1.) Formula for a successful practice: Extreme Effort (Players) + Super Specific Focus (Coaches) = Perfect Practice. Extreme effort is supplied by the players. Even if the focus of practice is not your favorite — extreme effort is required. Specificity of the practice is usually supplied by the coaches or provided by the stipulations within the drill or point play situation. In the rare case where a specific focus is not supplied — it is an opportunity for players to have their own specific focus based on what they need to work on.
2.) Goal of every practice: try your hardest and have a specific focus for every shot. If you are doing these two things, you should feel great about every moment of your practice. The success of a tennis practice is often divided into each individual shot. I made the shot, I did well. I missed the shot, I did bad. Practices can be divided into each individual shot but the question should not be: did I hit good or bad shots but did I try my hardest and have a specific focus?
3.) Focus on the correct things. When you are drilling, it is the best time to focus on technique. When you are playing points, it is the best time to focus on strategies and tactics. There is one exception to this…you can focus on technique in point play situations on serves and returns as that is a time when you have more control of the situation. When focusing on return technique — it is best to focus on technical footwork (will you move forward or backward?). From a mental approach to returns — hope your opponent hits a great serve and you will hit a great return. Too often tennis players focus on: 1.) this players serve is too good for me to return or 2.) I hope they miss the serve. This does not put you in a good mentality to hit a great return.
4.) To have a better understanding of how to improve your tennis game — it is good to break the game down into 3 different categories: technique, skills, and strategy. You obviously need to have good technique to execute shots the way you want to. The most important aspects of technique are: proper spacing, contact point, and acceleration. These core concepts should always be worked on. Skills include consistency, accuracy, movement, spins, and power. Development (practices) should follow this pattern. Matches should also follow this pattern. For example…start the match by having the goal of making 10 shots per point. It is even a good idea to count in your head as you hit as this will help you stay calm and focused. If you need to more aggressive to be successful…you can hit your shots to a certain side of the court (accuracy) or move your opponent side to side. To be even more aggressive…start varying your spins and slowly increasing the power of the shots as you get into rhythm.
5.) How to run your own practices…start with asking yourself these questions…do I prefer my forehand or backhand? Do I prefer to drill or play points? Do I prefer to be aggressive or play high %? Now…structure a practice around the opposite of your preferences. This will help you work on your limitations as a tennis player as we frequently prefer what we are good at. This does not mean that you should never work on your strengths, however, when running your own practice — the ability to recognize and work on your weaknesses shows a great deal of true confidence and professionalism which is critical to be a successful tennis player.