What are the “Big points” in tennis

We all hear about the “big” or crucial points in tennis, but sometimes it’s difficult to fully understand which points these are. Today I would like to share with you precisely what points have the biggest influence on the outcome of each game and ultimately each match. The ATP posts various match statistics on their website, but it is very difficult to decipher how those points are effecting the outcome matches. For example, someone could be hitting 100 forehand winners (Impressive) but still lose every match.

Thanks to Barnett, T., & Clarke, S. (2005). We now have a very good rubric for which carlosbtennisstatspoints are the most crucial to win. As seen below there are three important columns; Winning the point at 30-all, the player who has the advantage after a deuce, and the player who wins the first point or two in any game (without a deuce.)

As shown below you can see that being the server in these situations is a huge advantage, and something to really think about. When in these situations, I believe it is important to put more energy and effort into these big points, and conserve energy during other points. Personally, when I broke someone’s serve in singles, I did not put a whole lot of energy into the following return games because I knew that I could win my service games 98% of the time. I knew only needed one break to close out a set.

Another tip to track which big points you are personally winning and losing the most of is to have someone chart your matches. During the tennis congress, we showed players a way to do this easily with a simple line graph. You just draw a horizontal line with the paper rotated horizontally, with points that are won going upward and points lost going downward. The lines should be about 1 inch long, and on each point that you make you can put a label or a note. You can customize the way you chart each point however you like. I put a picture below to show you an example.carlosbtennisstats2

I hope this gives everyone a better understanding of what “big points” really are and gets you thinking about how you deal with them. If you have no idea, I highly recommend you have a friend or teammate chart a couple of your matches so you can visually see when you excel and when you don’t.

– Carlos Bermudez Tennis

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The Dream & The Nightmare

Many experienced players have a good understanding of the technical and tactical parts of their tennis game. However, from experience I believe that a significantly fewer number of players focus on the mental aspect of the game. I find this interesting since the mental aspect of the game applies to literally every level and competitive belief. Even if you are not competitive, it still applies in some shape or form. That being said, there are three common types of thinkers; past, future and present. People who think in the past tend to get a little more upset, people who think in the future tend to be a little more anxious, especially under pressure, and people who think in the present tend to be a little calmer and collected. Your goal should be to think in the present, but I believe that is only the tip of the iceberg.

That being said, it is psychologically difficult for the past and future not to affect our present actions. Thinking in the present is very difficult because everyone will be thinking of different things throughout a match, whether it be positive or negative. These different thoughts are like “white noise,” or background noise to a present thinker. I personally found it very difficult to not think about the past, and especially the future before and after matches. However, it was necessary for me to get past that in order for those thoughts not to affect the outcome of my matches.

Consequently, I encourage you to deeply visualize your matches and even your practices before they happen. I recommend you go to the court and sit where the spectators would sit, and visualize yourself playing the match as yourself and also as playing the match as your opponent. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses? If I knew my opponent I found it important to figure out how much winning meant to him on a personal level, and imitate that during my visualization. This would help me go into matches with a greater intensity than his.

Next, you will want to visualize the absolute “Nightmare” match against this opponent where you cannot get anything right and nothing you are doing is working. Think about the spectators and opponent being obnoxious, bad calls being made, someone’s dog barking on the sideline etc. In order to end the visualization process on a positive note, you will then want to visualize the absolute “Dream” match where your confidence is soaring and your strategy, and shots are flawless. Think of winning the match 6 – 0, 6 – 0, and what would it would look like/what would you need to do to accomplish this.

The purpose of this is to put all outcomes on the table, while at the same time prepare the tactical and mental aspects of the match ahead. I believe that this visualization will greatly reduce the anxiety before and during matches for ALL types of thinkers, because it offers us a reference to all outcomes and how we accomplished each of those, as opposed to attempting to navigate through each of them as they are happening during the actual match.

– Carlos Bermudez Tennis

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Finishing Your Stroke & Following Through

Jelena-jankovicThere are many acceptable places to finish or follow through on your stroke. At the shoulder, at your pocket, and by your ear, to name a few. However, the finish is not as important as you might think. I’m sure you have heard coaches say “finish, finish, finish,” which is good at first, but does very little to impact to your stroke, and what the ball is doing/going. Contrary to popular belief, eventually the finishing point of your stroke will have no impact on what’s happening to the ball.

Here’s why

The reason the finish does not impact your swing is because the ball is only on your strings for two milliseconds. Everything after the contact point doesn’t really matter because the ball is long gone before you get to any finishing point. Yes, even if you have fancy “spin” strings, the ball will not stay on your racket any longer. The strings “grabbing” the ball is just a myth.

So, what is more important?

