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JAK'S NEW ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Shot Gazing

Tennis Pusher moonballer player tennisQuite the clever phrase, coined by one of the best players I work with, representing a not so unusual tendency among some club doubles players to expect, after a particularly good penetrating volley that's struck with perceived authority seemingly right through or past opposing net players, that it's not coming back, chalking up the point prematurely, and stopping play.

Houston, we have a problem since it sometimes does come back, and you've left the building.

Volleys, even reasonably well placed crisp ones, can indeed be handled and returned by equally skilled players, and the "shot gazer" - that could be you - is left unprepared to play on. The point that was potentially yours, one that you were initially on top of, slips away by letting an in trouble opponent off the hook by not following up for a second volley, and another and another if necessary to stay on top and finish.

"Gazing" feels kind of like you've been caught with your hand in the cookie jar, and like you have lost two points. The giving Christmas spirit year 'round.

So now – even though you are not a world class volleyer - consider the doable for anyone mind set always on display in pro tour doubles: They clearly expect balls to come back, don't seem to mind, and doggedly continue in pursuit of any next incoming response to continue the attack, or defend if all has gone wrong.

Kind of interesting that the planet's sharp shooting best shot makers are the ones taking nothing for granted.

Clubbers can also be negatively influenced by the non-stop "gotta put it away" pressure that they put on themselves, and their partners, that I constantly here bantered about. This well intentioned mind set contributes to an unwanted, last moment, up tight emotional state that leads to rushed, over cooked, tiny margin, blown opportunities.

The "shot gazing" issue then becomes irrelevant since out balls need not be returned.

Just keep playing. "It's not over 'till it's over," as the venerable saying goes. Assume nothing. Just hit effective targets to eliminate that undermining "winner" burden. Adopt the mind set of the pros by expecting it to come back, undeterred. You'll not only reduce your unforced volley giveaway errors in particular, but you'll also avoid looking foolish when it is returned and you're out to lunch.

Jak Beardsworth Playing TennisConsider Roger Federer's view on some of this? At a past nation's Hopman Cup in Australia, playing mixed-doubles with Swiss partner Belinda Bencic against the American team of Serena Williams and Frances Tiafoe, Federer crossed at one juncture and poached a weak Serena return only to miss an "easy" volley through a defenseless Tiafoe. In the post-match on-court interview Jim Courier good naturedly chided Fed for the missed opportunity with which he sheepishly responded with the very same embarrassment you might feel, "Yeah, I missed my target." Take note! One of the game's greatest all-time shot makers did not say, "Yeah, I should have put it away."

Roger's a pretty good model. I'm thinking we should all operate like Roger.

Copyright© 2020 by Jak Beardsworth Tennis. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

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Past Essays

  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
    [read more]
  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
    [read more]
  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
    [read more]
  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
    [read more]
  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
    [read more]
  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
    [read more]
  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
    [read more]
  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
    [read more]
  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
    [read more]
  • November 2019 - Chalk Flew: Troublesome Line Calling without Hawkeye in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2019 - In the Spirit of Don't Drink and Drive… Don't Think and Hit [read more]
  • September 2019 - Old School vs New School [read more]
  • August 2019 - Getting the Ball Where You Want It [read more]
  • July 2019 - Taking Points Off…What? [read more]
  • June 2019 - Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It [read more]
  • May 2019 - TENNIS INNOVATION IMPLODES [read more]
  • April 2019 - Defending the Court with Older Bones: A Club Player's Guide to Saying "Nice Shot" Less [read more]
  • March 2019 - Do You Have Doubles Rally Tolerance? [read more]
  • February 2019 - I Knew Jimy Van Alen: A Historical Look Back [read more]
  • January 2019 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Mental Toughness Skills [read more]
  • December 2018 - Less Bling is the Thing [read more]
  • November 2018 - Anatomy of a Doubles Serve Return…from the Inside Out [read more]
  • October 2018 - Older Dogs and New Tricks: Still Improving at Any Age [read more]
  • September 2018 - The All-Important Dynamic of Gripping [read more]
  • August 2018 - The Cinemascope Syndrome: Undermining Your Ball Watching [read more]
  • June 2018 - Serving and Returning Better with a Quiet Eye [read more]
  • May 2018 - The Man Who Breathed for Two [read more]
  • January 2018 - Rituals Anyone? [read more]
  • December 2017 - Why Serving is so Difficult in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2017 - Managing your body and mind in tennis space [read more]
  • August 2017 - Why Bother Breathing to Improve Your Game [read more]
  • May 2017 - The "Maintaining" One's Game as One Ages Fallacy [read more]
  • February 2017 - Punta Gorda Tennis Clubs: Setting the Bar [read more]
  • January 2017 - State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship [read more]

Check back often for more essays.