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Tennis Anyone?

Achieving your personal best


First of all, everyone has a physical limit. All the self-belief in the world won't enable you to, say, run five miles in 20 minutes. What we need to do is keep on improving for as long as possible, gradually pushing back our physical limits.

In that time, we try to compete at our own level, attempting to get as much success as our talents will allow us. That’s what winning really is.

1. Do you produce great training performances but not live up to them in matches?

2. Is your performance under pressure greater than you would expect from your training?

3. Do you develop injuries and minor illnesses just before big events?

4. Do you cope with minor setbacks and still perform to your best when it matters?

5. Do you look impressive when against familiar, weaker opposition but cannot cope with the challenge of competing against those who are apparently better than you?

6. Do you respect better opposition, but rise to the challenge?

Think about your answers for a moment, then learn if you have what it takes to win.

There’s no gain without some kind of commitment.

Remember - it is only by creating stiff challenges for yourself that you will reach your highest-possible level of performance..

Mental Training: 
Tennis is a multi-dimensional game, but the mental aspect of the game is just as important. You may have developed a diverse game, but if you don't play smart and make the right shot, keep your cool, be patient and wait for the right opportunity to end the point, a lesser player can beat you.

The mental game of tennis is an important element to winning.

Confidence is one of those elements where tennis psychology can help quickly and with very simple tools. If you are not confident you will hesitate, you’ll be afraid to take risks, and your shots will miss by a little. When you build confidence you are able to play your best, even when things don’t look to go your way. That’s how you change them.

Probably the most common thing we see that holds athletes back from realizing their full potential is not injury, physical limitation, or even nutrition.

The biggest obstacle to peak performance is a failure to control the way they think, feel and behave – especially when the going gets tough.

Speed Training

Speed can take a variety of different forms, depending on the sport and the event.

How many of them should you master?  

Optimum speed/skill speed

Think about it. Too much speed can sometimes be a disadvantage. If a long jumper, for example, builds up too much speed on the runway, he may not be able to take off into an effective jump. This is because he will have too little time on the take-off board to generate the force needed to convert speed into height and distance.

Similar problems occur in many other sports. In Rugby Union, Jonny Wilkinson knows his range when it comes to place kicks. He has developed his rhythm with painstaking practice over many years and inevitably slots the ball between the posts. The England half-back could swing his boot faster at the ball in an attempt to gain additional metres, but would probably sacrifice accuracy as a result.

So it is important for athletes to determine with their coaches an appropriate speed for their particular sports skills that does not compromise technical execution.

Out-and-out speed

There are obviously some activities that demand full expression of speed, sprinting being the most obvious example. But it is important to note that, while the sprinter needs to move his limbs as fast as possible during parts of the race, he must do this in a relaxed manner, since the effort involved in ‘trying too hard’ will tighten muscles and slow performance.

Out-and-out speed therefore calls for mastery of technique plus the ability to relax while the body is operating at maximum intensity. You’ll find a full discussion of this in Chapter 5, along with a ‘key tips’ guide on how to achieve optimum sprinting technique.

Acceleration speed

In order to achieve out-and-out or optimum skill/sports speed, a period of acceleration is often required. A sprinter, for example, must leave his blocks from a standing start, a footballer may need to turn and sprint to get onto the end of a pass from an equally static or off-balance position, while a tennis player must deliver his serve from a stationary base.

Developing this accelerative ability calls for different training methods and practices from those used for out-and-out speed and other speed types.

Endurance speed

Speed training is often neglected by endurance athletes, such as marathon runners and triathletes. Yet speed is crucial to their success. For the faster an athlete is:

  • The easier it will be for him to cruise at slower speeds during training and competition;
  • The more power he will have for hill climbs;
  • The better he will be at surging during a race to burn off the opposition;
  • The more he will have in reserve for a killer sprint finish.

Endurance speed is the ability to sustain repeated powerful and fast muscular contractions over predominantly aerobic race and training conditions. Ask yourself: do you have sufficient reserves of it for your event?

Speed endurance

Speed endurance can be defined as the ability of the body to perform an activity at a very fast speed under conditions where a high level of anaerobic energy production is required. Examples include 800m running and tennis match play involving long rallies. It differs from endurance speed in that the training methods used to develop it are usually more short-lived and focus on the anaerobic energy system. Interval training is a key training method for speed endurance.

Response speed

In many sports, a skill has to be performed in response to a cue. This cue could be aural, as with a sprinter reacting to the starting gun, or visual, as with a boxer avoiding a punch, a footballer responding to a change in the opposing team’s formation, or a cricket batsman reacting to a ball.

Reaction speed is key; a fraction of a second can be the difference between a gold medal and no medal at all. Read Speed Training - for all sports and you’ll know how to train for speed and make sure you’re first out of the blocks.

Body part speed

For some sports a particular limb must move as fast as possible - to throw an implement, for example, as with the javelin. Although speed and power is needed throughout the thrower’s body, his arm is the crucial link in the speed chain as it will advance the implement to optimum velocity at the point of release.

If your throwing arm or racquet arm is not fast enough, your performance will obviously suffer.

Team speed

The need for team speed is obvious in the case of a sprint relay team but, in fact, it is crucial to the success of virtually all other team sports, where players must move quickly and in concert in order to score a try or defend as a unit as in rugby. Developing this shared speed should be a training requirement in team sports. However, as you find out in chapter 7 of Speed Training - for all sports, maintaining the speed of individual players can be difficult, particularly over a very long season with numerous matches.

Rotational speed

Rotational speed is key to many sports. Footballers rotate their bodies to turn and chase down opponents or the ball, while tennis players have to ‘wind’ up their body to hit a serve, a baseline forehand or backhand pass. In track and field, discus throwers spin with almost balletic grace before releasing their implements with the incredible force needed to achieve huge distances. Rotational speed can be vastly improved by the use of appropriate drills and training methods, as set out in chapters 6,8, and 9 of Speed Training - for all sports.

Agility speed

Agility is another key sports speed requirement, characterised by quick feet, body co-ordination and fast reactions. Its execution depends on a mixture of balance, out- and- out speed, acceleration speed, strength, flexibility and co-ordination. Although a performer’s agility, relies heavily on the possession of optimum sports technique and ‘match sense’, it can be enhanced by the specific agility speed conditioning outlined by John Shepherd in his book.

Over-speed speed

This is the term used to describe training efforts that allow athletes to perform a speed skill to a level beyond what is normally achievable. It can involve the use of such specialist equipment as elastic chords, which literally drag you along to higher velocities. Lower-tech options include downhill sprinting and throwing lighter implements or balls than those used in competition.


Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. -William Faulkner