The Trifecta of Tennis Improvement

Marc VanDam, my good friend and ‘regular Tuesday guy’ 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 anyone’s tennis development. But there appear to be three pieces to becoming a good/excellent tennis player:

  1. Skills,
  2. Conditioning,
  3. Mental.

We have all seen/played guys who have better skills than we do; but beaten them because they just weren’t in good enough shape to last the full match. We have also seen players who ‘we know we should beat,’ but don’t; because they just make the right shot at the critical point in the match.

The ‘mental’ thing has two parts to it: being smart enough to analyze your opponent’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 ‘situation.’ So one key is to keep ‘practicing’ those important strokes into drills, practice games, fun matches, and then – ultimately – 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.