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Tennis Secrets Uncovered, Top Tennis Tips and Common Mistakes

The best of tennis secrets is that at any level of tennis competition, you'll fare best if you focus on having fun and improving your game, not on whether you win. Part of improving is learning how to win, but you should be happier about losing a match in which you played well against a better opponent than winning a match in which you played poorly.

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Tennis Secrets: 5 Key Tips For Winning Matches

For beginners through early intermediates, here are five key tips for winning matches:

1. Tennis Secrets: Hit groundstrokes high to hit deep. Unless you hit hard, aiming your forehands and backhands between three and eight feet above the net will almost guarantee that you'll get the ball in, and it will also help you keep the ball deep. Very deep balls can often draw an error from an inexperienced opponent, and depth in general will limit your opponent's options. You'll want to hit some short balls on purpose, but your standard shot should be deep.

2. Tennis Secrets: Hit second serves high to hit deep. Aim your second serves two to five feet above the net for reliability and depth. The pros do this too, but they use heavy topspin that allows them to add quite a bit more pace than you'll be able to. If you know you have a reliable second serve, you can experiment more with an aggressive first serve and probably earn a few easy points. Until you start learning to spin your first serve, not too many hard ones will go in, but experimenting will help you judge how much speed to attempt.

3. Tennis Secrets: Pull your opponent forward, then hit past her. This is one of the easiest and most reliable tactics you can use. Hitting a short ball to an advanced player is extremely dangerous, because she'll usually reply with a winner, but beginners will most often just hit the ball right back to you. Beginners get caught in "No Person's (formerly No Man's) Land," the area between the baseline and service line, all the time. When you see your opponent there, just aim the ball to either side of her and several feet deeper than she is standing, and you'll almost certainly win the point.

4. Tennis Secrets: Recover your court position quickly. This is your defense against tip #3 and a lot of other difficult situations. Unless you're attacking at the net, which isn't easy as a beginner, you should get back to a spot somewhat diagonally opposite your opponent and roughly three feet behind your baseline after each ball you hit.

5. Tennis Secrets: Use full swings. Full swings don't have to be fast swings. It's tempting to poke at the ball as a way to keep from hitting too hard, but you'll find that a longer swing is far more reliable, and it will be much better for your arm and your rate of improvement. If you want to take some speed off your shot, just slow down your full swing.

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Tennis Secrets: 4 Ways To Be More Agressive

Aggressive tennis usually carries more risk than defensive tennis, but there's a risk in failing to be aggressive, too. Every ball you hit during a point that you should have already won is a needless chance for you to miss.

Here are four ways to be more aggressive, ranked from least to most risky:

1. Tennis Secrets: Hit more topspin.Topspin lets you send a tougher ball at your opponent--and with a greater margin of clearance over the net. Executing a topspin stroke is more difficult than hitting flat, so there's more risk of a mis-hit, and if you generate less topspin than you intend, you'll probably hit long. If you do execute properly, though, balls that leave your racquet at a given speed with topspin will arrive at your opponent's racquet faster than those you hit at the same speed flat, because the ball will lose less speed as it bounces. You'll be able to hit harder at any given height above the net than you could hit flat, and the topspin ball is more likely to bounce above your opponent's comfort zone.

2. Tennis Secrets: Get to net for easy floaters.Once you start trying to anticipate when your opponent will pop up an easy floater, you'll be surprised at how often you get a chance to move in and put away a sitter volley or overhead. Almost any time an opponent has to run away from the net to get a ball, for example, you can be pretty sure he won't hit a powerful drive. If you've just made him chase a deep lob, you should always come to net--it's one of tennis's "automatics." Even if he's just angling backward to get one of your deep drives, though, you should move up. You'll force him to either try a very difficult passing shot or, if he's smart, a lob. As long as you have a decent overhead, the odds will be greatly in your favor. Failing to move up will let him just hit a safe, slow, high ball over the center of the net. He'll be right back in the point with a shot that he never could have used if you had moved up.

