Usually, you know from the get-go if your strokes are clunky, plagued by miss hits: your warm-up is a symphony of rattles and clanks. And usually this means that right from the start you're anxious or overly excited about your match. All too common.
Because we never know what the tennis gods will grant us when we hit the court, understandably we're jittery about what we have and don't have in the way of strokes. And emotions being emotions, the temptation is to reach for the gold ring right away, our benchmark best pace for all of our strokes. It's as if we want to reassure ourselves that we've got the goods, and, of course, that's something we want to communicate to our opponents, as well. The only trouble is, if we reach for the gold ring and don't catch it, the only place to go is down.
If your strokes feel tense and your getting miss hits, slow down: take the term "warm-up" literally. After all, if we're really warming up, doesn't that mean that we should begin below our best paces? One trick is to not allow yourself to advance the pace of your opponent's shots in the first part of the warm up; hit them back at the same speed or slower. Instantly, your strokes will get smoother and those miss hits disappear. Another trick is to "play" the warm-up, imagining that it's match point against you--no balls on second bounces, no shots over-hit, nothing near the lines. Create for yourself the tension you're going to feel as soon as you cross the threshold into scoring and play. Treat the warm-up as a free period, and you're often not prepared to play, though you've already shouted, "Ready!"
c Keith Shein