By Geoff Browne, Director of Women’s Tennis at Dunwoody Country Club
As tennis players, we are all problem solvers. Every time we play a match we are trying to find a way to win against an opponent or opponents who have the same objective. How many times have you lost a match that you feel you (and your partner) should have won? Often, you will find yourself having a match going by so quickly, but not with the desired end result. All match wins and losses can be attributed to all or one of the following: tactic, technique, or mental. You have to be able to make changes when behind to be competitive consistently. Everyone has played the opponent who seems weak initially but always seems to find a way to win. There is a well-known saying by Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Hoping to “start to play better” to pull out a match will seldom prove successful. In order to overcome an opponent, you have to be able to figure out what you can do differently.
The easiest aspect of your game that you can change is your tactic. You have to ask yourself, “What can I do differently,” as well as “What does my opponent not like to see from me?” The answers can include: the type of serve you are hitting, where you hit your serve, where you return serve, lobbing, poaching, are your targets too small, et cetera. The more tools you have at your disposal, the more potential solutions you will have to solve the problem. If the only tool you have is a “hammer,” then every problem will look like a “nail.” Many players don’t like to change tactics, but if you are not winning the match, you have nothing to lose by trying something different.
Putting in the practice before the match will develop your strokes to be dependable on game day. When you are having an off day, you have to be able to go to plan B or plan C. Look objectively at why you are missing your shots. Are you hitting balls long or in the net? Figure out what you can do to correct the issue. Top players will hit with more spin and net clearance to increase consistency. Consistency is your most effective weapon. Many issues can be resolved by insuring that your footwork and body are in the right place to execute your shots. When your balance is good, the shot becomes much easier. Some of the most common mistakes in tennis are caused by reaching for the ball and/or having your body too close to the ball at contact. Go back to basics with good preparation and you will see your shots become more steady and reliable.
Everyone knows how the importance of the mental aspect of tennis. It’s easy to be positive when winning and negative when behind. Your mental state will affect your shot selection and execution. Encourage your partner and think positively in a match. Avoid the thoughts of “don’t,” “can’t,” and “sorry.” The great part of tennis is that you always have time to come back in a match. Success produces confidence. When you get more balls in play, you will continue to feel better about your game. Play the percentages and be patient for your opportunity. Most points are won from your opponent’s mistakes and not by an outright winner.
When you are ready to do whatever it takes to come out ahead in your matches, your winning percentage will improve. Every time you hit a tennis ball you are making a decision. Being a good problem solver requires looking at the situation and deciding what is the necessary cause of action. The next time you are down in a match, look at what you can do differently — whether it be tactically, technically, or mentally — to reverse your fortunes and come out on the winning end!
USTA GEORGIA-GPTA TEACHING PROFESSIONAL SPOTLIGHT: GEOFF BROWNE
Hometown (City/State): Detroit, MI
How did you get involved in teaching tennis? When playing for Hugh Thomson in college, I assisted him in clinics and was hooked!
Diehard fan of what sports team? Anything Detroit
Best part of your game? Backhand
Dream doubles match would be me and… Roger Federer vs Pete Sampras and Vitas Gerulaitis
When I’m not teaching tennis, I’m… Stringing racquets for Dave Dvorak (seriously, trying to spend time with my wife and daughters).
My favorite tennis memory is: I have been very blessed to have many great memories in tennis. Most memorable include time that I have spent with legends of the sport — Harry Hopman, Tony Palafox, and Bill Tym who have made me the tennis professional that I am today.
My favorite professional player is: Roger Federer, who else?
#1 reason why I enjoy teaching & coaching tennis: The joy that students have when they improve and are having fun.
What important tennis message do you want to promote? Tennis is a sport that you can play, compete, and improve your entire life no matter your age and level.