you are tired or not feeling well, or distracted by other issues and see if you can expose your weakness. If you don’t you know your opponent will.
If you had to guess what would your weakness be? What part of your body would give out first and what part of your game would it effect? Do you know how to correct it? Share your thoughts and insights and maybe you can help a fellow struggling tennis player.
Good luck and have fun!