This time of year high school players from all over the country are thinking that tennis is just one month away. In New England it's typically the third Monday of March. I remember riding my bike on a sunny cold day down to the Sea Crest Hotel on windy Buzzard's Bay to practice my serve and hit against a backboard. I was a freshman. There were few guests staying in February. The Seagulls were there, my sentinels. I wanted to start for the team.
One: From playing matches I learned to keep the ball in play. It sounds so basic but it's true. Especially with sun, wind, and a host of other distractions that occur while playing outside.
Two: if the ball has been sliced or hit very weak and short you must get to the ball early and take it off the hop. If you don't the ball will play you and the elements now become the partner of your opponent. When you play outside you must be willing to run and recognize what the ball is doing before it hits the court!
Three: if the wind is at your back, use more topspin or aim lower to keep the ball in the court. Approaching the net can be easier with more power behind you and weakens your opponent’s pass. If the wind is in your face aim higher and hit harder. Also, drop shots and lobs are best hit into the wind. The ball plays tricks on your opponent.
Four: because the elements change conditions, managing them in your favor from the beginning is a good idea. Serving into the sun isn't fun. Plan for that from the coin toss on deciding which court to take. If you win the toss, let your opponent choose first, then you choose the correct selection based on their choice.
Five: cross courting the ball is a safer shot in a rally then down the line. Aim safely cross court (more court, lower net, natural rotation of your body) most of the time, and pick your long lines carefully, based upon your skill, the ball, and court available. If you hit cross court, recover to four feet from the middle slash mark to the side you just hit your shot. If you long line recover to the center slash mark. Bjorn Borg once said that he hits cross court most of the time and sometimes goes down the line. He won five Wimbledon titles in a row!
Six: if your opponent drop shots you and you are arriving late to the party then drop it back low and hold a net position.
Seven: try to hit your favorite shots most often while at the same time having your opponent hit their least favorite shots. Start figuring that out from the warm-up.
Eight: when forced out of the court sidelines lob the ball high cross court, and recover back to the baseline.
This post will be updated with more guidelines....stay tuned. Remember, tennis isn’t about doing a ton of amazing things, it’s about executing a few things amazingly well.