One Step At a Time

Defensive and offensive anxiety are the primary culprits for causing us to not follow through, slapping or poking at the ball.  But there's another reason, as well:  rushing your stroke.  And this problem can be tricky to diagnose, as it's perflectly plausible that you can leave your warm-up feeling like your ground strokes are solid, with good eye-contact and full finishes, only to cross the threshold into play and watch those strokes unravel.

In singles, the return of serve is a classic example.  You've got all the open court on the opposite side, calling your name and begging you to move your butt over and defend it; but if you start moving too soon, the part of the stroke that gets shortened is your finish.  Too bad, as the finish is what contributes control, and, as my coach said, "The only thing you're in a hurry to see is a disaster."  In doubles, the return can be equally troublesome, especially if you return and volley.  Here again, you've got to get in gear and move quickly to the service line, but if you hurry and don't finish that stroke, you're likely only going to chalk up an unforced error.

To fix these problems, be clear about what's going on.  If your strokes were good in the warm-up, don't conclude that you're choking just because you've started to score.  Instead, see if your mistakes are context-specific.  Perhaps you're just rushing that ground stroke on the return.  If so, slow down!  One step at a time.  First your follow-through, then your movement.

c Keith Shein