How to Watch and Learn from the Pros

We would all love to have Uncle Toni by our side to help us improve our tennis game, but how can us mere mortals learn from watching the pros? Have you ever wondered how professional tennis players hit the ball so hard? How they score winners, even though their opponent seems to be in the top shape? How everything seems to fall into the right place? Good news – you CAN learn and improve your game significantly simply by watching, and practicing, the little details tennis just like the pros. In fact, there are three ways in which you can enhance your tennis game and become a better player by watching professional tennis matches – physically, mentally, and tactically.

Maybe it’s even this easy – watch this young boy imitate Federer perfectly! We should all try this at home!

Improve Your Tennis Game Physically

When watching the pros to improve your tennis game physically, you may notice some players prefer higher and longer swings, while the others prefer the short ones when hitting the ball. Federer and Nadal are both great examples. While Federer hits a one-hand back-hand (though he has been quoted as saying, ‘I would teach my kids the two-handed backhand! It’s easier’), Nadal’s backhand is two-handed. Federer prefer shorter points, while Nadal likes to grind for the balls. Now, you are probably asking, which one is the better technique and which one you should pick? Luckily, there is no right or wrong answer. Simply said, it is all about your preference. So choose the one which works for you, feels good and shows the most consistency, especially when it comes to winning points.

Whatever grip techniques you choose, there are definitely two things to which you should really pay attention when observing the pros: footwork and contact point of the ball with your tennis racket. As far as footwork, the general rule says that if you set up well for your shots, you will hit the ball well most of the times. Setting up well means being on balance, having wide base/stands, facing the ball sideways, and following through it. When the ball makes a contact point with your racquet, you want to make sure that you are hitting it on your waist height and on the side of your body. If you hit the ball too far in front of your body/behind your body, you will either miss the shot long or hit it into the net.

Tennis Tip No.1: When watching a professional tennis tournament, do not forget to watch your tennis faves footwork and the contact point of their racquet with the ball.

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Improve Your Tennis Game Mentally

Do you remember those matches when one of the players is up 4-1 in a set and and suddenly loses the match? Or similarly, when they are about to lose and then they refocus and win the match? Also, you have probably heard a million times that the mental side of a tennis game is as important as the physical one. Wimbledon 2019 Federer vs. Djokovich, do you think it came down who was the better player physically or mentally? Djokovich was quoted as saying that even though the entire crowd was chanting "Roger, Roger," all he heard was "Novak, Novak" in his head. Wow!!!!! That is a serious level of mental strength.

I guarantee you if you watch a practice of a tennis player who is ranked a number 100 in the world with a top 10 player, you will not see a difference. However, in a real match, top 10 player will beat top 100 player most of the times. Why? Because the best players in the world have a strong and right mindset. They do not panic, but rather, they stay calm and confident, they believe in themselves, their skills and their preparation. They focus on a present moment and forget the past. They have a winning attitude, do not even consider losing and have a competitive game face, no matter whether they are winning or losing.

McEnroe, as funny as he was on the court with his fits and antics, is the exception to the rule…most athletes will tell you it as, if not more, important, to be the mentally strongest one on the court or field. The same holds true for most sports – have you ever seen Derek Jeter or Peyton Manning lose their cool? Of course not. How did Tom Brady lead his team to a more than 25 point comeback and win during Super Bowl 2017? Mental tenacity, of course.

Tennis Tip No.2: Observe players faces in various stages of the match and situations. Focus on their gestures and behavior on the tennis court.

It’s hard to deny Djokovic has the strongest mental game of any player. In the 2019 epic Wimbledon final against Federer, Djoker says, “It was probably the most demanding match mentally I was ever a part of.” When asked how he dealt with the energy of the crowd being decidedly in favor of Fed, he says, “When the crowd is chanting Roger, I hear Novak.” WOW! The Prince and Princess are rooting for your opponent and you flip it around like that in your head? Mic drop!

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Improve Your Tennis Game Tactically

Pick a player, whose game seems to be most similar to yours. In order to do so, you should ask yourself about type of the game you feel most comfortable with – whether you are defensive/offensive type of player, or whether you are the one who likes to hit winners or if you are the patient one who prefers to wait for your opponent’s mistake. Based on your choice, try to observe the positioning of your role model on the court. Focus on where do they stay in regards to the baseline, how high they hit the ball over the net, where do they hit their shots, and what kind of shots they hit -lobs, slices, drop-shots, etc.

Additionally, you probably noticed that oftentimes, tennis pros tend to hit ball to one side of the court– forehand or backhand, more often than to the other one. That is, because usually, one side is at least slightly weaker than the other. Therefore, it is understanding that no matter what type of game you favorite player has, they almost always try to attack their opponents weaker side.

Similarly, they try to take advantage of their strengths by executing a right game plan. For that reason, we can often see players running around their backhand and hitting inside-out forehand, playing serve and volley combination, or just simply utilizing different variety of shots such as slice, drop-shot, etc.

Tennis Tip No.3: Watch the tennis pros position on the court, try to discover their strengths and distinguish their weaknesses. Then, follow the same steps in your tennis match and you will see the difference!

As tennis fans, we come to watch their games but also to learn. We try to copy their movements, spend our money on the same equipment and hire coaches, but still, our groundstrokes aren’t nearly as powerful, net shots not nearly as precise and overall games not as consistent. It is even more confusing because they all play differently – they have their own distinctive technique, they swing their racquets differently, as well as they hit unique kind of shots.

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