3. Tennis Secrets: Take balls early, on the rise.Instead of meeting the ball as it drops from the peak of its bounce back into your power zone, try moving forward and hitting it as it comes up from the bounce. By meeting the ball several feet farther forward, you'll be able to hit sharper angles and get to net more readily, but most importantly, you'll give your opponent less time to react to your shot. If tennis players had all the time in the world to get to any shot, power would be almost worthless. Reducing your opponent's time has the same effect as hitting harder, but with less risk--as long as your timing is good enough to execute the shot. You'll also have less court to cover by cutting off your opponent's angle shots sooner.

4. Tennis Secrets: Mix in some serve-and-volley.If you follow professional tennis, you probably know that serve-and-volley is not for everyone. Even among the world's best, only a small minority are really proficient. Fortunately for you, though, your opponent is probably not a world-class returner, either. If you're letting your opponent get away with floating back high, slow returns of your serve, you're blunting your serve's edge. Many players who can block hard serves back consistently can't even begin to hit a decent pass or lob on the return, and if you make them try, you'll earn a lot of easy points as they miss. If you're a half-decent volleyer, the floaters will be easy pickings for you, and you won't have to come in on every point. If your opponent merely thinks you might come in, she'll be afraid to use her trusty floater return.

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Tennis Secrets: How to Beat Four Major Types of Tennis Opponents

No two tennis players have exactly the same game, but most of the opponents you're likely to face can be placed into one of several major categories. Learning to adapt your strategy to a wide variety of opponents is one of the keys to becoming a tough competitor. If you succeed at becoming this adaptable, you'll enter an elite minority -- those players who can be any one of the major player types as the situation demands.

Tennis Secrets: The Dinker, a.k.a. Pusher, a.k.a. Human Backboard:

The dinker almost never hits hard, but gets everything back. "Dinker" is a somewhat misleading name, because one would normally think of a dink shot as something short and soft. The best among this breed can keep most shots deep, lob effectively, and aim fairly well. Dinkers drive a lot of opponents crazy, because they win by getting you to make all of the mistakes. (It's a lot more frustrating to make a mistake than to have an opponent hit a brilliant shot that no one could have gotten.)

Tennis Secrets: Winning Strategy:

1. Attack at the net. Even the quickest players, who can run down almost anything you hit from your baseline, won't be able to run down an aggressive volley or overhead. Tennis is largely a matter of time, and by being at net, you cut in half both the time between your opponent's hit and yours and the time he has to react to your shot.

2. Get him to cough up a short ball. This might not be easy, but experiment. One tactic very likely to work is making the ball bounce above his shoulders on the backhand side. Most players can't hit deep off these shots effectively.

3. Be patient. He can't hurt you with his shots, so wait for the right ball before going for a winner or attempting an approach shot.

4. Pull him to net with a drop shot or good, low short ball. If he's not much good at hitting an aggressive response, you'll have an easy opportunity to pass him.

Tennis Secrets: The Moon-Baller:

Once a major contingent on the pro tours, especially on the women's side, the moon-baller is like a more skilled and specialized human backboard. She won't hit hard, but she will hit high, deep, and with strong topspin. If you're not used to this kind of shot, it can be tough to handle, and she can keep hitting them all day long.

Tennis Secrets: Winning Strategy:

1. Attack at net, but be ready to hit a lot of overheads and to chase a lot of balls back toward your baseline. You'll need to come in on a better approach shot than you would against an ordinary dinker.

2. Try some sneak volleys. Start trading moonballs back and forth, then, when you've hit a nice deep, high one, sneak in toward the net and take the next ball in the air. It's hard for your opponent to see what you're doing while watching a deep, high ball, so she might not see you until you're about to pound the smash or swinging topspin volley.

3. Learn to hit on the rise. Moonballs are toughest if you let them bounce way above your comfort zone. By hitting them on the rise, you'll take them at a more comfortable height, your ball will come back at your opponent earlier, and the ball will bounce off your strings harder, giving your shot more power with less effort. The timing required to do this is tough, though.

