February 11, 2011

Practice everything, but focus on strengths and weaknesses

One thing I found important when practicing or coaching became almost a mantra for me. The mantra was, "Practice everything, but focus on strengths and weaknesses." The idea was to develop overpowering strengths that you can dominate with, while getting rid of any weaknesses.

Some players tend to focus on their weaknesses, often getting so overly critical that it's all they think about. They forget that matches are usually won by a player dominating on something. You can't do that unless you develop something to dominate with, and then develop your game around it. In particular, focus on developing both that strength and the shots that set it up, especially serve & receive.

At the other extreme are players who get into the habit of doing the same drills all the time, session after session, and so they get good at the things they are used to practicing, but never get around to fixing the problems in their games. I once saw a player with a great forehand counterloop lose a match because he couldn't block on his backhand side. Later he had to play the same player again. How did he warm up for the match? Rather than have someone loop to his backhand, he spent about fifteen minutes forehand counterlooping with someone, then went out and lost again because he again kept missing backhand loops. Then, at practice the next day, he spent half the session counterlooping again, and never got around to working on that backhand block.

How To Block Out Distractions While Playing Dirty Dozen At Spin New York

Some of you may remember Tiger Woods back when he dominated golf, and his legendary focus. Nothing seemed to distract him. When asked about this, Tiger explained that when he was a kid, his dad would sometimes stand next to him and just yell at him while he practiced so he could practice tuning out the distraction and just focus. Similarly, Dora Kurimay writes in her blog about tuning out the distractions while playing in the "Dirty Dozen" at Spin New York. Are you able to focus like this when you play tournaments? Try out the techniques she writes about.

Kevin Spacey vs. Rafael Nadal

The legendary actor versus the legendary and #1 tennis player in the world. Spacey's advanced basement shots (look at that backhand grip and stance - though he does adjust when he smashes the forehand), versus Nadal's more classic but way-too-soft and arcing drives. Who do you think is better? It takes place at the 2011 Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 7, where Nadal was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year. Spacey (presumably the host) says, "You should be nervous because I'm about to beat you in a game that demands the physical stamina of a boxer, the agility of a gymnast, the tactical acumen of a chess player. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to take on and challenge the glorious sportsman of the year on a game of ping-pong." Then, while they play, he suddenly yells out, "Look, it's Federer!"


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