Another type of focus: Awareness
After last month's article about focus, I thought about some other aspects of playing tennis that might help you keep your head in the game.
These aspects can be looked at as an overall awareness, not just of what's going on during play, but what you can do to affect and, hopefully, control the play in your favor.
To start, do you have a shot that you can execute with relative ease and consistency - one that you'd be more comfortable to hit on critical points, if possible? Being aware of your self-confidence in that shot and working yourself into a position to execute it is another aspect of staying focused.
Now, by the time you've played a couple of games into a set, your opponent(s) should reveal most of their strengths and weaknesses. Your awareness of this can help determine what you need to do to play your strengths to their weaknesses.
Staying focused and hitting shots, especially the ones you do well that make them uncomfortable, can create many unforced errors in your favor.
Next comes awareness of conditions that you don't have initial control of, but have to (once again!) stay focused to work with them, hopefully in your favor. They include wind, sun, heat, cold, court surface and court condition. All these elements can affect the type of shot you'll try to execute.
In dealing with this aspect, be aware to hit more to the open space in the court, or at your opponent's feet. My high school coach used to say, "If you can't hit the open spaces, go for their shoe laces."
Speaking of coaches, the last type of awareness I'll mention is one that I picked up from a coach I had in college. During practice matches, he would stand behind the windscreen and ask quite forcefully, "Score, please?" He did this when he noticed that the score wasn't being announced before every point.
If you didn't know the score, it was laps around the courts after practice. His point: If you're not aware of the score, how can you be focused on your game?
Beyond that, being aware of the score allows for you to know when to be aggressive (you're up by a couple of points), or conservative, going for more placement over power (your opponent's ad).
Adding all-encompassing tennis awareness to your game will help sharpen your focus.
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. firstname.lastname@example.org