4. Pull her to net. She won't be able to hit a moon ball off your drop shot or low, short ball, so she'll probably feed you an approach shot you can handle with ease.

Tennis Secrets: The Power Baseliner:

This is the most common type on the pro tour today. As opposed to an all-court player, the power baseliner would much rather go for winners from near his baseline than at the net.

Tennis Secrets: Winning Strategy:

1. Keep your shots deep. If you give a power hitter a short ball, you'll have less time to react to his shot, and he'll be able to create sharper angles.

2. Try to keep the ball out of his "wheelhouse," the height at which he can most comfortably hit the ball. Either slice the ball so that it skids quite low or use a fairly high topspin that kicks up above his shoulders.

3. Make him hit a lot of balls. Keep running his shots down, because a hard hitter doesn't have much margin for error, and he'll eventually miss one.

4. Pull him up to net with good drop shots or low, skidding slices. This is a risky play, because if your short ball sits up at all, he'll put it away. If you hit a good short ball though, you'll force him to try to play the net, and a lot of power baseliners don't volley well.

5. Mix up the speeds and spins on your shots. A power hitter needs good timing, and the more variety you throw at him, the more difficult his timing will be.

6. See what happens if you attack at net. A lot of baseliners aren't used to hitting passing shots and make errors such as hitting the net by aiming too low.

Tennis Secrets: The Serve-and-Volleyer:

A good serve-and-volleyer has a big advantage: rarity. Even among the pros, this is a diminishing breed. At the typical club, only a handful of advanced players serve-and-volley. A true serve-and-volley player will come in behind virtually every first serve and most second serves, and when you're serving, she'll often try to come in behind either her return of serve or another approach shot early in the point.

Tennis Secrets: Winning Strategy:

1. Concentrate on aim. Don't look at the incoming opponent or at where you want the ball to go. Keep looking at the ball while you aim either down the line, at the corner of the service box crosscourt, into her body, at her feet, or lobbed over her head.

2. Use topspin to make your returns drop in. Topspin allows you to hit harder at a given height without hitting long. It will also make your sharply angled crosscourt passes drop before they go wide or make the ball dive down at the feet of the incoming opponent.

3. Try some low chip returns at the server's feet.

4. Step in on the return to take the ball early. This will get the ball back sooner, giving the server less time to set up for a volley.

5. If your opponent is coming in behind her returns, too, try some serve-and-volley yourself. Take the net away from her by getting there first.

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Tennis Secrets: 5 Best Defensive Tennis Tactics

In a defensive situation, you have two goals:

1. Get your opponent's aggressive shot back in play.

2. Give your opponent as little opportunity to be aggressive on the next shot as possible.

Here are five proven defensive tactics that will neutralize your opponent's attacks:

Tennis Secrets: Hit deep and moderately crosscourt. Unless your opponent is at the net, hitting deep and moderately crosscourt minimizes the risk in your shot and also limits his offensive potential on his next shot. If you hit crosscourt, but within the middle 2/3 of the court, you're unlikely to miss wide, and your opponent is less likely to hit a sharply angled reply, but you still benefit from hitting over the lower part of the net and having a longer (diagonal) court to hit into. Generally, the more depth on your defensive shot, the better, but if you're an average player, you'll find that aiming 3-4 feet inside your opponent's baseline will be pretty safe from missing long while still deep enough to give you reasonable time to react to your opponent's shot and to limit his ability to hit a sharp angle or a winning drop shot.

Tennis Secrets: Leave plenty of margin over the net. Most players hit their average shot too low. Hitting through a very narrow window over the net is a chosen risk when you decide to hit hard and flat, but if you're going to try such risky shots, save them for offensive situations where you have time to set up properly. If your opponent attacks at the net, your defense will sometimes employ offense: you'll "thread the needle" with a brilliant passing shot now and then. These days, though, most players prefer to attack from the baseline, and in baseline rallies, it makes sense to send defensive shots at least four feet above the net. Making sure you get the ball back is job #1 in defense, and the net is your first obstacle. Job #2 is to keep your shots deep, and the higher you hit, the deeper your shots will typically land.

