During practice, our team coach Tom likes to call out pop quiz questions, especially when we’ve just screwed something up. By now, we’ve heard the questions so many times we could answer them in our sleep.
When one of us makes an unforced error, he calls out one of his particular favorites:
“What’s the biggest weapon in tennis?”
“Consistency!” we dutifully bleat. Baaa.
And he’s right, of course. That’s why he’s the coach. What’s going to take my game to the next level is more consistency–simply not giving up unnecessary points.
But–don’t tell him I said this–consistency is boring.
Sure, the consistent player gets the ball back and extends the point. But where’s the flair? Where’s the pizzazz? Where’s the FUN? Nobody’s making the evening’s highlight reel being consistent.
You know what’s consistent? The long gray concrete wall I used to hit against as a kid. Do you want to be a long gray wall? Me neither.
I want to be a Kyrgios or a Monfils. I want to be Camila Giorgi. (Except I also want to win.)
When I go for a highlight-reel-worthy shot (which is too often) and miss (also too often), our assistant coach Ana will say, “Choose safer targets.” She might as well be telling me to eat my vegetables. I don’t want the safe target. I want the there’s-no-way-that-ball-is-coming-back target.
I’m never going to be the consistent player. I don’t want to be–it’s just not my game and it’s not why I play. (Sorry, tennis partners.)
But I can try to be a more consistent player. Developing greater consistency might give me the luxury of a little more patience. I could keep the ball in play a little longer, get in a better position, and then hit my crazy target and make the highlight reel. (I should probably also work on my highlight-reel obsession.)
I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and it seems to me that four separate factors affect consistency:
- Fitness. When you run out of gas, your form breaks down and you start making errors. This is true for the pros as well as for the rest of us.
- Footwork. You have to maneuver your body so you’re meeting the ball in the same place every time. As they say, play the ball; don’t let the ball play you.
- Reproducing a stroke under pressure. You need to be able to reproduce your stroke even with opponents hitting frozen ropes, crowding the net, and taking your time away.
- Shot selection. You have to play percentage tennis. Low percentage shots = unforced errors.
In my quest to become a little more consistent, I think I’ve hit upon a pretty efficient way to work on the first three ingredients of fitness, footwork, and producing under pressure. I’ll write about that on Wednesday. And next Monday, we’ll look at shot selection.
Meanwhile, go hit some balls! 😊🎾🎾
Does your game tend toward consistency or go-for-broke winners? And which type of player gives you the most trouble?