Did you ever wonder why you can play so well on one point and so poorly the next point? Do you want to increase your consistency but are not sure how to do it?
Top players reach high levels in tennis due to their consistent performance in matches. Consistency is not winning every match or never experiencing a bad match. Consistency is expecting to play optimally most of the time.
Some tennis players feel the reason for their inconsistent play is their lack of ability, but the biggest cause of inconsistent play is lack of focus or focusing on the wrong things. The good news is that you can improve your focus and consistency by having a consistent pre-shot routine.
A pre-shot routine is a set of actions performed in a consistent way prior to the point being played. Basically, a pre-shot routine is a habit or ritual that you execute (the same way every time) before serving or receiving that prepares you for the upcoming point, for example spinning your racquet, bouncing the ball a certain number of times before serving, taking a deep breath then looking for your target.
In fact every elite athlete performs some routine prior to engaging in an action. A baseball player has a routine performed in the batter’s box before each pitch. A basketball player goes through a routine prior to shooting a foul shot. Every ATP player conducts a consistent routine prior to serving and receiving. If the best tennis players in the world have routines, so should you. But understand… A routine is not superstition. Superstition is an irrational belief that doing a certain thing will bring about good or bad luck.
Your pre-shot routine prepares you mentally and physically for the upcoming point. The completion of your routine signals your mind and body that you are ready to optimally compete. Your pre-shot routine is like pushing your reset button; it allows you to let go on the last point, quiets your mind and helps you to re-focus on the current point.
When you are focused on your routine, you are no longer paying attention to negative thoughts that interfere with your performance (the last shot, a bad line call, the antics of your opponent). So by preparing in the same manner for every point, you minimize distractions, regain a sense of control over your play and re-focus on the current shot.
Even when hitting balls during a practice session at the range, players should practice their pre-shot routine before each shot to train your mind and body to make the same swing even when circumstances become a bit dicey. In some cases, a pre-shot routine is the same number of practice swings before hitting a shot. Whatever the routine may be, it needs to be done each time before each shot so when your mind inevitably strays, the pre-shot routine will surface the swing that is engrained in your muscle memory.
So a good way to get a little more consistency in your game is to become more consistent in your pre-shot routine.
Strategy for Optimizing your Pre-Shot Routine
The first step is to script a meaningful and comfortable routine, something that is personal to you. When you practice or play practice matches try to perform your routine consistently. If you need to tweak your routine, do so in practice. Continue performing your routine until it becomes second nature so you can utilize its benefits in matches. Remember, practice makes habit!
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