Tennis Secrets: Avoid hitting down the line. In baseline rallies, hitting down the line puts you farthest from where you need to be next: at the center of the angles your opponent can hit. Your opponent can only make you run wider than your own sideline by hitting crosscourt (including inside-out), so if he is going to have a chance to hit crosscourt, you want that crosscourt shot going toward the side you're already on. You accomplish that by hitting your own shot somewhat crosscourt.

Of course, if your opponent comes to net, feel free to hit down the line as a passing shot.

Tennis Secrets: Mix your spins. Defensive shots typically don't have much pace, and it's foolish to try to place them too close to any lines, so two of the major ways you can make your defensive shot harder for your opponent to hit are not available. We've already discussed hitting deep; now we'll add some unpredictable spins.

If your opponent can just tee off on one shot after another, you'll never get off defense, but if you give him a lot of different spins, you might disrupt his timing enough to draw errors, and once he starts missing, his confidence in dictating play will drop.

Generally, if you put more topspin on your shot than your opponent expects, it's likely to make him meet the ball late and either hit the net or, if he overtilts his racquet in trying to compensate for lateness, hit long. Backspin will tend to make the ball land deeper than he expects, which can also make him late, or, because the ball slows more on the bounce, early. When a hard hitters meets the ball too early, his racquet usually tilts enough to send the ball long. Exactly which timing error your opponent will make is unpredictable, but as long as your changing spins encourage him to make one, you should keep mixing it up. There's very little downside. Just remember that you'll need to hit flat on some shots where clean contact with spin would be difficult and that you should save for key points the spins that bother your opponent most.

Tennis Secrets: Run everything down. It may seem obvious that the more balls you run down the better, but you might be able to improve your ability to run balls down. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Do a split-step each time your opponent starts to swing. Time your split-step so that you'll be on your way down just as you see the ball leaving your opponent's racquet. In mid-air, you'll start to lean in the correct direction, and when you land, you'll be on your way.

2. Don't try to stop before hitting very short balls. The key to getting more short balls back is to keep running forward as you hit the shortest ones. Trying to stop will only keep you from getting to the ball in time or put you so off-balance you won't hit with any control.

3. When you get a ball that's way off court, hit a high lob to buy time to recover your position for the next ball.

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Tennis Secrets: 5 Mental Toughness Tips

Most tennis players are all too familiar with the difficulty of the mental half of tennis competition. The power of the mind is evident at every level, from Goran Ivanisevic or Jana Novotna at Wimbledon to an eight-year-old afraid to use any of her full strokes in her first tournament. Tennis is a gold mine for sports psychologists, and some players spend several hours each week just doing mental toughness exercises.

Here are five simple tennis secrets and techniques you can try right away:

1. The best all-around mental repair tool is the simple phrase, "only the ball." It cures, at least temporarily, most of the big pitfalls. Whether you're upset, angry, nervous, or just distracted, repeat this phrase to block out negative thoughts and return your focus to where it belongs, the ball.

2. Probably the hardest time to concentrate is when you're getting ready to return serve. Your opponent has the ball, so your mind seems to sense that this is an opportunity for a little time off. The next thing you know, your musings about which movie to watch tonight are rudely interrupted by a chunk of rubber and fuzz coming in at 90 m.p.h. A combination of three devices can help keep your mind on the job:

  • While your opponent is preparing, try to focus on something undistracting, like your strings. (Strings get readjusted a lot more than needed because of this little trick).
  • As she tosses the ball, try to watch it come out of her hand and say to yourself a long, drawn-out, "baaalll".
  • As she hits the serve, say "hit," followed by "bounce", then on your return swing, "hit."

The "baaalll" device seems to work well for most players without much of a downside. The "hit, bounce, hit" phrase is also popular, but for some players it distracts more than it helps.

