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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Finding the Range

June 2021

There are days when you're game is firing on all cylinders right out of the gate. Everything is clicking. Not surprisingly, not much is running through your mind. Your shots are penetrating and seemingly effortless. Your placements from the back, at the net, and when serving or returning – both directionally and marginally (above the net) – are on the money and you're hitting your spots.

But, there are other times, maybe even the very next day, when your same shots are not nearly as accurate, especially in the early stages of the match, or even before in the warm-up when you're trying to be mostly cooperative, just trading, with your opponent – pre-match sportsmanship - but you're lacking control and accidentally spraying balls all around to the consternation of your opponent..

It should be reassuring to you that there are days when what your visualizing, picturing, imagining, is exactly what you're getting, give or take. Perfectly linked up. Yet on other days what you're expecting is not what you're getting. Your off.

No worries. Staying with it and remaining positive always rules in turning your game around.

You know that your shots are still there, right there on your inner player shot making, if you will, "hard drive." You're simply finding the range. Just taking a little longer than usual to get your game dialed-in.

Overcompensation is sometimes necessary to get back on track. For example, visualizing more to the right than usual when you're serve placement is inexplicably too far left. Or purposely visualizing "too high" over the net, more than what's typical for you, because you're netting too many balls from the back of the court.

In that vein, I recently suggested to a frustrated player, who knew about firearms, "to adjust his gunsight," which did the trick for his directional and marginal woes. Good analogy for him.

Keep in mind that you'll want to also create safer margins to the lines, and the net. Or, as Tennis Channel announcer Paul Annacone (former coach of both Pete Sampras and Roger Federer) says, "Give yourself bigger targets," versus threading needles.

It's just "trial and correction." Never did like "trial and error." Bad connotation.

Patience! Matches are typically not determined in the very early going (2 out of 3 sets). You have plenty of time to right yourself, even after a rough first set.

Keep the faith. If you fall victim to frustration or anger you could start subliminally expecting to miss. It becomes self-fulfilling. You get what you expect, which could snowball into a hell scape of unwelcome, unforced errors, and a no fun outing.

A key question you can always ask yourself post-match is: "Was I patient with myself today?" Another is: "Did I give my best physical effort today?" One more is: "Did I set realistic shot goals for myself?"

When playing doubles and struggling, I always reassure my partner, and myself, with, "I'm getting it. I'm getting closer," or something else positive to that effect. Eventually I'll find my groove with the right attitude and overcome, win or lose, any previous misfiring. Always getting better as the match progresses.

By the way, supporting partners respond to partners not playing well not with open frustration – denigrating comments, eye rolling, disapproving body language – but with unconditional support with comments like, "No problem, keep going for it," as they should.

In 62 years on-court I have yet to meet anyone who misses purposely.

So, next time you or your partner is struggling, you're actually not. Relax, you're just finding the range.

Copyright© 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

  • March 2023 - Classic finish line failure
    [read more]
  • February 2023 - Defending the lob over your net partner – The "Switch"
    [read more]
  • December 2022 - E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
    [read more]
  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
    [read more]
  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
    [read more]
  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
    [read more]
  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
    [read more]
  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
    [read more]
  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
    [read more]
  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
    [read more]
  • March 2022 - Caving
    [read more]
  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
    [read more]
  • January 2022 - The Knees
    [read more]

Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays


  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
    [read more]
  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
    [read more]
  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
    [read more]
  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
    [read more]
  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
    [read more]
  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
    [read more]
  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
    [read more]
  • May 2021 - The Focus
    [read more]
  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
    [read more]
  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
    [read more]
  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
    [read more]
  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
    [read more]


  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
    [read more]
  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
    [read more]
  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
    [read more]
  • 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.