Tennis players – this one’s for you! Guest Blogger, Pender Murphy, serves up his top lessons learned during his many years on the court. Murphy was a two-time All-American at Clemson University and was ranked 102 in the world in 1982. He started TLA Tennis (named for Tucker Leighton Avram, Andy Avram’s son ) in 2007. TLA Tennis provides free tennis instruction to people at various sites around Charlotte.
- UNFORCED ERRORS
It comes down to this. Think how much you love it when your opponent sprays the second or third shot in a rally. Don’t make your opponent happy. And there’s nothing wrong with looping the ball sometimes. People hated it in the 10 and under and they hate it in the 70 and over. When you venture to the net, put the approach shot in the court. Down the middle is fine, just make them hit a passing shot. And especially make them hit it when it’s 5-5, deuce. Passing shots aren’t so free flowing at that stage.
Many of us have an exaggerated idea of our first serve percentage. You’re probably at about 40%. So take a little off it until you’re at least over 50%. And mix it up. Go to your opponent’s weaker side the majority of time, but don’t get too predictable. In the ad court (assuming righties) hit an aggressive kicker on your first serve on occasion. Also, everyone’s time is limited, and practicing your serve probably isn’t at the top of the list on how you want to spend your time on the court. So, if you can’t carve out time to hit baskets of practice serves, maybe just get to the court 10 minutes early and hit some.
- THE TRIGGER
Of course, you don’t want to make unforced errors, but sometimes you have to pull the trigger. You can’t be too cautious, so on those sitters inside the service line, you have to go for it. On occasion if you miss, that’s ok. If you miss all the time, it may be appropriate to recalibrate your trigger.
There’s nothing more important than trusting your training and your strokes. Execute the way you have prepared, and then let the result take care of itself. It’s easier said than done, but it’s the key to any sport. If there is no reason you should trust your training, well…I don’t know.
- DROP SHOT
Since I’m closing in on 58, I suppose these tips, though timeless and appropriate for all levels, are geared more towards the senior contingent. So develop a drop shot. Furthermore, develop one off your forehand wing as most players don’t have that. Legendary Olde Providence member Brad Cherry has an amazing feathery forehand drop shot, which I suggest you study. (Feather and Brad are words I never thought I’d use in the same sentence.) It’s unique in that he lunges somewhat violently at the ball as he executes the shot, plus he always hits it crosscourt. And, boy does it work. (Though maybe not so much now.)
6. SERVE AND VOLLEY
You don’t have to do it a lot, but just doing it every so often will give your opponent something to think about. He won’t be so comfortable just floating the return back in play, so maybe he’ll miss some. If your serve and volley is basically a bluff, do it at 40-love.
- BODY BLOWS
Making your opponent run for drop shots takes a tremendous cumulative effect on him. You may lose some of the points early, but be patient. Along these lines, running around your backhand all match is similarly debilitating. Those couple of extra steps you take to hit a forehand might not seem like much at first, but by mid- second set they have taken a toll and you turn into mush like George Foreman in Zaire.
- KNOW LIMITS
As we age, “less is more” should always be on our minds. If Fred Robinson (Body Helix founder) wants you to play a 15th ground stroke game, don’t do it. My experience with him is that he won’t browbeat you into it. We’re all lucky to be able to play this amazing game, and we need to stay in one piece to be able to do so.
Finally, I’d like to thank Fred and Tom (Parker). They, and Body Helix, have helped so many of us with our injuries and ailments. They help us continue playing this game we love. Guys, thank you.