I like to think about my practice sessions in categories. Here is a list of some of the important ones, and then we will have a look at how I practice them.
I set aside 30 minutes or more where my goal is simply not to miss. I choose lower risk shots, more net clearance, and get ready to use the following sets of skills:
- Absorbing power
- Heavy ball
- Slice and continental grip skills
- Defensive lob if I get attacked
SPLIT STEP TIMING
It is imperative that we train our reaction speed, just like a sprinter would train their reaction to the starting gun, and split step balance and timing is the base from which we move. I make an absolute point of working on this every day.
When I switch over to this goal, I am looking to move forward taking the ball a little earlier, and get into the net. The skills I am about to use include:
- On the rise Drive
- Drive volley
- Abbreviated flat shot
- Half volley
- Sneaking in after better than expected ground stroke
- Drop shots
A couple of important notes on Transition work:
The point of this exercise is to work on transition and finishing the point, which means really practicing volleys and watching the opponent’s preparation and stroke production in order to READ the passing shot.
I see a lot of players hitting winners or hitting too big on the approach, and either missing or creating the simplest of volleys. The problem with this is you end up without practicing the full depth of your volley skillset. By hitting accurate but not spectacular approach shots, you will receive more good quality passing shots, meaning you will have to work much harder with your volleys, and this is ideal.
A number of players have come to me asking how they can improve their defensive skills. In much the same way as you would improve your survival skills if you were dropped you in the middle of the Amazon jungle and had to learn to survive.
YOU WILL NOT GET BETTER DEFENSIVELY IF YOU ARE ATTACKING ALL THE TIME YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO LOSE IN ORDER TO WIN HERE
You have to put yourself in harm’s way, meaning you will probably lose, especially against a good player. You need to give those opportunities to attack you, put you in awkward positions, and see if you can fight your way out.
I see a lot of people actually get upset when they give up the short ball, and quit the point, throw a racket and chastise themselves. The smart person will cherish the opportunity to improve their defensive games.
This is where I try to really work through my skill set. The big secret here is to make sure you take care of your practice partner. You have two mentalities to choose from. One is to take your gun and shoot at the same target ten times, and the other is to shoot at ten different targets. You can still hit with a lot of variety right back to you practice partner, at a medium speed, and work through your skill set. Rather than go for corners, and make your practice partner never want to play with you again ;)
- Heavy ball
- Short Angle
- Buggy whip
- On the rise
- Absorb power
- High balls
- Defensive skills
- Abbreviated swings
- Out of the air
- Side spin, underspin, very heavy topspin
I hope this helps you to make some changes to your preparation, and have some fun in your training week :)