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Tennis Tip: Building Ball Tolerance and Patience

Tennis Tip

Going for too many winners?  Not consistent enough?  Oklahoma Head Women's Tennis Coach, David Mullins offers a few tips on how to build your ball tolerance and patience.  

"Too many players focus on hitting and practicing the great shot; the winner on the run from behind the baseline or that fancy drop-shot, but ultimately that is not what works at the top levels of female junior tennis and college tennis (the pro game is a little different). The best players I have coached in college (including the # 1 ranked singles female college tennis player) are the ones that move extremely well, do not take many unnecessary risks and beat you with their patience. Their ball tolerance is extremely high and they make few to none neutral ball errors. Their winner count is low but their unforced error count is usually non-existent compared to their opponents. They do not overwhelm you with power or winners, and you will often hear the opponent after the match feel like they had chances and that the match was closer than the score indicates! Yeah right!! Here are a few things you can do to work on your ball tolerance and patience.

# 1 – Half Court Singles Game – play a game up to 10 points, feeding out of the hand. No drop-shots or net approaches are allowed. It is almost impossible to hit a winner and the person who is the most patient typically wins. Get a sense of how many balls you hit before you start getting restless and want to hit a winner or come to the net. Try to build up your level of resilience in this game and win the mental battle against your partner.
# 2 – Middle Third Singles Game – measure two racket lengths from the inside alley line on both sides of the court and put a cone, strip or tennis ball down to make your new court. Play a singles game with serves and returns and everything but the serve has to go through the middle 1/3 of the court, anything outside the new targets is wide. You can play up to 10 again or maybe even try and play a set with these constraints. Another variation would be to have the smaller court on just one side of the court or have just the person returning playing into the smaller court. No drop-shots or approach shots allowed
# 3 –Figure 8 drill to full court points – do a figure 8 drill (one person hits crosscourt the other hits down the line) for 4 shots each, so 8 total before the point begins. When you reach 8 you can hit the ball wherever you would like. Play up to 10 alternating who goes down the line and who goes crosscourt. As you improve you can increase the number of balls you hit in the figure 8 before the point begins.   

Ultimately this is just one part of your development plan if you want to become a better tennis player. If you cannot get points started and build points then there is little point on working on your finishing game. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and what type of player you are and want to become, but never lose track of the fact that it is difficult to win tennis matches if your unforced error count is too high. 

For more great tips and an amazing summer camp experience, join Coach Mullins and his staff this summer at the University of Oklahoma Nike Tennis Camp.  See you on the courts!

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