By Eric Wammock, Palmetto Dunes Director of Tennis Instruction
Have you ever played someone whom you’re sure you will beat because you know you are a better player than they are (at least you know you look better!) only to find out they are quite accurate, and you lose handily? That player regardless of technique has mastered placement and you can too. Keep in mind that better technique is necessary to improve your level, but accuracy absolutely helps you at your level.
The first step in target practice is to have super specific targets. Don’t aim for an area – aim for a point. A cone or tennis ball placed in the court as a target is very helpful. Targets also need to be safely placed from the lines so that inaccurate shots have a chance to land in. Fun fact: touring pros almost never hit near lines and many times when they do it is a happy accident. The goal is not to hit the target, but to see how close you can be to the target over time. It is also important that you have an even distribution of shots around the target. In other words, you don’t want most of your “misses” to be to any particular side (left, right, short or long).
So, how do you do this? First, aim at your target. That means use your eyes to glance at the target and imagine the ball flight to the target. This takes a few milliseconds to do, so no need to dwell on the target visually. You need to watch the ball coming to you, so after you aim, get on with your life and start watching the ball – the target will be in the same place as when you first glanced at it, so you don’t need to sneak a peek to make sure it’s still there! Now, quickly evaluate the result and aim slightly opposite of where the previous ball landed. If it went left, aim right (and so on) until you influence a change. For example, if it keeps going left aim further and further right until you affect that change. Do not try to do this by overthinking your technique. You would be surprised that just by moving your intended target around how much you can influence where a ball goes. As a side note, if you miss hit the ball or have a lousy point of contact, don’t evaluate the result. You have a bigger problem…
The long-term goal is to achieve 2 things:
An even distribution of “misses” around the target.
A tight distribution of misses around a target as opposed to misses by several feet away from the target.
This is the definition of accuracy and it will absolutely come with some time. This is also a practice that you are never done with. It must be maintained. Now, if you want to improve your level, you need better technique. To do this, take a tennis lesson or clinic from any of the fabulous tennis professionals at the award-winning Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center! See you on the courts!
About the author: Palmetto Dunes Director of Tennis Instruction Eric Wammock, a USPTA Elite Professional, has been part of the tennis industry for nearly four decades. As a player, Eric was a college all-American at Florida State College and later All-Conference at Virginia Commonwealth University, winning the conference doubles title over the 11th ranked team in the country from USF. Eric played professionally in 1990-1991, before moving to Hilton Head Island. The former USPTA SC Pro of the Year has played tournaments, exhibitions and practiced with many top players including Stan Smith, Bjorn Borg, Monica Seles, Conchita Martinez, Johan Kriek and Mikael Pernfors.