Are your strokes letting you down when you need them most?  Try these tips to gain more consistency in your ground stroke game:

#1) Play the Middle Game (I got this from Dr. Allen Fox):  Many times players go for what I call the "ESPN Shot" aka the "Kill Shot" or the "The Hi-Lite Reel" shot, but they miss.  They sure looked great hitting that ball, but it only lands in like 10% of the time and the player puts himself or herself in a bad situation during a tight part of the match which compounds their situation.  How do you fix this so you can win those big points?  Answer:  Play the Middle Game.  Think of "shot meter" that goes from 1 to 10 with 10 being as hard as you can get and 1 being the slowest.  Those ESPN Shots are like 9-10 on the shot meter while a 6-7-8 type of shot is more like a rally ball that you hit in practice (or during long points).  A well-placed rally ball (see Tip #2) will yield you much better results. 

#2) Stay out of the Middle:  Think of the court divided into equal Thirds.  To win points you need to stay out of the middle because the middle gives your opponent too many angles.  So to win more points hit to the outer thirds of the court where you "hurt" your opponent by making them move more to retrieve the ball and look for a weak response; i.e. a short ball, that you can put away easy. 

Is the stress of a close match causing your forehand to tighten up on you during key points in a match?  Try these tennis tips:

#1) Lose a Pinky Finger:  During your next practice session grip your forehand a little lower down the grip so that your pinky finger "falls off" the base of your racket.  Now rally with this "pinky-less grip" and see if you don't find yourself swinging a little more "freely".  Pete Sampras (winner of 14 Grand Slams) was known to use this type of grip to get a little more velocity and rotation on the ball (because he lengthed the lever).  But for us average players it really helps to de-stress our forearms from holding the grip so darn tight. 

#2) Follow Through:  a lot of times the recreational player does not understand the importance of the finishing part (aka the follow through) of our swing.  Watch the pros and you will see that they allow their swing to finish on the opposite side of their body (except for the inverted FH).  This is very important because if you "fight" your swing and stop shortly after contact with the ball, then you will be playing right into your opponent's hand by playing too cautiously.  Another way to think about following through is to "hit out" on the ball.  Practice this first during a non-competitive situation. 

Having problems getting your timing just right?  Try these tennis tips:

# 1) Every time the ball lands on your side of the net say, "Bounce" when it it bounces, then say "Hit" when you make contact with the ball.  Saying "Bounce - Hit" will help your timing and make you a better shot maker! 

# 2) Focus on your breathing!  Inhale whenever your opponent hits the ball towards you and exhale when you make contact.  Since everyone plays at an individual rhythm this will help you get "in time" with your opponent.

The Tennis Baron