3. It's possible to become too analytical in the middle of a match, which will keep you from letting your strokes take their natural flow, but you don't want to shut down your analytical abilities, either. If you miss a shot you shouldn't have, you'll dwell on it less if you take a moment to figure out what you did wrong, then say to yourself, "Okay, I won't do that again." It's usually a good idea to repeat the stroke right away with the correct motion. You might very well make the same error the next time the stroke comes up, but just go ahead and apply the same process. Eventually you will get it right, and in the meantime, a little extra optimism won't hurt.

4. Learn versatility. If you have only one playing style, and it's not working, your lack of strategic options also creates a shortage of mental safety valves. A key factor in psychological health in general is feeling empowered to choose different courses of action. If you have a Plan B, C, and D on the tennis court, the failure of Plan A is unlikely to cause despair. Tennis players often lose because at least a part of them secretly gives up. You won't give up while you have something else to try. Learn to play every part of the court and hit every kind of shot with every kind of spin. You'll likely uncover a weakness in a seemingly invicible opponent. Variety makes the game more creative and interesting, too.

5. Look alert, energetic, confident, and happy. Looking so will actually help you be so to a significant extent, and it will keep you from giving encouragement to your opponent. If your opponent is at all prone to choking, your look of ready confidence on the verge of seeming defeat might keep just enough doubt in her mind to make her cave under the pressure of closing out the match.

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Tennis Secrets: 5 Mistakes of Inexperienced Tennis Competitors

1. Tennis Secrets: Poking at the ball due to over-caution: It's surprising how many players have two sets of strokes: their long, fluid, practice strokes and their short, choppy, match strokes. When these players get into matches, they become so over-cautious, they're afraid to take a real swing at the ball. They just poke at the ball, as if enough gentleness will coax it into behaving properly.

Of course, you learn long strokes not because they look pretty, but because they work better. When you poke at the ball, your racquet is in the process of decelerating when it meets the ball. This makes it unstable, and the result is an unpredictable racquet angle that can send the ball all over the place.

In addition, short, pokey strokes generally don't produce any topspin, which is the best tool for consistency, and they don't generate any pace. Failing to generate good offense is a great risk in itself, because you prolong points you should have already won. You'll have no offense with pokey strokes.

2. Tennis Secrets: Getting caught in "No Person's Land": When you move inside your baseline to get a ball, you have to either get back behind your baseline or move to the net right away. From inside the area between the baseline and the service line, you can't volley effectively, and any ball that lands behind you won't be playable with a groundstroke. If you're good at the net, move forward whenever you can hit a strong approach shot. If not, learn to backpedal quickly, but still go to net if you don't have time to get all the way back before it's time to hit the next ball. You don't want to get caught retreating when the ball arrives.

3. Tennis Secrets: Hitting to your opponent: At every level of tennis, the easiest direction in which to hit the ball is the direction from which it came. This is one of the main reasons players tend to hit back to their opponents. We also tend to hit toward whatever we're most focused upon. By far the most conspicuous thing on the other side of the net is your opponent, so your attention, and thus your shot, tends to be drawn in that direction. To overcome this, try to focus your eyes on the ball while visualizing target zones on the court.

4. Tennis Secrets: Not attacking dinky serves: Against many opponents, the easiest balls coming your way will be second serves. Inexperienced players hit truly dinky second serves that are just begging to be attacked. You can hit them hard and deep, at a sharp angle, or very short (drop shot). If you keep punishing these dinky serves, your opponent will probably start trying to hit a better one than he can, and his resulting double faults will drive him nuts. Frustration will increase his errors, giving you lots of bonus points.

5. Tennis Secrets: Admiring your shot: Yes, hitting a good shot is central to tennis, but you can't rest on your laurels--at least, not right away. If you stand there watching the beautiful flight of your shot, you'll be way out of position when that beauty comes back. Generally, you need to start moving immediately back toward the middle of the range of angles your opponent could hit next. This position is somewhat diagonally opposite your opponent if you're at your baseline, and it's somewhat toward the ball if you're at the net.

(Resources: tennis.about.com)

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