Monthly Archives: September 2004

technique vs. target, word vs. image

After giving instructions to two men working on my house, I jumped into my car and rushed to the court so that I would have time to practice before my match. When I opened my trunk… no rackets. I rushed back home and back to the court and practiced my serve until my playing partner turned up. Except that he never turned up. I can entertain myself for hours hitting a tennis ball against a wall, weird I know but it comes in handy sometimes.

I’ve discussed the difference between thinking about technique when you hit a shot versus having an image of where you want the ball to go. If you are thinking about technique once a point starts, you’ll never be able to keep up – you have to react, not think. In the book Zen Golf, Robert Parent describes the situation another way. If you’re thinking about technique then you are worried about hitting a good forehand, backhand or whatever. If, instead, you keep the target in mind, landing the ball in a deep corner of the court for instance, then you can swing freely without worry and likely get a better result. Parent puts it very well: “The best target is where we want to send the ball. The best intention is to trust our swing. The best purpose is to enjoy playing the game.”

Our subconscious instructs our body to carry out all those perfect shots we execute on the court. The subconscious works with images not words, especially if those words are, “You idiot, you took your eye off the ball again.” That explains why we mentally rehearse our next shot before each point and also explains why keeping a target in mind is an effective way to execute a shot.

Practice Report: practiced for two hours, hit against the wall for half an hour.
Solutions Analysis: the backswing on all my strokes is a trunk twist – my racket goes back only as far as my trunk will twist. It also helps to step into the ball and hit it well out in front of my body if I want to hit it hard.

Barbarella the crossing guard

Saturday night I went to a back to school party dressed as Barbarella the crossing guard. Wearing a zippered fetish dress that barely covered my butt and day glo green fishnet hose and boots, I realized that the gas tank was on empty and I hoped that the gas station was empty too so that I could get out of the car without attracting too much attention. Problem is that I stayed out late and got up late so my sleeping patterns are off and I had no rhythm today. When that happens, going for winners is like entering the lottery with hopes of winning. After seeing enough balls go long or dribble into the net, I switched to hitting the ball to the center of the court as deep as possible. It kept me in the match but, unfortunately, my opponent also hits good groundstrokes.

Practice and Competition Report: practiced for 45 minutes, played three sets with M.: 3-6, 3-6, 2-6
Solutions Analysis:
1. I was upset with the scoring at one point and lost my service at love to lose the set. That’s a good time to develop short term memory loss and concentrate on the job at hand.
2. good footwork on the approach shot makes all the difference. I need to be in position just like any other groundstroke and step into the ball with a good follow through before moving closer to the net.
Success Analysis:
1. I served an ace to the forehand.
2. I hit some good overheads.
3. I was able to hit my topspin serve successfully after losing rhythm on my harder serve.


I have a friend who goes into people’s dreams at night (only if he’s invited) and helps them out with their problems. That is his way of serving others. I have enough problems of my own and would likely turn your dream into a nightmare but I do have my own version of nightwork. After I close my eyes and before I go to sleep, I mentally rehearse aspects of my tennis game that need work.

Each week I identify 3-4 things that need improvement and I work on these throughout the week. Currently I am working on three things: 1. swinging the racket with a neutral wrist position – i.e. don’t drop the racket head as I hit the ball and end up with tennis elbow again 2. stepping into the ball and following through 3. coming to a stop and hitting my approach shot before moving forward to the net. It happens a lot, I run into the net to hit an approach shot and all of a sudden the ball is about to hit me in the nose because I’ve overrun it.

Whether I’m trying to make a current stroke more automatic or incorporating something new into my game, nightwork can be very helpful.

What I want to know is, how does Roger Federer win three Grand Slams in one year without a coach?

Practice and Competiton Report: played league tennis today, one set of doubles and one set of singles: 6-4, 4-6
Solutions Analysis: looking for a solution to rushing the approach shot.
Success Analysis:
1. I hit a lot of service winners by serving to my opponent’s backhand.
2. I was down 5-0 but came back to win the next four games before losing 6-4. I was very nervous but I’m getting much better at keeping with my routine despite the nerves.

change of plans, like me/unlike me

The last time I played league tennis I found myself cursing when I made a mistake. This is clearly not helpful. I’ve been reading Zen Golf by Dr. Joseph Parent. He suggests saying, “Hmmm, that’s not like me”, when you make a mistake. I tried it today, it’s a lot more helpful than cursing. Currently, then, after a point has ended, one of three things will happen: if I won the point I say, “That’s like me”, if I made an error I say, “Hmmm, that’s not like me”, if my opponent hit a winner I congratulate them.

I’m trying to install positive habits bit by bit so that I can get to the point where my thoughts all contribute positively to my tennis game. If I do everything possible to play well and someone beats me, so be it, I’ve done everything I can.

Practice and Competition Report: played a set and a half with M.: 4-6, 4-2, practiced my serve for one bag of practice balls, ran sprints
Success Analysis: my agressive attacking game wasn’t working so I switched to hitting the ball deep to the middle of the court and waiting for my opponent to make errors. She did.

elvis pelvis, silly walks

Most of the exercises in my new workout regiment consist of pelvic twists such as this cable pull exercise: The pelvis does all the work in these exercises, the arm just follows along. It’s supposed to be the same in tennis. I’m supposed to bring the racket back by twisting my trunk then step into the ball and whack it using pelvic twist and abdominal muscles to blast those winners. Watch pro players, they propel themselves at the ball and twist all the way around as their shirt goes flying. Then watch recreational players. Much of the time their arm does all the work. No wonder there are so many tennis elbow straps sold. Did you ever see a professional player wear a tennis elbow strap?

When I severely injured my back in 1986, my movement teacher gave me a very valuable suggestion. She asked me to watch how people move so that I could learn how to move efficiently myself. Watch joggers for instance, they look like they belong in a Monty Python silly walks episode. Sometimes their legs move and their top doesn’t. Sometimes their arms move and very little else. Sometimes they land on their toes and other times they look like Frankenstein clomping along. Look at walkers also. Notice where the movement stops in their body: are their hips stiff, is their spine frozen, are their arms glued to their sides? Your entire body should move from the foot through the legs then the pelvis and the trunk. Start noticing how other people move and then look at how you move.

Practice Report: worked out at the gym for an hour and a quarter