Pro Tips
1. Attack Your Opponent's Weaknesses!
Strategies and tactics can change match to match depending upon who you are playing. Most of us have a style we are comfortable with which ranges from a "stay back at all costs" baseline game to an aggressive "serve & volley, chip & charge" game. Whether you prefer the baseline or the net, you still need to consciously construct your points. Knowing your opponent's strengths and weaknesses can really help build your confidence no matter what your style of play. For example; if your opponent's backhand is definitely weaker than their forehand, hit to that side with depth until you have caused a short response or you have opened up the court. If you are playing an opponent who hits equally well off both sides, mix up your shots by going into their body. You will soon find out which side they prefer or they may have problems immediately with the body shots. They may be more aggressive off of one side but also make many more errors with that shot. Occasionally, their strengths may even falter as you hammer their weaknesses. Stick to your game plan and you will find that even the more experienced players have certain weaknesses!
"Your opponents strengths may even falter as you hammer at their weaknesses!"
2. Match-Play Concentration!
Many students come to me and say, "Well, I just didn't concentrate in that point, set, match, etc.!" Or "I don't know what happened. I couldn't concentrate." My first thought is, "Houston, we have a problem!" Seriously, the level and duration of concentration you apply in a match can make a huge difference in playing to your potential. Some player's ability to concentrate during match-play is simply natural but most of us have to work on it. An easy way to improve concentration is to cut out the clutter and keep our focus on what is in the present. Clutter is all those negative thoughts, criticisms, fears and judgments that hold us back and paralyze our ability to make quick, clear decisions. I have not played or watched a match where someone has made NO unforced errors. Even the best players make errors occasionally. However, they are not thinking about those mistakes, but more focused on what they are about to do at that moment. It could be something very basic like moving their feet, staying set, watching the ball, etc. Whatever the trigger, it is playing out at that moment and then it is over and they get ready for the next point. If you make the effort to find out what works for you, your focus and overall concentration will improve!
"... the level and duration of concentration you apply in a match can make a huge difference in playing to your potential."
3. Anticipate and Split-Step to stay in the present...
When returning serve, focus and visualize exactly where you will hit your forehand and where you will hit your backhand just before your opponent's toss. Instead of hesitating or standing and watching after hitting your shots sidestep toward the center of the court and make your split-step just before your opponent makes contact with the ball. This way you'll be ready to make an early first step towards your next shot!
"... make an early first step towards your next shot!"
4. Warm-Up Properly to Ensure Your Best Performance!
To properly warm up for a match or even have a quality practice hit takes a bit of preparation. Being rested, eating well at least an hour before you go on the court, and proper jogging and stretching are a given. However, not many of us really go on the court with either the right attitude or with specific knowledge on how to spend those first 5-10 min. hitting balls.  We often have a certain vision of how we should hit the ball or think of a favorite pro and want to hit like them.  Yet we don’t realize that these pros have already hit for at least 20-30 min. or longer before they even stepped on the court to call the coin toss.  It is right here where many people make their biggest mistake.  Most people start hitting way too hard and continue doing so for the rest of the day!  From the very first ball you strike, you want to find your range of depth in the court.  That means how close and how consistently can you hit the ball near the baseline.  The closer it bounces the better.  The best way to do this is to hit slowly and lift the ball.  This also gives you a chance to build your topspin and your feel for the ball.  After a few minutes you’ll start to create your timing and then you may begin to generate more weight transfer and rotational speed with your hips and torso to hit a heavier ball.  This process will dial in your timing and give you the confidence to follow through and therefore trust your swing!   A solid warm up often means playing to your potential for that given day!
"... hit slowly and lift the ball... build your topspin and your feel for the ball."
5. Why We Tend to Play Better After a Layoff & How to Capitalize on It!
Whether it was just a few weeks or many months since we last hit a ball there seems to be the tendency that on the very first day out, we hit pretty well or at least we think we did and therefore, are happier to be playing again.  Sound at all familiar?  Well, the truth is we are excited about hitting again and often are just happy to be out there.  No major agendas or expectations other than getting in a good workout and enjoying the process.  Then we go out the very next day after we played ‘great’ and what typically happens?  Yep, we suck!  How is it that we can have such dramatic fluctuations in our game which don’t seem to make much sense?  The simple answer is Attitude!  When we are in a good mood & life is great, our play tends to reflect that…  Conversely, if we are stressed, upset about something ~ whether work, family, etc. our play tends to follow suit.  The key is to be more aware of that correlation and adjust your attitude before walking on the court.  You will be amazed at the change of consistency and quality of your play!
"The simple answer is Attitude!? ... be more aware of that correlation and adjust your attitude before walking on the court."
6. Approach & Volley Into the Open Court Rather than Going For a Winner!
When you have a mid court opportunity to approach the net, hit through or slice the ball to a specific target ~ often times that will be down the line in singles.  The key is to control that shot with a good follow through and marginal pace without going for a winner.  This is the percentage shot you will often make and it sets up your 1st. volley vs. going for the outright winner which is often a 50-50 shot or much lower %.  Now you are ready to do the same with your 1st. volley.  As you anticipate your opponents contact with the ball, split step then advance to time your volley into the waiting open court.  Keep your wrist firm and the racquet head slightly open & quiet as you make contact or catch the ball with your stringbed.  This will allow for optimal placement with your 1st. volley.  Now you are ready for the set up 2nd. volley or overhead.  Once again, be ready to watch & move as your opponent attempts to make contact with the ball on the dead run and hopefully out of position.  If you place the final volley or nail the overhead, now you have your winner!  Again, the mindset is on placement instead of winner!
"... the mindset is on placement instead of winner!"