Is there a "Secret" to learning tennis?
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No matter what the level, 2.0 , 5.0 or pro, tennis is fun, rewarding and great exercise. I have noticed over the years that as soon as a player begins to be able to hit the ball where they intended it to go, they get hungry for tennis knowledge and want to get out there and compete. This seems to happen at around the 3.0 - 3.5 level (USTA, NTRP). Years ago, when I decided to start playing competitively in local tournaments and USTA team tennis, I attended a "rating clinic" to have a teaching pro rate us so we would know what level to play at. After the drill, the local pro asked me what level I thought I should play. I said I wanted to play 4.0. The pro told me to start playing at 3.5 and then prove him wrong on his rating of me. This was the wisest thing he could have ever said to me, I thrive on a challenge. I didn't pick up the game until later in life, so I worked harder on my fitness training, improved my diet and practiced with greater intensity. -Tennis was constantly on my mind. I took a few lessons and went to various drills around town. I was consistently improving and my win-loss record was 30-3 at one point. I was bumped up to 4.0, and two years later, again up to 4.5. I organized a USTA mens team and started USPTA training to become an instructor. As a new player/instructor, I was able to figure out on my own that the reason I was winning my matches was that my passing shots were better/stronger than my opponent's approach shots. I would simply lure my opponents to the net, they would make a weak approach shot and then I would easily pass them or send up an offensive topspin lob. Looking back, this subconscious strategy made total sense because the first thing players learn and enjoy is how to keep a rally going from the baseline. I was simply able to hit in matches more of the shots I was hitting in practice, and baseline shots were becoming automatic for me. (Wish I had a backboard back in the day). This understanding was key for me and lead me to discover (or become aware of) other tennis "secrets" that no other teaching pro ever taught me or that I have ever found on any other website, including the USTA or the USPTA. Future blogs will inform you of my efforts to share my discoveries with organized tennis and my journey of starting this company and this website, as you will find information here that you will not find from any other source, -unless they have recently copied from this website. ($100.00 REWARD to anyone showing me the "Secret" below, published before this website). The hugely successful Williams' sisters started out learning the game in an "unconventional" way and look at what they have accomplished. Richard and Oracene, their father and mother, had NO, ZERO, tennis experience, yet they figured out how to feed balls to their girls and kept it up, day after day, before school and after, together as a family. Venus won her first pro match at age 14! -Is it possible that my discoveries could explain why the U.S. has not had a men's player in the top 10 for so many years? There IS a secret to learning tennis and it has been overlooked or completely missed by U.S. teaching pros and organized tennis. THE OVER-LOOKED SECRET AND FUNDAMENTAL TO LEARNING TENNIS IS THIS: You must train your eyes to focus 100% on your racquet string's contact with the ball while visualizing a target in your mind. When hitting from the baseline, your target (in your mind) should be a fixed position well above the net. The pros are NOT looking out of the corner of their eye at some location in their opponents side of the court. This is worth repeating: Top pros like Federer, have their eyes focused 100% on the contact between the ball and their racquet strings while they are visualizing and hitting to a fixed position (in their mind) above the net, -when hitting from the baseline. (Most pros/top players may not even be aware of this, but that is what they are doing). When they are close to the net and volleying, then they are visualizing a place in their opponent's court. Beginners especially need to be reminded often by their instructors to visualize a target well above the net when hitting from the baseline. Our on-court hoop targets are a great help. I used to hold a hula-hoop above the net by hand for my students until I created our free-standing targets. (See the targets in the Shop link above). After my students really get this, they rarely hit a ball into the net. Tennis champions of the future will practice extensively with targets and backboards. Stay tuned for future blogs and please leave a comment or question. Next post will be about what Stan Wawrinka's coach, Magnus Norman, said to us at a recent USPTA tennis conference. Magnus said: "I use targets as much as possible." (Magnus Norman is from Sweden, he was formerly ranked #2 in the world, and Stan Wawrinka is currently #3). -I rest my case. Coach Brian