Many of us are forced to take time off of
tennis for a variety of reasons. Sickness, work, injury, kids,
winter and many others are all factors in our everyday lives
that can keep us off the court for months or even years. I
wish playing tennis was like riding a bike. After 3 years
of not riding on a bike I can hop back on a bike and ride
just fine. Unfortunately after 3 months off of tennis my game
seems to need some serious fine tuning.
I hope that each of you are the type of players who play well
no matter how long it has been since you last touched a racquet.
Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. I started playing
a week ago after a 3 month break due to some lingering injuries
that I wanted to heal (of course they didn't). I have only
been on the court a few times and my strokes feel pretty good,
but my timing is still slightly off and my reaction time is
still way too slow forcing more errors than usual.
Reaction time, touch, timing and instinct
are all things that will be lacking when you return to the
court. Here is a quick list of things that can help you play
good solid tennis until you are back in form.
Playing the Basics:
One of the best things you can do when you play your first
few matches back is to try to keep the points simple and smart
by sticking to the basics of tennis. Whether you are playing
singles or doubles if you stick to the simple basics of tennis
you will hit a lot more balls in the court. When you are still
rusty it is usually not a smart play to aim for the lines
on your shots or try all the special shots in the book. Remember
this, if you are struggling to hit the regular shots in the
court you must find a way to restrain yourself for going for
the fancy shots and aiming for the corners. There is no need
to go for those fancy drop volleys or try to rip the winner
from 6 feet behind the baseline when you are not playing well.
If you are struggling with your game than your fancy shots
will most likely to get you into deeper trouble. Instead,
play it safe, play the percentages and force your opponent
to beat you, do not beat yourself.
Play People who are not as good as you:
I always find that if I play a few matches with someone who
is a level below me it allows me to do a few things. One,
it allows me to build some confidence. Two, it allows me more
time to hit and to adjust to the ball since I try to hit with
someone who does not hit with a lot of pace. If you are a
4.0 player, find a very consistent 3.5 for your first match
or two back. The match score might be closer than you would
like it to be but you will have a nice opportunity to refine
your skills as you play. I do not recommend finding someone
who will knock you off of the court easily. That will be little
practice for you and will not build your confidence.
It is a good idea (especially for those of us who are extremely
competitive) to get at least one or two practice sessions
in before you play your first match. Hitting with a partner,
hitting on the wall or hitting with a ball machine are all
great ways to help you find some of your timing and feel for
Patience is not a strong point in my personality. I can get
frustrated on the court pretty quickly, especially when I
am not used to playing. However, I find the more I try to
be patience and work through the strokes the better I play.
Be patient with your game and give it time to come around.
Try to just be happy you are on the court again.
I have a rule of thumb that works well for most people who
haven't played for a few months. If you can play 3 matches
that are competitive (not 6-0, 6-0 either way) than your 4th
match you will start to look like your old self again.
Be patient on the court and know that your
tennis skills of old will eventually come back. A few good
practice sessions and a few good matches is all you usually
need for you to start looking like the tennis player you were
before you put the racquet down. In your first few matches
you will hit a lot of errors, just expect that it will happen
and each match you will hit less and less. Play smart and
have fun! The good news is that you are back on the court!
Luck on the Court!