Marc VanDam, my good friend and â€˜regular Tuesday guyâ€™ in Florida, is a young (39) player with all his tennis potential in his future. He reports that he has been practicing almost daily with a pro and seeing great upside in the quality of his strokes and conditioning; but having some trouble translating it into match play.
I wrote back to him that practice is definitely critical to anyoneâ€™s tennis development. But there appear to be three pieces to becoming a good/excellent tennis player:
We have all seen/played guys who have better skills than we do; but beaten them because they just werenâ€™t in good enough shape to last the full match. We have also seen players who â€˜we know we should beat,â€™ but donâ€™t; because they just make the right shot at the critical point in the match.
The â€˜mentalâ€™ thing has two parts to it: being smart enough to analyze your opponentâ€™s strengths and weaknesses to know what shot you should be playing in crunch time; and the mental strength to be able to do it.
There is no doubt that we fully control the first two factors: we can practice our skills and work hard to get into better shape than most of our opponents. The challenge is to translate the skills into the â€˜situation.â€™ So one key is to keep â€˜practicingâ€™ those important strokes into drills, practice games, fun matches, and then â€“ ultimately â€“ into tournament matches.
And the better our skills and the better our conditioning, the stronger our mental outlook becomes. It is the trifecta of tennis improvement.