Don’t get me wrong, finishing your strokes is a good thing, but you should not harp on it for a long time and think about simply “finishing.” The only reason “finishing” our ana-ivanovic-forehand-07-56a943353df78cf772a54c6fstrokes exist is because it the most natural place to stop the momentum of the racket. The reason you are taught to finish on your shoulder for a standard ground stroke rally ball is because it is the most natural place to finish the upward momentum generated by your swing. We don’t finish out in front of our body because that wouldn’t allow spin.

Therefore, when all these points are considered we can conclude that everything leading up to the contact point is significantly more important than the finish of your stroke, and often overlooked. As a matter of fact, if you execute the proper bio-mechanics of the stroke leading up to your contact point, your finish should be effortless and take very little thought. By the same token, it should be very difficult for you to NOT finish.

  • Carlos Bermudez Tennis
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The Jump on the Serve

The serve is arguably one of the hardest shots to learn in tennis, but also the most important. Not to mention there is also a great deal of misinformation out there, especially on the serve. The reason this misinformation survives and grows is usually because it involves things that theoretically might sound correct, but are biomechanically (and on many other levels) incorrect.22814150_1988187164754566_8131508013532341837_n

The reason the serve is so difficult to learn is because it is a multi-segmented body movement. In order to maximize efficiency, power and control you must master the art of stopping one body part, while at the same time transferring force into the subsequent link. The timing of these movements is also crucial.There are seven, maybe eight links (In my humble opinion) throughout the service motion. This is called the kinetic chain. Basically, it is just a fancy name for how we can use our bodies to effectively and efficiently store and then transfer energy (force) into the contact point. Very similar to a when you pull a sling shot back and then release.

If you have heard, “the power comes from the legs,” I’m here to tell you – power does not come from the legs. If you are trying to jump into the serve, you will actually lose quite a bit of power. The jump has absolutely no relevance to the serve, but instead is only a result of the kinetic chain that should be a part of your serve. If you do not execute this kinetic chain, it is pretty much a waste of energy to jump into your serve.

  • Carlos Bermudez Tennis
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Motor Imagery and Service Accuracy

The serve is obviously the most important shot in tennis, with the return coming in a close second. However, I want you to start thinking about what you do before you serve. Do you have a ritual? I think it is very important that you do, especially in the visualization department. As a matter of fact, visualizing the serve is proven through research to improve consistency of the serve.

According to a case study done by (Coehlo et al., 2007; Noel, 1980; Robin et al., 2007) visualizing the serve exactly four times before you even hit the serve will improve your accuracy and consistency. However, I do believe that everyone is different and it might only take one visualization for player A, and six visualizations for player B. The main point here though is to take time before your serve to visualize what you are doing. It does work!

What should you visualize?

  • Visualize where you are going to hit it, and why. What result are you looking for?
  • Visualize your entire motion as if you were looking into a mirror. All the way from how many times you bounce the ball to where you are landing after your stroke. Make sure it is specific to where you are aiming.
  • The swing path leading up to contact, as well as after.
  • What part of the ball are you trying to hit.
  • The trajectory of the ball over the net. How high do you need to hit it for it to land where you want?
  • The impact of the ball in your opponents’ service box.
  • The flight path to your opponent’s racket.
  • Repeat four times.

Make sure you are staying within the 20 second time limit you have in between points. Remember, visualization takes practice and you will eventually want to get down to visualizing the serve once before you serve.

  • Carlos Bermudez Tennis
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When to Move Forward & Backwards at the Net in Doubles – An Introduction

Being the net person in doubles is a tough job, and takes a lot of constant work to get in the right position. I frequently see players do a great job getting into position after the first ball is hit, whether it is good or bad. However, there is very little to no movement after this, which in turn puts us in a non-ideal court position. Therefore making us hit tougher shots then necessary.

carlosbtennis

1. Movement must be dynamic, not static.
2. Keep your eyes on the other net player
3. Always move forward before cutting to the side. You should only be minimally “following the ball” laterally. One of the reasons the split step is so important at the net is because it allows us to cut in any direction efficiently and get to the ball in fewer steps.
4. Be aware of the shots you and your partner are hitting. If you or your partner hits a good offensive ball, move forward. If you hit a weak shot, back up.
5. Take a look at the picture above and notice that the servers’ partner is in an offensive volley position, and the returners’ partner is in a defensive position. You should be constantly moving up and back through these positions. (We’re talking or three steps here)
6. Always try to attack the first ball if your partner is serving. This creates pressure.
7. Important: If your partner hits a return, and it goes past the net player this is your cue to move forward. On the following shot, once the ball has past you it is your cue to move backward and your opponent should move forward.
8. Be careful not to move forward before the ball has past the net person because if he/she does get to the volley, you are a sitting duck.
9. Make sure your movement is before your opponent strikes the ball and NOT while you are hitting.
10. Where you split-step is not necessarily where you will hit.

  • Carlos Bermudez Tennis
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