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Tennis player Andy Murray returning a shot on his backhand

The Most Evil, Frustratingly Detrimental Weakness in Tennis

08/11/2016, 2:15pm PDT
By Kelvin Cech

It's not what you think...

 

“The pace was furious on that chilly morning in April. Once the ball was served it was all I could do to keep my head above water. Trying to overwhelm me with every hit, every movement, every intense stare, my opponent was a rampaging bull hell-bent on my destruction.

I could sense it, there was no way to keep up. The end was near. I wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer.

But then something happened…”

Wanna know what happened? Read on to find out. 

Component: Skills

Jenn Donnelly is a friend of the blog and always willing to share her insights about the game. She’s passionate about building relationships and making improvements to your own skills. For Jenn, a solid tennis player who plays more for the companionship than the glory of winning, tennis has two main weaknesses one needs to overcome if one wants to win more than they lose. 

1. Backhands

For tennis players everywhere backhand shots require an unnatural movement that’s more difficult to practice than serves or simple forehand shots. Because tennis is a game of errors, however, consistently missing backhands can be the difference between winning and losing. 

2. Immobility 

The other major weakness involves simply getting to the ball never mind being able to choose forehand or backhand shots. Possessing quick feet grants you the speed to reach more balls. It also grant lets you change direction quickly and return more shots.

Component: Brains

On the other side of the racquet from players like Jenn are the coaches, those who played the game and now pass on their expertise to new athletes trying to get better. For Joe Wood, one the North Shore Winter Club’s tennis coaches, the biggest weakness to overcome is your own mind. 

1. Composure

Take Roger Federer for instance. If you tuned into a match at Wimbledon that was half-finished you wouldn’t be able to tell if Roger was winning or losing. That’s because he doesn’t let his opponent in, he never exposes any weakness. Like a duck on a pond, Federer’s furiously paddling underneath while maintaining a calm demeanour above the surface. 

2. Uh, NOT Composure

The flip-side of Federer? A young Andy Murray. Same idea, join a match in progress and you’d know exactly how it was going for Andy. He’s improved his composure over the course of his career, but when things didn’t go his way a few years back he’d drop his racquet, yell at his coaches and let his passion out for all to see. Perhaps that enthusiasm helped him perform to the best of his abilities, or perhaps his opponents exploited his weaknesses by throwing off his focus. 

So let’s go back to that match in April. 

“The ball is flying. I’m barely holding on.

And then it happened…

I held on.” 

Maintaining your composure, as Joe said above, gives you the opportunity to fail in other ways. Your backhand will never even have a chance to let you down if you don’t stick around long enough in a match to get to that point. Keeping it together upstairs lets you focus. It lets you move quickly. It lets you take backhand shots to the best of your ability. Without that focus, not only are your weaknesses magnified, your strengths are diminished. 

In tennis, there’s nothing more powerful than the mind. Like shooting a 3-pointer under pressure or sinking a 20 foot putt for birdie, tennis stretches out the angst we feel in the heat of the moment.

But the longer you feel that angst? 

The longer you survive.

So what's the most crippling, most detrimental and most evil weakness in tennis?

You are. 

photo credit: Murray v. Lopez via photopin (license)

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